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5 Things You Might Not Know About Tim Burton's 'Beetlejuice'

Features
by Drew Taylor
March 29, 2013 11:00 AM
25 Comments
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3. Warner Bros. Hated The Title
The title for "Beetlejuice" is a play on the character Betelgeuse's name, which in turn based on the Betelgeuse star, which is housed in the infinite blackness of space but in the same constellation as the more famous star Orion. (Screenwriter McDowell was surprised anyone picked up on the reference.) Warner Bros, however, didn't think there was anything clever or funny or interesting about the movie's title, and begged Tim Burton to allow them to change it. He refused.

The alternate title the studio had come up with was "House Ghosts," which, at the very least, beats out "Anonymous Haunted House Story 39480," which more or less conveys the same general mood and aura. Burton, the story goes, suggested "Scared Sheetless" as a joke (a reference to the scene where the Maitlands attempt to scare the Deetzes out of the house by wearing bed sheets – something they consider spooky but comes off as utterly laughable). Much to Burton's horror, the studio actually liked his idea, and tried to rename the movie. Burton finally put his foot down and said that the movie would be called "Beetlejuice." Once and for all.

4. There Was A Hugely Popular Animated Spin-Off
Some might remember that "Beetlejuice" inspired an animated spin-off series that was snappily (if somewhat crudely) illustrated in the style of the movie, complete with Danny Elfman music serving as the series' theme. In the show, Betelgeuse (who Lydia referred to as BJ) and Lydia would travel between the real world and "The Netherworld" and get into all sorts of creepy/cuddly adventures. What you might not remember is how phenomenally popular the series was.

It ran from 1989 to 1992 and amassed almost a hundred episodes. At one point, new episodes were airing on ABC's Saturday Morning line-up while additional episodes ran during the week on Fox. (Historically, only a handful of shows have aired at the same time on two different broadcast networks.) In other words: it was huge. The show still airs on the AOL channel Toontopia TV, and in May, the entire series will be released on DVD courtesy of Shout Factory. Expect a lot of twenty-somethings to buy the set and say something along the lines of, "Well this was weirder than I remembered it being."

5. A Tropical-Set Sequel Was Planned
On one of his endless live talks, Kevin Smith recounts his fruitless experiences being wooed by the big studios, post-"Chasing Amy." At one point he was brought to Warner Bros. and given a choice of projects to work on and potentially develop. One, he says, was "Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian." ("Must we go tropical?" Smith wondered in the stand-up special.) The other project was another Tim Burton joint, one that would lead to a long and particularly painful development process for Smith and pretty much everyone involved, millions of dollars being spent on cast members, costumes, and pre-production work that would ultimately never see the light of day. That film was "Superman Lives."  

Anyway, back to the "Beetlejuice" sequel. Warner Bros. was pressuring Burton for a sequel to the hit film, and Burton shot back with the idea of letting Betelgeuse unleash his mischief on the Hawaiian islands. They even hired a screenwriter, Jonathan Gems (with "Heathers" scribe Daniel Waters brought on for a polish later on), and formally announced the project for the summer of 1990. Gems later described the thought process as such: "Tim thought it would be funny to match the surfing backdrop of a beach movie with some sort of German Expressionism, because they're totally wrong together."

Everything stayed pretty quiet on the sequel front, with a longstanding legal wrangle going on between Warner Bros. and Geffen over who, exactly, owns the rights to the character. In 2011, it was announced that Seth Grahame-Smith, who wrote "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" and who had just worked with Burton on an adaptation of his own "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" and a big screen revamp of "Dark Shadows" for the director, was working on a "Beetlejuice" sequel (last year he said it was still on). It is assumed that the script he's developing is not set in Hawaii.

So, if you haven't watched "Beetlejuice" in a while or this piece has nudged you to revisit it, please leave your thoughts below. Or say Beetlejuice Beetlejuice Beetlejuice and we'll just appear.

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25 Comments

  • Janvier Li | June 16, 2014 6:37 PMReply

    Yes Mr. Author, you called it. This show is a lot weirder than I remembered. Lydia and Beetlejuice's relationship certainly borders on the creepy side. Then again, Edgar Allan Poe married his 13-year-old cousin when he was in his mid 20's. I guess horror lords like to blur the lines a little bit...

    Still an amazing movie and delightful TV show.

  • Laiken | June 12, 2014 12:29 AMReply

    If the movie is to come out please Tim Burton you have to use Micheal Keaton with his crazy personality because personally if you are going to release this new one I beg you to get Micheal Keaton to be in it a new Beetlejuice in my opinion is no Beetlejuice at all now I understand the characters like Juno the Case Worker and other old people will not be in this one because most would be "gone" but that is okay I still have faith in this newer movie but even if its good or bad I will always support Micheal Keaton, Winona Rider, Tim Burton, Geffen ,Warner Bros. , and any other wonderful people who made this classic one of a kind movie.;

  • Laiken | June 12, 2014 12:21 AMReply

    I know they are to say that "Beetlejuice 2" is being made which I hope is because I for a fact love the film and adore the cartoon I started watching the cartoon last year and I'm in love with it ,it has good humor and fun turns of events and to be honest with everyone I have a HUGE crush on Beetlejuice I can't figure out why on earth I do, it just happened I guess haha. So Tim Burton Micheal Keaton and to any of the other characters that may be in this new one make me proud because I for one would love to see "the ghost with the most" make a come back and maybe if we get luck Stephen Quimette and Alyson Court will start the cartoon back up but hey we can only wait and see what Tim Burton has to come!

  • calvin | March 17, 2014 6:13 PMReply

    Could you imagine all the stop motion animation being done in CGI? Waaaugh, that is scary!

  • tingmosing | March 17, 2014 3:15 PMReply

    I always had the biggest crush on Lydia! So hot.
    Anon-Works dot Com

  • James | March 17, 2014 1:56 PMReply

    "in the same constellation as the more famous star Orion. (Screenwriter McDowell was surprised anyone picked up on the reference.) "

    I'm pretty sure Orion is a constellation...not a star? Also why would nobody get the reference to one of the most famous stars in the night sky?

  • Lee Morgan | March 2, 2014 11:52 AMReply

    Please... Don't release a Beetlejuice 2...the original is a classic. I hope that you can allow this to remain so. After a quarter century, this film remains, in my opinion, the best comedy/horror in living memory. Michael Keaton's role as Beetlejuice CANNOT be beaten.

  • ClaudiusValentine | February 16, 2014 8:11 PMReply

    BeetleJuice 2 is on his way. its now in 2014 i been keeping tabs on this for awhile and from all the news i get its gonna happen theres a script being written and because everyone loved doing the first its looking like burton will direct and the hole idea for the new 2nd when the first Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian would of sucked even WB saw this,

    this hole idea is being written with michael keaton in mind burton himself said he wont even think of it unless keaton reprises (one of the best characters ever made) burton wants it the fans want it and shockingly keaton himself have said he has been wanting to get back into beetlejuice since after the two batman movies so he's been waiting for over 20 years now so im sure hes in just show him a script already lol

    when it comes to beetlejuice, the character has become a anti hero of sorts since the animation picked up where the movie left off everyone loves this guy because they now see him as a cool anti hero that basically does what he wants, come on the B-man and lydia were both weird they were going to end up together and you know it so dont complain, the character does not need to go back to the 80's scaring out of the house routine again its been done move onto a bigger story with him.

    what the 2nd movie needs is more beetlejuice i mean he did steal every scene he was in so add more of that, sure he doesnt need to be in every single scene would be too much but adding to the characters legend that has been growing (beetlejuice character has become a legend)
    people want to see his past what he did when he was alive not just read very little about it online,

    the neitherworld needs to be shown more take a page out of the animated show which was made by burton himself the animation show is great it still holds up after all these years the character has become larger then life because of the show not the movie

    the movie has become boring to watch when you have seen it a million times over the jokes in the movie has become stale when the show kept the jokes coming in beetlejuice style , so people that dont like the show dont have a funny bone in their body.

    so to get anyone interested besides the stubborn long time fans of the movie which is just a few people that are already calling it a bad move when everyone involved said its not a remake or reboot its a straight continuation the story is gonna be 27 years from the original,

    we all know the original fans are gonna walk away they always do so what this sequel needs is new fans and what better way then pitching it as a continuation of the tv show but live action i mean the neitherworld with todays graphics is gonna look outstanding.

    its a different time now then the 80's what kind of people are gonna watch this time is family and kids from 18 - late 20's i myself is 28 keep in mind the idea of lydia and B-man being friends will probably be that way in the sequel they were both weird and deserved each other get over it already.

    they need to go the rout of the tv show then another scaring out of the house again or otherwise this sequel will bomb big time trust me the people that will see this now is families and young adults with very few older long time fans mixed in so beetlejuice may end up being a anti hero this time around as long as the main character is all their with keaton in the role then who the heck cares if the B-man is a anti hero or not people are gonna pay to see keaton they could care less of what the story is gonna be.

    plus any story with beeltejuice in todays graphics is enough to reboot the entire franchise making any fan very happy in the end.

  • Kris | October 28, 2013 11:02 PMReply

    Tim Burton, I beg of you, do not remake this movie. It is perfection. I think you won't but just wanted to put out out there. And if you do, I'll drag you out by the ropes you hanged yourself with. Because you must have given the them upper hand Lydia. <3

  • Josh | October 22, 2013 1:55 AMReply

    Nobody does weird/crazy like Michael Keaton. Tim needs to give it a rest with all the Depp films that haven't been interesting in years. Beetlejuice II! Now we just need Ivan Reitman & co. to come up with a Ghostbusters III!

  • jimmiescoffee | March 31, 2013 12:38 AMReply

    beetlejuice cartoon was awesome. 2nd golden age of animation classic.

  • Rob | March 30, 2013 11:55 PMReply

    I had a VHS copy of this movie as a kid and I would watch it, rewind it, and watch it again over and over. I'm 24 and I still love this movie.

  • libco | March 30, 2013 12:17 PMReply

    I would imagine that the people who watch the Beetlejuice Cartoon are 30 plus now rather than 20 something.

  • AMD | March 1, 2014 7:47 PM

    I'm barely 23 and I remember how much I loved watching it.

  • Josh | October 22, 2013 1:50 AM

    29:)

  • Mer | March 31, 2013 5:58 PM

    I'm 25 and I was and am obsessed with Beetlejuice the movie AND the cartoon. It used to be on all the time and my brother (who is 2 yrs younger) and I would watch it every Saturday and then watch the re-runs.

  • George | March 30, 2013 9:58 PM

    Nope, I'm 19 and I watched this show everyday. Given that they were most definitely reruns, it was still pretty darn popular for people in my generation.

  • 30 plus | March 30, 2013 5:17 PM

    Yep, that's pretty much right. I'm just 30 and I was 6 to 9 when that show was on. I should think that any younger than me would have been absolutely confused by the show or just too scared to watch. Even I remember being right on the border of understanding anything the show was saying or doing, other than the french skeleton and the tap dancing spider.

  • Andrew | March 30, 2013 1:07 PM

    First thing I did when I saw that line...checked my own age because I loved the cartoon back then: 35.

    "20 something" is a nice idea, though.

    This was a fun article to read, thanks!

  • Andrew | March 30, 2013 1:07 PM

    First thing I did when I saw that line...checked my own age because I loved the cartoon back then: 35.

    "20 something" is a nice idea, though.

    This was a fun article to read, thanks!

  • John | March 30, 2013 9:19 AMReply

    Orion is a constellation, not a star.

  • Cp | December 17, 2013 10:58 PM

    Yeah but only because of that famous movie Ryjell

  • Ricky | October 14, 2013 8:32 PM

    Yup. The more well known star of which is Rigel. This writer does not know his astronomy.

  • brer | March 29, 2013 11:59 AMReply

    Since Burton married colorful camp and dark expressionism so well in Edward Scissorhands, I bet Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian would have been good.

  • Mark W. | March 29, 2013 11:40 AMReply

    After Warren Skaaren died of cancer at the age of 44, there was a small exhibit of his work at the University of Texas at Austin where he donated his papers. Under glass was a copy of an enticingly titled script, "Beetlejuice in Love," which I imagine was Skaaren's version of the "Beetlejuice" sequel.

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