Macabre was nothing new to television. One only has to look to The Addams Family or The Munsters for proof. Those were decades before Saturday morning cartoons came into prominence. The genre was stagnant until Tim Burton brought his refreshing-at-the-time but now dear-Odin-please-go-away gothic sensibility to the mainstream with the film Beetlejuice. Seeing the opportunity, the adult comedy was spun-off into a cartoon that not only changed the general tone of the source material, but was surprisingly good.
If you’ve seen Beetlejuice (and the correct answer’s yes), feel free to skip this paragraph. The Maitlands (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) died, and are tethered to their house as ghosts. The Deetzes (Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara, and Jeffery Jones) move in with their obtuse modern art consuming the house. The Maitlands awaken Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton), an obnoxious con-artist spirit, hoping he’ll help them rid the house of the Deetzes.
All caught up? Good. Knowing the general plot of the movie (which you should have watched by now!) will make this easier. Though the cartoon shared the same license as the movie, many changes occurred to make it palatable for children, and some randomly. The Maitlands were gone, while Beetlejuice and Lydia (Ryder’s character) were now best friends, going on misadventures in the
afterlife Netherworld. And a mess of new characters were added.
Burton helped develop the show, but considering how he “directed” The Nightmare Before Christmas, I’m not so sure. Danny Elfman’s theme music was used. Since it sounds like the rest of his scores, I’m not sure anyone noticed. None of the actors reprised their roles for the cartoon, which was to be expected at the time. The show was mostly centered on puns, visual gags, pranks by Beetlejuice, and of course parody. Unlike many other shows that dipped into parody, this aped less treaded properties such as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and of course, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.
The show had an odd airing schedule. Three 13-episode seasons were produced for ABC’s Saturday morning line-up. Fox, increasing their cartoon catalog, ordered a standard 65-episode syndication run. The last year new episodes aired (1991), episodes were on Fox Monday through Friday, then ABC on Saturdays. Strange times, man.
I remember KB-Toys having some sort of free give away tie-in with the series. The commercials instructed kids to say ‘Beetlejuice’ three times to the cashier to receive whatever nonsense thing it was. My mom took me specifically to get it. They had already run out. I was crestfallen.
The complete series just released on DVD. It’s a solid collection if you’re a fan. If you run across an episode or two, give it a shot. It’s still a pretty decent show, unless slapstick gothic humor isn’t your thing, then this totally sucks.
Did you get my free toy? DID YOU?? Comment below!
In addition to THN’s Saturday Morning Cartoons and Nerd at the Movies, Tony writes for his own site, thecredhulk.com, about comics, video games, movies, TV and more, six days a week. You can follow his updates on Facebook or Twitter. Drop by and tell ’em hi.
I discovered a few years ago that Beetlejuice had a cartoon spin-off, and I was pissed to some extent that it didn’t have the Maitlands, or try to make an attempt to explain how we got from the movie to that cartoon.
I have come to appreciate it some time ago, and I learned that if you put yourself in the right mindset, then perhaps I am gonna end up like it a lot. I liked the chemistry of some of the characters, especially the rivalry between Clare Brewster and Lydia Deetz in the show. The animation is not the most impressive thing in the world, but it could have been a lot worse if Tim wasn’t involved into the process, I am sure of that!
Personally, I would have preferred DiC to do the animation of the series, since they tended to add a lot of anime influence into their shows, like Real Ghostbusters and Ulysses 31, to name a few.
All in all, I enjoyed reading that little piece and, even though I am not one of the folks who greew up loving that series, I can understand it’s importance to Beetlejuice as a whole fandom, to say the least.
I am not trying to attack the fanbase for it, nor do I want to ridicule it. It stays true to the spirit of the movie, and I’ll admit, I have come to learn and accept it for what it is.
And yeah, is definitely a lot more better than a lot of the cartoon movie spin-offs that I can think of, just one margin behind the Real Ghostbusters.
It inspired a comic book series that was short-lived, but they were just repeating the gags from the show instead of building on to any kind of story arch that would have made the thing stand out. But once again, we can never have what we want in this world that easy.
I can only hope that a Beetlejuice 2 is more of a possibility now than it was before.
Another thing that I neglected to mention is that a huge percentage of the fans of this cartoon are girls and young women than guys. I find it kinda weird, but most of the people behind fan arts and fan fics of both the movie and cartoon versions are girls and less men. That’s the only thing I don’t quite get.
Wow, you certainly had plenty to say! You’re right about the animation, it could have been better. DiC would have been a better choice. Taking this as it’s own thing, I think it’s perfectly fine.
I would like to see what Burton would do with a Beetlejuice 2. It would be interesting to say the least.
I can see the fanbase being mostly female, likely thanks to Lydia being such a prominent character.