Ahead of this month’s much anticipated release of Jumanji: The Next Level we look back at the franchise’s origins, its onscreen history and its merchandising legacy…
While most commonly associated with the big screen, the franchise actually started off as an award-winning 1981 picture book by Chris Van Allsburg, who also wrote The Polar Express, which served as the inspiration for the first movie and in 2002 gained a space-based sequel entitled Zathura.
The success of Van Allsburg’s original book inevitably attracted Hollywood and in 1995 Robin Williams and Kirsten Dunst headlined a big screen adaptation which went on to become one of the highest grossing films of the year with a global box office take of $263m.
Despite this success the franchise was absent from the big screen until the 2005 release of Zathura: A Space Adventure which, while marketed as being “from the world of Jumanji”, shared nothing in common with the earlier film.
While it received a better critical reception that its predecessor, the film flopped at the box office with a US take of just $29m and international takings of $35m, a combined total which scarcely recouped its production budget.
2017 saw the release of the far more successful Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, a direct sequel to the original film set 21 years after its events and reimagining Jumanji as a video game. The film’s worldwide box office of $960m meant a sequel was inevitable.
Due for release on December 13, 2019, the Jumanji: The Next Level sees the previous film’s main cast, including Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan and Nick Jonas, reprise their roles.
As they return to Jumanji to rescue one of their own, the group discover that nothing is as they expect and must brave parts unknown and unexplored, from the arid deserts to the snowy mountains, in order to escape the world’s most dangerous game.
While the original 1995 film failed to spawn an immediate movie sequel, it did give rise to a animated show which largely retold the movie’s plot over its three season (1996 – 1999) run. The series has been available on TV in reruns and on some streaming services and is now available on DVD in the US and Canada but, sadly for UK fans, not over here.
Fittingly given the franchise’s backstory, Jumanji has inspired a number of game-based spin-offs including four console games, including this year’s Jumanji: The Video Game.
There was also a Pachinko game for the Japanese market and we learn from Boom Casino, which keeps track of Netent’s latest games, there’s also an officially licensed slots game based on the original 1995 film, plus there’s a traditional board game and Jumanji Escape Room – an electronic board game from Cardinal Games – and there was also an Android and iOS game based on the 2017 film which is sadly no longer available to download from either app store.
In addition to the various games listed above, Jumanji: The VR Adventure was released for HTC Vive headsets to tie-in with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle but a poor reception saw the game delisted jjust a few weeks later and plans to expand its availability to the Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR platforms were quickly shelved.
However there’s good news for those fans who’d still like to immerse themselves in the world of Jumanji – Jumanji: Reverse the Curse, a new VR experience produced by The Void and Sony Pictures Virtual Reality, has just gone live in the US and Canada.
Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle is in UK and Ireland cinemas from 11th December 2019.