The story of ‘National Lampoon’s Animal House’
(Credit: Netflix)


The story of 'National Lampoon's Animal House'

Contemporary comedy draws from a vast array of influences, with the internet having an unparalleled impact, especially on young people. Before the internet era, American humor was shaped by popular publications, movies, and TV shows. Notably, National Lampoon, which started as a magazine and evolved into a major movie series, played a significant role.

Originally a spinoff of The Harvard Lampoon, the National Lampoon magazine first went on sale in 1970 and quickly grew to enormous popularity, capturing an eagerness for beloved foolishness throughout the decade. As the publication grew, so too did the ambitions of the company, choosing to produce movies as well as the magazine, with their first film being 1978’s Animal House.

Without haste, the film became a staple in college dorms up and down the country and quickly became confiscated from kids eager to watch the R-rated movie at late-night sleepovers. Its irreverent humour and proudly witless demeanour made it quite the wake-up call for Hollywood at the time, especially after it earned $140million from a budget of just $3m. 

Inspiring decades of comedy to come, Animal House changed Hollywood as we know it and would even go on to shape a whole generation of young men in the process.  

Who wrote Animal House?

The movie was co-written by Harold Ramis, Douglas Kenney and Chris Miller. Miller had written for the National Lampoon magazine in the past, while Kenney had helped edit a number of editions. Meanwhile, Ramis was a relative unknown who had worked on the revue The National Lampoon Show but who otherwise had only worked for a few odd TV projects, including the comedy TV movie Super Bowl, starring Bill Murray. 

Ramis went on to become one of the most prolific American screenwriters of the 20th century, helping to mould national comedy with a number of iconic releases, including 1980’s Caddyshack, 1984’s Ghostbusters and 1993’s Groundhog Day. Bill Murray‘s career would have certainly suffered greatly without Ramis’ influence, with the zany writer helping the iconic comedian come out of his shell on the silver screen. 

Comparatively, neither Miller nor Kenney had the career that Ramis enjoyed, but, indeed, few screenwriters can hope for such a string of similar successes. For Miller, Animal House was his magnum opus, failing to achieve considerable work after this project, while Kenney at least enjoyed one other notable credit, co-writing Caddyshack with Ramis and Brian Doyle-Murray. 

Where does Animal House take place?

Taking place at Faber College in 1962, Animal House was the first movie to properly explore the sheer joy and liberation of going to college. Tailing a number of erratic students, including John Belushi as Bluto, Tim Matheson’s Otter and Peter Riegert’s Boon, the film explores their numerous humorous wrongdoings in the face of potential expulsion at the hands of Dean Vernon Wormer, played by John Vernon. 

The main location of the movie, as well as the 1979 sitcom spin-off Delta House, Faber College became the idealistic image of college life for Americans across the country, with its red brick appearance lined with towering white columns lighting up the eyes of students. It most certainly helped that this fictitious college seemed to breed and attract anarchy from its students, with the Delta Tau Chi Fraternity being the main culprit. 

Much of the film’s mayhem takes place at the Faber College institution, the Delta fraternity house, or the surrounding cafes and bars in the surrounding area. While Faber College was attractive to students, it was really the Delta house that viewers really wanted to be a part of, with the dilapidated house becoming a playground for the movie’s big kids to plan pranks, drink and party.

Where was Animal House filmed?

Much of Animal House was filmed at the University of Oregon, with the scenes of the Faber College campus being captured here, although other locations in Dexter, Eugene and College Grove were also used. So, if you want to try and recreate the experience of the students in Animal House, attending the University of Oregon is your closest bet, but we can’t guarantee you won’t be expelled if you try some of the stunts you see in the film.

But if you want to get even closer to the events of the movie, you’d want to visit the real original site of the Delta House, which was located close to the Oregon campus in Eugene. The house was actually used for meetings by the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity until 1967, when they stopped using the site because of lack of attendance, a problem that simply wouldn’t have occurred after the release of Animal House in 1978.

Alas, you won’t be able to visit the house today if you were to travel to Eugene, with the site being demolished in 1986. 

(Credits: Far Out / Universal Pictures)

Best Animal House quotes

There are countless iconic quotes in Animal House, from the moment Otter tells Boon, “I anticipate a deeply religious experience,” or when the fantastically villainous Dean Wormer utters, “Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son”. However, there are two others that slipped into the national lexicon following the film’s release. 

The first is when Belushi’s Bluto is being chased around the college cafeteria by a rival fraternity. In an attempt to get them off his tail, he shouts, “Food fight!” and sparks total chaos in the lunch hall in the process. Playing off the frenetic madness of similar custard pie scenes that occurred regularly during the Golden Age of classic Hollywood, this scene popularised the childish trend that has since become rife across the world. 

But, the most famous quote from the movie is, no doubt, the chant “Toga, toga, toga,” which has also gone on to begin a long-running college trend. Such perfectly demonstrates just how influential the movie became, with toga parties slipping into the national consciousness, now a key part of college partying, not just in America but across the globe.  

Watch Animal House on Netflix now.