Kids who grew up in the northeast in the 1980s were pretty invested in a fad that might have gone unnoticed in warmer parts of the country. Cajoling their parents at department stores during shopping trips, hundreds of thousands of them came home sporting a pair of Freezy Freakies—thick winter gloves that came with a built-in parlor trick. When the temperature dipped below 40°F, an image would suddenly appear on the back part of the material.
Swany America Corporation, which made, marketed, and distributed the gloves, released more than 30 original designs beginning in 1980. There was a robot, a unicorn, rocket ships, ballerinas, rainbows, snowflakes, and various sports themes, though the “I Love Snow” image (below) may have been the most popular overall. At the height of Freezy mania, Swany was moving 300,000 pairs of gloves per year, which accounted for about 20 percent of their overall sales.
“Boys loved the robot design,” Bruce Weinberg, Swany’s vice president and a former sales director for Freezy Freakies, tells Mental Floss. “Above 40 degrees, the image would disappear.”
The secret to the $13 Freakies was thermochromic ink, a temperature-sensitive dye that's been used in mood rings and heat-sensitive food labels and can appear translucent until it's exposed to warmer temperatures. Swany licensed the ink from Pilot, the Japanese-based pen company, after Swany CEO Etsuo Miyoshi saw the technology and thought it would be a good fit for his glove-focused operation. (Though they experimented with making luggage in the 1990s, Swany has predominantly been a manufacturer of higher-end ski gloves.)
Weinberg isn’t sure how Miyoshi settled on the “Freezy Freakies” name—the president is now retired—but says Miyoshi knew they had a hit early on. “After a few seasons, they could tell they had a winner product,” he says. Swany even put advertising dollars into TV commercials, a rare strategy for glove-makers not named Isotoner.
Pilot was able to adjust the temperature at which the ink would become transparent, or vice versa. If kids were impatient, or if it happened to be during the summer, Weinberg says it wasn’t uncommon to find Freezy Freakies stuck in the freezer so they could materialize their art design. “At trade shows, we’d do something similar with some ice or a cold soda,” he says. “All of a sudden, some ice cubes would make it change, and buyers would think that was really cool.”
The Freakies were such a hit that Swany licensed jackets and considered changing the name of the company to the same name as the glove. It’s probably just as well they didn’t: While Freakies lasted well over a decade, by the 1990s, things had cooled. In the new millennium, Swany was down to selling just a few hundred pairs a year. Color-changing ink for coffee mugs or beer cans was more pervasive, wearing down the novelty; knock-offs had also grabbed licensed cartoon characters, which Swany was never interested in pursuing.
The brand was dormant when a company named Buffoonery approached Swany in 2013 to license Freezy Freakies for a crowdfunded revival. This time, the gloves came in adult sizes for $34. The partnership has been successful, and Weinberg says Buffoonery has just signed an extension to start producing kids’ gloves.
“Parents will probably want matching ones for their kids,” Weinberg says. And both might still wind up in the freezer.
Christmastime wouldn't really be Christmastime without all the awesomely cheesy holiday movies. Thankfully with channels like Freeform and Hallmark, we could watch Christmas movies all day long if we wanted to. But it gets frustrating when they repeat the same movies—not to mention the awful commercials—over and over again. That’s where streaming services come in.
If you’re a subscriber to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, or any other major streaming network, there are plenty of Christmas gems to be found. Here are 10 of our current favorites. (And for our list of 20 all-time favorite Christmas movies, click here.)
1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
It should be a crime to go a full holiday season without watching James Stewart star in Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life.
Though the animated holiday special might be the most beloved version of the Dr. Seuss tale, the Jim Carrey-led How the Grinch Stole Christmas is an all-ages holiday watch that has become part of many families' annual holiday movie marathon lineup.
If comedy is what you're looking for, don't have the kids around when you're watching Bad Santa. Billy Bob Thornton, Bernie Mac, Tony Cox, and Lauren Graham bring the laughs in this R-rated dark comedy.
On November 16, 1990, what appeared to be a fun-filled little family yarn about a kid left to his own devices at Christmastime and forced to fend off a couple of bungling burglars became an instant classic. Today, no holiday movie marathon is complete without a viewing of Home Alone, the movie that turned Macaulay Culkin into one of the biggest kid stars of all time. And while you may be able to recite its dialogue line for line, here are 25things you might not know about the John Hughes-penned picture. So settle in and enjoy, ya filthy animals.
1. Without Uncle Buck, there’d be no Home Alone.
The idea for Home Alone occurred to John Hughes during the making of Uncle Buck, which also starred Macaulay Culkin. Always game to play the precocious one, there’s a scene in which Culkin’s character interrogates a potential babysitter through a mail slot. In Home Alone, Culkin has a similar confrontation with Daniel Stern, this time via a doggie door.
2. The role of kevin was written specifically for Macaulay Culkin.
But that didn't stop director Chris Columbus from auditioning more than 100 other rascally pre-teens for the part. Which really was all for naught, as Culkin nailed the role.
3. Macaulay wasn’t the only Culkin to appear in the film.
20th Century Fox
Macaulay's younger brother Kieran also landed a part, as Kevin’s bed-wetting cousin, Fuller. Though the film marked Kieran’s acting debut, he has since gone on to build an impressive career for himself in movies like The Cider House Rules, Igby Goes Down, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. He recently received a Golden Globe nomination (his second) for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television for HBO's Succession.
4. Casting Culkin taught Chris Columbus a very important lesson.
Since Home Alone, Columbus (who also wrote the scripts for Gremlins and The Goonies) has gone on to become one of Hollywood’s premier family-friendly moviemakers as the director of Home Alone 2, Mrs. Doubtfire, and two movies in the Harry Potter franchise. But one lesson he learned from Home Alone is that when you agree to work with a kid actor, you’re also agreeing to work with his or her family.
“I was much younger and I was really too naive to think about the family environment as well,” Columbus toldThe Guardian in 2013. “We didn't know that much about the family at the beginning; as we were shooting, we learned a little more. The stories are hair-raising. I was casting a kid who truly had a troubled family life.” In 1995, Culkin’s parents, who were never married, engaged in a very public—and nasty—legal battle over his fortune.
5. It was a Guinness World Record holder for more than 25 years.
In its opening weekend, Home Alone topped the box office, making $17,081,997 in 1202 theaters. The movie maintained its number one spot for a full 12 weeks and remained in the top 10 until June of the following year. It became the highest grossing film of 1990 and earned a Guinness World Record as the highest-grossing live-action comedy ever domestically. It held on to that title for quite some time—27 years, to be exact—until the Chinese blockbuster Never Say Dieknocked it out of the top spot in 2017.
6. The movie’s unprecedented success led to its title becoming a verb.
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In his bookWho Killed Hollywood? And Other Essays, the late, great, Oscar-winning screenwriter William Goldman—who passed away on November 16, 2018—admitted that the unexpected success of Home Alone contributed a new phrase to the Hollywood lexicon: to be Home Aloned, meaning that other films suffered at the box office because of Home Alone’s long and successful run. “More than one executive said to me, ‘My picture did 40, but it would have done 50 if it hadn’t been Home Aloned,’” Goldman wrote.
7. It spawned more than a sequel.
While all of the main, original cast members reprised their roles for Home Alone 2: Lost In New York (with Columbus again directing a script by Hughes), the success of the original led to a full-on franchise, complete with four sequels, three video games, two board games, a novelization, and other kid-friendly merchandise (including the Talkboy).
8. Poland loves the Mccallisters.
Showings of Home Alone have become a Christmas tradition in Poland, where the film has aired on national television since the early 1990s. And its popularity has only increased. In 2011 more than 5 million people tuned in to watch it, making it the most watched show to air during the season.
9. The Mccallister home has become a major tourist attraction.
Located at 671 Lincoln Avenue in Winnetka, Illinois, the kitchen, main staircase, and ground-floor landing seen in the film were all shot in this five-bedroom residence. (The dining room and all other first-floor rooms, with the exception of the kitchen, were shot on a soundstage.) In 2012, John and Cynthia Abendshien, who owned the home when it was used as one of the film’s locations, sold the property for $1.585 million.
10. Kevin’s tree house was not part of the deal.
Kevin’s backyard tree house was not originally part of the property. It was constructed specifically for the movie and demolished once filming ended.
11. All of the film was shot in the Chicago area.
Though the main plot point is that that McCallister family is in Paris while Kevin’s back home in Illinois, the production was shot entirely within the Chicago area. The scenes supposedly set at Paris-Orly Airport were actually shot at O’Hare International Airport. And those luxurious business class seats they’re taking to Paris? Those were built on the basketball court of a local high school—the same school where the scene in which Kevin is running through a flooded basement was filmed (the “basement” in question was actually the school’s swimming pool).
12. Robert De Niro turned down the role of Harry Lime.
As did Jon Lovitz. Then Joe Pesci swept in and made the part his own. Bonus fun fact: The character is a slight homage to Orson Welles. (It was the name of Welles’ character in Carol Reed’s The Third Man.)
13. Joe Pesci got all Method on Macaulay Culkin.
In order to get the most authentic performance possible, Joe Pesci did his best to avoid Macaulay Culkin on the set so that the young actor would indeed be afraid of him. And no one would blame the young actor for being a bit petrified, as he still bears the physical scar from one accidental altercation. “In the first Home Alone, they hung me up on a coat hook, and Pesci says, ‘I’m gonna bite all your fingers off, one at a time,’” Culkin recalled to Rule Forty Two. “And during one of the rehearsals, he bit me, and it broke the skin.”
14. Pesci wasn’t used to the whole “family-friendly” thing.
Considering that Pesci’s best known for playing the heavy in movies like Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and Casino, it’s understandable that he wasn’t quite used to the whole family-friendly atmosphere on the set of Home Alone—and dropped a few f-bombs as a result of that. Columbus tried to curb Pesci’s four-letter-word tendency by suggesting he use the word “fridge” instead.
15. Daniel Stern had a four-letter word slip-up, too.
20th Century Fox
And it wasn’t cut out of the film. He utters the word “s***” when attempting to retrieve his shoe through the doggie door (look for it at the 55:27 mark on the DVD).
16. In real life, Harry and Marv may not have survived Kevin’s brutal attack.
BB gun shots to the forehead and groin? A steaming hot iron and can of paint to the face? A flaming blowtorch to the scalp? The Wet Bandits endure an awful lot of violence at the hands of a single eight-year-old. So much so that neither one of them should have been walking—let alone conscious—by the end of the night. In 2012, Dr. Ryan St. Clair diagnosed the likely outcome of their injuries for The Week. While a read-through of the entire article is well worth your time, here are a few of the highlights: That iron should have caused a “blowout fracture,” leading to “serious disfigurement and debilitating double vision if not repaired properly.” And the blowtorch? According to Dr. St. Clair, “The skin and bone tissue on Harry's skull will be so damaged and rotted that his skull bone is essentially dying and will likely require a transplant.”
17. The ornaments that Marv steps on would cause the least amount of damage.
"Walking on ornaments seems pretty insignificant compared to everything else we've seen so far,” said Dr. St. Clair. “If I was Marv, I'd be more concerned about my facial fractures.” Fortunately, the "glass" ornaments in question were actually made of candy. (But just to be on the safe side, Stern wore rubber feet for his barefoot scenes.)
18. The tarantula on Stern’s face? Yep, that was real.
20th Century Fox
At one point, Kevin places a tarantula on Marv’s face. And it was indeed a real spider (Daniel Stern agreed to let it happen—but he’d only allow for one take). What wasn’t real? That blood-curdling scream. In order to not frighten the spider, Stern had to mime the scream and have the sound dubbed in later.
19. John Candy wrapped his filming in one day.
But what a long day it was: Twenty-three hours to be exact. Candy was a regular in many of John Hughes’s movies, and Gus Polinski—the polka-playing nice guy he plays in Home Alone—was inspired by his character in Planes, Trains & Automobiles.
20. Kevin’s older sister is a judo champ.
Two years after appearing in Home Alone, Hillary Wolf—who played Kevin’s older sister Megan—landed the lead in Joan Micklin Silver’s Big Girls Don’t Cry… They Get Even. She also appeared in Home Alone 2, but hasn’t been seen on the big screen since. But there’s a good reason for her absence: In 1996 and 2000, she was a member of the Summer Olympic Judo team for the U.S.
21. Don’t bother trying to find Angels With Filthy Souls.
The Jimmy Cagney-like gangster movie that Kevin channels as his inspiration throughout Home Alone? Don’t bother searching for it on eBay. It’s not real. Nor is its sequel, Angels With Even Filthier Souls, which is featured in Home Alone 2.
22. Old Man Marley wasn't in the original screenplay.
Kevin’s allegedly scary neighbor, who eventually teaches him the importance of family, wasn’t a character in the original script. He was added at the suggestion of Columbus, who thought the film could do with a stronger dose of sentimentality.
23. The Lyric Opera of Chicago benefited from the movie’s snowfall.
When filming of Home Alone wrapped, the production donated some of the artificial snow they had created (the stuff made from wax and plastic) to the Lyric Opera of Chicago. It has since been used in a number of their productions.
24. Marv was supposed to have gotten a spinoff.
Greg Beeman’s 1995 film Bushwhacked, which stars Daniel Stern as a delivery guy on the run after being framed for murder, was originally intended to be a spinoff of Home Alone. The storyline would have been essentially the same: After giving up a life of crime, Marv would have been framed for the same murder.
25. If you believe that Elvis is still alive, then you might believe that he is in Home Alone.
No hit movie would be complete without a great little conspiracy theory. And in the case of Home Alone, it’s that Elvis Presley—who (allegedly?) died in 1977—makes a cameo in the film. Yes, that’s right. The King is alive and well. And making a living as a Hollywood extra.