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15 Lawful Facts About the Police Academy Movies

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The Police Academy franchise consists of seven feature films, one live-action series, and a cartoon. Despite consistently poor reviews, the first three films made a combined total of more than $578 million (after inflation). The first four movies featured Steve Guttenberg, who achieved mega-stardom from it throughout the 1980s. Along the way, the likes of Kim Cattrall and Sharon Stone joined in on the ongoing misadventures of the gang of outcasts, misfits, and just plain unemployable police academy graduates. Here are some facts about the movies you can read as long as you don't move, dirtbag.

1. THE IDEA FOR THE MOVIES CAME FROM THE RIGHT STUFF.

Producer Paul Maslansky was on the San Francisco set of the 1983 movie about the original Mercury 7 astronauts. When a group of police cadets arrived to help with crowd control for a street scene, the history of cinema was forever altered. "When they piled out of the buses to take their posts, they were so diverse—men, women, tall, short, black, Chinese—it was very humorous for me," Maslansky remembered. "I asked the sergeant, 'Are these all going to be future San Francisco's finest?' He looked at me and said, 'We gotta take them all into the academy, but we can flunk 'em out.' It started me thinking, 'What if they don't want to be flunked out? What if some guy or girl wants to stay in?'" Maslansky wrote a two-page treatment that night.

2. MICHAEL KEATON WAS SET TO STAR, WITH DOM DELUISE DIRECTING.

By the time the script was finished, neither was available. Producers also wanted Tom Hanks or Judge Reinhold for Mahoney.

3. BRUCE WILLIS AUDITIONED FOR MAHONEY.

He would soon achieve stardom with the TV series Moonlighting.

4. GUTTENBERG'S FATHER WAS A NEW YORK CITY COP.

Guttenberg's mother eventually couldn't handle the stress of worrying about him and made him quit the police force. He then worked at an electronics store. At his screen test for Police Academy (1984), Guttenberg wore his father's shirt with "New York Police Academy" on the shoulder.

5. MICHAEL WINSLOW GOT THE ROLE AFTER OPENING FOR COUNT BASIE.

Maslansky, who is also a jazz musician, and director Hugh Wilson (creator of WKRP in Cincinnati) saw Winslow perform at the Long Beach Theater with Count Basie and hired him immediately. Basie himself told Maslansky and Wilson to take care of the young comedian.

6. ROGER EBERT REALLY, REALLY HATED POLICE ACADEMY.

"It's really something," Ebert wrote. "It's so bad, maybe you should pool your money and draw straws and send one of the guys off to rent it so that in the future, whenever you think you're sitting through a bad comedy, he could shake his head, and chuckle tolerantly, and explain that you don't know what bad is." Needless to say, the movie got a thumbs down.

7. BILL PAXTON WAS SET TO APPEAR IN THE SECOND TWO FILMS.

Holding up the deal was the insistence of the powers that be to tie Paxton to Police Academy 2 and 3. While that was going on, James Cameron called Paxton to offer him the part of Private Hudson in Aliens (1986). Paxton chose to take Cameron up on his offer, despite it paying half as much as Police Academy.

8. TIM KAZURINSKY WAS ONLY SUPPOSED TO APPEAR IN ONE SCENE.

Former SNL cast member Tim Kazurinsky, who played Carl Sweetchuck, originally agreed to work for one day on Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment, and appear in one scene. After the original director, Jim Signorelli, was fired three weeks into production and replaced by Jerry Paris, Paris said he didn't like most of what was shot, except for the scenes with Bobcat Goldthwait (who played Zed) and "the old man in the lamp store" (Kazurinsky). Apparently, Paris—who also directed the series' third installment—knew what he was doing. "Six weeks later, Bobcat and I were still on set and Jerry Paris was saying to us, 'Well, what do you guys want to do today?'" Kazurinsky told The A.V. Club. "It was like the silliest thing of all. And we’d say, 'We’re in the supermarket and I’ll hide in the bananas and Bob will find me.' And apparently the kids liked it. They had these cards people sign when they leave the theater—'Who’d you like?' They liked Bobcat and they liked the old guy in the lamp store, so they had us join the force next year. I was like, 'They want me to be a cop? I’m like 50 to 60 years old in this!' It didn’t matter. So we were cops in a couple more movies."

9. CAPTAIN HARRIS WAS SO DRUNK HE ENTIRELY FORGOT SHOOTING ONE OF THE MOVIES.

Major Crimes star G.W. Bailey, who played Lieutenant-turned-Captain Harris throughout the film series, claimed he was drunk while shooting Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol (1987) and does not remember it at all. "I don't have any idea what it was about," Bailey told The A.V. Club.

10. TONY HAWK WAS FIRED FROM POLICE ACADEMY 4.

Tony Hawk was dismissed from his duties as the skateboarding stunt double for David Spade (who made his feature film debut in the film) on account of being too tall and unable to hide his face. Hawk said it was a "badge of honor to be fired from such a cheesy comedy." Hawk recently proved on Twitter he was still in the closing credits, along with the rest of the skateboarding team, The Bones Brigade.

11. VINCE NEIL WAS CUT OUT OF POLICE ACADEMY 6: CITY UNDER SIEGE.

In a deleted scene, Hightower helped the Mötley Crüe singer get to the airport on time.

12. MICHAEL WINSLOW WAS THE ONLY ACTOR IN ALL SEVEN MOVIES AND THE LIVE-ACTION SHOW.

David Graf (Tackleberry) and George Gaynes (Commandant Lassard) were also in all seven movies, but Winslow was also in Police Academy: The Series, which ran in syndication for one season from 1997 to 1998.

13. BUBBA SMITH DROPPED OUT OF POLICE ACADEMY: MISSION TO MOSCOW DUE TO SOLIDARITY.

When Smith learned that Marion Ramsey, who played Laverne Hooks, had been written out of the seventh and (currently) final installment, despite appearing in all of the previous six movies like Smith, he said he wasn't going to join the 1994 project. It was the lowest-grossing movie in the series, by a wide margin.

14. BILL CLINTON IS A FAN.

"Every time I've seen President Clinton he says when he's in a bad mood he turns on Police Academy,'' Guttenberg said. (No word on whether Hillary is a fan.)

15. KEY AND PEELE ARE PRODUCING A POTENTIAL EIGHTH MOVIE.

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have been at work on a reboot of the series for a couple of years; their project is rumored to be titled Police Academy: Next Generation.

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The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day Marathon Is Back
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Shout! Factory

For many fans, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is as beloved a Thanksgiving tradition as mashed potatoes and gravy (except funnier). It seems appropriate, given that the show celebrates the turkeys of the movie world. And that it made its debut on Thanksgiving Day in 1988 (on KTMA, a local station in Minneapolis). In 1991, to celebrate its third anniversary, Comedy Central hosted a Thanksgiving Day marathon of the series—and in the more than 25 years since, that tradition has continued.

Beginning at 12 p.m. ET on Thursday, Shout! Factory will host yet another Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day marathon, hosted by series creator Joel Hodgson and stars Jonah Ray and Felicia Day. Taking place online at ShoutFactoryTV.com, or via the Shout! Factory TV app on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire and select smart TVs, the trio will share six classic MST3K episodes that have never been screened as part of a Shout! Factory Turkey Day Marathon. Here’s hoping your favorite episode makes it (cough, Hobgoblins, cough.)

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11 Bite-Sized Facts About Cannibal! The Musical
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Back in their film school days, the creators of South Park made a twisted tribute to Rogers and Hammerstein. Cannibal! The Musical is (very) loosely based on the life of Alfred "Alferd" Packer, an American prospector who resorted to eating his travel companions in the harsh winter of 1874. Below, you’ll find a buffet of bite-sized facts about this weirdly upbeat black comedy. Bon appétit!

1. IT ALL STARTED WITH A GAG TRAILER.

In 1992, Trey Parker was studying film at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where pretty much everyone knows all about the legend of Alfred "Alferd" Packer. Indeed, when a new restaurant opened up on campus in 1968, the student body chose to name it after this famous man-eater. The restaurant’s slogan? “Have a friend for lunch.” As a joke, Parker rounded up some of his fellow film majors and spent three days shooting a phony trailer for a nonexistent movie called Alferd Packer: The Musical. Included in the ensemble was Matt Stone, with whom Parker would go on to create South Park.

Once the Alferd Packer promo was finished, those who worked on it weren’t sure if they could turn this concept into a feature-length picture. Fortunately, the trailer was a huge hit. “People thought it was really funny,” Parker told The Denver Post, “so we went around … and said, ‘So do you want to invest?’” Thanks (for the most part) to donations from a few CU grads with wealthy parents, Parker and his co-stars amassed a $100,000 budget.

2. LIANE THE HORSE WAS NAMED AFTER TREY PARKER’S EX-FIANCÉE.

At age 21, Parker was all set to marry his high school sweetheart. “We had plane tickets, the dress was bought, the church was paid for,” Parker shared on the DVD commentary. Then, about a month before the wedding, he caught his bride-to-be with another man. Devastated, Parker broke off the engagement and came up with an unusual way to get even. “I really wrote this movie for her,” he said.

A major character in Cannibal is Liane, Packer’s beloved horse, who leaves him for another rider. The two-timing equine was named after Parker’s former fiancée. Some artistic license was taken here, as there’s no proof that the real Packer ever owned a horse named Liane—or that he ever wistfully sang about being on top of her.

3. AN AVANT-GARDE LEGEND WAS CAST IN A MINOR ROLE.

World-renowned for his experimental filmmaking, the late Stan Brakhage taught off and on at the University of Colorado, where he met Parker and Stone. The two convinced him to appear in Cannibal! as George Noon’s father, who gets about two minutes’ worth of screen time.

4. PARKER’S DAD WAS IN IT, TOO.

Just like Stan Marsh’s dad in South Park, Trey Parker’s father, Randy, is a geologist. In Cannibal! The Musical, he portrays the Breckenridge judge who sentences Packer (played by Trey) to death.

5. “SHPADOINKLE” WAS MEANT AS A FILLER WORD.

In addition to penning the Cannibal! script, Parker also wrote the film’s musical numbers. The first of these is “Shpadoinkle Day,” an offbeat tribute to “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! Parker knew that the first verse had to include a positive, three-syllable word, but couldn’t think of any that fit. So he used the made-up term “Shpadoinkle” to plug the gap until he could come up with an alternative. However, the creative team liked “shpadoinkle” so much that it stayed put and became one of Cannibal’s running jokes.

6. THEY SHOT IN THE COURTROOM IN WHICH PACKER WAS ACTUALLY TRIED.

On April 6, 1883, Packer was put on trial at the Hinsdale County Courthouse in Lake City, Colorado. Over the next few days, he admitted to dining on two of his dead travel companions—one of whom he supposedly killed in self-defense (the other died of natural causes). Packer was found guilty of murder, but avoided the hangman’s noose by fighting for a second trial, which took place 30 miles away in Gunnison. This time, he was charged with five counts of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 40 years in prison. However, while Packer languished behind bars, public opinion slowly turned in the cannibal’s favor. Under near-constant pressure from The Denver Post, Governor Charles S. Thomas pardoned Packer in 1901.

More than 90 years later, Parker filmed the trial scenes of Cannibal! The Musical at the still-standing Hinsdale County Courthouse. About halfway through the movie, the judge delivers a big speech in which he sentences Packer to death. His on-screen monologue was copied word-for-word from the court transcript of that 1883 Lake City trial.

7. AS THE MINERS SING “THAT’S ALL I’M ASKING FOR,” YOU CAN SEE PARKER MOUTH THE WORD “CUT.”

It goes by fast, but you can see Parker call "cut" to end the shot at the 3:06 mark in the clip above.

8. PARKER USED A PSEUDONYM FOR THE OPENING CREDITS.

Parker billed himself as "Juan Schwartz" in the cast of Cannibal because, according to the movie's website, "Trey doesn't like seeing one person's name plastered all over a movie's credits." Since he is properly credited as writer and director, he likely felt the additional acting credit was a bit too much. Incidentally, Packer called himself “John Shwartze” while evading the law before his arrest.

9. A FEW SONGS WERE DELETED.

The original cut of Cannibal! The Musical ran for two and a half hours, but thanks to some major-league editing, the runtime was reduced to a breezy 93 minutes. “There were fights about that from the get-go, but I give credit to Trey for being the toughest critic,” producer Jason McHugh told MovieMaker Magazine. “He had the maturity to know that a musical comedy about cannibals can’t be two and a half hours long.”

In the streamlining process, two musical numbers got the axe. The first was a quick little dirge called “Don’t Be Stupid,” wherein some nameless miners tell Packer’s group to postpone their journey until springtime. The other was “I’m Shatterproof,” a rap/funk song that Packer, hardened by his recent ordeals, delivers during a bar fight. Also deleted was a reprise of “When I Was On Top of You.”

10. COMEDY CENTRAL WOULDN’T BROADCAST IT.

Cannibal! was distributed by Troma Entertainment, an independent production company best known for creating The Toxic Avenger series. When South Park began to emerge as a major player on cable TV, Troma’s co-founder, Lloyd Kaufman, assumed that Comedy Central would jump at the chance to air some of Parker and Stone’s earlier work. Instead, the channel flatly refused to air Cannibal.

Kaufman was sent a rejection letter from Comedy Central, which read: “Thank you for submitting and re-submitting Cannibal! The Musical, but it is simply not up to our standards for broadcasting.” Troma forwarded a copy of this dispatch to Parker. Today, it’s prominently displayed in his office—at Comedy Central!

11. IT HAS BEEN TURNED INTO A STAGE MUSICAL ON MANY OCCASIONS.

Can’t get tickets to The Book of Mormon? Perhaps you can catch a live reenactment of Cannibal! The Musical instead. Since 1998, the movie has been seen more than 60 stage adaptations. There’s no “official” version of the theatrical show. As such, acting troupes that might be interested in performing Cannibal! have to write their own scripts based on the original movie. 

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