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History Of: Beetlejuice

by Mason Kupiainen

(Editor’s Note: This article was updated on 10/31/2019. None of the content was altered, but the photos were re-aligned in order to conform to Byte style guidelines).

Now that it’s October, it’s time to pop some popcorn, hop on the couch, snuggle under a blanket, and watch horror movies. One of the most beloved horror movies, Beetlejuice, is unique in that it blends horror with comedy to create this weird Frankenstein of a movie with a dark sense of humor. While Beetlejuice is a well-known Halloween favorite, most people don’t know the history of this cult classic.
Image from IMDb

Beetlejuice’s Origin 

The idea for Beetlejuice began in the mid-1980s with author Michael McDowell wanting to try the movie business. After being inspired by famous movies like Ghostbusters and Poltergeist, McDowell wanted to write his own supernatural movie script. After joining up with his partner Laurence Senelick, they thought about ideas for a script. While in their home trying to come up with ideas, they became annoyed with their families and this soon became their inspiration for the movie. Taking the concept of ghosts haunting humans, Senelick tweaked the concept by changing the evil ghosts to good ones and making the humans living in the house bad. By combining these elements, they were able to create the basic movie plot. From this basic structure, they began adding in all of the other elements that would form the original script. Before going through countless rewrites, the original idea for Beetlejuice was to make it straight horror with the movie being more graphic and disturbing. The movie would have been more along the lines of something like The Exorcist instead of being the goofy comedy it became. Betelguese ( as it’s spelled in the movie) was originally going to be a winged demon that took the form of a Middle Eastern man. Instead of being a prankster, Betelguese was originally going to be a murderer, whose intent was to slaughter the Deetz family instead of trying to scare them. Within all of this, the most disturbing part of the original script was that Betelguese also had intent to rape Lydia, the Deetz’s daughter. The Maitlands' death also was originally going to be more graphic, with the couple dying from a horrible drowning that would have been more gruesome and disturbing than the scene we see in the movie. The ending would also have been much darker, with Lydia dying and joining the Maitlands in the afterlife. After receiving feedback from studios and going through countless rewrites, they eventually got to the version of the script we see in the final movie. After finishing the script, all that was left was to find a director to take on the movie.  With the success of his debut feature, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Tim Burton was ready to make a film that expressed his love for all things scary, bizarre, and putrid . Burton’s Batman movie was in the early stages of development, so in the meantime he was up for directing another film. Beetlejuice’s script was brought to him, and he gravitated toward it because of all of the elements he hoped to bring to the movie.
Image from IMDb

More Beetlejuice

After the financial success of Beetlejuice, along with the movie joining the top ten highest grossing movies of 1988, the studio wanted to capitalize on its success. The series ran from 1989-1991 on ABC Saturday Morning and FOX Kids Cartoon. It ran for four seasons and reached a total of 96 episodes. The series followed Lydia and her best friend Beetlejuice as they explore “The Neitherworld” (changed from the afterlife) together, and they encounter many creatures and monsters that live there. The idea of taking a popular movie and turning it into a kids cartoon series wasn’t new for Beetlejuice. Movies like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Robocop, Back to the Future, The Karate Kid, Dumb and Dumber, Ghostbusters, Men in Black, and The Mask all had cartoon series based off of their popular films. The difference between Beetlejuice and the rest of these movies is that Beetlejuice was a major hit for the studio. Not only did it run for four seasons with 96 episodes, it was also the only cartoon series based off of a live-action movie to ever win an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program. In October of 2018, Beetlejuice became a musical , premiering in Washington D.C. at the National Theater before moving to Broadway in April of 2019.
Image from IMDb


After the film’s original release, it was announced that a sequel was in the works. The sequel titled Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian” would have followed the Deetz family moving to Hawaii to build a resort. The building site for the resort was to be over an ancient burial ground, disturbing the spirits who lived there. Of course Beetlejuice would have returned and the movie would have had him become a hero after winning a surfing contest with his magic. The cast agreed to do the movie if Tim Burton returned to direct, but plans kept getting pushed back after Burton and Michael Keaton (Betelgeuse) became busy doing Batman Returns. Later in 1996, Kevin Smith was asked to rewrite a script, but he declined. It wasn’t until September of 2011 when talks of a sequel began again. Seth Grahame Smith was hired to write a script after working with Burton on Dark Shadows and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. He signed on only to write a script if a “story worthy of us actually doing this is for real.” News of a sequel went dark until 2015 when Winona Ryder confirmed the sequel while being on the “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” Nothing more was said of a sequel until 2017, when Deadline reported that a new screenwriter had been hired to write a new script in time for the 30th anniversary of the movie. Once again, nothing more was said until April of 2019, when Warner Bros. confirmed that they had shelved the project for the meantime. Hopefully sometime soon we’ll hear more than just reports of a sequel - maybe one that will actually be produced.
Sources: The Ringer Consequence of Sound Collider Wicked Horror Syfy USA Today Broadway Musical Home Images: Featured Image: