15 Things You Might Not Know About Beetlejuice

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Thanks to its bonkers blend of comedy and horror, Beetlejuice became an instant hit with audiences when it was released on March 30, 1988—and even more so in the 30 years since, as younger viewers have discovered it on television, DVD, and streaming. The movie also helped to establish Tim Burton, who made his feature directorial debut with Pee-wee's Big Adventure in 1985, as one of Hollywood's most unique new artists. But there were plenty of obstacles that came with bringing this ghost with the most to the big screen, as well as some stellar benefits to its success. As the news continues to spread that a long-talked-about sequel to the film is finally, actually (hopefully) happening, we're looking back at some fun facts about the cult classic that started it all.

1. EARLY DRAFTS OF THE SCRIPT WERE FAR LESS WHIMSICAL.

Screenwriter Michael McDowell's original script was far darker than the final script, which was rewritten by screenwriters Larry Wilson and Warren Skaaren. Originally it imagined Beetlejuice as a winged demon whose human form was that of a small Middle Eastern man, and his plan for the Deetzes was more about rape and murder than mischief and marriage. Also, the Maitlands’ car crash was far more gruesome.

2. AN EARLY DRAFT OFFERED A MAITLAND HOME FOR EVERYONE.

The original ending of McDowell’s screenplay had Beetlejuice being destroyed by an exorcism and the Maitlands’ house shrinking down to the size of Adam's model town. Instead of sharing their home with the Deetz family, they move into the model house and renovate it to look like their full-scale version did before the family arrived. Also, the Deetz parents move back to New York, leaving Lydia to be raised by the Maitlands in Connecticut.

3. TIM BURTON WANTED WARREN SKAAREN TO BRING SOME PLAYFULNESS AND MUSIC TO THE SCRIPT.

Part of the rewrites by Warren Skaaren included specific music suggestions, like Lydia lip-syncing to Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman." The final film substituted R&B songs for calypso music like Harry Belafonte’s hits "Day-O" and "Jump in the Line (Shake, Senora).”

4. SAMMY DAVIS JR. WAS BURTON'S FIRST CHOICE FOR BEETLEJUICE.

Tim Burton reportedly wanted Rat Pack member Sammy Davis Jr.—who was 63 years old at the time—to play Beetlejuice. Producer David Geffen suggested actor Michael Keaton, who was ultimately chosen and would go on to appear in two other Burton films: Batman and Batman Returns.

5. IT WON AN OSCAR.

Makeup artists Ve Neill, Steve LaPorte, and Robert Short won the 1989 Academy Award for Best Makeup.

6. ANJELICA HUSTON WAS VERY NEARLY DELIA DEETZ.

Anjelica Huston was originally cast to play Delia Deetz, but had to bow out due to an illness. Actress Catherine O’Hara initially declined Burton’s offer for the part, but accepted after Burton flew out to meet with her and personally convince her to take it. O'Hara met—and eventually married—production designer Bo Welch while working on Beetlejuice.

7. GEENA DAVIS AND MICHAEL KEATON NEEDED NO CONVINCING.

Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin in Beetlejuice (1988)
Warner Home Video

Both Geena Davis and Michael Keaton immediately signed on to the film after meeting with Burton, but he allegedly had to beg Golden Age Hollywood star Sylvia Sidney to play the afterlife detective, Juno. Sidney would go on to work with Burton again on her last film, the 1996 alien invasion comedy Mars Attacks!. Sidney passed away in 1999.

8. LYDIA WAS A ROLE LOTS OF INGÉNUES REJECTED.

Actresses Lori Loughlin, Diane Lane, Sarah Jessica Parker, Brooke Shields, Justine Bateman, Molly Ringwald, and Jennifer Connelly are among the young actresses who allegedly turned down the role of Lydia Deetz. Juliette Lewis auditioned, but Winona Ryder won the part once Burton saw her performance in the teen dramedy Lucas.

9. BEETLEJUICE WAS NEARLY CALLED SCARED SHEETLESS.

Warner Bros. executives didn’t like the name Beetlejuice and pushed to have it changed to House Ghosts. Burton jokingly suggested Scared Sheetless as an alternate name, and was appalled when Warner Bros. actually considered it.

10. BEETLEJUICE WAS NAMED AFTER A STAR.

Beetlejuice was named for Betelgeuse, a star in the constellation Orion.

11. "DAY-O" PLAYED AT OTHO'S REAL-LIFE FUNERAL.

Harry Belafonte’s song “Day-O,” which is in the film’s memorable song and dance number, was the final song played at the memorial for actor Glenn Shadix (who played Otho in the film), who passed away in 2010.

12. BEETLEJUICE IS BARELY IN HIS OWN MOVIE.

Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin, and Geena Davis in 'Beetlejuice' (1988)
Warner Home Video

Beetlejuice only appears in 17.5 minutes of the 92-minute film.

13. TEST AUDIENCES ENCOURAGED A HAPPIER ENDING FOR BEETLEJUICE.

Test audiences responded to Keaton's green-haired ghoul so well that Burton's team went back to create an upbeat epilogue that featured Beetlejuice hassling a sawed-in-half woman before being hexed by a witch doctor. An earlier draft had him stuck in the Maitlands' model town and plagued by sandworms.

14. BEETLEJUICE INSPIRED AN ANIMATED SERIES.

A cartoon spinoff of Beetlejuice ran for 94 episodes. The show completely reimagined the relationship between Lydia Deetz and the titular character, with Beetlejuice taking her on wild adventures in the "Neitherworld." The Maitlands don't exist in this spinoff, but Lydia got a cast of classmates as well as ghoulish friends like a skeleton bodybuilder and a tap-dancing spider.

15. A BEETLEJUICE SEQUEL IS IN THE WORKS—AGAIN! NO, REALLY!

The box office success of Beetlejuice inspired the development of a sequel in 1990 called Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian. However, Batman Returns became Burton's priority at the time, and the sequel's prospects went cold until 2011, when Warner Bros. hired Dark Shadows scribe Seth Grahame-Smith to produce a new take on Beetlejuice 2, with Keaton, Ryder, and Burton all in talks to become involved in the potential sequel.

But years passed and the project was only teased until December 2014, when the rumor mill started buzzing once again after Tim Burton told IGN: “There is a script, and I would love to work with [Michael Keaton] again. I think there is now a better chance than ever … I miss that character. There’s something that’s cathartic and amazing about it. I think it’s closer than ever.”

In 2015, adding fuel to the excitement, Winona Ryder told Seth Meyers: “I think I can confirm it. It was very hush-hush top secret … but then [Tim Burton] was doing some press for Big Eyes and and he did an on-camera interview and he said, ‘Oh yeah, we’re doing it, and Winona’s going to be in it.’ ... If he said it, I can say it.”

As of late 2017, the project was at a bit of a standstill, but had just brought on a new writer to rework the script. Much like its title character, this project may not be quite dead yet.

The Psychology Behind Kids' L.O.L. Surprise! Doll Obsession

Jack Taylor, Getty Images
Jack Taylor, Getty Images

Isaac Larian, the founder and CEO of toymaker MGA Entertainment, is an insomniac. Fortunately for him, that inability to sleep forced him to get up out of bed one night—a move that ended up being worth $4 billion.

Larian’s company is the architect of L.O.L. Surprise!, a line of dolls with a clever conceit. The product, which retails for about $10 to $20, is encased in a ball-shaped plastic shell and buried under layers of packaging, forcing children to tear through a gauntlet of wrapping before they’re able to see it. The inspiration came on that highly profitable sleepless night, which Larian spent watching unboxing videos on YouTube. It resulted in the first toy made for a generation wired for delayed gratification.

The dolls first went on sale in test markets at select Target stores in late 2016. MGA shipped out 500,000 of them, all of which sold out within two months. A Cabbage Patch Kid-esque frenzy came the following year. By late 2018, L.O.L. Surprise! (the acronym stands for the fancifully redundant Little Outrageous Little) had moved 800 million units, accounted for seven of the top 10 toys sold in the U.S., and was named Toy of the Year by the Toy Association. Videos of kids and adults unboxing them garner millions of views on YouTube, which is precisely where Larian knew his marketing would be most effective.

A woman holds a L.O.L. Surprise doll and packaging in her hand
Cindy Ord, Getty Images for MGA Entertainment

The dolls themselves are nothing revolutionary. Once freed from their plastic prisons, they stare at their owner with doe-eyed expressions. Some “tinkle,” while others change color in water. They can be dressed in accessories found in the balls or paired with tiny pets (which also must be "unboxed"). Larger bundles, like last year’s $89.99 L.O.L. Bigger Surprise! capsule, feature a plethora of items, each individually wrapped. It took a writer from The New York Times 59 minutes to uncover everything inside.

This methodical excavation is what makes L.O.L. Surprise! so appealing to its pint-sized target audience. Though MGA was advised that kids wouldn’t want to buy something they couldn’t see, Larian and his executives had an instinctual understanding of what child development experts already knew: Kids like looking forward to things.

Dr. Rachel Barr, director of Georgetown University’s Early Learning Project, told The Atlantic that unboxing videos tickle the part of a child’s brain that enjoys anticipation. By age 4 or 5, they have a concept of “the future,” or events that will unfold somewhere other than the present. However, Barr said, they’re also wary of being scared by an unforeseen outcome. In an unboxing video, they know the payoff will be positive and not, say, a live tarantula.

L.O.L. Surprise! is engineered to prolong that anticipatory joy, with kids peeling away wrapping like an onion for up to 20 minutes at a time. The effect is not entirely novel—baseball card collectors have been buying and unwrapping card packs without knowing exactly what’s inside for decades—but paired with social media, MGA was able to strike oil. The dolls now have 350 licensees making everything from bed sheets to apparel. Collectors—or their parents—can buy a $199.99 doll house. So-called “boy toys” are now lurking inside the wrappers, with one, the mohawk-sporting Punk Boi, causing a mild stir for being what MGA calls “anatomically correct.” His tiny plastic genital area facilitates a peeing function.

Whether L.O.L. Surprise! bucks conventional toy trends and continues its popularity beyond a handful of holiday seasons remains to be seen. Already, MGA is pushing alternative products like Poopsie Slime Surprise, a unicorn that can be fed glitter and poops a viscous green slime. An official unboxing video has been viewed 4.2 million times and counting.

The 8 Most Anticipated Horror Movies of 2019

Jessica Rothe in Happy Death Day 2U (2019)
Jessica Rothe in Happy Death Day 2U (2019)
Michele K. Short, Universal Pictures

Between Hereditary, A Quiet Place, and Halloween, 2018 was a killer year for horror moviesand 2019 is shaping up to be just as impressive. While remakes seem to be dominating the schedule in the coming months, there are plenty of sequels, adaptations, and even a few promising original titles coming out as well. Here are some of the scary movies we're most looking forward to seeing this year.

1. Us

In 2017, Jordan Peele revolutionized the horror genre with Get Out. The Academy Award-winning filmmaker plans to do the same again with Us, which features a predominantly black cast—a rarity for a horror movie. "I dedicated a lot of myself to creating a new horror mythology and a new monster," Peele said of the film. "I think that monsters and stories about monsters are our best ways of getting at deeper truths and facing our fears as a society ... It’s also important to note that this movie, unlike Get Out, is not about race. It is instead about something I feel has become an undeniable truth. That is the simple fact that we are our own worst enemies." Us, which stars Elisabeth Moss and Lupita Nyong'o, arrives in theaters on March 22, 2019.

2. IT: Chapter 2

Stephen King fans were thrilled with 2017's IT, the second adaptation of the horror master's beloved 1986 novel. Andy Muschietti is sitting in the director's chair again for the second chapter, which will follow the Losers Club as they return to Derry, Maine in their adult years. While Bill Skarsgård will reprise his role as Pennywise, impressive new additions to the cast include Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, and James McAvoy. The film debuts on September 6, 2019.

3. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

If you’ve been a horror fiend since childhood, you’ll no doubt remember Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark book series. The books included memorable illustrations by Stephen Gammell, some of which no doubt haunted many children’s nightmares. The film adaptation will be released on August 9, 2019.

4. Zombieland 2

Venom director Ruben Fleischer's feature debut, 2009's Zombieland, was an instant hit with both horror and comedy fans. And they've been waiting 10 years for a sequel. Finally, we’ll be getting a second film this year with Fleischer directing and Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, and even Bill Murray all confirmed to return. Zombieland 2 is set to hit theaters on October 11, 2019.

5. Happy Death Day 2U

The hilariously bad-but-fun Happy Death Day (2017) surprised audiences with how flat-out entertaining it was, so much so that fans were thrilled to hear there were plans for a sequel. Much like the original movie, the second film will follow protagonist Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) as she’s killed every single day. But this time, the killer is coming for her friends, too. Happy Death Day 2U premieres on February 14, 2019.

6. Pet Sematary

Though Mary Lambert's original Pet Sematary (1989) was not met with much critical acclaim, fans of the Stephen King novel were pleased with the adaptation, and are excited to see the story come to life again. The remake, which is directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer and stars John Lithgow and Jason Clarke, debuts on April 5, 2019.

7. Child’s Play

When rumors began swirling that there was going to be another Chucky movie, and that it would be a remake of the original Child’s Play at that, people—including the original series creator Don Mancini—didn't initially seem too excited.

But as more details—including a cast list that includes Aubrey Plaza and Brian Tyree Henry—were made public, interest in the project seemed to grow. Child’s Play hits theaters June 21, 2019.

8. The Prodigy

Creepy kids will never fail to make terrifying horror movie villains. In The Prodigy, Taylor Schilling’s character discovers something supernatural might be happening to her son when he starts acting as if he’s possessed. (Spoiler alert: He probably is). The film will be released on February 8, 2019.

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