Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985)

PG | 86 mins | Comedy | 1985

Director:

Tim Burton

Cinematographer:

Victor J. Kemper

Editor:

Billy Weber

Production Designer:

David L. Snyder

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures
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HISTORY


       According to the DVD commentary, Reubens originally conceived of the script as a remake of the Walt Disney Pictures film Pollyanna (1960, see entry). After receiving an orange bike at the Warner Bros. Studios lot, however, Reubens rewrote the story to include a stolen bicycle. In his commentary, Reubens said that he did not like the studio's original choice of directors, but he does not disclose the identity of this individual. Reubens instead pushed for director Tim Burton because of his admiration for Burton’s short film, Frankenweenie (1984). Reubens also mentioned in the DVD commentary that actor Andre the Giant was his original choice for the part of “Andy,” and Sean Connery was his first choice for “P.W.,” the character based on James Bond who represents Pee-wee in the film produced at the end of the movie.
       Pee-wee's Big Adventure marked Burton and Reuben's first theatrical feature film production. Although composer Danny Elfman was credited as music composer for the independently produced Forbidden Zone (1980, see entry), Pee-wee’s Big Adventure was his first major studio film project. According to HR on 26 Jul 1985, the film was producer Robert Shapiro's first independent project after leaving Warner Bros.
       HR production charts on 8 Jan 1985 state that filming began that day in Los Angeles, CA. According to Burton in his DVD commentary, the film's California locations included Malibu, for the Tour de France sequence, Santa Monica, for the outdoor shopping plaza where Pee-wee's bike is stolen, Hancock Park, for the exterior of the Buxton House, and Newhall, ... More Less


       According to the DVD commentary, Reubens originally conceived of the script as a remake of the Walt Disney Pictures film Pollyanna (1960, see entry). After receiving an orange bike at the Warner Bros. Studios lot, however, Reubens rewrote the story to include a stolen bicycle. In his commentary, Reubens said that he did not like the studio's original choice of directors, but he does not disclose the identity of this individual. Reubens instead pushed for director Tim Burton because of his admiration for Burton’s short film, Frankenweenie (1984). Reubens also mentioned in the DVD commentary that actor Andre the Giant was his original choice for the part of “Andy,” and Sean Connery was his first choice for “P.W.,” the character based on James Bond who represents Pee-wee in the film produced at the end of the movie.
       Pee-wee's Big Adventure marked Burton and Reuben's first theatrical feature film production. Although composer Danny Elfman was credited as music composer for the independently produced Forbidden Zone (1980, see entry), Pee-wee’s Big Adventure was his first major studio film project. According to HR on 26 Jul 1985, the film was producer Robert Shapiro's first independent project after leaving Warner Bros.
       HR production charts on 8 Jan 1985 state that filming began that day in Los Angeles, CA. According to Burton in his DVD commentary, the film's California locations included Malibu, for the Tour de France sequence, Santa Monica, for the outdoor shopping plaza where Pee-wee's bike is stolen, Hancock Park, for the exterior of the Buxton House, and Newhall, for the hitchhiking scene. Other locations in and around the Los Angeles area included Pomona, Oxnard, the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds, Saugus, and the set of the television show Hotel .
       When a cut of Pee-wee's Big Adventure was ready for previews, according to LAHExam on 23 Aug 1985, select audiences were invited to screenings in Austin, TX and San Diego, CA. Based on their response, fifteen minutes were trimmed from the original version. In the DVD commentary, Burton noted that the magic-shop sequence was re-edited, removing a character named “Amazing Larry,” as well as a scene involving Pee-wee's boomerang bowtie. Also cut from the film was a sequence with an animal character, “Boone the Bear,” who was Pee-wee's fellow passenger during a car ride to the biker bar. Pee-wee has a dream of performing a circus tightrope act with Boone, but the bear turns out to be “Francis Buxton” in disguise, causing Pee-wee to fall from the rope. Burton said that a longer version of the hospital sequence was also filmed that included more scenes with the bikers and the masked doctor in the clown-surgery scene. These scenes are included in the special features section of the DVD released in 2000.
       According to LAHExam , the film grossed nearly $13 million in its first 10 days after opening on fewer than 900 screens.
       Critics generally responded favorably to Reubens, but not always so to Burton. HR 's review on 26 Jul 1985 compared Reuben's performance to Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and Jerry Lewis. The review, however, noted that Burton directed the film “gracelessly.”
       In a news item on 27 Jun 1986, HR noted that Shapiro filed suit against co-producers William McEuen and Richard Abramson for what he alleged were improperly withheld shares of the film's profits. Paramount Pictures and Aspen Film and Recording were also named in the lawsuit. The outcome of the case is unknown.
       A revival of the film in Reuben’s hometown of Sarasota, Florida was canceled, according to a 9 Sep 1991 news item in LAT , because the theater owner thought it would offend local law enforcement officers. That summer, Sarasota police had arrested Reubens for indecent exposure in an adult movie theater.

       The character “Pee-wee Herman” is listed as playing "Himself" in the end credits. As actor Paul Reubens noted in the audio commentary for the film’s DVD release, he was only seen in public as Pee-wee Herman at the time the movie was produced. According to a DV article on 16 Dec 1981, which announced a deal between Reubens and Paramount Pictures for a theatrical feature film script based on the Pee-wee Herman character, Reubens had co-authored a stage performance to showcase the character a year earlier. Reubens developed Pee-wee Herman in Hollywood, CA, with the comedy troupe “The Groundlings.” The article attributed Paramount’s interest in Pee-wee Herman to Reubens’ performances on various stages, including the Roxy Theatre and the Groundlings Theatre in Hollywood, and a Home Box Office channel cable program.


The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant James O'Brien, a student at Boston University, with Ray Carney as academic advisor.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
16 Dec 1981
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jan 1985.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jul 1985
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jul 1985
p. 3, 35.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jun 1986.
---
LAHExam
23 Aug 1985
p. 21.
Los Angeles Times
9 Aug 1985
p. 1, 16.
Los Angeles Times
9 Sep 1991.
---
New York Times
9 Aug 1985
p. 15.
Variety
31 Jul 1985
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
An Aspen Film Society/Robert Shapiro Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Gaffer
Best boy
Rigging gaffer
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Illustrator
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set des
Const coord
Standby painter
Prop master
Asst prop master
Lead person
Lead person
COSTUMES
Men's cost
Men's cost
Women's cost
MUSIC
Mus comp
Mus ed
Mus arrs by
SOUND
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Prod mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff supv
Spec eff coord
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Animated eff supv
Cel anim
Animated eff consultant
Animated eff consultant
Spec visual eff by
Main titles des by
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Scr supv
Loc mgr
Unit pub
Asst to Mr. Abramson
Asst to Mr. Herman
Asst to Mr. Herman
Asst to Mr. Shapiro
Prod secy
Animals provided by
Animal coord
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation capt
Caterer
Parade floats
STAND INS
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
SOURCES
SONGS
"Burn in Hell," written by Dee Snider, performed by Twisted Sister, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
"Tequila," written by Chuck Rio, performed by The Champs, courtesy of Challenge Records.
COMPOSERS
DETAILS
Release Date:
1985
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 9 August 1985
Production Date:
began 8 January 1985
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Brothers, Inc.
Copyright Date:
29 October 1985
Copyright Number:
PA270030
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Technicolor®
Lenses/Prints
Lenses and Panaflex® camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
86
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27844
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Pee-wee Herman wakes from a dream in which he wins the Tour de France. Although he is a grown man, his house is filled with toys and gadgets. After greeting his dog, Speck, and eating two bites of an elaborate breakfast concocted by his automated kitchen, Pee-wee retrieves his beloved red bicycle from a garage hidden in the back yard. As Pee-wee sets out on his day, his nemesis Francis Buxton arrives. Francis boasts that it’s his birthday and his father promised to buy him anything he wants. When Francis tells Pee-wee he wants the bike, Pee-wee laughs and says that it is not for sale. The two men bicker and as Pee-wee rides away, Francis warns that he will be sorry. In town, Pee-wee chains the bike to a mechanical clown and visits Mario in his magic shop. Pee-wee buys joke gum, headlight glasses, and a boomerang bowtie before heading to Chuck’s Bike-O-Rama, where his friend Dottie, the shop mechanic, asks him for a date at the drive-in. Pee-wee turns her down but takes the custom horn that she devised. When Pee-wee returns to the mechanical clown, he discovers that his bike is stolen. He stumbles back to the shop, calls for Dottie’s help and faints. As Pee-wee comes to, he yells at the police, demanding they look for the bike, but he learns that they can do little to help him because it is not an emergency. When Pee-wee files a report at the police station, Sgt. Hunter prompts him to remember his encounter that morning with Francis. He runs to Francis’s mansion ... +


Pee-wee Herman wakes from a dream in which he wins the Tour de France. Although he is a grown man, his house is filled with toys and gadgets. After greeting his dog, Speck, and eating two bites of an elaborate breakfast concocted by his automated kitchen, Pee-wee retrieves his beloved red bicycle from a garage hidden in the back yard. As Pee-wee sets out on his day, his nemesis Francis Buxton arrives. Francis boasts that it’s his birthday and his father promised to buy him anything he wants. When Francis tells Pee-wee he wants the bike, Pee-wee laughs and says that it is not for sale. The two men bicker and as Pee-wee rides away, Francis warns that he will be sorry. In town, Pee-wee chains the bike to a mechanical clown and visits Mario in his magic shop. Pee-wee buys joke gum, headlight glasses, and a boomerang bowtie before heading to Chuck’s Bike-O-Rama, where his friend Dottie, the shop mechanic, asks him for a date at the drive-in. Pee-wee turns her down but takes the custom horn that she devised. When Pee-wee returns to the mechanical clown, he discovers that his bike is stolen. He stumbles back to the shop, calls for Dottie’s help and faints. As Pee-wee comes to, he yells at the police, demanding they look for the bike, but he learns that they can do little to help him because it is not an emergency. When Pee-wee files a report at the police station, Sgt. Hunter prompts him to remember his encounter that morning with Francis. He runs to Francis’s mansion and sneaks past the butler. Finding Francis soaking with his toys inside an enormous bathtub, Pee-wee fights him in the water, but Francis denies stealing the bike. The butler and Francis's father break them apart and Mr. Buxton claims that Francis has been home all day. Pee-wee apologizes, but before he leaves he tricks them into eating the gag gum he bought at the magic shop. Later, Dottie helps Pee-wee hang flyers that offer a $1000 reward for the bike. When Francis hears Pee-wee’s announcement of the reward on the radio, he decides that he doesn’t want the bike anymore. Francis pays off the thief who stole the bike for him and instructs him to get rid of it. That evening, after Pee-wee holds a search party meeting in his basement and alienates his friends with his obsession, he wanders the streets in the rain. At Madame Ruby's Tarot Parlor, Pee-wee is told that his bike is in the basement of the Alamo and the next morning he begins his journey to Texas. Pee-wee hitchhikes a ride with Mickey, an escaped prisoner, but he is unafraid of his new friend. As they turn off the road onto another highway, Pee-wee fails to see his bike as it passes by on a flatbed truck. When Pee-wee tells Mickey that the law has been useless in finding his bike, they see a police roadblock ahead. Although Mickey takes out his gun, Pee-wee disguises them as husband and wife and they are allowed to pass without a fight. Later that night, Pee-wee accidentally drives the car off a cliff, but its convertible top safely parachutes them to the ground. When they land, Mickey warns that it is too dangerous for Pee-wee to stay with him and drives away, abandoning Pee-wee in the pitch dark wilderness. Using his headlight glasses from the magic shop, Pee-wee discovers that he is surrounded by wild animals. Back on the road, Pee-wee gets a ride from a truck driver named Large Marge. When she tells Pee-wee the story of a terrible truck accident, her face transforms momentarily into a bug-eyed depiction of the dead driver and, horrified, Pee-wee asks to be let out. At a diner, Pee-wee learns that it is the anniversary of Large Marge's death and he has just traveled with her ghost. Realizing his wallet is missing, Pee-wee works off his meal by washing dishes and makes friends with the waitress, Simone. He agrees to watch the sunrise with her. As they sit inside a concrete dinosaur, Simone tells Pee-wee that she dreams of living in Paris, but her boyfriend, Andy, refuses to move. Pee-wee encourages her to follow her passion while Andy listens from outside and assumes they are having an affair. As they leave, Andy chases Pee-wee onto a freight train. Pee-wee falls asleep and wakes up next to Hobo Jack, who exhausts him with a sing-along. Pee-wee jumps from the train to discover that he has arrived in San Antonio, Texas. At the Alamo, Pee-wee endures an excessive tour only to learn that the Alamo doesn’t have a basement. Forlorn, Pee-wee sits at the bus station and runs into Simone, who has left Andy and is headed for Paris. After she leaves, Pee-wee calls Dottie. He tells her that he is in San Antonio, apologizes for his behavior at the meeting and asks her to wire him a bus ticket. Although she says that he can pay her back by taking her to the drive-in, Pee-wee pretends that he can’t hear her because of a bad phone connection. As Pee-wee stands in the ticket line, he encounters Andy, who chases Pee-wee into a parade, then a rodeo. Pee-wee hides inside a performer's trailer and disguises himself as a cowboy, but he is mistaken for a rodeo contestant and hoisted onto a bull. In the ring, Pee-wee sets a record before the bull throws him, and he is knocked out. The bull chases Andy away. When Pee-wee regains consciousness, he tries to use a payphone at a noisy bar and shouts at the bikers, a group called Satan’s Helpers, to be quiet. In retaliation, the Satan’s Helpers surround Pee-wee and as he tries to escape, he knocks over their bikes. As the gang prepares to kill Pee-wee, he pleads for a last request. Pee-wee tunes the jukebox to the song “Tequila,” borrows the waiter’s platform shoes and dances on the tables. The bikers cheer Pee-wee’s performance and give him one of their motorcycles. As he rides off, however, Pee-wee crashes into a billboard. He wakes up in the hospital to a news report announcing that his bike was presented to child star Kevin Morton in Hollywood, California. When Pee-wee arrives at Warner Bros. studio, he finds Kevin and his bike on a movie set. Disguising himself a cast member, Pee-wee guides his bike off the set as the cameras roll. Chased by studio guards, Pee-wee careens through movie sets and deflects his pursuers with props and scenery. After propelling himself over the studio’s fence with jets on the back of his bike, Pee-wee encounters a pet shop on fire. He rushes into the burning building and saves the animals before passing out. Although emergency responders declare Pee-wee a hero, the police arrest him. Back at Warner Bros., Pee-wee watches footage of his chase through the studio, and executive Terry Hawthorne tells him that they want to make his story into a film. As Dottie arrives with his bike, Pee-wee agrees to a deal. At the drive-in premiere of Pee-wee's Big Adventure , Pee-wee brings refreshments to his friends, including Hobo Jack, Mickey, Simone and the Satan’s Helpers. On the screen, Pee-wee and Dottie are depicted by a well-coiffed heartthrob and a buxom blonde who fight ninjas to defend a sleek red motorcycle. Pee-wee makes a cameo as a hotel bellhop. Pee-wee and Dottie watch the movie from their bicycles, as Francis tells news reporters that he deserves credit for Pee-wee's success. When Francis sits on Pee-wee's bike for a photo shoot, however, he accidentally deploys the ejector seat and is launched across the movie screen. As the characters of Pee-wee and Dottie kiss in the movie, the two friends ride their bikes past the screen and their silhouettes are projected into the scene. +

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

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