Before it became a long-running original television show, Fantasy Island was introduced to viewers in 1977 through two highly-rated made-for-television films in which Mr. Roarke and Tattoo played relatively minor roles. Airing from 1978 to 1984, the original series starred Ricardo Montalban as Mr. Roarke, the enigmatic overseer of a mysterious island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, where people from all walks of life could come and live out their fantasies, albeit for a price.
Roarke was known for his white suit and cultured demeanor, and was initially accompanied by an energetic sidekick, Tattoo, played by Hervé Villechaize. Tattoo would run up the main bell tower to ring the bell and shout "The plane! The plane!" to announce the arrival of a new set of guests at the beginning of each episode. This line, shown at the beginning of the show's credits, became an unlikely catchphrase because of Villechaize's spirited delivery and French accent (he actually pronounced it, "De plane! De plane!"). In later seasons, he would arrive in his personal go-cart, sized for him, and recklessly drive to join Roarke for the visitor reception while staff scrambled to get out of his way. From 1980 to 1982, Wendy Schaal joined the cast as another assistant named Julie. In a highly unpopular move with fans, the producers fired Villechaize from the series before the 1983–1984 season (which ended up being its last) and Tattoo was replaced by a more sedate butler type named Lawrence, played by Christopher Hewett. Lawrence's personality was exactly the opposite of Tattoo's in many ways. For instance, Lawrence was also responsible for the bell ringing, but instead of climbing to the tower he simply pushed a button outside to have the bell ring automatically.
Roarke would then welcome his guests by lifting his glass and saying: "My dear guests, I am Mr. Roarke, your host. Welcome to Fantasy Island.".
In the early seasons, it was noted that each guest had paid $50,000 in advance for the fulfillment of their fantasies and that Fantasy Island was a business. Later, it became clear that the price a guest paid was substantial to him or her, and for one little girl whose father was one of Roarke's guests, she'd emptied her piggy bank - less than ten dollars - to have her fantasy about her father fulfilled.
In the two pilot movies Roarke was actually a rather sinister figure, but once the series went into production he soon became much more benevolent. In later seasons there were often supernatural overtones. Roarke also seemed to have his own supernatural powers of some sort, although it was never explained how this came to be. In one episode, when a guest says 'Thank God things worked out well', Roarke and Tattoo share a very odd look and Roarke says in a cryptic way 'Thank God indeed'. In the same episode, Roarke uses some mysterious powers to help Tattoo with his magic act.
Roarke had a strong moral code, but he was always merciful as he tried to teach his guests the error of their ways. Several guests died on the island, either due to their own negligence, aggression or arrogance, or because they were dying and Roarke was allowing them to live out one last wish. When necessary, Roarke would directly intervene when the fantasy became dangerous to the guest. For instance, when Tattoo had his own fantasy, which ended up with him being chased by hostile natives in canoes, Mr. Roarke suddenly appeared in a motorboat, snared Tattoo's canoe with a grappling hook and towed it away at high speed to help his employee escape.
The usual format of each episode consisted of an introduction in which Roarke would describe to Tattoo (or another assistant) the nature of each person's fantasy, usually with a cryptic comment suggesting the person's fantasy will not turn out as they expected. The episode would then alternate between two or three independent storylines as the guests experienced their fantasies and interacted with Roarke. Often, the fantasies would turn out to be morality lessons for the guests, sometimes to the point of (apparently) putting their lives at risk, only to have Roarke step in at the last minute and reveal the deception. It is mentioned a few times that a condition of visiting Fantasy Island is that guests never reveal what goes on there. A small number of guests decided to make the irrevocable choice to stay permanently, living out their fantasy until death; one such person was an actor who'd been in a Tarzan-type TV series in the 1960s.
It was shown every Saturday night on ABC at 10:00 PM, after the The Love Boat, which was also produced by Aaron Spelling. Like several other series of the era, such as the abovementioned The Love Boat and Murder, She Wrote, Fantasy Island employed many celebrity (if not A-list film stars of the time) guest stars, often bringing them back repeatedly for different roles. Such guests included TV stars like Bill Bixby and Bob Denver, music stars like Sonny Bono and Robert Goulet, classic film stars like Peter Lawford and Ray Bolger, young starlets like Victoria Principal and Barbi Benton, character actors such as Howard Duff and David Doyle, and soap opera actors like Dack Rambo.
The program was popular in its day, and its campy style has won it a cult following in reruns.
It was filmed primarily in Burbank, California with the opening scenes of the enchanting island coastline being that of Kauai, Hawaii. The gorgeous house with the bell tower, where Tattoo rings the bell, is the Queen Anne Cottage, located in the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden in Arcadia. The plane, "arriving" with the guests, was filmed in the lagoon behind the Queen Anne Cottage. Sometimes, outdoor scenes were filmed at the Arboretum.
In 1998, ABC revived the series. The role of Mr. Roarke was filled by Malcolm McDowell and, unlike in the first series, the supernatural aspect of his character and of Fantasy Island itself was emphasized from the start, along with a dose of dark humor. Director Barry Sonnenfeld, known for his work on The Addams Family movies, was a chief creative force on the new series. Another departure from the original involved filming location, with the new series filmed in Hawaii, rather than in California.
The supporting cast was also expanded for the new series. There was no attempt to replace Tattoo, with Roarke instead having a team of assistants — one of whom was a beautiful female shape shifter — who were assigned to help create and maintain the various fantasy worlds created on the island. Apparently these assistants were imprisoned on the island in order to pay off some debt, sometimes hinting that they were in some kind of Limbo, with many parallels between the regulars and William Shakespeare's The Tempest. The series was cancelled midway through the season, with this subplot never resolved.
In an attempt to contrast this series with the original, the new Mr. Roarke usually wore black; in the first episode, he picked the single black suit out of a closet of white ones and ordered that the rest be burned. Also during the first episode, an assistant came into Mr. Roarke's office, shouting "The planes! The planes!" Mr. Roarke ordered the assistant to never do that again.
Episodes of the revived series regularly opened with a sequence set in the travel agency that actually books the fantasies, operated by two elderly travel agents played by Fyvush Finkel and 1930s silver screen leading lady Sylvia Sidney (in her final acting role).
On May 10, 2007, it was announced that comedian Eddie Murphy had been signed to star in a feature film comedy based on the 1977 series. Murphy will reportedly play multiple roles as well as Mr. Roarke. The film will be written by screenwriters Jay Scherick and David Ronn.
The Micallef Program contained a sketch entitled 'Fantasy Traffic Island' in which Shaun and Francis asked a pedestrian what his wildest fantasy was. He just wanted to get to the golf shop across the road.
In the Looney Tunes compilation Daffy Duck's Fantastic Island, Daffy Duck found a wishing well, and started charging people to make wishes. When the business took off, he started wearing a white suit. Speedy Gonzales took on the role of Tattoo.
SCTV produced a parody of Fantasy Island (presumably shown as advertised Thursday at 9 on SCTV). Eugene Levy played a Mr. Roarke-like character, & John Candy played Pattoo, a Tattoo-like character. Candy's image was miniaturized for television with special photography. Joe Flaherty & Dave Thomas played rock & roll musicians who came to the island to fulfill their fantasies of being great comedians (they wanted to be Cheech & Chong but Mr. Roarke made them Hope & Crosby). Andrea Martin played a violinist from the Philadelphia Philharmonic. John Candy also portrayed a Bogart-like "Rick" (from Casablanca) character in the final scene. Rick bogarts his cigarette, as noted by Andrea Martin's character.
In the movie Inspector Gadget, Tattoo appears at the Minions Anonymous meeting (this actually stems not from his Fantasy Island role, but from the fact he played Nick Nack, the sidekick to Christopher Lee's Scaramanga character in The Man with the Golden Gun).
In the episode The Cryonic Woman (2ACV19), Futurama makes a reference to some of its characters returning from Fantasy Planet, where "for one beautiful night", Doctor Zoidberg learns "what it was like to be a grandmother. Subjugated, yet honored."
In an episode of Nickelodeon cartoon Doug, the title character has a dream sequence where he invisions himself as a Mr Roarke-like character and his main antagonist, Roger, as Tattoo.
In the Entertainment TV show El Lavadero, on the Colombian TV network RCN, there is a section called Su Isla de la Fantasía (Spanish for "Your Fantasy Island"), which is presented by "Señor Ron" (a Mr. Roarke-like character; his name could be a pun on either the Spanish word for "Rum", or the channel name [RCN TV], or a pun on the word señorón, a pejorative form of mister) and Pelotú (pronounced pell-o-TOO, an imitation of Tattoo; his name is an apocope of "pelotudo" or stupid). In this parody, they talk about events that happen to people in Colombia and worldwide, and based on their talk, Mr. Ron says the guest has the fantasy to star certain movie or program.
In the video game Destroy All Humans: Big Willy Unleashed, one of the levels is called "Fantasy Atoll", Where visitors lived out their fantasies. The owner was a midget named "Porke" (Pronounced like Roarke) and his assistant, Ratpoo. It took place in the 1970s. One of the missions on the level is called "Hate Boat", as the show was aired after the show Love Boat.
When I Love 1982 Strikes Back aired its segment on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, it was teased with the line "Why is Captain Kirk, so pissed off at Mr. Roarke?" an obvious in-joke about Ricardo Montalban's work on the TV series that was airing at the same time of the films release.
On the show South Park, two mentions of Fantasy Island exist. One episode has a reporter saying, "And from a man who looks an awful lot like Mr. Roarke" and then shows a reporter in the likeness of Roarke. Another episode, where the boys visit space, has an alien shape shifting into different characters and objects in order to appeal to the boys, and he briefly becomes Mr. Roarke and Tattoo, however, the boys yell, "NO!"
In the United States the series is currently being distributed commercial free by Sony Pictures Television on the Tube Time Video On Demand channel via Comcast digital cable, another episode is released each week and 6 episodes are available for free VOD viewing at anytime. Most episodes appear to have been remastered for the V.O.D. distribution run. As of late summer 2008, episode 68 was released the week of 9/1/08, visit tvplanner.comcast.com for more info.
On November 15, 2005, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released Season 1 of the original series on DVD for the very first time. Due to poor sales, it is unknown if the remaining seasons will ever be released.
|DVD Name||Ep #||Release Date||Additional Information|
|The Complete First Season||16||November 15, 2005|| |