Remember that one day when you could wake up without an alarm? When you would get your favorite bowl of cereal and sit between the hours of 8 and 12? This is a blog dedicated to the greatest time of our childhood: Saturday mornings. The television programs you watched, the memories attached to them, and maybe introducing you to something you didn't realize existed. Updated every weekend.
Warriorscame to creator Gary Goddard when he was
spending time with his godson at the stage show The Adventures of Conan: A
Sword and Sorcery Spectacular.
When his godson had a reaction to the skeletons featured in the show,
Goddard realized how powerful the image of a skeleton could be and how
universal it was. From there, an idea came to mind. (Although, it should be
noted in an article
about the series’ debut Goddard had stated that his godson’s reaction came from
a book he would read him, and that his ideas also stemmed from a childhood
interest in skeletons being an avid reader of The Phantom).
Drew Struzan promotional poster.
Goddard envisioned a
legion of skeleton warriors, representing death, and a group of heroes fueled
by the abilities of animals, representing life, in the usual good versus evil
conflict. Goddard drew heavily on his love of comic books as he drafted his
concept, even going so far as to have comic book artist Neal Adams draw up
the original concept designs. Ian McCaig rendered the
initial character designs that were used as the basis for character statutes
for his presentation to either a toy company, television network, or both.
Dagger, Cyborn, Baron Dark, Aracula, and Shriek action figures.
planned to debut the action figures at the 1994 American International Toy
Fair in New York City. Playmates’ sculptors managed to maintain the
high level of detail Goddard had on his models, making them highly praised by
industry publications and fellow toy designers. They even had a seven-foot
puppet of the principal villain made to go along with their display. It was
during the Toy Fair when the producers received word that CBS decided to pick
up the series, and, with it, numerous merchandising deals.
The show focused on
the planet Luminaire, which was a futuristic place with medieval overtones. The
capital city of Luminicity held a powerful crystal called The Lightstar
Crystal. Baron Dark (Phillip L. Clarke), the king’s advisor, wanted it for
himself in order to obtain absolute power and used Prince Joshua’s (Kevin
Schon) jealousy towards the temporary rule of his brother, Justin (Jeff
Bennett), to trick Joshua into helping him steal the Crystal. Justin tried to
prevent the theft, resulting in the crystal splitting and changing Dark and the
Grimskull, Lightstar and Talyn.
Dark became a skeleton with the ability to transform
others into one, which was how he created his entire army starting with his
generals. He recruited the once-lovely Amazon, Shriek (originally named
Banshee, voiced by Valery Pappas); his servant, Dagger (Danny Mann), who had a
massive spy network around the kingdom; and the half-cyborg, Dr. Cyborn (Nathan
Carlson), who had designed most of Luminicity’s technology and became mentally
twisted in the accident that took half his body. Dark also recruited the
multi-armed Aracula (Michael Corbett) and the wolf-like bounty hunter, Claw, to
The skeleton legion.
It also bestowed fantastic powers on the Lightstar
family: Justin could project beams of light energy; Joshua became zombie-like
with the ability to traverse through shadows and who often walked the line
between good and evil; and their sister, Jennifer (Jennifer Hale), gained the
ability to fly. With the help of their Uncle Ursak (Danny Mann), the Lightstars
gathered the Legion of Light to oppose Dark’s skeleton warriors, reclaim their
kingdom, and protect the other half of the crystal. The Lightstars’ codenames
were given to them by Ursak, who was dubbed Guardian by Justin.
CBS Action Zone promo comic.
The series debuted on
CBS on September 17, 1994 as part of their Action
Zone block, placed alongside Teenage
Mutant Ninja Turtlesand
WildC.A.T.S. Each episode featured a
Golden Skull (Tony Jay) rendered by computer animation. The Skull was Goddard’s
attempt to catch the attention of viewers and encourage them to watch the show.
As such, the Skull was seen before the intro played over Gary Guttman’s
theme. Inspired by The Twilight Zone’s
Serling, the Skull served to set up the moral conflict within each
episode’s story as well as drop subtle clues about the development the story
would have taken had the series gone to term. Had CBS greenlit the series
sooner, Goddard and his team would have had sufficient production time to make
the entire series CGI as Goddard felt the technology had advanced enough to do
so. If that happened, it would have become the second computer animated cartoon
after ReBoot, which also featured Jay. The CGI
effects were handled by Foundation Imaging.
The cancelled Talyn figure prototype.
series failed to find a sustainable audience as CBS continually shifted it
around in its schedule. The action figure line didn’t perform much better,
although the show wasn’t to blame for that. Playmates opted to just release the
villains for the first wave, and parents were hesitant to buy just skeletons
without any heroic characters. By the time Lightstar and Grimskull’s figures
were released, the show and the line were effectively dead. Future waves would
have featured Talyn,
a skeleton dragon for Dark to ride, and a playset.
1995 saw the release of several VHS
tapes in the United Kingdom by Abbey Home Media. In 2011,
Music Video Dist released the complete
series on DVD which featured the Drew Struzan poster Goddard
commissioned for the series’ world premiere. The series also went live on Hulu in 2015. For
the 20th anniversary of the series in 2014, October Toys in association with the
Goddard Group launched a Kickstarter to fund the production
of a Baron
Dark figure and several
variants. The following year, they launched a Kickstarter to produce
figure which failed to meet its funding goal. In 2016, October Toys’ proprietors
decided to cease operations and focus on other projects independently.
“Flesh and Bone” (9/17/94) – Baron Dark convinces Justin to take the
Lightstar Crystal, which Dark breaks into two transforming the Steeles and
creating his own skeleton army.
“Trust and Betrayal” (9/24/94) – Lightstar and Talyn try to recruit
soldiers amidst talk Grimskull is in collusion with Dark, but both end up
captured by the skeletons.
“Heart and Soul” (10/1/94) – The lone survivor of a settlement only
lived because he allowed Dark to transform him into a skeleton.
“Bones of Contention” (10/8/94) – A data crystal reveals Grimskull’s
involvement in the skeleton epidemic, and Lightstar takes his punishment while
Grimskull tries to redeem himself.
“Zara” (10/15/94) – An old friend of the Steeles sells them out to
Dark in the town of Romney.
“Mind Games” (10/22/94) – Dark attempts to penetrate Grimskull’s mind
through his dreams.
“Harmonic Divergence” (10/29/94) – Guardian goes undercover in Dark’s
bomb factory as a loyalist.
“Past Perfect, Future Tense” (11/5/94) – Dr. Jenna’s machine allows
Guardian to see a grim future for Lightstar.
“Brawl and Chain” (11/12/94) – Lightstar and Talyn attempt to get
ahead of Dark’s new Gorgon battleship but end up imprisoned by a town with his
“Overload” (11/19/94) – Dark seeks to supercharge his half of the
crystal while the Legion of Light searches for a lost Talyn.
“Long Live the King” (11/26/94) – Baron Dark finally ascends to the
“Conflict and Consequences-Part 1” (12/3/94) – The Legion of Light
launches an attack on Dark’s forces while Grimskull tries to steal his half of
the crystal, only to be caught by Dark.
“Conflict and Consequences-Part 2” (12/10/94) – Dark manages to unite
the two halves of the crystal and engages in a final battle with Lightstar.
Barbara (Geena Davis)
and Adam (Alec Baldwin) Maitland were
living the perfect life in their dream home. That is until the day they drove
their car off the bridge and died. Forced to haunt their house as ghosts, the
real terror began when it was sold to the Deetz family from New York City.
Charles (Jeffrey Jones) was a
real estate developer who needed some peace and quiet in his life; his second
wife, Delia (Catherine O’Hara),
fancied herself an artist and promptly set about turning the house into one of
her projects; and Charles’ daughter, Lydia (Winona Ryder), was a goth who
loathed the move to the countryside.
Unable to get rid of the Deetzes on their own, Barbara and Adam turned to
a self-proclaimed “bio-exorcist” that revealed himself to them: Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton). The Maitlands
freed Betelgeuse from Adam’s model of the town, but quickly sent him back when
he almost killed Charles. Betelgeuse was freed again by Lydia, who had
befriended the Maitlands and was trying to save them from an exorcism being conducted
by her family. Betelgeuse agreed to help if Lydia would marry him in exchange.
The Maitlands, restored, helped to send Betelgeuse away and rescue Lydia. From
that moment on, the Maitland and Deetz families learned to live together, while
Betelgeuse was getting into more mischief in the netherworld (aka the
Beetlejuice is beside himself.
Michael McDowell came
up with the original story and script, which took on a much darker tone than
the final product. In McDowell’s treatment, the Maitlands’ deaths were far more
graphic and their attempts to scare the Deetzes were more malicious. The limbo
that kept the Maitlands in their house was depicted as a void full of giant
clock gears shredding the fabric of space and time, instead of the vast
abstract desert inhabited by vicious giant sandworms it ended up being.
Betelgeuse (named after the star) needed to only be dug up to be freed rather
than summoned by reciting his name three times, and was envisioned as a demon that did
horrific things to the Deetzes. The Deetzes would have had another daughter
that Betelgeuse would harm, and the Maitlands and Deetzes would work together
to exorcise Betelgeuse while the Maitlands would move into the model version of
McDowell was joined by Larry
Wilson on rewrites to the script, and Wilson presented it to an executive
at Universal Studios who hated
it. They ended up selling the script to The Geffen Company.
David Geffen, in turn,
presented the script to Tim Burton. Burton
had gained notoriety in Hollywood after the success of Pee-wee’s Big Adventureand
was looking for his next film to direct while he and Sam Hamm worked on a treatment
for a Batman movie to
present to Warner Bros. Burton loved
the script and signed on to direct it. Warren Skaaren was brought in to
do additional rewrites, toning down many of McDowell’s concepts and bringing it
closer to the dark comedy it ended up being, and frequent Burton collaborator Danny Elfman was brought on to conduct
the score. Burton made the film reminiscent of the B-Movies he grew up with,
keeping the effects intentionally fake-looking. It was released by Warner Bros.
on April 1, 1988 with the phonetic title of Beetlejuice
and it became the 10th highest grossing film of the year while
netting several award nominations and wins.
Beetlejuice undergoing some grooming.
With popularity riding high--particularly with a younger demographic--it
was decided to bring the concept to television with an animated series
executive produced by Burton and Geffen. The transition from film to screen
meant a number of changes had to be made to make the concept more kid-friendly.
Beetlejuice (Stephen Ouimette) in particular had to be changed from a letch
into more of a malicious prankster and con-man who had his own twisted set of
morals. However, they kept him as gross as possible by having him deal often in
random body odors, frequent references to his poor hygiene, and his indulgence
in eating live beetles (usually off-camera represented by a CRUNCH! and the
disgusted faces of onlookers). Beetlejuice (B.J. or Beej to his friends)
resided in a roadhouse in a twisted alternate dimension called the
Neitherworld--which replaced the bureaucratic version of the afterlife featured
in the film--and featured buildings and structures that defied all known laws
of physics. Beej’s magic seemingly had no limits except for his inability to
function when any of his body parts were severed (without blood) and his
reflexive instinct to transform himself and his surroundings into a literal
representation of a phrase spoken.
Wardrobe changes made easy.
The Maitlands were eliminated entirely and their roles were instead
filled by Beetlejuice, who was now the best friend of Lydia (called either “Lyds”
or “babes” by him, voiced by Alyson Court). While he could still be summoned to
the real world by saying his name three times, Lydia would recite a chant to
bring herself to his home:
“Though I know I should
be wary/Still I venture someplace scary/Ghostly hauntings I turn
loose…/Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!”
That chant would transform Lydia’s room into a Neitherworld version of
itself and changed her clothing to include a red spider-web poncho over black
tights. Her personality and fashion choices often left her standing out in the
small town she lived in, and she was often at odds with bullying classmate
Claire Brewster (Tara Strong). At some
point, Lydia joined a version of the Girl
Scouts called Happy Face Girls and a band named The Bride of Funkenstein (based
on The Bride of Frankenstein,
an idea that was submitted
by a then-teenaged fan for which she was paid $250). Both Lydia and Beej
broke the fourth wall, and even knew they were on a show. Beej would also often
transport himself to the real world and interact with others besides Lydia in a
“human” disguise, such as Mr. Beetleman, Cousin B.J., and Denmother MacCree.
Charles and Lydia.
Lydia’s parents, Charles (Roger Dunn) and Delia (Elizabeth Hanna),
returned as well. Delia’s eccentricities were toned down and she became
oblivious to everything except what she called art; unaware of any strange
goings on around the house. Charles, however, saw everything and could explain
none of it. Unlike the film, his nerves were a lot more easily frazzled and he
was just a push away from a mental breakdown. Lydia also addressed Delia as
“mother” rather than by her name, and their non-biological relationship was
never firmly established. They also gained a family cat, Percy (Susan Roman),
who was even more high-strung than Charles and the frequent victim of Beej’s
pranks (although Percy managed to get in a few licks of his own here and
The Neitherworld offered a host of new characters to populate the show.
Living with Beej in the roadhouse were his roommates, Jacques LaLean (after
fitness guru Jack LaLanne, voiced by
Charles Kerr), a French skeleton obsessed with working out, and Ginger
(alluding to Ginger Rogers, voiced
by Tabitha St. Germain), a tap-dancing spider who was about as good at her
craft as Delia was at art. Across the street lived the aptly-named The Monster
Across the Street (Len Carlson), a giant, hairy monster with a Texan accent,
cowboy boots and hat with a very short temper and very high disdain of Beej. He
lived with his wife, The Monstress Across the Street, and his beloved dog,
Poopsie (both Roman). The second season saw the introduction of Doomie (Keith
Hampshire), the sentient car Beej built with Lydia ala Frankenstein.
By using an abnormal carburetor, every time the normally sweet Doomie was in
the presence of a dog, angry, or frightened, he would transform into a hairy
and savage monster. Sandworms also appeared frequently to cause a little havoc
and add extra trouble to a situation.
The Monster Across the Street.
Beetlejuice debuted on ABC on September 9, 1989 and became a huge hit
for the network. It ran for three seasons, alternating between single and
double stories each episode. Despite drawing the usual parental protests over
concerns about harmful content such as violence, the series managed to win the
1990 Daytime Emmy for “Outstanding
Animated Program,” shared with fellow ABC show The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The series’ theme was taken directly
from Elfman’s score of the film, but the rest of the series’ music was handled
by Tom Szczesniak. The series also
featured one of the earliest uses of CGI combined with puppetry; mostly for
Neitherworld television programs, as well as the beginning of the series’
second opening. Those effects were handled by Calibre Digital Designs.
ABC had no intentions of continuing the series beyond its third season. With
the Fox Kids block
entering its second year of existence, FOX
decided to acquire the weekday rights and order an additional 65 episodes of
the series from Nelvana. As a result, the
series’ third season continued simultaneously on ABC Saturdays alongside its
fourth during FOX weekdays, bringing the entire show up to a grand total of 94
episodes and making it one of the few to air concurrently on two networks. The FOX
season changed things up a bit from the rest of the series’ run. Beej was more
reactionary to things that happened in stories instead of being the direct
cause of them. Many episodes also dealt heavily with direct parodies to popular
movies, such as The Wizard of Oz. Writers for the series included Tedd Anasti, Patsy Cameron, Evelyn Gabai, Eric Lewald, Doug Molitor, Therese Naugle, J.D. Smith, Michael Edens, Marty Isenberg, Robert N. Skir, and Tony Marino, amongst others,
with Edens, Smith, Dan DiStefano
and Dan Hennessey serving as
Talk of a sequel had been ongoing since at least 1990, when Burton hired Jonathan Gems to write Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian. However, the
project soon became forgotten as Burton went to work on Batman Returns. Both Burton and Keaton had a strong love for
the movie, and consistently expressed interest in a sequel whenever it was
brought up. By 2015, a sequel was finally in pre-production with Keaton and
Ryder set to reprise their roles. In the interim, Beetlejuice was kept alive (so to speak) at various Universal Studios theme
parks in live-action shows. The show opened in 1992 and underwent several
revisions and names, the latest being Beeltejuice’s Graveyard Mash-Up. The last American version of the show closed in August of 2015 in
favor of an attraction based on The Fast and the Furiousfranchise, although it still currently
runs in Japan. Beetlejuice was also part of the defunct Extreme Ghostbusters: The Great Fright Way!and Halloween Horror Nights. In 2018, Beetlejuice was made into a musical that made its
way to Broadway the following year. In 2017, Beetlejuice returned to video
games as one of the playable characters and worlds in LEGO Dimensions,
voiced by Christopher
Swindle, and to animation in 2020 with a guest appearance on Teen Titans
Go! voiced by Alex Brightman.
“Critter Sitters” (9/9/89) – Beej has to contend with a difficult
babysitting job and a judge wanting to throw the book at him.
“The Big Face Off / Skeletons in the Closet” (9/16/89) – Beej and
Lydia compete on a game show. / The skeletons in Beej’s closet escape and start
telling all his truths.
“A Dandy Handy Man / Out of My Mind” (9/23/89) – Beej takes on jobs in
order to earn money to buy one of Lydia’s photos. / A fight over a prank causes
Lydia to banish Beej to the Netherworld.
“Stage Fright / Spooky Tree” (9/30/89) – Lydia becomes costume
designer for the school play to get revenge on Claire for cheating her out of
the role she wanted. / Beej brings Lydia’s favorite tree to life so it won’t be
“Laugh of the Party” (10/7/89) – In order to make Lydia’s Halloween
party a success, Beej brings “Party People in a Can.”
“Worm Welcome” (10/14/89) – Lydia accidentally transports a baby
Sandworm to Outerworld when she calls Beej.
“Bad Neighbor Beetlejuice / Campfire Ghouls” (10/21/89) – Beej tries
to be a good neighbor; unfortunately he doesn’t know the definition. / Beej
disguises himself as a girl to join Lydia’s camping trip.
“Pest O’ the West” (10/28/89) – Beej becomes sheriff of a Wild
West-like Neitherworld town.
“Bizarre Bazaar / Pat on the Back” (11/4/89) – Claire ruins everything
at the haunted house she and Lydia are supposed to run. / Desiring a pat on the
back causes a little man to grow on Beej’s back.
“Poopsie / It’s the Pits” (11/11/89) – The Monster has Beej babysit
Poopsie. / Beej gets a big head when he finds success as an armpit musician.
“Prince of the Neitherworld” (11/18/89) – Prince Vince asks Beej to
help him win Lydia’s heart.
“Quit While You’re a Head” (12/2/89) – Beej’s head is taken by
“Cousin B.J. / Beetlejuice’s Parents” (12/9/89) – Lydia’s relatives
come for a visit. / Lydia and Beej visit his parents.
“Dragster of Doom” (9/8/90) – Beej and Lydia decide to build their own
car, but an abnormal carburetor causes their car, Doomie, to change into a
“Scare and Scare Alike / Spooky Boo-Tique” (9/15/90) – Beej and Lydia
attempt to out-scare each other when a Sandworm interrupts. / Beej tries to
help promote Lydia’s new fashion line.
“Driven Crazy” (9/22/90) – Beej and Lydia enter Doomie into the
Neitherworld Grand Prix.
“Scummer Vacation” (9/29/90) – Beej disguises himself as a tour guide
so he can spend the summer with Lydia when her family goes on vacation.
“Bewtiched, Bothered & Beetlejuiced” (10/6/90) – Beej and Lydia
must rescue Percy from a witch that took him to the Witches’ Ball.
“Dr. Bettle & Mr. Juice / Running Scared” (10/13/90) – Beej’s new
cologne changes Lydia’s personality and makes her wilder than he ever was. /
Beej disguises himself as a student to run against Claire for class president.
“The Really Odd Couple / A-Ha!” (10/20/90) – Beej is forced to take
The Monster in after destroying his house. / Beej becomes Sherlock Homely to
find out what happened to Doomie.
“Uncle B.J.’s Roadhouse / Scarecrow / The Son Dad Never Had”
(10/27/90) – Beej hosts a children’s show. / Beej takes a job as a scarecrow at
a beetle farm. / Beej becomes Cousin BJ in order to scam Charles into spending
time and money on him.
“Mom’s Best Friend” (9/7/91) – Beej gets stuck in a dog form and is
adopted by Delia.
“Back to School Ghoul” (9/14/91) – Lydia must help Beej graduate
kindergarten in order to get back his license to drive people crazy.
“Doomie’s Romance” (9/21/91) – Doomie falls for the Mayor’s
“Ghost to Ghost” (9/28/91) – Delia holds a séance and summons Lydia’s
favorite actor who wants to take over the Deetzes’ home.
“Spitting Image / Awards to the Wise” (10/5/91) – Beej ends up seeing
double—of himself. / Beej decides he wants to join the crowd and win an award.
“The Prince of Rock and Roll” (10/12/91) – Prince Vince decides to
become a rock and roll star, but all his music does is depress the entire
“A Ghoul and His Money / Brides of Funkenstein” (10/19/91) – Beej wins
a lot of money under the condition he can’t use his magic against anyone ever
again. / Lydia’s band competes against Claire’s for the right to play at the
“Beetledude / The Farmer in the Smell” (10/26/91) – The Deetzes’ new
neighbor’s kid wants to be just like Beej. / Beej tags along when Lydia visits
her relatives’ farm.