"Feed me, Seymour!"
If there's anything better than "Little Shop of Horrors," we don't wanna know about it. We're not talking about the Roger Corman flick, but rather the 1986 movie musical inspired by it (but mostly based on the hit off-Broadway musical that was inspired by Corman's film. Everybody got that?).
For the last 30 years, we can't get the songs from this crazy-good musical out of our heads. They're as catchy as this movie is effortlessly entertaining -- and the cult-favorite came this close to not happening.
As "Little Shop" and Audrey II celebrate their 30th anniversary, we're going back to Skid Row in search of all the things fans of the movie should know.
1. The film cost nearly $30 million -- at the time, it was Warner Bros. most expensive movie.
2. Director Frank Oz, then best known as the voice of Yoda and Miss Piggy, and the production struggled to find the best ways to bring the singing, man-eating plant to life. Having worked with puppet effects before, Oz decided to go in that direction for Audrey II.
3. To depict the various sizes of the plant shown in the film, the production built six animatronic "mean green mothers." The smallest was four inches tall, while the biggest plant -- used for the finale -- stood a crazy-tall 12 feet.
4. For the climax, the 12-footer -- and its pod of smaller (all-singing) flytraps -- needed as many as 60 operators to execute the complex sequence. Operators would be on the floor, pulling various levers and cables to bring the alien plant to life.
5. It's rare for performers to create a role on stage and also play the character in a movie adaptation. But Ellen Greene managed to pull it off, bringing her unique take on Audrey to the big screen. (On the DVD's special features, the actor and director remark that, at the time, this was the first instance of such a casting move that they could recall in movie history.)
6. Audrey's "I Want" song, "Somewhere That's Green," was created by lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken, who also worked together on the musical. They also helped create the memorable tunes in Disney's "The Little Mermaid."
7. In fact, Ariel's "I Want" number, "Part of Your World," was inspired in large part by "Green." In a 2015 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Menken says that they "used to jokingly call ["Part of Your World"] 'Somewhere That's Wet.'"
8. How they got Audrey II to sing opposite Rick Moranis' Seymour was, according to Oz, "a b**ch." The lips on the plant did not look right moving at the normal speed of 24-frames-per-second. They couldn't move fast enough to properly synch up to the pre-recorded songs. The crew's solution? Film the puppets at 12 to 16 FPS, then (wow) speed up the playback to the standard 24 frames.
9. And yes, that means that, whenever an actor sang side-by-side with the puppet, they were lip-synching in slow-motion. (On the Blu-ray, in the vintage EPK featurette, you can see and hear a snippet of Moranis lip-synching to the slowed-down playback of his first duet with the middle-sized Audrey II.)
10. According to Oz on the DVD commentary, Jim Henson's son, was Audrey II's main operator during the "Feed Me" number.
11. And the abused dental patient that comes out to greet Bill Murray's character, the one with the worst braces ever? That's Jim Henson's daughter, Heather.
12. Speaking of Bill Murray, who plays the masochist patient of Steve Martin's sadist dentist, Oz credits producer David Geffen for getting the actor. "David wanted him," Oz told MTV in 2012, "so I called Billy and I said, 'So Billy, you wanna do this thing?' He said, 'Yeah, but do I have to say the lines?' I said, 'Look, as long as you're the masochist and Steve's the sadist, I don't care.' So that's what happened."
13. All of Murray's dialogue was (duh) improvised. "Steve was the hub, he had his part solid," Oz recalled, "and Billy riffed around him, and every take was different, all ad-libbed."
14. Martin hurt his hand while slamming open the door to Audrey's apartment building. On the special edition Blu-ray, there is an outtake real that includes the brief clip of Martin's hand shattering the door's window as Oz provides commentary over the footage.
15. The outtake real, as Oz revealed on the disc commentary, was something put together for the wrap party.
16. Bet you've never seen this deleted scene before. It's the infamous dream sequence cut from "The Meek Shall Inherit" musical montage. It involves surreal Greek columns and a bleeding portrait of Mr. Mushnick. You're welcome.
17. The film scored one of the highest-rated test screenings for the studio... until the audience saw the original ending. Recently restored for the Blu-ray, the original ending features the plant eating our heroes and then joining other giant plants on a city-wide rampage involving, among other NYC landmarks, the Statue of Liberty.
18. Oz and Howard wanted the darker ending (above), producer Geffen did not -- though Geffen respected their vision and did not force the cut on them. But since the film was made for an audience of more than just the filmmakers, Oz relented and reshot a happier ending.