The Surprising Cost Of Encino Man's Giant Ice Cube

"Encino Man" is a lot of things. It's a fun family-friendly teen comedy starring two serious future stars and one MTV celebrity. It's a story about fitting in, and realizing that being popular isn't everything. It's a movie with Brendan Fraser at peak hotness. One thing it's not is a special-effects extravaganza, but the film still spent a massive amount of its budget on a 30-second scene that needed a special effect. 

In "Encino Man," Dave (Sean Astin) and Stoney (Pauly Shore) discover a caveman frozen in ice while trying to dig a pool in Dave's parents' backyard. They drag the massive ice block into the garage to melt it, and later, caveman Link (Fraser) crashes out of it and starts living with Dave and going to high school. Most of the movie is a goofy comedy with a budget focused on paying its stars, but it turns out that building that giant block of ice was also extremely expensive. Like, almost hilariously expensive, brah.

Realism isn't always better

In an Entertainment Weekly behind-the-scenes scoop from 1992, Dennis Dion, the film's special-effects coordinator, explained just how much money and effort went into creating a giant block of ice that could be broken apart for the scene. "The Cube," as they called it, was a 2,500-pound chunk of ice with a dummy version of Fraser inside. The first few attempts at making the ice block were fruitless as the team realized that real ice gets foggy when frozen, so Dion set about creating ice in a way that would still be clear. It took him nearly three months of experimenting using ionized water, slow freezing, and air compressors to remove bubbles, and he finally created his giant ice cube with a fake caveman inside. The only problem? The Cube cost $50,000 of the film's $7 million dollar budget. The scene lasts for about 30 seconds, and The Cube would be no more. 

Perhaps the strangest part of the story is that the effect didn't work as was originally planned, and the frozen dummy inside of the cube broke in half right along with the ice. Fraser, standing nearby in his caveman costume, even muttered an "ouch," probably glad that they hadn't decided to make it even more realistic. In the end, they ended up cutting away from the ice block breaking as soon as the dummy starts to split, cutting to Fraser on the floor, sitting up in a pile of crushed ice. That's movie magic for you. Sometimes using the real thing is worse than trying to fake it entirely, and in this instance, it cost $50k and probably gave Dion his fair share of frozen fingertips. 

Shore has been trying to get an "Encino Man 2" off the ground for awhile now, so if they decide to unfreeze any more cave-people in the future, they can just use CGI.