This Day in Horror: MARS ATTACKS! Invades Theaters
On this day in 1996, Mars Attacks! hit theaters.
The sci-fi comedy directed by Tim Burton was an ode to the sci-fi B-movies of the 1950s. The film sees hundreds of Martians invading Earth, and the only way to stop them turns out to be by playing a Slim Whitman song, which makes their heads blow up.
The film is actually based on a set of trading cards released by Topps in 1962. The cards have a story arc, but is far gorier and more serious that the film turned out to be. An adaptation of the trading cards actually began in the 1980s, but it never made it to production. Jonathan Gems wrote the screenplay that would eventually be directed Burton, but it was not an easy process. When Gems turned in his original script in 1994, Warner Bros. budgeted it out at $260 million – far more than the $60 million they had planned to put into the film. Gems was eventually replaced on the screenplay for a time, but brought back and got his script into production. In all, Gems wrote twelve drafts.
Initially, Burton wanted the Martians to be done in stop-motion animation, as an ode to Ray Harryhausen. He wanted it to be cheap and fake-looking, but even that would be astronomically expensive, so ILM came in and made the Martians digitally.
Fun fact: when Gems first presented the script to Burton, he also presented a script based on a similar trading card set, Dinosaurs Attack! Burton passed on that script because he felt like it was too similar to Jurassic Park.