— Homer Simpson's unique summary of Animal House, to the tune of the Animal House theme song
Perhaps the best known of all the National Lampoon movies, Animal House is a 1978 film about the wacky hijinx of the members of the Delta fraternity at "Faber College", as they fight against the snooty Omegas and the uptight dean Vernon Wormer.Directed by John Landis, Animal House launched the short lived film career of Saturday Night Live castmember John Belushi. Inspired dozens of Follow the Leader takes on the raunchy college frat movie, including some by National Lampoon themselves. Spawned a spinoff TV series called Delta House.Written by a guy from Harvard (who gave himself one line: "What the hell we s'pose to do, ya mo-RON"), advised by a guy from Dartmouth; and if you happen to visit the latter you can buy all sorts of Animal House-themed memorabilia in the co-op.
Ambiguously Jewish: Donald "Boon" Schoenstein, Eric "Otter" Stratton's best friend. German last name, short in stature, dark curly hair, unusual nose shape, New York accent, wisecracking personality - Come on! Either he's Jewish, or he's faking it really well. The actor, Peter Riegert, comes from a non-observant Jewish Family.
Based on a True Story: Chris Miller, whose National Lampoon stories are the basis for the story, wrote a book detailing the real events. It involves a lot more vomiting.
Berserk Button: For Bluto, live folk music. For Niedermeyer, a pledge pin on a cadet's uniform.
Bigger Bad: The Mayor, a genuinely evil amalgam of Mafia don and authoritarian plutocrat, is ultimately behind Dean Wormer's actions against Delta.
Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Dave Jennings is the cool professor at Faber. In the classroom, he's up front with his students about how boring he finds Milton. In private, he calls his own work a piece of excrement. Katie says he's the only professor she likes, and Pinto agrees that he's a wonderful teacher. Then he turns Katie, Pinto and Boon on to drugs; later, he seduces Katie.
Black and Gray Morality: The Omegas are snobbish, bigoted, mean, and sneaky. The Deltas are not — but they're still far, far from model citizens. Let's face it, they're petty criminals at best.
To the credit of the members of the Delta House, they at least admit it. To quote Otter: "This calls for a really futile and stupid gesture on somebody's part, and we're just the guys to do it."
It's also worth noting that, sleazy as the members of Delta are, they're notably friendlier than the members of Omega.
Not to mention that nobody in the Deltas invites anyone in the Omegas to a meeting at the RainbowMotel.
Boon accidentally shanks a golf ball through the window of the campus cafeteria's kitchen, where it lands in a big tureen of soup. A couple of scenes later, Bluto discovers the ball in his soup while buying lunch in that cafeteria and promptly eats it.
The speed limit sign seen in the background of Delta House could count as a short-term one. A few minutes after it first appears, D-Day rides in on his motorcycle.
The epilogue reveals that Babs became a tour guide at Universal Studios Hollywood. After the end credits, there's a title card: "When in California Visit Universal Studios Hollywood (Ask for Babs)".
But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Otis Day plays at Delta House's unforgettable toga party. When they go to see him at a bar a few days later, he doesn't even remember who they are.
An alternate interpretation is that Otis and his bandmates do remember the Deltas, but they have to pretend like they don't because the Deltas are white and everyone else in the bar is an Angry Black Man.
Butt Monkey: Kevin Bacon, both in the film and real life. As this was his first role, when he went to the premiere, he wasn't allowed to sit with the rest of the cast because the ushers didn't believe he was in it. He had to sit in the back with everyone else.
California Doubling: While Faber College is supposedly in Pennsylvania (or Tennessee, if the state flag in the tribunal scene is any indication), filming actually took place at the University of Oregon.
[...] And if this is indeed an indictment of our educational system, is it not an attack on our entire American society?! Well you can do with us what you wish, but we're not gonna sit here and let you bad mouth THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!
Subverted as it doesn't help at all. Then again...
1. They didn't give it a chance to help, since they walked out after Otter finished the speech.
2. They knew that the whole thing was a Kangaroo Court by this time. Walking out in protest probably was the best they could do under those circumstances.
College Is High School Part 2: Justified with the Delta fraternity, given their nature as the fraternity for all the burnouts and "dumb kids." Averted with the Omega fraternity, whose members act like pretty typical college bullies.
Cool Teacher/Hippie Teacher: Mr. Jennings is a mix of both; not a particularly motivating or laid-back teacher in the classroom, but certainly a guy who enjoys hanging around and smoking pot with his students after class.
Corrupt Politician: The Mayor of Faber extorts money from the college to finance the parade. His little screen time is enough to depict him as a bigwig even nastier than Dean Wormer, whom he threatens and is given a positive light by comparison.
The Danza: John Belushi as John "Bluto" Blutarsky.
Subverted, however, with John Vernon's character Vernon Wormer, the dean of the college. According to John Landis, his first choice for the role was Jack Webb, who turned it down because he felt that the film was making fun of his straight-laced, law-and-order image.
Dawson Casting: Most of the cast. For example, Mark Metcalf (Neidermeyer) was 32.
Enforced Method Acting: When not filming, John Landis purposely prevented the actors playing Deltas from interacting with the actors playing Omegas so that the "enemies" wouldn't end up bonding with each other.
Executive Meddling: Various. Universal President Ned Tanen insisted the Road Trip sequence be cut because he worried it could start race riots. Landis showed the clip to Richard Pryor, who wrote to the executive "Ned, Animal House is fucking funny and white people are crazy - Richard."
Fake Food: The whiskey Bluto drinks just after Delta House is dismantled was actually tea.
Fan Disservice: Oh hi, Donald Sutherland's ass! Didn't expect to see you here!
Although, to be fair, the only reason why we see Donald Sutherland's ass is because Karen Allen, who was also in that scene, was reluctant to bare her ass. Seeing that she was nervous, Sutherland offered to bare his ass if she bared hers, and she agreed. So you might say that, were it not for Donald Sutherland's ass, the movie would have one less instance of Fanservice (see below).
Fanservice: Way too many examples to mention, and for both sexes.
Getting Crap Past the Radar/Censor Decoy: When Pinto and Clorette are about to have sex, she reveals she's only 13. The writers originally intended her to be 17 but didn't think the censors would approve. They believed that if they had her say she was 13, the censors would tell them she needed to be older and in that case, 17 would be okay. However, the censors said nothing about her character being 13, so it was left that way.
I Need a Freaking Drink: Bluto, after Delta House is cleaned out once their charter is revoked. Bluto starts to panic, when someone tosses him a wide-mouthed bottle of Jack Daniels. He chugs the entire bottle. "Thanks; I needed that."
Initiation Ceremony: At Delta House, it involves getting drunk. At Omega House... "Assume the position."
Niedermeyer: How's it feel to be an independent, Schoenstein?
Boone: How's it feel to be an asshole, Niedermeyer?
Insult of Endearment: Plump and naive Kent Dorfman, the newest member of the Delta house is given the nickname "Flounder", probably because of his size (in comparison to fish maybe), yet this becomes an endearing name for him over time.
In Universe Nickname: Numerous, since they're the first thing assigned to freshmen after an initiation. Flounder is the one given most thought.
It Will Never Catch On: Donald Sutherland was offered either a percentage of the gross, or cash up front. He chose cash, sure that the film would flop. If he had taken the former option, he would've raked in several million dollars.
Joker Jury/Kangaroo Court: The Omegas throw the book at the Deltas at the latter's probation hearing, even outright making up one of the accusations against them.
In the movie, the charge of providing pledges with "diet pills" (amphetamines) is baseless. However, in the novelization (by script co-writer Chris Miller), it's quite true. The pills are kept in a dish marked "Study Aids". Pinto takes some to get through writing a term paper, crashes during his exams and fails that class.
The Khan: Bluto after the frat's beer bar is taken away.
Make-Out Point: One overlooks the town of Faber. It's frequently visited by the Omegas, and never by the Deltas (probably because the latter group would rather make out in the "Sex Rooms" at their frat house... or the football field... or, well, anywhere).
Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: The movie's circus-like climax features crashing floats, multicolored smoke bombs, an elephant, clowns on bicycles, Bluto swinging down from the rooftops dressed as a swashbuckler... and 10,000 marbles.
Non Sequitur Distraction: The former Trope Namer. Towards the end, Bluto gives a stirring speech about not giving up, and at one point says "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?" Otter, in reaction, looks confused for a moment and mutters, "Germans?" to which Boon responds "Forget it, he's rolling."
Wormer: Who dropped a whole truckload of fizzies into the varsity swim meet? Who delivered the medical school cadavers to the alumni dinner? Every Halloween, the trees are filled with underwear. Every spring, the toilets explode.
The Peeping Tom: Bluto Blutarsky uses a ladder to peer through the second-story window of a sorority house.
Pillow Fight: The first thing Bluto sees while using said ladder.
Play Boy: Martha Smith, Miss July 1973, played Babs.
Politically Incorrect Villains: At their rush party, the Omegas humiliate Pinto and Flounder by having them sit at a segregated table with a Muslim (albeit one in a Sikh turban), a Hindu, a Jew, and a blind kid. Oh, and they mispronounce the Hindu guy's name - on purpose. (They also consistently call Pinto Lonnie instead of Larry, and his attempts to correct them are rewarded only with a patronising chuckle.)
And they lead Flounder back over there whenever he tries to get up and mingle.
The fact that the non-white people and the blind guy were the "reject" table was likely supposed to Lampshade Omega's status as the "Nazi fraternity".
Prison Rape: Greg's caption reveals that he went on to become a White House aide during Nixon's presidency, and was subsequently raped in prison. Probably meant to double as a Black Comedy Rape, since he's a douchebag (and according to his girlfriend, was saving himself for marriage).
Faber College is a strict, pre-counterculture 1960s wannabe-Ivy League example.
About three-quarters of the way through the picture, the Deltas take a road trip and make a brief stop at a "progressive" women's college to pick up some dates. The college is a bit staid to qualify as "Berserkeley," but the point is made that the girls are all bleeding-heart liberals. (In order to make it with them, you have to mention that you're into some kind of progressive cause.)* Not in 1962.Most of the "counterculture/hippy" stuff is exaggerated in the movies, and didn't take off until the late 60s anyway.1962 was still much more like the 50s than the stereotypical idea of the 60s, even at Berkeley.
Team Dad: Hoover, to the Deltas. He's the only one of them who seems to genuinely care about avoiding trouble and staying on Dean Wormer's good side (at least enough to avoid getting thrown out of school), and generally tries to keep the Deltas from going too far off the rails. Granted, they usually ignore his advice...but at least he tries.
There Is a God: At the end, when one of the co-eds dressed in bunny ears and a leotard fly into the room of a young teen boy (reading through some Playboys), the boy simply shouts out, "Thank you, God!"
This Is Gonna Suck: When the gang enters the black night club, and everyone inside is instantly silent (including the band), Otter leans forward and says, calmly, "We are going to die."
The Unreveal: Part of what makes "D-Day" so fascinating is how much the movie leaves ambiguous about his true nature. ("Daniel Simpson Day....has no grade point average. All courses incomplete." Okay, so what has he been doing all this time?) And at the very end, as he's roaring off in a stolen police car: "Daniel Simpson Day: whereabouts unknown."
Villainy-Free Villain: Dean Wormer is an unpleasant antagonist, but for the most part he's merely enforcing campus rules against hilarious but admittedly proto-delinquents. Part of his problem is that he's under pressure from the town's mayor, who goes so far as to threaten to have Wormer physically crippled if the Deltas do anything to embarrass him.
Vomit Discretion Shot: Flounder throws up on Dean Wormer - offscreen. (But we hear the "splat" and see Wormer's secretary's shocked reaction.)
Wacky Fratboy Hijinx: The Deltas steal and (accidentally) kill a horse, leave both Mrs. Wormer and Clorette DePasto drunken wrecks, and of course turn the Homecoming Parade into an utter fiasco. Not to mention what happens every Halloween....
Halloween when the trees are full of underwear has nothing on Spring when the toilets explode.
Was Just Leaving: Subverted. When a coed says, "He was just leaving," Otter replies, "No I'm not."
At the Club Delta Lake: "If I was you, I'd be ..." "Leaving!"
The DVD featured a modern-day update on this. The highlights: Otter is a doctor with sexy patients, Diller is a missionary thanks to seeing Jesus in his food numerous times (including a shot of Kevin Bacon from Tremors), Babs is still a tour guide giving ludicrously bad information, Boon and Katie have married, divorced, and reconciled a number of times, Dean Wormer is senile but the Deltas are still a Berserk Button, D-Day is living off the grid across the border and flees when John Landis tracks him down, and Bluto is the President of the United States.
White Anglo-Saxon Protestant: This is the entire ethos of Omega House, right down to the way the characters dress and (sometimes) how they talk. Delta House, while equally monochromatic, is at least a blend of more sympathetic and less stereotypical WASPs and various "ethnic whites" (including one possible Jew, as noted above).