AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Beetle Juice
Alternate Title: Beetlejuice
Director: Tim Burton (Dir)
Release Date:   30 Mar 1988
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles and New York openings: 30 Mar 1988
Production Date:   began 11 Mar 1987 in East Corinth, VT, and Los Angeles, CA
Duration (in mins):   92
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Cast:   Alec Baldwin (Adam [Maitland])  
    Geena Davis (Barbara [Maitland])  
    Jeffrey Jones (Charles [Deetz])  
    Catherine O`Hara (Delia [Deetz])  
    Winona Ryder (Lydia [Deetz])  
    Sylvia Sidney (Juno)  
  Co-Starring: Robert Goulet (Maxie Dean)  
    Dick Cavett (Bernard)  
    Glenn Shadix (Otho)  
  [and] Annie McEnroe (Jane Butterfield)  
  And Michael Keaton (Betelgeuse [Beetle Juice]) as Beetle Juice
  Featuring: Simmy Bow (Janitor)  
    Marie Cheatham (Sarah Dean)  
    Tony Cox (Preacher)  
    Carmen Filpi (Messenger)  
    Susan Kellermann (Grace)  
    Adelle Lutz (Beryl)  
  [and] Patrice Martinez (Receptionist)  
    Maurice Page (Ernie)  
    Hugo Stanger (Old Bill)  
    Rachel Mittelman (Little Jane)  
    J. Jay Saunders (Moving man #1)  
    Mark Ettlinger (Moving man #2)  
    Cynthia Daly (3-fingered typist)  
    Douglas Turner (Char man)  
    Gary Jochimsen (Dumb football player)  
    Bob Pettersen (Dumb football player #2)  
    Duane Davis (Very dumb football player)  
    Jack Angel (Voice of preacher)  

Summary: In Winter River, Connecticut, Barbara and Adam Maitland accidentally drive off a bridge near their home and drown. Thinking they are still alive, the Maitlands return home to discover that their reflections do not appear in mirrors. When they try to leave the house, they fall into a nightmarish desert that sends them scurrying back inside, where they discover a book titled Handbook for the Recently Deceased. Accepting that they have died, Adam combs the manual for advice but finds it difficult to decipher. The next day, Adam places tiny graves for himself and Barbara in a model version of Winter River he has built in the attic, while Barbara wonders if they are in heaven or hell. They spot Jane, a local real estate agent, outside the house, but although Adam calls to her, she does not respond. Barbara tells Adam the living usually cannot see the dead, according to the handbook, as Jane plants a “For Sale” sign in the yard. Soon after, Charles Deetz moves in with his morose teenaged daughter, Lydia, and his eccentric wife, Delia, who despises her new surroundings. Lydia disagrees with her stepmother, Delia, and proclaims she likes it there. Adam and Barbara detest the renovations Delia is planning and try to scare the Deetzes away, to no avail. Barbara loses patience and says she cannot watch people destroy her home, but when she walks outside, she falls into the nightmarish desert again and a massive, man-eating “sandworm” chases her back inside. That night, Delia complains that she misses New York City, but Charles, who recently suffered a nervous breakdown, is perfectly happy in Winter River. As major renovations begin on the outside of the house, the Maitlands happen upon an advertisement for Betelgeuse, a ghastly-looking “bio-exorcist” who claims he can get rid of humans. Outside, Lydia takes photographs and spies Adam and Barbara in the attic window. Lydia sees Jane, the realtor, who gives Lydia a skeleton key to pass along to Charles. Having read in the handbook that they can draw a door in case of emergencies, Adam draws one on the attic wall and knocks three times as instructed. The door opens, and the Maitlands are lured into a waiting room populated by disfigured deceased people who look exactly as they did when they died. The receptionist warns Barbara and Adam that they must spend 125 more years in their home and only get one help session with their caseworker, Juno, whom they choose to see right away. A man whose body was flattened by a car points them in the direction of Juno’s office, but instead they wander through a door that leads them to Delia’s newly decorated version of their home. Taken aback by the stark furnishings and Delia’s spiky, metal sculptures, Barbara and Adam are further startled when Juno, an older woman, appears behind them. The caseworker advises them to read the “haunting” chapter in their handbook and discourages them from employing Betelgeuse’s help. Juno explains that the only way Betelgeuse can be brought into the world is by saying his name three times. In their next attempt to scare Charles and Delia, the Maitlands cover themselves in sheets and moan around the house. Thinking they are her parents, Lydia takes Polaroid photographs of them, but when the photographs develop, she notices they have no feet. Lydia confronts Adam and Barbara, and discovers she can see and hear them. The Maitlands admit they are trying to scare her family away, but Lydia warns that Charles never walks away from an investment. Barbara notices a miniature version of Betelgeuse in Adam’s model town and calls his name twice. Adam encourages his wife to say it a third time and, when she does so, the couple shrinks to miniature size themselves. At Betelgeuse’s gravesite in the model cemetery, they dig until he emerges in a frenzy, groping Barbara, spinning his head around, and transforming his face into a scary mess of tentacles. He suggests they strike a deal, but Barbara shouts “home” three times, transforming herself and Adam back into full-size. At a dinner party in their house, the Deetzes entertain several guests, including Otho, their interior decorator, and Bernard, an agent who represents Delia’s unpopular sculptures. Hearing about Lydia’s ghost sighting, Otho claims to be an expert in the paranormal. Suddenly a loud song is heard and Delia lip-synchs along, looking frightened. In seconds, everyone at the table has lost control of their bodies and join in a coordinated dance. Finally, hands shoot out from their plates and grab their faces. Celebrating the successful haunting, Adam and Barbara run up to the attic and wait for the guests to run screaming from the house. However, the eccentric group enjoyed their paranormal experience and desires more. They send Lydia to retrieve the Maitlands, who refuse to come downstairs. Meanwhile, Charles brainstorms ideas on how to capitalize on the haunted house. Along with Otho, Charles and Delia storm the attic, but the ghosts hide from them. Spotting the Handbook of the Recently Deceased, Otho steals it. Later, Betelgeuse taunts the Maitlands about their failed efforts and upstages them by appearing in the Deetzes house as a large snake with a human head. Although the Deetzes are terrified, Adam and Barbara reprimand Betelgeuse for intervening. Frustrated. Betelgeuse claims he has not been released into the world in 600 years, but the couple refuses to say his name three times. The Maitlands seek out Juno, who coaches them to try a scarier approach to haunting. Lydia goes to the attic, and Betelgeuse calls to her from the model town. He says Adam and Barbara are gone forever and asks her to release him. She says his name twice, but the Maitlands return in time to stop her from saying it again. Although Lydia longs to be dead, too, Barbara discourages her and promises that she and Adam plan to live harmoniously with the Deetzes from now on. Downstairs, Charles presents plans for a paranormal research center and other real estate developments in Winter River to potential investors. Although the adult Deetzs demand to see the ghosts, Lydia announces that the Maitlands will not be exploited. Otho uses a spell from the handbook to conjure the Maitlands, who appear in wedding attire, hovering above a table. Barbara and Adam begin to wither like corpses, and Otho claims he cannot stop the spell. Lydia calls Betelgeuse for help, and he agrees to intervene only if she marries him. Lydia reluctantly accepts and calls his name three times. As Betelgeuse appears, he frightens the Deetzes and traps them inside Delia’s sculptures. A dead man appears and presides over the wedding of Betelgeuse and Lydia, and the Maitlands become young again. The Maitlands try to stop the wedding by calling out Betelgeuse’s name, but he silences them with his supernatural powers. When Lydia tries to say his name, Betelgeuse covers her mouth and co-opts her voice to declare her love for him. Although Betelgeuse drives the Maitlands out of the house, Barbara falls into the desert, where she mounts the man-eating sandworm and rides it back inside. Just before the marriage becomes official, the sandworm crashes into Betelgeuse and sends him back underground. Sometime later, Lydia happily rides her bike home from school and finds the Maitlands redecorating their house to look the way it once did. To celebrate Lydia’s good grades, the Maitlands send her floating into the air as she dances to an upbeat song. Upstairs, Delia shows Charles her latest sculpture, a bust of Betelgeuse.  

Production Company: The Geffen Company  
Production Text: The Geffen Company Presents
A Tim Burton Film
Distribution Company: Warner Bros., Inc. (A Warner Communications Company)
Director: Tim Burton (Dir)
  Donald Heitzer (Unit prod mgr)
  Bill Scott (1st asst dir)
  K. C. Colwell (2d asst dir)
  Jerry Fleck (2d asst dir)
Producer: Michael Bender (Prod)
  Larry Wilson (Prod)
  Richard Hashimoto (Prod)
Writer: Michael McDowell (Scr)
  Warren Skaaren (Scr)
  Michael McDowell (Story)
  Larry Wilson (Story)
Photography: Thomas Ackerman (Dir of photog)
  Doug Knapp (Cam op)
  David Parrish (1st asst cam)
  Patty Harrison (2d asst cam)
  Jane O`Neal (Still photog)
  Bill Silic (Chief lighting tech)
  Michael Laws (Asst chief lighting tech)
  Ted Rhodes (Key grip)
  Mark Pearson (Best boy grip)
Art Direction: Bo Welch (Prod des)
  Tom Duffield (Art dir)
  Ed Nunnery (Delia's sculptures des by)
Film Editor: Jane Kurson (Ed)
  Louis Benioff (Asst ed)
Set Decoration: Catherine Mann (Set dec)
  Cheryl Carasik (Lead person)
  John Warnke (Set des)
  Dick McKenzie (Set des)
  Bill Petrotta (Prop master)
  Gary Kieldrup (Asst prop master)
  Paul Campanella (Stand by painter)
  Dan Ondrejko (Greensman)
  Bob Scaife (Const coord)
Costumes: Aggie Guerard Rodgers (Cost des)
  Linda Henrikson (Cost supv)
  Chuck Velasco (Cost supv)
  Betty Jean Slater (Ward)
Music: Danny Elfman (Mus comp)
  Nancy Fogarty (Mus ed)
  Bob Badami (Mus ed)
  Bob Fernandez (Mus scoring mixer)
  Steve Bartek (Orch)
Sound: David Ronne (Prod sd mixer)
  John Schuyler (Boom op)
  Tom Durell (Cable op)
  Richard Anderson (Supv sd ed)
  David Stone (Sd ed)
  Warren Hamilton, Jr. (Sd ed)
  Mark Pappas (Sd ed)
  Gilbert Haimsohn (Asst sd ed)
  Mary Andrews (Supv ADR ed)
  Gregg Landaker (Re-rec mixer)
  Steve Maslow (Re-rec mixer)
  Kevin O'Connell (Re-rec mixer)
Special Effects: Chuck Gaspar (Spec eff supv)
  Joe Day (Spec eff)
  Elmer Hui (Spec eff)
  William Lee (Spec eff)
  Tom Mertz (Spec eff)
  Jeff Wischnak (Spec eff)
  Alan Munro (Visual eff supv)
  Rick Heinrichs (Visual eff consultant)
  Robert Short (Creatures and makeup eff)
  Barbara Stephans Slifka (Prod exec, Short eff crew)
  James McGeachy (Const supv, Short eff crew)
  Linda Frobos (Lead puppet sculptor, Short eff crew)
  Douglas Turner (Creature const supv, Short eff crew)
  Pete Gerard (Mechanical eff supv, Short eff crew)
  David Beasley (Model shop supv, Short eff crew)
  VCE, Inc. (Visual eff by)
  Peter Kuran (Visual eff by, VCE, Inc.)
  Beverly Bernacki (Opt eff, VCE, Inc.)
  Spencer Gill (Opt eff, VCE, Inc.)
  Sarah Pasanen (Opt eff, VCE, Inc.)
  Jo Martin (Opt eff, VCE, Inc.)
  William Conner (Opt eff, VCE, Inc.)
  James Belohovek (Miniature prod, VCE, Inc.)
  Thomas Conti (Miniature prod, VCE, Inc.)
  Rick Kess (Miniature prod, VCE, Inc.)
  Jammie Friday (Anim prod, VCE, Inc.)
  Mark Myer (Anim prod, VCE, Inc.)
  Jacqueline Zietlow (Coord, VCE, Inc.)
  Ted Rae (Snake seq by)
  Doug Beswick (Sandworm seq by)
  Tim Lawrence (Barbara/Adam transformation by)
  Dreamquest (Model town miniature by)
  Pablo Ferro (Title des by)
  Fred Spencer (Puppeteer)
  James McGeachy (Puppeteer)
  Kevin Carlson (Puppeteer)
  Mary Bryan Wilson (Puppeteer)
  Van Snowden (Puppeteer)
  Sandy Grinn (Puppeteer)
Dance: Chrissy Bocchino (Choreog)
Make Up: Ve Neill (Makeup)
  Steve Laporte (Makeup)
  Yolanda Toussieng (Hairstylist)
Production Misc: Jane Jenkins (Casting)
  Janet Hirshenson (Casting)
  Eric Angelson (Prod supv for The Geffen Company)
  June Petersen (Asst prod)
  Carol Sevilla (Scr supv)
  Mary Galloway (Loc mgr)
  Ramona Dorene Villarrial (Prod accountant)
  Luba Dmytryk (Prod coord)
  Susan Spencer Robbins (Asst to Mr. Hashimoto)
  Ralph Meyer (Prod assoc)
  Jane Stewart (Res)
  Steve Newman (Unit pub)
  Don Newton (Transportation coord)
Stand In: Fred Lerner (Stunt coord)
  Fred Waugh (Stunt player)
  James Lerner (Stunt player)
  Mike Cassidy (Stunt player)
  Maria Kelly (Stunt player)
  Carl Ciarfalio (Stunt player)
  Noon Orsatti (Stunt player)
  Di Ann Lerner (Stunt player)
  Fred Lerner (Stunt player)
  Shinko Isobe (Stunt player)
  Cris Thomas Palomino (Stunt player)
  Pat Puccinelli (Stunt player)
  Anthony Schmidt (Stunt player)
  Mary Peters (Stunt player)
  Beth Nufer (Stunt player)
Color Personnel: Technicolor® (Col by)
MPAA Rating: PG
Country: United States
Language: English

Songs: "Day-O," written by Lord Burgess and William Attaway, courtesy of RCA Records and performed by Harry Belafonte; "Man Smart, Woman Smarter," written by Norman Span, courtesy of RCA Records and performed by Harry Belafonte; "Sweetheart From Venezuela," written by Fitzroy Alexander and Bob Gordon, courtesy of RCA Records and performed by Harry Belafonte; "Jump In The Line (Shake, Shake Senora)," written by Rafael Leon and Raymond Bell, courtesy of RCA Records and performed by Harry Belafonte.
Composer: Fitzroy Alexander
  William Attaway
  Raymond Bell
  Lord Burgess
  Bob Gordon
  Rafael Leon
  Norman Span
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
the Geffen Film Company 20/6/1988 dd/mm/yyyy PA371966

PCA NO: 28914
Physical Properties: Sd: Dolby Stereo® in selected theatres
  Lenses: Lenses and Panaflex® camera by Panavision®

Genre: Comedy
Subjects (Major): Connecticut
  Death and dying
  Haunted houses
Subjects (Minor): Adolescents
  Depression, Mental
  New York City
  Real estate
  Suicide notes

Note: The film’s title appears as two words in onscreen credits, and early mentions of the project in contemporary news items, including the 23 Jan 1986 HR and 5 Dec 1986 DV, also referred to it as Beetle Juice. However, the majority of reviews and articles published at the time of the film’s release listed the title as one word.
       End credits include the statement: “Filmed at Culver Studios, Culver City, California.”
       Director Tim Burton first read Michael McDowell and Warren Skaaren’s script in 1986, as noted in a May 1988 Cinefx article, and a 5 Dec 1986 DV item announced that Burton was attached to direct, with the Geffen Company producing through a financing-distribution deal with Warner Bros.
       According to a 15 Apr 1988 LA Weekly article, the production cost $14 million. As reported by a 12 Mar 1987 DV brief and 17 Mar 1987 HR production charts, principal photography began 11 Mar 1987, in East Corinth, VT, which stood in for Winter River, CT. There, a three-and-a-half-sided shell of the “Maitland’s” house was constructed, as well as the covered bridge that served as the site of the couple’s fatal car accident, as noted in an Apr 1988 AmCin article. After filming wrapped in VT, production moved to Los Angeles, CA, where shooting took place at Culver Studios.
       Michael McDowell, described as “the original writer” by a 15 Apr 1988 LA Weekly article, worked with screenwriter Warren Skaaren on rewrites throughout production. Of the changes made throughout production, the ending was reshot to include more of Michael Keaton’s character, “Betelgeuse,” named after a star in the Orion constellation also known as “Alpha Orionis.”
       The film’s relatively low budget led to a “low-tech effects approach,” as noted in the May 1988 issue of Cinefx. Special effects included a mix of new and old technologies, including “old-style mirror effects,” according to production notes in AMPAS library files. In a 29 Apr 1988 DV article, creature designer and effects makeup artist Robert Short stated that he spent three months designing and constructing creature models during pre-production, and noted that most of the effects were filmed live on set.
       The film opened to mixed reviews but proved successful at the box office, grossing $10,450,679 in 1,000 theaters in the first five days of release, according to a 6 Apr 1988 DV advertisement. By 29 Apr 1988, DV reported that the film had taken in over $41 million in box-office receipts.
       Beetle Juice won an Academy Award for Best Makeup (Ve Neill, Steve La Porte, and Robert Short).
       An animated television series of the same name was announced in a 12 Dec 1988 DV news item, to be produced by Nelvana Entertainment and Warner Bros. for ABC-TV. Burton developed and executive-produced the series, which began 9 Sep 1989, as noted in a 24 Aug 1989 Cleveland Plain Dealer item, and continued through late 1991. On 8 Nov 1996, DV announced that Billy Frolick had been hired to a write a sequel to Beetle Juice, with Burton slated to produce and Michael Keaton in negotiations to reprise his role. However, as of the writing of this Note, no such sequel has been made. A 1 Nov 2013 HR news item also mentioned a sequel, noting that Tim Burton was in talks to direct.

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
American Cinematographer   Apr 1988.   
Box Office   Oct 1987.   
Cinefx   May 1988.   
[Cleveland] Plain Dealer   24 Aug 1989.   
Daily Variety   5 Dec 1986.   
Daily Variety   12 Mar 1987.   
Daily Variety   6 Apr 1988.   
Daily Variety   29 Apr 1988   p. 18.
Daily Variety   12 Dec 1988.   
Daily Variety   8 Nov 1996   p. 3, 30.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Mar 1987.   
Hollywood Reporter   28 Mar 1988   p. 10, 22.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Nov 2013   p. 18, 20.
Los Angeles Times   30 Mar 1988   p. 1.
LA Weekly   15 Apr 1988.   
New York Times   30 Mar 1988   p. 18.
Variety   30 Mar 1988   p. 12.

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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.
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