Unidentified Flying Oddball (1979)

G | 93 mins | Adventure, Fantasy | 3 August 1979

Director:

Russ Mayberry

Producer:

Ron Miller

Cinematographer:

Paul Beeson

Editor:

Peter Boita

Production Designer:

Albert Witherick

Production Company:

Walt Disney Productions
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HISTORY

       As stated in a 22 Mar 1978 Var item, Unidentified Flying Oddball marked the fourth feature film based on Mark Twain’s 1889 novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Previous versions were titled A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court (1920), A Connecticut Yankee (1931), and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1949, see entries). The 24 Jul 1979 HR review mentioned that the picture also represented the first adaptation of a Mark Twain story by Walt Disney Productions. Working titles of the film included, The Spaceman and King Arthur, The Spaceman in King Arthur’s Court, and King Arthur and the Astronaut.
       According to a studio press release in AMPAS library files, principal photography began 10 Jul 1978 in England and was scheduled for ten weeks. As mentioned in an 8 Aug 1978 HR column, the production filmed on location at Alnwick Castle, a medieval fortress in Northumberland, near the North Sea.
       An 18 Oct 1978 HR article reported production costs as $5.25 million and advertising expenses as $2 million.
       As announced in a 30 May 1979 Var item, the world premiere was scheduled to take place in London 19 Jul 1979, as a fundraiser for the International Year of the Child.
       In 1995, Walt Disney Productions revisited Mark Twain’s novel and released A Kid in King Arthur’s Court (1995, see entry), in which actor Ron Moody reprises his role as “Merlin” from Unidentified Flying Oddball.

      End credits note that ...

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       As stated in a 22 Mar 1978 Var item, Unidentified Flying Oddball marked the fourth feature film based on Mark Twain’s 1889 novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Previous versions were titled A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court (1920), A Connecticut Yankee (1931), and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1949, see entries). The 24 Jul 1979 HR review mentioned that the picture also represented the first adaptation of a Mark Twain story by Walt Disney Productions. Working titles of the film included, The Spaceman and King Arthur, The Spaceman in King Arthur’s Court, and King Arthur and the Astronaut.
       According to a studio press release in AMPAS library files, principal photography began 10 Jul 1978 in England and was scheduled for ten weeks. As mentioned in an 8 Aug 1978 HR column, the production filmed on location at Alnwick Castle, a medieval fortress in Northumberland, near the North Sea.
       An 18 Oct 1978 HR article reported production costs as $5.25 million and advertising expenses as $2 million.
       As announced in a 30 May 1979 Var item, the world premiere was scheduled to take place in London 19 Jul 1979, as a fundraiser for the International Year of the Child.
       In 1995, Walt Disney Productions revisited Mark Twain’s novel and released A Kid in King Arthur’s Court (1995, see entry), in which actor Ron Moody reprises his role as “Merlin” from Unidentified Flying Oddball.

      End credits note that the picture was “Filmed on location and at Pinewood Studios London, England.”

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
PERSONAL & COMPANY INDEX CREDITS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Hollywood Reporter
8 Aug 1978
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Oct 1978
p. 1, 17
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jul 1979
p. 3
Los Angeles Times
3 Aug 1979
Section E, p. 16
Variety
22 Mar 1978
---
Variety
30 May 1979
---
Variety
18 Jul 1979
p. 16
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Walt Disney Productions Presents
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
Scr story and scr by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
Assembly ed
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
Rec at
SOUND
Sd ed
Sd rec
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Makeup
Hairdressing
Hairdressing
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting dir
Loc mgr
Asst to the prod
STAND INS
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
[Col by]
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain (New York, 1889).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
King Arthur and the Astronaut
The Spaceman and King Arthur
The Spaceman in King Arthur's Court
The Unidentified Flying Oddball
Release Date:
3 August 1979
Premiere Information:
World premiere in London: 19 Jul 1979; Los Angeles opening: 3 Aug 1979
Production Date:
10 Jul -- mid Sep 1978 in England
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Walt Disney Productions
12 June 1980
PA71850
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
93
MPAA Rating:
G
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

During a gathering of top government and military officials at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), mission director Dr. Zimmerman boasts that the Stardust spacecraft will travel faster than the speed of light during its maiden journey to the farthest star. Senator Milburn, however, rejects sending Americans on such a dangerous mission and pressures Zimmerman to find an alternative. To replace the astronauts, the director instructs aerospace engineer, Tom Trimble, to build a human-like robot, and Tom constructs the machine in his image, while also teaching it lessons about being a man. At the unveiling, Zimmerman announces that the robot is named Hermes, after the Greek god of speed. On launch day at Cape Canaveral, everyone is in position, but lift off is delayed because Hermes is hesitant about the flight, having calculated that his chances of returning are slim. As a thunderstorm approaches, Zimmerman orders Tom to board the spacecraft and talk sense into the robot. While Tom explains to Hermes that a great deal of money has been invested in the project, lightning strikes the launch pad, causing the rocket to take off. Leaving earth’s atmosphere unexpectedly, Tom appeals to Zimmerman to abort the thirty-year mission, but Zimmerman says it is too late and reminds the engineer that he will have a sizable paycheck waiting when he returns. Once in outer space, the Stardust shuttle disengages from the launching module and increases to maximum speed, as Tom attempts to control the vehicle. The spacecraft eventually leaves its trajectory and lands on a peaceful meadow, seemingly ...

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During a gathering of top government and military officials at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), mission director Dr. Zimmerman boasts that the Stardust spacecraft will travel faster than the speed of light during its maiden journey to the farthest star. Senator Milburn, however, rejects sending Americans on such a dangerous mission and pressures Zimmerman to find an alternative. To replace the astronauts, the director instructs aerospace engineer, Tom Trimble, to build a human-like robot, and Tom constructs the machine in his image, while also teaching it lessons about being a man. At the unveiling, Zimmerman announces that the robot is named Hermes, after the Greek god of speed. On launch day at Cape Canaveral, everyone is in position, but lift off is delayed because Hermes is hesitant about the flight, having calculated that his chances of returning are slim. As a thunderstorm approaches, Zimmerman orders Tom to board the spacecraft and talk sense into the robot. While Tom explains to Hermes that a great deal of money has been invested in the project, lightning strikes the launch pad, causing the rocket to take off. Leaving earth’s atmosphere unexpectedly, Tom appeals to Zimmerman to abort the thirty-year mission, but Zimmerman says it is too late and reminds the engineer that he will have a sizable paycheck waiting when he returns. Once in outer space, the Stardust shuttle disengages from the launching module and increases to maximum speed, as Tom attempts to control the vehicle. The spacecraft eventually leaves its trajectory and lands on a peaceful meadow, seemingly like Earth. A sweet, but simple-minded young woman named Alisande witnesses Stardust's arrival with curiosity. Wearing his spacesuit, Tom disembarks and learns from Alisande that he is still on Earth, but has arrived in sixth-century Cornwall, England, during the reign of King Arthur. Tom is pleased that time travel is really possible, but he is unable to remove his helmet, and Alisande calmly addresses his faceless figure as “monster.” After she offers to lead Tom to King Arthur’s court in Camelot, the villainous Sir Mordred detains them and takes the “creature” prisoner. Alisande privately informs Tom that Mordred tried to seize her family’s land and may have ordered an evil spell on her father, which turned him into a gander that she keeps with her at all times. At the castle, members of the royal court shriek as the spaceman enters, and Mordred declares to King Arthur that the stranger is a hostile intruder and should burn at the stake. When the wizard Merlin concurs, Arthur grants approval for a burning tomorrow morning. After struggling to defend himself, Tom is finally able to remove his helmet and show his human face. With the court’s attention, the engineer explains his origins by embarking on a long-winded account of future historical events, but by the time he reaches the twentieth century, most of the court has fallen asleep or does not believe him. The king orders the stranger imprisoned in the dungeon. That night, Alisande, whom Tom has nicknamed “Sandy,” brings him food and a hammer to break his chains. Looking at her candle, Tom realizes he will not need to flee from the stake burning, since his spacesuit is fireproof. After Sandy leaves, Tom encounters another prisoner arrested by Mordred and learns that the man is Sandy’s father. As the burning begins the next day, Arthur and his court are stunned that the fire does not kill the stranger, even when Merlin fans the flames. Undeterred by the intruder’s “unholy powers,” Mordred plans to kill Tom in a sword fight, but Sandy warns the newcomer. Befriending a page named Clarence, Tom gains access to Mordred’s sword and magnetizes it, which hinders the knight during the fight and humiliates him in front of the king. Arthur is now impressed with the young engineer, and Tom uses this newfound trust to apprise the king of Mordred’s scheme to wrestle land away from innocent men, like Sandy’s father. When Mordred hears the accusation, he is offended and challenges Tom to a joust the following day. The engineer secretly programs his “twin” Hermes to take his place, while continuing to investigate Mordred’s treachery. Observing the joust from a tower, Tom notices Sandy flirting with Hermes on the field and is pleased that she is attracted to his look-a-like, but is jealous when Hermes kisses her. During the joust, Mordred severs Hermes’ arm, decapitates him and finally sends the robot flying off his horse. Tom surprises everyone by arriving on the scene and presenting King Arthur with documents proving Mordred is preparing to take over the kingdom. The king orders guards to seize the traitor, but Mordred escapes. While Tom repairs the robot at the castle, he informs Sandy that he saw her father in prison, yet she still believes he was turned into a gander. He also attempts to reassure Sandy that, unlike his wired twin, he is human. At the top of the castle, King Arthur and his advisors keep a close watch for an assault by Mordred, and Tom offers to help defend the kingdom with his laser gun. Observing the powerful weapon, Merlin, who is secretly allied with Mordred, realizes that King Arthur will win, unless Merlin devises a scheme to thwart Tom. Desperate to break the “spell” inflicted on her father, Sandy is lured into a meeting with Merlin and kidnapped. The wizard then finds the laser gun and confiscates it. When Tom learns that Sandy and the gun are missing, he dresses in the king’s best armor and drives to Mordred’s encampment in the Stardust's land rover vehicle. As Tom confronts the enemy, Sandy runs toward him, and he takes a moment to confess his love. Meanwhile, Mordred fails to kill Tom with the laser gun, but manages to prevent him and Sandy from fleeing in the land rover. Mordred orders his henchman, Oaf, to guard the twosome, while he and his troops infiltrate the castle through a secret passageway. Relying on the rover’s gadgetry, Tom escapes from Oaf and flies back to Camelot with Sandy. Although Tom arrives too late to keep Mordred from attacking the castle, he disrupts the offensive. The Stardust ship is parked in the middle of the courtyard and, amid the battle, Tom orders Hermes to fire the engines to repel Mordred’s soldiers with exhaust fumes, then to turn on the magnetic field to attract the soldiers’ armor, pulling them against the spacecraft. Thanks to Tom, Mordred is defeated, and the king honors Tom with an engraved seat at the round table. Meanwhile, Sandy is reunited with her father, convinced that the gander spell is finally broken. Preparing to return home, Tom says goodbye to Sandy and regrets that she cannot join him since there is a risk she might age rapidly during time travel. As a crowd gathers for Tom and Hermes’ launch back to present-day, Sandy is tearful. After embarking on a course for the twentieth century, Tom notices that the gander sneaked on board and is surviving the trip. He then feels confident about bringing Sandy safely home and orders Hermes to turn the spaceship around to retrieve her.

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

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