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Truckee crew, extras see ‘Jack Frost’ come to life

SHERRY MAYS and TANYA CANINO

It has been months since the film crews from the movie “Jack Frost” left Truckee’s roads and the slopes of Sugar Bowl, but the memories of the cast of extras and the hours in production aren’t cold. They’ve heated up with the Dec. 11 opening of the movie at the North Shore Theaters.

Children and adults lined up to get the first glance at the movie that was all the buzz last spring.

The cast and production crews were invited to the cast and crew screening at Warner Bros. studios, and Steve Mueller, a Sugar Bowl employee and movie production crew member, was the only northern California crew member that made the trek to the invitation-only event.

“It was a lot of fun to see everyone at the studio,” he said. “It was more fun to watch the scenes that took months of shooting finally on the screen.”

Mueller assisted the production company with logistics while it shot the scenes involving Sugar Bowl and Old Highway 40 above Donner Lake.

“I was bummed that Warner cut the crash scene at the Rainbow Bridge,” he said. “I thought that would have been the best scene.”

Because of time and the cost to keep crews in the Sierra, many sets were built at the southern California studio. Part of the closed set included downtown Truckee and Walt and Goldie Smith’s home located in Olympic Heights. The Smiths traveled to the studio to see the re-creation of their home in May.

“It was freaky,” Goldie said. “Our home was there with the interior all changed around, and there was fake snow everywhere. It was just weird.”

Smith said all of the people who worked with her and Walt in Olympic Heights were even friendlier in Los Angeles.

“I guess they weren’t as stressed as they were when they were up here,” she said. “They were great to us when they were here, I couldn’t believe they could have been any nicer than that.”

She said the studio allowed them to invite their cousins to see the set.

They haven’t been able to see the movie yet, but are planning to as soon as it is at the Martis Valley theater.

“Everyone has been calling us to tell us about the movie,” she said. “When I read the script I got teary-eyed, and from what I hear it is a real tear jerker.”

Mueller agreed.

“I thought it was going to be more of a comedy,” he said. “It turned out to be a great family movie. It is a really good story.”

Not many of the Truckee-Tahoe “extras” were even recognizable, but that didn’t matter to the excited theatergoers who packed Tahoe City’s Cobblestone Cinema two weeks ago to watch the movie.

“It was pretty packed. We felt sorry for the people who didn’t have a clue that they were walking into a private party,” said Sandy Hauserman, a West Shore resident.

The Tahoe opening of “Jack Frost” wasn’t private, but the local movie theater was certainly filled with Tahoe City and Truckee residents hoping to spot themselves in the movie filmed on location in Tahoe City, Truckee and Sugar Bowl.

The opening scene of the movie, a massive snowball fight, was filmed at Tahoe Lake School with about 200 second- and third-graders used as extras.

During the filming last March, movie costume managers carefully selected the clothing the children were allowed to wear. The results could be seen in the movie, as most of the children in the background were a blur of black, brown and navy coats and hats. But to those children who spent hours and hours of a week of school last March waiting for a brief moment of filming in the snowball scene, the barely recognizable blurs didn’t matter when the film played on the big screen.

Two locals who stood out the most in the filming were Richard and Jennifer Courcier, who were portraying teachers walking on the playground at the school.

Those who patiently acted as extras in the filming scene at Rosie’s restaurant last March were disappointed to find that the entire scene must have been left on the cutting room floor.

Other scenes of local areas were camoflauged by different backgrounds, such as a scene of downtown Truckee with a different mountain behind it.

The movie grossed $7 million in its first weekend, ranking third in the movie standings behind Star Trek: Insurrection at $22.4 million and A Bug’s Life at $11 million. The film, however, was panned by the critics.

“This movie, not Tim Burton’s 1993 creepfest, is the real nightmare before Christmas,” wrote Mike Clark of USA Today.

He said the snowman’s “torso appears to be packed with rags, Styrofoam or maybe William Howard TaftIf screen fantasys were forced to live with their aesthetic equals, Jack the Snowman would be rooming with Howard the Duck.”

Jack Mathews of the Los Angeles Times says the film “is something less than a miracle of illusion. The snowman moves like the proverbial man in a gorilla suit.”

He adds that the movie tries to please parents and children, but does neither and doesn’t address the grief issues of a child losing his dad in the first half of the film and again at the end.

However, Mathews did have one bright spot of the movie to report – “the marvelously inventive playground snow fight in the opening moments.”

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