Get ready to shout, “Toga! Toga! Toga!” as we journey back to the iconic Toga Party scene from the 1978 comedy classic, ‘Animal House.’ This raucous celebration of college life is making a triumphant return to the big screen, delighting audiences once again. On August 14 and 17, in over 650 theaters across the country, moviegoers will revel in the hilarity and nostalgia of this unforgettable party. Let’s dive into the details of this timeless spectacle and its enduring impact.
The Toga Party: A College Legend
Bluto (John Belushi) and Otter (Tim Matheson) are the ringleaders who ignited the call to action for the epic fraternity party portrayed in ‘Animal House.’ The Delta fraternity’s beer-soaked, toga-clad extravaganza, accompanied by the infectious tunes of Otis Day and the Knights performing “Shout,” has become synonymous with the epitome of college revelry. This scene has captured the imagination of generations, shaping their perception of social life in college.
Ben Mankiewicz, film host for Turner Classic Movies, reflects on the scene’s impact, saying, “That terrific scene is so much fun and has had a profound impact for generations on what people imagine college social life is like. Who wouldn’t want to go to college for that experience? Sign me up. For me, that scene led to disappointment when I actually got to college.”
The Making of a Classic Party
The infamous Toga Party scene was shot over two days in the basement of a fraternity house at the University of Oregon. Director John Landis carefully assembled the cast and crew, selecting DeWayne Jessie to portray the frontman, Otis Day, and enlisting university students and local musicians to form the Knights band. Interestingly, Landis later discovered that renowned guitarist Robert Cray was among the musicians involved, thanks to a conversation with Eric Clapton two decades later.
The scene pulsated with energy as revelers danced to a cover version of the Isley Brothers’ classic hit, “Shout.” Costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis, who eventually married the director, reminisces about the festive atmosphere, saying, “They played ‘Shout’ over and over again. But there was no fatigue at all. It was just joyous, the music so infectious, and people were just happy to be there.” The costumes, featuring hastily tied togas and gold spray-painted flip-flops, perfectly captured the carefree spirit of the party.
One of the most memorable moments of the scene involves the late John Belushi staggering through Stephen Bishop’s stairwell serenade, eventually smashing a guitar. To add an extra layer of authenticity, Bishop himself shot the scene during a break from his tour. Landis recalls the intensity of the guitar-smashing moment, saying, “That was not a breakaway guitar. So when John smashed it, it didn’t break enough. So he really had to smash. But what makes that scene is, after that burst of violence, the way he goes, ‘Sorry.’ Bluto is completely destructive, but so sweet.”
A Legacy Passed On
The allure of the Toga Party continues to captivate each new generation. Tim Matheson, reflecting on his role as Otter, shares a heartwarming story about his daughter’s experience with the movie. “I got a call from my daughter, who said, ‘Dad, Dad, I’m at a toga party. My friends want to talk to you,'” Matheson recalls. “The first time she had seen ‘Animal House’ was when she got there, the first time she really acknowledged that this was cool. It really was a celebration for her, passing the toga party baton on to her generation.”
As ‘Animal House’ graces the silver screen once again, the Toga Party scene reignites the spirit of college revelry and everlasting friendships. The impact of this iconic sequence continues to resonate with audiences, reminding us of the joy and camaraderie that college life can bring. So grab your toga, embrace the spirit of the Delta fraternity, and relish the timeless hilarity of ‘Animal House’ as the Toga Party takes center stage once more.