The role of Passepartout was greatly expanded from the novel to accommodate Mexican star Cantinflas. In the mid-1950s, he was the wealthiest movie star in the world, and got top billing in Latin countries.
The bullfighting sequence was added because Cantinflas had bullfighting experience. He was actually in the ring with the bull, eschewing the use of a stunt double. It was one of the first sequences shot.
After winning the Oscar, Michael Todd rented Madison Square Garden and threw a huge party. Over 18,000 guests attended, and the celebration frequently threatened to degenerate into all-out chaos. Todd himself called the party a disaster.
The film used 140 sets built at six Hollywood studios, as well as sets in England, Hong Kong, and Japan. It also set several records. The cast and crew flew over 4,000,000 miles. Casting included 68,894 extras in 13 countries, and 74,685 costumes were designed, made, or rented for the film. The 1,243 extras listed on the IMDb page (and in the original program book) were only the extras who worked on the film in Hollywood. Ninety animal handlers managed 8,552 animals (3,800 sheep, 2,448 buffalo, 950 donkeys, 800 horses, 512 monkeys, 17 bulls, 15 elephants, 6 skunks, and 4 ostriches).
Orson Welles was upset he did not get a cameo in the film. Before Michael Todd produced this film, he produced a stage version by Welles. The play flopped, but Todd turned the project into a film, and it enjoyed great success. Welles felt he gave Todd the idea.
In a magazine article published shortly after the film was released, Cantinflas said that one of the hardest things he had to do in the movie was to learn to ride the "penny-farthing" (high wheeled) bicycle at the beginning of the film.
Michael Todd fired original director John Farrow was fired after about a week. Todd realized quickly that only one person could run a Michael Todd production, and it wasn't going to be Farrow. Farrow got a screenplay credit, and won an Oscar for his troubles.
To make the film really stand out from the crowd of epic films, producer Michael Todd implored theater owners to promote the film "exactly as you would a Broadway show": organize reserved seats, pass out playbills before the movie, remove clocks from the theater, and ban the sale of popcorn.
Screenwriter S.J. Perelman didn't attend the Academy Awards ceremony. He sent Hermione Gingold to accept it if he won. He wrote a note for her to read when she accepted. She said the following: "I'm very proud to receive this object d'art on behalf of Mister Perelman, who writes..." - reads from the note - "...he cannot be here for a variety of reasons, all of them spicy. He's dumbfounded, absolutely flummoxed. He never expected any recognition for writing 'Around the World in Eighty Days'. And, in fact, only did so on the expressed understanding..." - flips note over - "...that the film would never be shown."
Contrary to popular belief, production reports show that most of the film was shot in Hollywood. A lot of exterior second unit locations were used, but most scenes were shot on sound stages in Hollywood, on the back lots of over seven major studios, including: RKO-Pathe, RKO, Universal-International, Warner Bros., Columbia, and 20th Century-Fox.
In the original novel, Princess Aouda's Eastern garb is removed when Phileas Fogg and Passepartout rescue her from the sacrifice. They dress her in a dress, an Otterskin jacket, and a large cloak. She wears that outfit for the rest of the journey around the world.
The locomotive used on the American train was not operational. The train was actually powered by a diesel-electric locomotive disguised as a baggage car. The tunnel was a cutting in the rocks covered over for filming.
Over a dozen airlines provided service to the actors and technicians on this film, including Pan Am, TWA, Middle Eastern, and Pakistan Air. Private pilot Paul Mantz provided airline accommodations for producer Michael Todd.
The film is the second Todd-AO production shot at 24 fps (to produce the 35 mm general-release version) and 30 fps (to produce the 70 mm roadshow version). Both versions were shot on 65 mm negative with Todd-AO lenses. Sometimes two cameras operated side-by-side filming the same take, other times the same camera was used with the speed changed for the second take. In some non-dialogue scenes, the same shot was used. The 35 mm version is presented in conventional 2:1 squeeze anamorphic process; the 70 mm version is presented in Todd-AO.
Some of the ship scenes were completed in the Sersen tank at 20th Century-Fox studios under the supervision of Fox visual effects supervisor Fred Sersen. The visual effects team worked on the boat props as well. The Sersen tank was used for a number of independent productions, including Walt Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954).
Some sources list Ava Gardner as one of the cameo performers in this film. It is unclear whether or not she may have contributed to the film with her performance being cut, or whether this is simply an error.
Victor Young's Oscar-winning score was recorded in July 1956 at the former Charlie Chaplin Studio on La Brea Avenue in Hollywood. At the time, Charles Chaplin had sold it to an independent outfit that had renamed it Kling Studios. Michael Todd was leasing space there during production. A sound stage normally used for filming was converted into a music scoring stage. Six Neumann U-47 condenser microphones were placed over the orchestra and fed to a 35mm magnetic six-track recorder. The entire set up was only used once for this film. It was later torn down, and the stage reverted to filming.
For its premiere run in London, the film was presented in 34mm. The UK had no 70mm-equipped theatres at the time, and cinema operators did not like the roadshow format. Eventually, Rank agreed to use its peripheral Astoria, Charing Cross Road for a roadshow run. The film played in an anamorphic 35mm format (not the same squeeze as CinemaScope) which gave a 2.2:1 aspect ration on screen. At the time, the British government imposed a film quota on UK cinemas which required 30% of the year's films to be British. However, the law only applied to 35mm, so special prints were produced with 1mm shaved off, producing unique 34mm prints which sidestepped the quota rules and enabled the Astoria to play the film for almost two years. The success of that roadshow presentation persuaded Rank and other cinema operators to install 70mm (which also avoided the quota) and get on the roadshow bandwagon.
Michael Todd had extreme difficulties financing the film. After completing the large western sequence, the production was almost broke. Arthur Krim and Max E. Youngstein of United Artists looked at the existing footage, declared it a winner, and agreed to bankroll the rest of the film.
In 1971, the film was re-released as a double feature with West Side Story (1961). Both films made their television debuts the following year; this film in September on CBS, and West Side Story (1961) in March on NBC.
Although Columbia Pictures originally had an agreement with Michael Todd about finance and distribution, studio head Harry Cohn pulled out of the partnership. Just before Cohn died, he agreed to finance and distribute Cantinflas's only other American film, Pepe (1960), which turned out to be a financial disaster.