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.

Jim Henson's Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas Is Returning to Theaters

The Jim Henson Company via Fathom Events
The Jim Henson Company via Fathom Events

For anyone who grew up with HBO in the 1980s, the holiday season meant two things: Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas and The Bells of Fraggle Rock. Though the beloved Jim Henson classics have been largely confined to home video-only screenings over the years, they’re making their way back to the big screen for the first time via Fathom Events when the Jim Henson Holiday Special arrives in theaters nationwide for a limited, two-day engagement.

More than 600 theaters across the country will host screenings of the Jim Henson Holiday Special on Monday, December 10 (4 p.m. and 7 p.m.) and Sunday, December 16 (1 p.m. and 4 p.m.), which will pair the two specials—both of which have recently been remastered—alongside an all-new featurette, Memories of the Jug-Band.

"Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas was a favorite project for my dad since it included such sweet characters, Paul Williams’s delightful music, and a timeless holiday message,” Cheryl Henson—Jim Henson’s daughter and president of the Jim Henson Foundation—said in a statement about the special, which is a music-filled twist on The Gift of the Magi.

“Also, the special was a great opportunity for him to experiment with puppetry techniques and effects that would be seen in his later works," Henson continued. "[It] is exciting for families to share this holiday classic along with the special episode The Bells of Fraggle Rock, a rare opportunity to see the Fraggles on the big screen, and to introduce these beloved characters to a whole new audience."

On December 18, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas on Blu-ray for the first time ever so that you can make the special a permanent part of your regular holiday movie marathon. This news comes on the heels of Emmet Otter's first-ever official soundtrack release, more than 40 years after its original premiere.

Click here to find out the Jim Henson Holiday Special is playing near you, and to pre-order your tickets today.

10 Filling Facts About A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Though it may not be as widely known as It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving has been a beloved holiday tradition for many families for 45 years now. Even if you've seen it 100 times, there’s still probably a lot you don’t know about this Turkey Day special.

1. IT’S THE FIRST PEANUTS SPECIAL TO FEATURE AN ADULT VOICE.

We all know the trombone “wah wah wah” sound that Charlie Brown’s teacher makes when speaking in a Peanuts special. But A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, which was released in 1973, made history as the first Peanuts special to feature a real, live, human adult voice. But it’s not a speaking voice—it’s heard in the song “Little Birdie.”

2. IT WASN’T JUST ANY ADULT WHO LENT HIS VOICE TO THE SPECIAL.

Being the first adult to lend his or her voice to a Peanuts special was kind of a big deal, so it makes sense that the honor wasn’t bestowed on just any old singer or voice actor. The song was performed by composer Vince Guaraldi, whose memorable compositions have become synonymous with Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang.

“Guaraldi was one of the main reasons our shows got off to such a great start,” Lee Mendelson, the Emmy-winning producer who worked on many of the Peanuts specials—including A Charlie Brown Thanksgivingwrote for The Huffington Post in 2013. “His ‘Linus and Lucy,’ introduced in A Charlie Brown Christmas, set the bar for the first 16 shows for which he created all the music. For our Thanksgiving show, he told me he wanted to sing a new song he had written for Woodstock. I agreed with much trepidation as I had never heard him sing a note. His singing of ‘Little Birdie’ became a hit."

3. DESPITE THE VOICE, THERE ARE NO ADULTS FEATURED IN THE SPECIAL.

While Peanuts specials are largely populated by children, there’s usually at least an adult or two seen or heard somewhere. That’s not the case with A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. “Charlie Brown Thanksgiving may be the only Thanksgiving special (live or animated) that does not include adults,” Mendelson wrote for HuffPo. “Our first 25 specials honored the convention of the comic strip where no adults ever appeared. (Ironically, our Mayflower special does include adults for the first time.)”

4. LUCY IS MOSTLY M.I.A., TOO.

Though early on in the special, viewers get that staple scene of Lucy pulling a football away from Charlie Brown at the last minute, that’s all we see of Chuck’s quasi-nemesis in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. (Lucy's brother Linus, however, is a main character.)

5. CHARLIE BROWN AND LUCY STILL KEEP IN TOUCH.

Though they only had a single scene together, Todd Barbee, who voiced Charlie Brown, told Noblemania that he and Robin Kohn, who voiced Lucy in the Thanksgiving special, still keep in touch. “We actually went to high school together,” Barbee said. “We still live in Marin County, are Facebook friends, and occasionally see each other.”

6. CHARLIE BROWN HAD SOME TROUBLE WITH HIS SIGNATURE “AAARRRGGH.”

One unique aspect of the Peanuts specials is that the bulk of the characters are voiced by real kids. In the case of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, 10-year-old newcomer Todd Barbee was tasked with giving a voice to Charlie Brown—and it wasn’t always easy.

“One time they wanted me to voice that ‘AAAAAAARRRRRGGGGG’ when Charlie Brown goes to kick the football and Lucy yanks it away,” Barbee recalled to Noblemania in 2014. “Try as I might, I just couldn’t generate [it as] long [as] they were looking for … so after something like 25 takes, we moved on. I was sweating the whole time. I think they eventually got an adult or a kid with an older voice to do that one take."

7. LINUS STILL GETS AN ENTHUSIASTIC RESPONSE.

While Barbee got a crash course in the downside of celebrity at a very early age—“seeing my name printed in TV Guide made everyone around me go bananas … everybody … just thought I was some big movie star or something,” he told Noblemania—Stephen Shea, who voiced Linus, still gets a pretty big reaction.

"I don't walk around saying 'I'm the voice of Linus,'" Shea told the Los Angeles Times in 2013. "But when people find out one way or another, they scream 'I love Linus. That is my favorite character!'"

8. THANKS TO LINUS, THE THANKSGIVING SPECIAL GOT A SPINOFF.

As is often the case in a Peanuts special, Linus gets to play the role of philosopher in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and remind his friends (and the viewers) about the history and true meaning of the holiday. His speech about the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving eventually led to This is America, Charlie Brown: The Mayflower Voyagers, a kind of spinoff adapted from that Thanksgiving Day prayer, which sees the Peanuts gang becoming a part of history.

9. LEE MENDELSON HAD AN ISSUE WITH BIRD CANNIBALISM.

In writing for HuffPo for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’s 40th anniversary, Mendelson admitted that one particular scene in the special led to “a rare, minor dispute during the creation of the show. Mr. Schulz insisted that Woodstock join Snoopy in carving and eating a turkey. For some reason I was bothered that Woodstock would eat a turkey. I voiced my concern, which was immediately overruled.”

10. MENDELSON EVENTUALLY GOT HIS WAY ... THOUGH NOT FOR LONG.

Though Mendelson lost his original argument against seeing Woodstock eating another bird, he was eventually able to right that wrong. “Years later, when CBS cut the show from its original 25 minutes to 22 minutes, I sneakily edited out the scene of Woodstock eating,” he wrote. “But when we moved to ABC in 2001, the network (happily) elected to restore all the holiday shows to the original 25 minutes, so I finally have given up.”

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