Filming began on March 9, 1997, and ran for 6 weeks entirely on location in the Los Angeles area. The Good Burger and Mondo Burger were designed and constructed from nearly the ground up, and stood across the street from one another. Looking back on production from the comfort and safety of hindsight, Director/Producer Brian Robbins sees a very different movie from the one he set out to shoot initially. “When we first thought about doing this it was supposed to be a real little comedy that took place in a burger stand. It’s based off a simple TV sketch after all. It seemed that every day though, we were doing another giant scene. We were dropping a massive burger off the top of a roof, or exploding a kitchen, or doing car chases. It’s as if what we really have is an action movie.”
Even with all the action in the movie, it was a quiet scene that remains Kenan Thompson’s favorite. “I’ts really different from the rest of the movie, but that’s one of the things that makes it work so well. The scene is very simple but sort of dramatic. Ed and Dexter are sitting on a rooftop, just talking, opening up, just discussing our differences and everything. That’s all, just getting to know each-other. I think you get to know these characters better through this scene, it makes the comedy all the funnier.
To help create that comedy, the filmmakers knew they had to have a production design that equaled the action. “And so, from a design standpoint, we went for extremes.”- Director Robbins
Production designer Steven Jordan collaborated with Robbins to create this extreme look. We wanted to show Good Burger as the kinder, gentler era, and Mondo Burger as the big corporate that comes in and wipes everything else out. “With Mondo Burger, we waned it to feel like it was designed by the state.” To do so Jordan used bright colors, exposed beams, and unfinished steel, Mondo burger is 80% neon, while Good Burger still has their first dollar hanging on the wall.”
One of the unique challenges Jordan faced was designing everything related to Mondo Burger on a super-sized level. Like the 20-foot tall ice cream shake on the building, the 6-foot straw sticking out of it, and the 10-foot tall cheeseburger next to it. “They were so big that we had to get special road permits to truck the to the set. The city would only let us transport them at three o’clock in the morning, it was an experience” recalls Jordan.
By far one of the movies odder creations was the burger mobile, which Ed and Dexter drive around town on deliveries. A converted old AMC pacer, the car is equipped with windshield wipers made of giant french fries, a huge french fry bumper, pickles for hubcaps, a massive sesame seed bun that’s sandwiched on the hood, and a neon sign on the roof that reads “good Burger.”
Speaking of burgers, during the six weeks of filming, Todd Ellis faced the unorthodox task of supplying all the burgers and secret sauce for the movie. “We cookecd over 800 real hamburgers during production, to conserve meat we made about 60 fake burgers, and of course out good burgers had to have everything on them. Lettuce, tomato, onions, and pickles. On the other hand the Mondo Burgers were an even taller task to fill. Standing 6 inches high, and 6 inches in diameter. Nobody was ever able to fit their entire mouth around one.” Ellis recalls.
Ellis’ biggest challenge, of course was crating the centerpiece for the film – the all important secret sauce, of which more than 60 gallons were used in filming. “we will never divulge the recipe for the secret sauce. only one person besides me and my staff knows the recipe, and that’s the director and he will never tell.” Ellis said.
When dealing with the burgers, one scene stands out, and its when the Mondo Burgers become monster burgers and explode. Special effects were used to make these special burgers, with a variety of rubber products, hoses, nitrogen, and several other hidden secrets. “I like to call the pyrotechnic burgers, quite delicious” smiled John Peyser, head of special effects.
Julia Pistor, the films executive producer, sees the film as embracing, and expanding on the Nickelodeons themes and styles which have made them the number one brand for kids in TV, and will take them to the number one brand in movies. “everyone can relate to feeling like a small person in a big world, especially kids. But, of course, in this movie the kids triumph – and they triumph by being themselves. Very simply, we are creating a bigger than life, exaggerated world. From the choice of colors, the music, the constant jokes and gags, and the action. Even seeing Kenan & Kel drive the burger mobile around places.”
According to Robins, he sums up the production by saying, “with this film, we’re trying to take reality and raise it just one notch higher.”
And that’s exactly what you get with Good Burger.