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Left to right - Crease (SIDNEY POITIER), Whistler (DAVID STRATHAIRN), Mother (DAN AYKROYD), Carl (RIVER PHOENIX) and Bishop (ROBERT REDFORD) are high-tech experts who are hired to penetrate systems and test their security.
In January, the company moved to the outlying Simi Valley to begin both interior and exterior scenes for Playtronics, a high-tech toy company which is actually a clever cover for organized crime. The nighttime filming continued for two weeks amidst powerful winds and near-freezing temperatures that raised the difficulty of already challenging camera moves. Ironically, the real-life setting for Playtronics was the corporate headquarters for a failed savings and loan (Gibraltar Savings), where vast stockpiles of computers and office equipment had once recorded and compiled data on thousands of customers.
In the parking lot outside Playtronics, Robinson staged the Sneakers' daring escape in their customized van, a high-tech headquarters for any on-site surveillance. Propmaker Don Miloyevich worked with computer effects supervisor Steve Grumette to outfit the van with such state of the art equipment as video monitors, portable surveillance cameras, military binoculars, an oscilloscope, tape and video players, welding set-ups, a logic analyzer, telephone service equipment, even maps and phone books.
Occidental College served as the site for the fictional Leland University, where Dr. Janek delivers his lecture, a bank in Westwood was dressed as the Coolidge Institute, and Dan Aykroyd hung from the scaffolding on a hi-rise office building in West Los Angeles. Pasadena's historic Green Hotel was dressed as the Russian consulate, where Bishop interrupts the concert attended by a Russian diplomat (George Hearn).
Back at Universal Studios, the town square made famous as Hill Valley in "Back to the Future" and its sequels doubled for an East Coast college campus where the young Martin Bishop (Gary Herschberger) and Cosmo (Jojo Marr) first met. What made the scene particularly significant was the colossal snowstorm staged by a tireless special effects team. Four kinds of snow including several hundred tons of shaved ice as well as truckloads of paper and plastic pellets were whipped up by fans and wind to create an impressive stormfront. By 3:00 a.m., the effects crew had used every last manufactured flake of snow in the county, and had even raided the supply house on the Warner Bros. lot.
Later, the snowy scene would be re-staged for close-ups on an interior sound stage which housed young Bishop and his Volkswagen van. The crew, well insulated in down parkas, wool hats and gloves, braved the subzero temperatures inside the refrigerated shell, but were thrilled when they could step outside and return to the California sunshine.