The story goes that William Beaty Boyd, the president of the University Of Oregon in the late ’70s, regretted his decision not to allow The Graduate to film on the campus—so much so that he practically gave director John Landis the key to the university for Animal House. He even let Landis use his own office for Dean Wormer’s.
That was a favorite anecdote for Dave Frohnmayer, who was the university’s special counsel while Animal House shot there, and then went on to be the school’s longest-serving president.
“Dean Wormer’s ofﬁce, as it appears in the ﬁlm, where the dead-horse scene occurs, was actually my ofﬁce for 15 years,” Frohnmayer says. “I used to ask visitors if they’d ever seen this ofﬁce before, and of course most people said no. So I said ‘Well, have you seen Animal House? This is Dean Wormer’s office. This is where his desk was, and this is where the dead horse was.’ Typically, we’d be sitting about where the dead horse was. So it was a good icebreaker, obviously.”
Few of the locations are still present or recognizable, but the Erb Memorial Union “Fish Bowl”—site of the cafeteria food-fight scene—looks a lot like it did 33 years ago. Instead of generic cafeteria food, University Of Oregon students have a bunch of options—including a hippie place that sells a stunning 14 varieties of kombucha—but the Fish Bowl’s setup remains the same.
The building used for Delta House’s exterior was a former frat house that was being used as a halfway house for ex-cons when the film was made. It was torn down in 1986, but the building where Delta House’s interiors were shot is currently part of the neighboring Northwest Christian University. (That building also provided the exterior of the Tri Pi sorority house.)
Animal House shot while school was in session, and there are stories of clashes between students and the crew. As Frohnmayer mentions in the video, what the school was led to believe about Animal House and what the film ended up being were considerably different.
“I was supposed to be in supervision of the legal agreement as signed,” Frohnmayer says. “And I’ve got to say, that’s a legal agreement that either was ignored the moment the ink was dry, or interpreted vastly differently by the production crew or ﬁlming crew than we thought. So that led to a lot of pretty short tempers during the time that Animal House was being ﬁlmed.”
Even though the film was far cruder and more raucous than the University Of Oregon anticipated, the school has more or less embraced it during the three decades since its release.
“It was a pretty raucous thing that it turned out to be, but also of course a famous, iconic ﬁlm now,” Frohnmayer says. “And one that I’ve got to say has a pretty funny history on this campus, because after being appalled by how the production crew and the acting staff behaved, after a few years, it became an underground orientation ﬁlm for the university until the administration properly nixed it and said ‘We need to put on a more presentable notion of “This is how the university behaves.”’”
Regardless, Animal House will likely remain the de facto orientation film for the university’s incoming students—as long as they realize that pretty much all of the hijinks it portrays will get them arrested.