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Incorrectly referring to the film as Radio Flyers, the 3 Jul 1990 WSJ reported that Warner Bros. Pictures was eager to purchase David Mickey Evans’s script as a vehicle for director Richard Donner. However, Stonebridge Entertainment countered with an offer that would allow Evans to make his feature directorial debut, and together with Peter Guber and Jon Peters, got the project approved at Columbia Pictures. Evans was paid $600,000 for the script and all additional rewrites, and $500,000 to direct.
       The 27 Jun 1990 Var stated that John Goodman was considered for the role of “Jack ‘The King’ McKenzie” before Tomas Arana was cast instead. A 26 Jun 1990 HR production chart listed those involved in the cast and crew: Rosanna Arquette; James Badge Dale; Luke Edwards; Joe Mantegna; and Tomas Arana; Wolfgang Glattes as executive producer; William A. Fraker as camera; Steven Rosenblum as editor; Bob Engelman as assistant director; David Nichols as production designer; Jim Dultz as art; Ron Reiss as set; Ellen Mirojnik as costume; Nancy Claycomb as production coordinator; Bruce Robles as special effects; Richard Lightstone as sound; and Vic Heutschy as publicist.
       Principal photography began 16 Jun 1990, but was quickly brought to a halt over what the 8 Oct 1990 HR referred to as “creative differences” between Evans and Stonebridge producers Michael Douglas and Rick Bieber, who were dissatisfied with the dailies. At this time, Rosanna Arquette left the project under the terms of her “pay-or-play” contract. Although filmmakers approached Debra Winger as her replacement, Lorraine Bracco eventually took the role of the children’s mother.
       According to the 19 Jul 1990 ... More Less

Incorrectly referring to the film as Radio Flyers, the 3 Jul 1990 WSJ reported that Warner Bros. Pictures was eager to purchase David Mickey Evans’s script as a vehicle for director Richard Donner. However, Stonebridge Entertainment countered with an offer that would allow Evans to make his feature directorial debut, and together with Peter Guber and Jon Peters, got the project approved at Columbia Pictures. Evans was paid $600,000 for the script and all additional rewrites, and $500,000 to direct.
       The 27 Jun 1990 Var stated that John Goodman was considered for the role of “Jack ‘The King’ McKenzie” before Tomas Arana was cast instead. A 26 Jun 1990 HR production chart listed those involved in the cast and crew: Rosanna Arquette; James Badge Dale; Luke Edwards; Joe Mantegna; and Tomas Arana; Wolfgang Glattes as executive producer; William A. Fraker as camera; Steven Rosenblum as editor; Bob Engelman as assistant director; David Nichols as production designer; Jim Dultz as art; Ron Reiss as set; Ellen Mirojnik as costume; Nancy Claycomb as production coordinator; Bruce Robles as special effects; Richard Lightstone as sound; and Vic Heutschy as publicist.
       Principal photography began 16 Jun 1990, but was quickly brought to a halt over what the 8 Oct 1990 HR referred to as “creative differences” between Evans and Stonebridge producers Michael Douglas and Rick Bieber, who were dissatisfied with the dailies. At this time, Rosanna Arquette left the project under the terms of her “pay-or-play” contract. Although filmmakers approached Debra Winger as her replacement, Lorraine Bracco eventually took the role of the children’s mother.
       According to the 19 Jul 1990 WSJ, Columbia offered Warner Bros.’ original choice, Richard Donner, $5 million to step in as director and “effectively start from scratch.” A 4 Sep 1990 DV news item stated that Evans and Donner remained on good terms as Evans completed rewrites to “lighten up” the story. Donner’s wife, Lauren Shuler-Donner, received $1 million to serve as producer, while Douglas, Bieber, and Evans shared executive producing credit. According to the 9 Dec 1991 Var, Donner’s script, cast, and crew overhaul pushed the original $15 million budget to roughly $31 million.
       A 23 Oct 1990 HR production chart stated that Donner’s revamped feature began filming 3 Oct 1990. Although Los Angeles, CA, Northern CA, and Washington, D.C., were listed as potential locations, the 8 Oct 1990 HR stated that shooting took place in Novato, CA. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, the airport tarmac below the “Wishing Spot” was filmed in Sonora, CA. Production was completed at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, where sets of the “Novato” neighborhood, the Wishing Spot, and interiors of the family’s home were recreated on a soundstage. Lauren Shuler-Donner told the 19 Oct 1990 HR that production was expected to bring $1.3 million to the local economy of Marin County, CA, in addition to the $500,000 spent hiring local technicians from the San Francisco area. Flying sequences were shot using Zor-Optics, which Donner had developed for Superman (1978, see entry). The 21 Feb 1991 HR also stated that Radio Flyer marked the first project undertaken by Zoptic Special Effects, the shop recently opened by Donner’s Superman collaborator, Zoran Perisic.
       During two days of location shooting in Palmdale, CA, the 17 Dec 1990 HR reported that script supervisor Nancy Banta Hansen and transportation driver Simone Fuentes were killed when their van was broadsided by a one-ton truck. Fuentes is not credited onscreen, but an acknowledgment reads: “This film is dedicated to Nancy Banta Hansen and Simone Fuentes, whose professionalism and humor we miss.”
       Although production was expected to conclude in late Jan 1991 in preparation for a Jun 1991 release, Columbia pushed the opening date to later that fall. On 12 Aug 1991, DV announced that the film was once again delayed until the 1992 President’s Day weekend, allowing Columbia sufficient time to build a publicity campaign based on preview screenings and strong word-of-mouth. During this period, the 28 Feb 1992 EW reported that Columbia tested several alternate endings in which Tom Hanks appears in his uncredited role as adult “Mike.” One scene featured Hanks admiring “Bobby’s” aeronautic Radio Flyer hanging in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, which confused audiences. Another version removed the scene entirely, but Hanks’s absence onscreen then failed to explain the source of his narration throughout the rest of the film. As a result, Donner took a day off production of Lethal Weapon 3 (1992, see entry) to shoot the final ending in which Mike tells the story to his children at an airfield in Santa Paula, CA. According to a 9 Mar 1992 Var brief, Columbia’s marketing costs totaled $10 million.
       Despite the extensive efforts to save the project, Radio Flyer received largely negative reviews from critics, who objected to the ambiguous ending and fanciful approach to the film’s serious themes of child abuse and alcoholism. The 9 Mar 1992 Var listed lackluster box-office earnings of $3.3 million after two weeks in theaters.
       End credits include the title card: “Today there is help. Tell someone. Childhelp Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD* (IOF Forestors) *As of February 1, 1992.” Additional acknowledgments state: “Special thanks to: the people and towns of Novato and Sonora, California; all Marvel comic books appearing are courtesy of and copyrighted by the Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc. All rights reserved.; poster from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.; Sky Rider Gliders courtesy of Life-Like Products, Inc.; all animal action in this production was supervised by the American Humane Association, assisted by the Marin Humane Society, the Tuolomne County Humane Society.” More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
4 Sep 1990.
---
Daily Variety
12 Aug 1991.
---
Daily Variety
24 Feb 1992
p. 4.
Entertainment Weekly
28 Feb 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jun 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Oct 1990
pp. 1-2.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Oct 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Oct 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Dec 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 Feb 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Feb 1992.
---
Los Angeles Times
21 Feb 1992
Calendar, p. 1.
New York Times
21 Feb 1992
Section C, p. 16.
Variety
27 Jun 1990.
---
Variety
9 Dec 1991.
---
Variety
24 Feb 1992
p. 248.
Variety
9 Mar 1992.
---
WSJ
3 Jul 1990.
---
WSJ
19 Jul 1990.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Columbia Pictures presents
A Stonebridge Entertainment Production
In Association with Donner/Shuler-Donner Productions
A Richard Donner Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
DGA trainee
Dir, 2d unit
1st asst dir, 2d unit
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Co-exec prod
Co-exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
Steadicam op
Chief lighting tech
Elec best boy
Key grip
2d grip
2d grip
Dolly grip
Helicopter cam
Still photog
Photog, 2d unit
Cam op, 2d unit
Chief lighting tech, 2d unit
Key grip, 2d unit
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst art dir
Radio Flyer conceptualist
Illustrator
Illustrator
Illustrator
Illustrator
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Asst prop master
Const coord
Set des
Leadman
Greensman
Greensman
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
Key costumer
MUSIC
Mus ed
Mus scoring mixer
Orch & cond by
Addl orch
SOUND
Prod mixer
Boom op
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Supv ADR ed
ADR ed
ADR ed
Foley by
Foley by
VISUAL EFFECTS
Visual eff supv
Spec eff coord
Spec eff foreman
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Big buffalo creature eff
Creature eff
Titles and opticals
Process projection
Rear process projection
Spec visual eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Scr supv
Prod coord
Prod secy
Prod accountant
Exec asst to Mr. Donner
Asst to Mr. Donner
Asst to Ms. Shuler-Donner
Asst to Ms. Lew Tugend
Loc mgr
Head animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animal handler
Animal handler
Animal handler
Buffalo handler
Buffalo handler
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation capt
Aircraft coord
Craft service
Unit pub
Unit pub
Casting asst
Welfare worker
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Scr supv, 2d unit
Transportation driver
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
“Blues Eyes Crying In The Rain,” written by Fred Rose, performed by Sons of the Pioneers, courtesy of the RCA Records label of BMG Music
“Cliffhanger II (From Chitty Chitty Bang Bang),” written by Richard Sherman & Robert Sherman
“Downtown,” written by Tony Hatch
+
SONGS
“Blues Eyes Crying In The Rain,” written by Fred Rose, performed by Sons of the Pioneers, courtesy of the RCA Records label of BMG Music
“Cliffhanger II (From Chitty Chitty Bang Bang),” written by Richard Sherman & Robert Sherman
“Downtown,” written by Tony Hatch
“The Fairest Of The Fair,” written by John Philip Sousa
“Jambalaya (On The Bayou),” written and performed by Hank Williams, courtesy of Polygram Special Products, a division of Polygram Group Distribution, Inc.
“Lay, Lady, Lay,” written and performed by Bob Dylan, courtesy of Columbia Records, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
“Let’s Get Together,” written by Chet Powers, performed by The Youngbloods, courtesy of the RCA Records label of BMG Music
“Lovesick Blues,” written by Cliff Friend & Irving Mills, performed by Patsy Cline, courtesy of MCA Records
“The Name Game,” written by Lincoln Chase & Shirley Elliston
“Why Don’t You Love Me,” written and performed by Hank Williams, courtesy of Polygram Special Products, a division of Polygram Group Distribution, Inc.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
21 February 1992
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 21 February 1992
Production Date:
3 October 1990--late January 1991
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.
Copyright Date:
5 March 1992
Copyright Number:
PA557128
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Black and White
Lenses
Filmed in Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
113
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
30774
SYNOPSIS

While spending the afternoon with his two young sons at a Nevada airfield, a man named Mike decides to confide the more gruesome details of his troubled childhood. In the late 1960s, eleven-year-old Mike and his younger brother, Bobby, moved from New Jersey to California with their mother, Mary, shortly after their father disappeared. Before long, Mary falls in love with an alcoholic automobile mechanic named Jack McKenzie, who insists the children call him “the King.” One day while fishing, the King slaps Bobby for breaking the fishing line and losing his lure. Because the boys never tell their mother about the incident, Mary and the King eventually wed and move to the suburb of Novato. In their new backyard shed, Mike and Bobby uncover an empty coffee can wedged beneath the floorboards and decide to use it as a secret hiding place. Meanwhile, the neighborhood children tell stories about a boyhood legend named Fisher, who rode his bicycle over a hillside ramp and momentarily “flew” in the sky. One night, Mike awakens to the sound of Bobby whimpering in his sleep and discovers several bruises on his brother’s back. When Bobby confesses the King hit him, Mike ensures they spend as much time out of the house as possible while keeping the abuse a secret from their mother. However, Mary frequently works night shifts as a waitress, leaving her sons alone with the King during his drunken episodes. As the beatings become more frequent, Mike assumes full responsibility for his brother’s protection. While out exploring, Mike and Bobby climb the hill where Fisher launched his bicycle and discover a rocky bluff overlooking a small airport, which they dub ... +


While spending the afternoon with his two young sons at a Nevada airfield, a man named Mike decides to confide the more gruesome details of his troubled childhood. In the late 1960s, eleven-year-old Mike and his younger brother, Bobby, moved from New Jersey to California with their mother, Mary, shortly after their father disappeared. Before long, Mary falls in love with an alcoholic automobile mechanic named Jack McKenzie, who insists the children call him “the King.” One day while fishing, the King slaps Bobby for breaking the fishing line and losing his lure. Because the boys never tell their mother about the incident, Mary and the King eventually wed and move to the suburb of Novato. In their new backyard shed, Mike and Bobby uncover an empty coffee can wedged beneath the floorboards and decide to use it as a secret hiding place. Meanwhile, the neighborhood children tell stories about a boyhood legend named Fisher, who rode his bicycle over a hillside ramp and momentarily “flew” in the sky. One night, Mike awakens to the sound of Bobby whimpering in his sleep and discovers several bruises on his brother’s back. When Bobby confesses the King hit him, Mike ensures they spend as much time out of the house as possible while keeping the abuse a secret from their mother. However, Mary frequently works night shifts as a waitress, leaving her sons alone with the King during his drunken episodes. As the beatings become more frequent, Mike assumes full responsibility for his brother’s protection. While out exploring, Mike and Bobby climb the hill where Fisher launched his bicycle and discover a rocky bluff overlooking a small airport, which they dub the “Wishing Spot.” They spend their final days of summer collecting recyclables in a red Radio Flyer wagon Bobby received for his birthday, and respond to a magazine advertisement for an “anti-monster” potion they plan to use to repel the King. Before the package arrives, however, the boys find Bobby’s belongings strewn across the front lawn. While cleaning up the mess, a group of neighborhood bullies attack until passing police officer, Jim Daugherty, orders them to leave. Sympathetic, Officer Daugherty gives Mike and Bobby his telephone number in case they ever need his help. When the anti-monster potion recipe arrives, the boys stew the mixture on the stove, but the pot boils over and spatters all over the kitchen. Terrified of the punishment they will receive if the King comes home, they frantically clean up the spill and are relieved when their stepfather bypasses the kitchen to drink beer in the garage. One afternoon, Mike leaves Bobby alone to play football with other kids his own age, while Bobby locks himself in the shed as the King drunkenly prepares dinner. A burning smell wafts through the house, and the King opens the oven to find the plastic extension cord he uses to whip Bobby, which Mike had hidden there. When Mike returns home, he learns that Bobby has been hospitalized with severe injuries, and the King is arrested for child abuse. Shortly after Bobby’s recovery, the King returns from jail on a temporary release, bursts into tears, and apologizes for his actions. Mary is moved by his emotional display and agrees to take him back. While attending a matinee screening of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mike is inspired to build a flying machine out of Bobby’s Radio Flyer wagon. Using the King’s tools, an old lawnmower engine, and a propeller purchased from the junkyard, the boys spend six days constructing a device that will “free” Bobby from their stepfather’s cruelty. Before they can use it, however, the King returns home on parole two days earlier than expected, and immediately resumes drinking. During lunch at school, the boys complain of stomach aches and rush home to discover the King has injured their dog, Shane. That night, Mike leaves a note for their mother and accompanies Bobby to the Wishing Spot. On the way, the boys stop at a gas station to fill the flying machine tank. Recognizing the contraption’s intended use, the attendant gives Bobby steering advice, and the boys recognize him as their idol, Fisher. Meanwhile, the King finds Mike’s note and drives to stop them, followed by Mary and Officer Daugherty. At the Wishing Spot, Mike gives Bobby his favorite jacket and says goodbye as the younger boy straps himself into the wagon. Just as the King arrives, Bobby starts the engine and starts down the hill. After coasting off the ramp, the Radio Flyer takes a nosedive, but Bobby levels out and flies away into the night sky. Officer Daugherty arrests the King, and Mike tells his mother that Bobby is in a better place now. Several weeks later, Bobby sends Mike and Mary a postcard. Over the years, Mike receives more postcards from Bobby’s adventures around the world. As he finishes his story, Mike reminds his sons, “History is in the mind of the teller,” because “that’s how I remember it.” +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.