*batteries not included (1987)

PG | 106 mins | Science fiction, Comedy, Fantasy | 18 December 1987

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HISTORY

The title, *batteries not included, came from an announcement commonly heard during television commercials for electronic toys, indicating that buyers must purchase batteries separately in order for the toy to operate. That same message was frequently written on the side of the toy boxes as “*batteries not included.” The 6 Feb 1987 HR noted that film would get free promotion from all the television commercials for electronic toys that used the phrase.
       *batteries not included marked the first feature film script by writer Brad Bird, and the second feature film for the writing team of Brent Maddock and S. S. Wilson, who had previously written Short Circuit (1986, see entry). It also marked the sixth feature film co-starring real-life spouses Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy.
       The story was originally conceived as an episode of the science-fiction, horror, and fantasy television anthology series, Amazing Stories (NBC, 29 Sep 1985—10 Apr 1987), which was created by Steven Spielberg and produced by his Amblin Entertainment. The 9 Sep 1985 HR reported the story idea was expanded into a feature film, which Spielberg and Mick Garris, story editor on Amazing Stories, were co-writing. Garris received a “story by” credit onscreen, but Spielberg is not listed as a writer.
       Since the script called for a tenement surrounded by demolished buildings, producers could not use the restricted space of a studio backlot. Promotional materials in AMPAS library files indicate producers searched for a real tenement building in major cities like New York City; Chicago, IL; and Los Angeles, CA, but could not find anything with suitable surroundings. Eventually, producers erected a ... More Less

The title, *batteries not included, came from an announcement commonly heard during television commercials for electronic toys, indicating that buyers must purchase batteries separately in order for the toy to operate. That same message was frequently written on the side of the toy boxes as “*batteries not included.” The 6 Feb 1987 HR noted that film would get free promotion from all the television commercials for electronic toys that used the phrase.
       *batteries not included marked the first feature film script by writer Brad Bird, and the second feature film for the writing team of Brent Maddock and S. S. Wilson, who had previously written Short Circuit (1986, see entry). It also marked the sixth feature film co-starring real-life spouses Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy.
       The story was originally conceived as an episode of the science-fiction, horror, and fantasy television anthology series, Amazing Stories (NBC, 29 Sep 1985—10 Apr 1987), which was created by Steven Spielberg and produced by his Amblin Entertainment. The 9 Sep 1985 HR reported the story idea was expanded into a feature film, which Spielberg and Mick Garris, story editor on Amazing Stories, were co-writing. Garris received a “story by” credit onscreen, but Spielberg is not listed as a writer.
       Since the script called for a tenement surrounded by demolished buildings, producers could not use the restricted space of a studio backlot. Promotional materials in AMPAS library files indicate producers searched for a real tenement building in major cities like New York City; Chicago, IL; and Los Angeles, CA, but could not find anything with suitable surroundings. Eventually, producers erected a three-sided, four-story building façade on an empty block on East 8th Street between Avenues B and C in New York City's Lower East Side. The façade, made of fiberglass, plaster, and brick, was frequently mistaken for a real apartment building. The crew also built a “ruined” version of the same façade nearby for use after the building was blown up. Sixty truckloads of rubble from other demolished buildings in the New York City area were brought in to cover the rest of the block, as the script required.
       Residents living in the area protested construction of the fake building, claiming it showed insensitivity to the housing problems in the New York City area. The 12 Aug 1986 DV reported producers agreed to make monetary donations to several neighborhood groups in the area and also donated funds to plant trees in two area parks.
       Principal photography began on 20 Aug 1986, according to the 29 Aug 1986 DV production chart. The film shot on location in New York City for three weeks, then moved to Los Angeles for interior scenes on Stage 12 at Universal Studios. The production wrapped shortly before Thanksgiving. The 23 Dec 1987 DV reported the budget exceeded $25 million.
       As crews dismantled the film sets, one man was killed and another was injured when a 30,000 pound crane toppled over, the 30 Nov 1986 LAT reported. The plywood flooring covering the fifteen-foot deep pit built into the soundstage collapsed under the weight of the heavy crane, catapulting two men out of the crane bucket. The name of the man killed was not cited in the LAT story.
       To accomplish the flying saucer effects, visual effects supervisor Bruce Nicholson used a combination of wires, rod puppetry, and stop-motion animation. The Jul 1988 AmCin reported models for five different flying saucers were made: two “adult” saucers about twelve inches in diameter, and three “baby” saucers about three inches in diameter. Multiple versions of each of the fives saucers were made, some for stop-motion, some for a flying harness, and some for rod puppetry.
       *batteries not included was originally set for release in Jun 1987, but visual effects delays pushed the opening back to Dec 1987, according to the 6 Feb 1987 HR. Officials at Universal Studios said the warm, heartfelt themes of the movie lent themselves to a Christmas opening.
       The movie opened on 1,328 screens on 18 Dec 1987. To generate positive word of mouth, Universal held free sneak previews on Sunday, 13 Dec 1987, the 16 Dec 1987 HR stated. Aimed at families, these free screenings took place in the early afternoon on 1,140 screens and most shows were reported full.
       The film earned $3.3 million in its first three days of release, according to the 22 Dec 1987 DV, and after ten days, the 29 Dec 1987 DV reported a gross of $10 million.
       End credits include the following statements: “The Producers wish to thank the following for their cooperation: The New York City Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting; Duracell U.S.A.; L’Eggs Products, Inc.; Pepsi Cola Company; General Electric; American Express; Dresser Industries, Inc.; Yashica, Inc.; Island Manor, Bohemia, New York”; “Paintings by Joe Davis, Bernarducci Gallery, New York”; "Opening title photographs by: Berenice Abbott, Andreas Feininger, Arthur Felig, Victor Laredo, Leo Stashin"; and, “Copy of Liz * Val Mural courtesy of Elizabeth Clark and Valentine Goroshko.” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Jul 1988
pp. 66-70.
Daily Variety
12 Aug 1986.
---
Daily Variety
29 Aug 1986.
---
Daily Variety
14 Dec 1987.
---
Daily Variety
22 Dec 1987.
---
Daily Variety
23 Dec 1987.
---
Daily Variety
29 Dec 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Feb 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Sep 1985.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Dec 1987
p. 3, 61.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Dec 1987.
---
Los Angeles Times
30 Nov 1986.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 Dec 1987
p. 10.
New York Times
18 Dec 1987
p. 12.
Variety
16 Dec 1987
p. 11.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Steven Spielberg Presents
A Matthew Robbins Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit dir
1st asst dir (2d unit)
2d asst dir (2d unit)
Unit mgr, New York crew
2d asst dir, New York crew
1st asst dir (2d unit), New York crew
2d asst dir (2d unit), New York crew
DGA trainee (2d unit), New York crew
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Chief lighting tech
Asst cheif lighting tech
Rigging gaffer
Key grip
Best boy
Dolly grip
Still photog
Cam op, New York crew
1st asst cam, New York crew
2d asst cam, New York crew
Still photog, New York crew
Chief lighting tech, New York crew
Key grip, New York crew
Dir of photog (2d unit), New York crew
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
1st asst ed
Asst ed
Apprentice ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Leadman
Prop master
Asst prop master
2d asst prop master
Standby painter
Const coord
Gen foreman
Gen foreman
Paint foreman
Plasterer
Const grip, New York crew
Chief carpenter, New York crew
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Men's costumer
Women's costumer
MUSIC
Mus comp
Supv mus ed
Asst mus ed
Mus scoring mixer
Orch
SOUND
Sd mixer
Cable op
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Spaceship sd
Spaceship sd
Spaceship sd
Supv ADR ed
Supv re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
ADR mixer
ADR mixer, New York crew
VISUAL EFFECTS
Visual eff supv
Spec eff supv
Spec eff
Spec eff
Titles and opt des
Spec eff, New York crew
Visual eff prod at
Rod puppet/Stop motion supv, ILM
Model shop sup, ILM
Model const, ILM
Model mechanical supv, ILM
Visual eff mgr, ILM
Opt supv, ILM
Visual eff ed, ILM
Matte painting supv, ILM
Gen mgr, ILM
Prod supv, ILM
Cam op, ILM
Cam op, ILM
Cam op, ILM
Cam op, ILM
Cam op, ILM
Cam asst ILM
Cam asst, ILM
Cam asst, ILM
Cam asst, ILM
Opt cam op, ILM
Opt cam op, ILM
Opt lineup, ILM
Opt lineup, ILM
Opt lineup, ILM
Chief puppeteer, ILM
Go-motion anim, ILM
Asst eff ed, ILM
Asst eff ed, ILM
Matte photog, ILM
Matte artist, ILM
Storyboard artist, ILM
Storyboard artist, ILM
Spaceships des, ILM
Addl spaceship des, ILM
Modelmaker, ILM
Modelmaker, ILM
Modelmaker, ILM
Modelmaker, ILM
Modelmaker, ILM
Modelmaker, ILM
Modelmaker, ILM
Anim cam op, ILM
Anim, ILM
Anim, ILM
Anim, ILM
Anim, ILM
Anim, ILM
Rotoscoper, ILM
Rotoscoper, ILM
Rotoscoper, ILM
Head stage tech, ILM
Stage tech, ILM
Stage tech, ILM
Prod asst, ILM
MAKEUP
Key makeup artist
Makeup artist
Key hairstylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Scr supv
Asst to Matthew Robbins
Asst to Ronald L. Schwary
Prod coord
2d asst prop master
Craft service
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Prod comptroller
Prod accountant
Asst prod accountant
Asst prod accountant
Asst to Steven Spielberg
Asst to Frank Marshall
Asst to Kathleen Kennedy
Asst prod coord
Prod assoc
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Casting asst
Post prod supv
Voice casting
Lab consultant
Prod coord, New York crew
Asst auditor, New York crew
Scr supv (2d unit), New York crew
New York casting, New York crew
Extras casting, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
STAND INS
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Batteries Not Included
Release Date:
18 December 1987
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 18 December 1987
Production Date:
20 August--late November 1986
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, Inc., & U-Drive Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
30 March 1988
Copyright Number:
PA362503
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Panaflex® camera and lenses by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
106
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
28866
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In New York City’s East Village, many blocks of a run-down neighborhood are being demolished to build Lacey Plaza, a high-rise office tower and sports complex. However, residents of one four-story apartment building refuse to move out, despite the developer’s offer to pay them to relocate. Elderly couple Frank and Faye Riley, who run the diner on the ground floor and live on the second floor, have been in the building fifty years and cannot imagine any place else as home. Other tenants include starving artist Mason Baylor, pregnant Marisa Esteval, and retired boxer Harry Noble. Site developer, Mr. Lacey, has his thugs, led by a man named Carlos, smash up the diner and some of the residents’ apartments. Lacey’s assistant, Kovacs, advises the residents to take the money, since it is their final offer. When Frank Riley calls police, they advise against pressing charges, saying the thugs will want revenge once they get out of jail. Elderly couple Sid and Muriel Hogenson, who have been assisting Frank in tending to Faye, who has mild dementia, give in and move to a retirement community in New Jersey after Lacey’s thugs vandalize their apartment. Without their help, Frank is at his wit’s end dealing with Faye and contemplates calling the retirement community. However, he notices that some of the items the thugs broke are now repaired. Other neighbors notice their broken items have been repaired as well. They follow Faye to the roof, where she shows them two small flying saucer-like living objects, about the size of a dinner plate, which she calls “The Fix-Its.” They are the ones who repaired the items. Mason telephones officials asking about missing Army ... +


In New York City’s East Village, many blocks of a run-down neighborhood are being demolished to build Lacey Plaza, a high-rise office tower and sports complex. However, residents of one four-story apartment building refuse to move out, despite the developer’s offer to pay them to relocate. Elderly couple Frank and Faye Riley, who run the diner on the ground floor and live on the second floor, have been in the building fifty years and cannot imagine any place else as home. Other tenants include starving artist Mason Baylor, pregnant Marisa Esteval, and retired boxer Harry Noble. Site developer, Mr. Lacey, has his thugs, led by a man named Carlos, smash up the diner and some of the residents’ apartments. Lacey’s assistant, Kovacs, advises the residents to take the money, since it is their final offer. When Frank Riley calls police, they advise against pressing charges, saying the thugs will want revenge once they get out of jail. Elderly couple Sid and Muriel Hogenson, who have been assisting Frank in tending to Faye, who has mild dementia, give in and move to a retirement community in New Jersey after Lacey’s thugs vandalize their apartment. Without their help, Frank is at his wit’s end dealing with Faye and contemplates calling the retirement community. However, he notices that some of the items the thugs broke are now repaired. Other neighbors notice their broken items have been repaired as well. They follow Faye to the roof, where she shows them two small flying saucer-like living objects, about the size of a dinner plate, which she calls “The Fix-Its.” They are the ones who repaired the items. Mason telephones officials asking about missing Army technology. Frank and Marisa wonder if the Fix-Its are aliens or if they are experiencing a dream. They find the Fix-Its are mischievous and enjoy plugging into the electrical outlets. They start talking to the Fix-Its like they are small children. Faye “feeds” them with small screws, nuts and bolts. Lacey’s henchman, Carlos, is shocked to see all the destruction has been repaired. When he comes into the building, the Fix-Its conk him on the head with a frying pan and later, send a jolt of electricity at him when he investigates the rooftop pigeon coop where the Fix-Its live. Mason examines one of the Fix-Its with a magnifying glass and discovers it is made of parts from various appliances. Frank advises against examining the Fix-Its too closely, saying “The quickest way to end a miracle is to ask it why it is, or what it wants.” The two Fix-Its do many more repairs around the building and later perform an activity that seems to resemble sex. Afterward, the tenants string a series of extension cords to their rooftop pigeon coop so the Fix-Its can recharge. A few days later, the female Fix-It appears to be pregnant and is sucking on the electricity so heavily, the rest of the building lights begin to flicker. Shortly after that, the female Fix-It gives “birth” to two small flying saucers. Mason is excited by the idea that machines can reproduce themselves, calling it “living hardware.” A few moments later, the female releases another smaller flying saucer. However, this one appears sickly and dies shortly afterward. Faye holds a funeral and buries it in a flower pot on the roof. Mason suggests performing an autopsy to see how the Fix-Its function, but the others are outraged. However, after everyone leaves, Harry, the former boxer, exhumes the tiny Fix-It, takes some spare parts, and tries to repair it. Meanwhile, business is thriving at Riley’s Cafe. Faye serves as the waitress while Frank and the Fix-Its cook the food. Developer Lacey is outraged that his construction workers are eating in the diner he wants torn down, and wants the residents out of the building within the next three days. Carlos says he will get the job done, but Lacey has made other arrangements. Mason is shocked that pregnant tenant, Marisa, has no idea when her baby is due since she has not been to the doctor. Mason goes grocery shopping and brings her several bags of food. However, as he glances around Marisa’s apartment, he is startled to find she has several of his paintings. Marisa poses for a portrait with Mason, but ends the session abruptly when her boyfriend, a musician named Hector, brings his bandmates to serenade her before they leave for a show in Chicago, Illinois. After Hector leaves, a jealous Mason kisses Marisa and she kisses him back. Carlos breaks into the basement, smashes the water and gas pipes with an axe, and tries to destroy the electrical circuit breakers. When the adult male Fix-It investigates, Carlos attacks it with an axe and it appears to die. The tenants accuse Carlos of murder. When Carlos tries to escape, Harry puts on his boxing gloves and starts to beat him up. However, a demented Faye confuses Carlos with her son, Bobby, and is distraught to see him beaten. Frank reminds Faye that their son died as a teenager in a car wreck, but she does not believe him. Harry shows everyone that he brought the third baby Fix-It back to life, but all three baby Fix-Its escape and the tenants go searching for them. In Times Square, Harry uses a dog whistle and a bullhorn to call the baby Fix-Its which are suckling on the neon and electricity in the area. Meanwhile, the adult female Fix-It performs surgery on the injured male Fix-It and brings it back to life. The adult Fix-Its hear the dog whistle and go to Times Square to reunite with their babies, then fly off as a family. Meanwhile, another of Lacey’s henchmen rigs the building to explode. Carlos is angry, saying it is his building to destroy and fights him. However, Carlos sees that Faye is still home and rushes to get her out before the explosion. Unable to rescue her, Carlos rushes to stop the bomb, but is too late. The building erupts into flames. Carlos gets Faye out through the fire escape, just before the building collapses. The next day, a distraught Harry sits on the front stoop, the only thing that remains of the building. Lacey’s workers refuse to bulldoze the rest of the building until he moves, so they leave for the day. That night, the Fix-Its return, bringing dozens of Fix-It friends. They rebuild the apartment building overnight. The tenants are delighted to have their homes back, and Lacey concludes that he will have to work around the building. Soon, Lacey Plaza goes up with the apartment building at its center. +

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

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