A gag reel, also called a blooper or outtake reel, is a collection of mistakes and errors made during production of a film or theater production. These reels often contain flubbed lines, actors losing character and laughing, production problems like fires or props falling incorrectly, or practical jokes. Many DVDs now contain a gag reel as an extra feature or Easter egg. Gag reels are often hilarious and an excellent way for audience members to step inside the production process and for production members to relive great moments.
Collecting bloopers became well-known in the 1950s, particularly through the efforts of TV producer Kermit Schafer. Schafer produced several records of both live and recreated bloopers called Pardon My Blooper! In the 1970s, a popular British TV show called It’ll be Alright on the Night showcased film and TV mistakes, and spawned several spin-off shows. In the 21st century, DVDs as well as video-sharing websites such as Youtube have continued the popularity of the gag reel.
One of the earliest TV shows to produce widely watched bloopers was Star Trek. As fan conventions of the show reached record sizes, producers released gag reels featuring the fans’ beloved characters. In the 1990s, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air often ran a gag reel over the credits, a tradition popular during film credits as well.
Some modern gag reels include movie footage played with alternate sound or visual effects. In Pirate’s of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, a ship battle is shown with a car-chase soundtrack. Viewers who have seen rare outtakes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy claim an edited sequence is included, showing Aragorn attacking Sauron with a machine gun.
Pixar, a computer-generated imagery animation studio, has famously created outtakes for many of their popular films. As the films are animated, these gag reels are not comprised of actual mistakes, but are rather created by designers to resemble a blooper reel for the animated casts. In the Toy Story 2 gag reel, the character of Woody is shown playing a variety of practical jokes on the character of Buzz. Other outtakes involve animation jokes, such as Mrs. Potato-Head stuffing impossible objects into Mr. Potato-Head’s storage unit.
It has been common practice to show gag reels at a production wrap party. Some of these are eventually released on DVDs for public viewing, but others remain closely guarded secrets. At the cast wrap party for Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, party-goers were shown an extensive gag reel, most of which has never been released to the public, despite pleas from fans.
Gag reels are a wonderful way to memorialize the production of any filmed event. Some live theater groups film much of their rehearsal process, editing together any funny bloopers to show at the wrap party or distribute as gifts to company members. For fans, the gag reel gives insight into behind-the-scenes action, and are often shown at large-scale conventions such as California’s Comic Con. Be warned when showing a gag reel to children, as they are generally not rated or censored and may contain adult language or content.