Beetlejuice is an animated television series loosely based on the like-titled film; it aired from September 9, 1989 to December 6, 1991. The television series was produced by Ellipse (France) and Nelvana (Canada) for The Geffen Film Company, with distribution handled by Warner Bros. Television, and starred Stephen Ouimette as Beetlejuice and Alyson Court as Lydia Deetz. The music and score for the series was composed by Ray Parker, Danny Elfman, and Tom Szczesniak.
Differences between the animated series and live-action film
The premise of the animated series was greatly changed from the film, to the point where one only superficially resembled the other. In the film, Beetlejuice was the antagonist who ended up nearly marrying a disgusted Lydia; in the series, they are best friends, and Lydia, something of a social misfit in the living world, frequently visits him in the afterlife during her free time. The Maitlands, the most significant characters in the film, are nowhere to be found in the series. And unlike the mind-numbing bureaucracy
that is in the movie, the afterlife
was converted into "the Neitherworld
," a bizarre and humorous parody
of the living world, with the fact of it being the afterlife only rarely mentioned, and the living world was referred to once or twice as "the Outerworld
" (or as "the Otherworld
Episodes generally centered on the ghostly con-man Beetlejuice, his best (and only true) friend Lydia, and their adventures together in both the Neitherworld and the "real world", a fictional New England
town called Peaceful Pines ("Winter River" in the film).
Beetlejuice's core character, that of a ghostly con artist, remained fundamentally the same as in the original movie, but was considerably softened, from maliciousness to pranksterism; nor, in the series, did he display the rampant lechery he did in the film, only occasionally embracing (or being embraced by) Lydia as between good friends.
Lydia's character went through comparatively greater change; she became far less "goth" than she was portrayed in the movie, and was presented as an upbeat girl who simply liked "weird" things from spiders to sloppy horror movies. As in the film, Lydia could summon Beetlejuice out of the Neitherworld (or go there herself) by calling his name three times, sometimes as part of a set chant:
- "Though I know I should be wary,
- Still I venture someplace scary;
- Ghostly hauntings I turn loose ...
- Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!"
Occasionally, there are other effects from that chant, such as Lydia's room changing to a gothic castle.
In only a very few episodes is Lydia not present, those being wholly escapades of Beetlejuice in the Neitherworld.
The series' humor relied heavily on sight gags, wordplay, and allusiveness. The show
was what has been called "bi-modal", meaning that it could be viewed on one level by small children and on a completely different and much more sophisticated level by adults, which made it appealing to a wide range of age groups. Many episodes, especially towards the end of the run, were manifest parodies
of famous films, books, and TV shows. The humor was kept clean in that it didn't involve sex, drugs, or alcohol (in one episode, set in an old western town, a character makes the metafictional
remark that the town doesn't have a saloon because of the time slot).
Throughout the series, Beetlejuice would often try to scam residents of the Neitherworld -- and, sometimes, the "real world" as well (Lydia's parents were occasional unwitting victims of his pranks) -- by various means, from "baby-sitting" (in which he literally sits on the grotesque Neitherworld babies) to trying to beat them in an auto race. Only Lydia, it seemed, was immune to his tricks; it was explicitly stated at several points that she was the only person Beetlejuice couldn't deceive. It was also revealed that Beetlejuice is afraid of--and vulnerable to--one thing above all: Sandworms. That was hinted at in a single line of dialog in the movie but was much expanded on in the series. Sandworms are huge purple and green snake-like creatures with two pairs of eyes and stegosaurus-like spines on their backs. Beetlejuice also has a major aversion to anything nice or (worse) sweet.
The series was a breakout hit for ABC
in its initial season, and later became one of the first animated series to air on FOX
's weekday afternoon children's lineup. This led to a situation whereby Beetlejuice
was being seen Monday through Friday on FOX while still remaining on ABC's Saturday morning schedule, making it one of the few shows in American television history to be aired concurrently on two different broadcast networks. Beetlejuice
has aired in re-runs on Nickelodeon
and Cartoon Network
, and will air on Warner Bros. and AOL
's new broadband internet channel Toontopia TV
Home video release
released most of the first season of the show on 6 video-cassettes
by December 21, 1993.
On September 16, 2008, 3 episodes ("A-ha", "Skeletons in the Closet", and "Spooky Boo-Tique") will be released serving as bonus features on the Beetlejuice 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition DVD.
- the main and title character of the show. Beetlejuice (often addressed as just "Beej
" or "BJ
" by Lydia) is able to change shape, transform objects, teleport, and perform other feats of magic, although his powers can be reduced by various circumstances, and at times he must pause to think of exactly how to use his powers to escape a precarious situation unscathed. His name derives from the star Betelgeuse
, which is the armpit of the constellation Orion
Whenever BJ uses a figure of speech, he or his surroundings change to act on the pun (for example, when he declares he is tired, he transforms into a tire; when he declares he is flat broke, he transforms into a flat disc that falls to the ground and shatters; on one occasion, in reference to his own power, he declares "This literal translation stuff slays me!" and giant letters reading "Literal Translation Stuff" then fall from the sky to crush him).
Though many Neitherworld denizens have some magic, it is Beetlejuice's greatly superior power (no real cause for it is ever given) that affords him the title--albeit mostly self-asserted--of "The Ghost With The Most." Because of that power, almost everyone in the Neitherworld is fair game for his pranks, though no more so than he himself, since he is not immune to careless use of his power; for example, he was once tricked by his enemies into declaring "I'm coming apart at the seams!" which caused him to break into several pieces, with which his enemies then absconded, rendering him nearly helpless until--with Lydia's help--he reassembled himself. Sometimes Beetlejuice will mix up one of his transformations (when Lydia told him to turn into a stake to fight off Count Mein, he turned into a flank steak). One limit to Beetlejuice's abilities is that his body must be fully assembled to work his magic; for example, when his head was taken away by a tribe of island ghosts to be eaten, it was helpless to fight back without the rest of his body.
At times, various of his body parts (including his feet and his entire torso) manifested minds of their own, independent of BJ's control. His fears (sandworms, cleanliness) can also hinder his abilities. Beetlejuice's main pastime is pulling various pranks on the other denizens of the Neitherworld, and coming up with get-rich-quick con schemes to get money, as he dreads having to get a job. His favorite foods are insects of various types, especially beetles, and worms. He loves causing mayhem in the Neitherworld, being filthy, and scaring people in the real world, such as Lydia's parents.
The things he hates include sandworms, cleanliness, and anything "cute". He expresses his likes and dislikes via variations on a single catchphrase, as in "Nerd humor...you know I love it!" or "Sandtraps...you know I hate 'em!"
BJ's origins are rather fuzzy. On one hand, he frequently claims to be dead, a ghost (having died centuries before--though his references are often hundreds of years apart), which implies a prior life in the "real world". Yet some episodes show his parents residing in the Neitherworld, and it is apparently there that he was born to and raised by them: there are, for example, photos of him in the Neitherworld as a baby--showing him with his stock ghostly complexion and bizarre snake-like tongue--and tales of his youth already manifesting his trademark personality. One possible explanation may relate to his saying something about his parents "making him feel like a kid again" and being unsure how to fix it without his growing up all over again; another is that continuity was not a key desideratum in the series.
- a goth
girl in her preteens at the start of the series, (she was in the seventh grade
,) and early teens later in the series, (at one point she expressly states that she is 14). Lydia is established as being a creative
, bright, sharp, yet eccentric
young girl, but otherwise Lydia unique outlook on life makes her stand out from most of the other school-girls, which leaves her feeling out of place and alone in the real world, finding it difficult to fit in well with most of her classmates--leading her to frequently visit and seek out reassurence with her closest best friend in the Neitherworld, and where she can be/is accepted and beloved for who she is as a person.
Lydia is an amateur, but nonetheless, talented photographer, entomologist, seamstress, and sketch artist with an innate affinity and love for all things gross, scary, weird and macabre. Despite her love of all things 'strange and unusual', Lydia is also a positive, well-mannered, friendly and patient girl, as being friends with Beetlejuice is a testament towards Lydia's saint-like patience. And aside from also being emotionally mature for her age (given what her best friend and her parents are like,) Lydia can be accredited as being very responsible for a girl in her age group. Lydia is also shown to be a naturalist, shown to feel very strongly about environmental issues, (in Spooky Tree Lydia cut school and chained herself to a tree in protest of the workmen who were about to chop it down).
In the series, Lydia attends "Miss Shannon's School for Girls" and is in seventh grade. Lydia is Beetlejuice's best friend; in the events of the pilot episode, Critter Sitters, both she and BJ have already known each other for a year, as they are celebrating their first anniversary of friendship. Beetlejuice frequently addresses her as "Lyds" or "Babes" rather than "Lydia" though he does use her full name from time to time. Lydia knows how to summon Beetlejuice to her presence, or make her own way to his: by calling his name aloud three times. (Occasionally she is shown making use of a longer, more elaborate ritual to bring him out of the Neitherworld or send herself into it, but that seems not to be a necessity.) Unlike Beetlejuice himself, Lydia is almost universally beloved by the Netherworld cast of the show.
In the pilot episode, Critter Sitters, she is shown summoning him through the longer ritual; as part of the ritual, the color of her clothing changes, possibly merely by her choice. (Her invariable Neitherworld costume--unless she is in disguise--is a a full-length red spiderweb-patterned poncho worn over a black, form-fitting body suit.) She is not the only person capable of summoning Beetlejuice--apparently the calling of his name would work for anyone (in one episode, Claire Brewster summons him accidentally)--but Lydia is the only person he will heed (because she is his friend, not because she summons him). Having found herself a kindred spirit in Beetlejuice, Lydia looks up to BJ in certain ways; admiring his outrageous sense of humor and dedicated non-conformity, though in other respects she sometimes has to virtually parent him. It is frequently made clear that Beetlejuice's dedication to her is a source of Lydia's own self-confidence.
Meanwhile, any who might conceivably threaten their relationship (such as Prince Vince) are the objects of BJ's profound jealousy and resentment. In one episode, we learn that Beetlejuice actually has a working shrine to Lydia in his mind. Lydia never shows any romantic interest in anyone else except Prince Vince, and that quickly turns into a straight-out friendship. She's kissed Beetlejuice a few times (if in a sisterly manner), and frequently goes on dates with him (such as to movies)--always, of course, in the Neitherworld. Also, when she was inside Beetlejuice's head, she gave several dollars towards the maintenance of his shrine to her. Her main hobbies, aside from photographing every sort of strange thing, hanging out with Beetlejuice, drawing, includes watching horror movies and customising dolls into famous horror movie characters and monsters, reading literary classics such the collective works of writers such as Edgar Allen Poe and Steven King and others.
She has shown that she is extremely gifted with anything mechanical, and understands a lot about cars (she knew what to do to build Doomie, while Beetlejuice did not know a few things, such as what a carburetor is).
- Jacques LaLean - A Francophone skeleton-bodybuilder (a humorous reference to the fitness guru Jack LaLanne) and neighbor of Beetlejuice. A running gag in the series entails Jacques getting broken into multiple pieces, often thanks to Beetlejuice. In spite of such antics, Jacques actually likes Beetlejuice, and in one episode it is revealed that Beetlejuice likes Jacques despite his pretensions to the contrary.
- Ginger - A not very good tap-dancing spider (another humorous allusion, this to Ginger Rogers). Another of Beetlejuice's neighbors, her act is often ruined by pranks of Beetlejuice. She dreams of someday being famous, and can be sensitive to cruel pranks.
- Prince Vince - The ruler of the Neitherworld. He looks and acts very much like Tim Burton's "Vincent", the star character in one of Burton's early animation shorts (see Vincent (film)); both, in turn, bear a resemblance to Johnny Depp, which may have been an in-joke, since Winona Ryder--who played Lydia in the film--was Depp's longtime girlfriend. Mopey and depressed (the weather turns gloomy and rainy in response to his mood), Prince Vince cheers up when he meets Lydia and they begin dating, but the relationship cools to a friendship when he asks her to be his Princess and she politely declines, being barely a teenager.
- The Monster Across the Street - A tall, hairy monster from the West, who bears a slight resemblance to Gossamer from the Warner Brothers animation studio, and is another neighbor of Beetlejuice. He can't stand Beetlejuice, but refers to Lydia politely as "Miss Lydia." He speaks with a western drawl.
- Poopsie - The Monster's dog, one of Beetlejuice's favorite prank victims.
- Scuzzo the Clown - Beetlejuice's cackling rival in prank-playing and whatever other endeavor Beetlejuice might be pursuing in a given episode. He is considered a comedy genius in the Neitherworld's version of France, though this was only revealed years after his first appearance and thus should not be taken as evidence that he was created as a direct parody of Jerry Lewis (but the later reference is clearly an oblique sarcasm).
- Fuzzo the Clown - Scuzzo's (physically much larger) brother. Fuzzo cannot talk, but communicates through a series of meeping, beeping, squeeking, and honking sounds that only his (physically smaller) brother, Scuzzo, can interperet. Fuzzo's role in the series is that of a dim-witted goon for his smarter brother Scuzzo.
- Dragster of Doom (nicknamed "Doomie") - Beetlejuice and Lydia's sentient car. Doomie is normally quite sensitive, but due to the abnormal brain Beetlejuice gave him during his construction (ala Frankenstein's monster), Doomie turns into a vicious "four-wheeled werewolf" type of monster when angry or startled, much like Jekyll and Hyde (correspondingly, even in his more sedate form he displays subtly dog-like traits such as panting, implying that he fills a pet-like role as well as that of a vehicle for Lydia and Beetlejuice). A recurring gag is for Doomie to turn into his "Werewolf stage" to chase Dogs.
- Captain Kidder - A pirate/headhunter who tells jokes which are not applauded. His name is a pun on to the word 'kid'--which means to tell a joke--and the notorious pirate Captain Kidd.
- Flubbo - A slug-like bespectacled ghost with multiple arms.
- Judge Mental - A skeletal judge. His name is a play on the word judgmental.
- Mayor Maynot - The mayor of the Neitherworld, completely redesigned in the second season from a stereotypical old-time mayor to more of a modern-day mayor. The mayor hates Beetlejuice and would love nothing more than to feed him to the sandworms. Though at first glance he looks like a mummy it was revealed in some episodes that he is actually an Invisible Man. His name is a play on "May Or May Not".
- Armhold Musclehugger - A bodybuilder ghost, parody of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is "Mr. Neitherworld" and the fitness king. He is Jacques' arch-rival.
- Chester Slime - A lawyer.
- Germs Pondscum - A secret agent with "a license to prank," based on James Bond (in particular, Sean Connery's rendition).
- Mr. Monitor - Co-president of the Nutwork which airs broadcasts of Beetlejuice's adventures; his head consists of four TV screens.
- The Monstress Across the Street - The Monster's girlfriend.
- Poopette - The Monstress' dog.
- Mr. & Mrs. Juice - Nat and Bea ("gnat" and "bee," two types of insects), Beetlejuice's parents. Unlike Beetlejuice, they are very neat and clean and always insist that Beetlejuice bathe, clean his room, and get a job. Beetlejuice is terrified of them for these reasons.
- Uncle Sid - Beetlejuice's uncle, who thinks Lydia is his nephew's girlfriend. He loves telling horrible jokes. Lydia's living human uncle, Clyde, resembles Sid and tells bad jokes as well.
- Donny Juice - Beetlejuice's little brother. Other than the family resemblance, however, Donny is as different as can be from his older brother, and everyone in the Netherworld very much prefers him to Beetlejuice. Donny is clean, tidy, and generous, but rather insecure. His main problem is that he is a little too kind (in the vein of Mr. Rogers, Pat Boone, or Ned Flanders). No explanation is offered for why his name breaks the bug-oriented naming pattern in the Juice family, although he is almost certainly a parody of Donny Osmond.
- Bartholomew Batt - An old cartoon character, a parody of Mickey Mouse.
- Little Miss Warden - Warden of the sickeningly sweet Neitherneitherland, she is a parody of Shirley Temple and, to a smaller extent, Tinker Bell.
- Jesse Germs - A skeletal outlaw whose name is based on Jesse James and whose manner (and speech) parodies Clint Eastwood.
- Mrs. Bugsley - The mayor's secretary, who has a shrunken head; in one episode she receives an award from "The Society of People Who Hate Hats".
- Lip Scum - An annoying character, he is basically a giant mouth with eyes, arms, and legs. He is the only creature in the Netherworld everyone considers even MORE annoying than Beetlejuice.
- Dr. Zigmund Void - A large-headed psychiatrist based on Sigmund Freud.
- Bully the Crud - A Neitherworld-based outlaw, based on Billy the Kid, who appears in the episode "Pest o' the West." He develops a crush on Lydia and tries to force her to marry him.
- Barry MeNot - A Neitherworld TV personality who appears in various "commercials" that sometimes pop up to emphasize a particular plot point in a humorous aside. Unlike the rest of the show, Barry MeNot's vignettes are computer-generated animation. He almost never interacts with the rest of the characters. (The name puns "bury me not".)
- Goody Two Shoes - A fairy from the Nietherworld's Bereau of Sweetness and Kindness, and perhaps the only being more powerful than Beetlejuice, as all of Beetlejuice's tricks proved useless on her. She is able to transform anyone into a sweet and clean version of him or herself. She is somewhat like Little Miss Warden except that Miss Warden does her job to reform while Goody does her job as kind of a sport, and hates it when folks get along.
- Napoleon Bonesapart and Marie Marionette - A headless skeleton and a headless zombie based on the French general Napoleon Bonapart, and Queen Marie Antoinette.
The Real World
- Charles Deetz - Lydia's father, a nervous man who likes quiet activity and calm. He is often the victim of Beetlejuice's continuous pranks. Despite this, Beetlejuice is sort of oddly fond of him.
- Delia Deetz - In the film, she was Lydia's stepmother, but the cartoon appears to present her as Lydia's actual biological mother; Lydia refers to her as "Mother" or "Mom", instead of using her first name as in the film. Due to her eccentric/airheaded/yuppie nature, Delia is not easily frightened, mistakenly thinking the frightening things she experiences are part of something else.
- Percy - Lydia's pet cat, an animal so high-strung that he makes Charles look relaxed. Considering the amount of torment that Beetlejuice puts Percy through, this isn't really surprising.
- Aunt Zippora & Uncle Danforth - Delia's rich, snobby sister and henpecked brother-in-law.
- Aunt May & Uncle Clyde - Charles' farmer ventriloquist brother and mild-mannered sister-in-law. Their invariable punch line is a joint drawn-out declaration "We like it; we like it juuust fine!"
- Claire Brewster - Lydia's rival, a filthy rich and spoiled rotten brat. She has tanned skin, blonde hair, and speaks with a valley girl accent. The girls could not be more different and are frequently on opposite sides of the same situation. Although Lydia simply dislikes Claire, Beetlejuice actively despises her because of how she insults, condescends to, and otherwise mistreats Lydia. Claire is sometimes subjected to Beetlejuice's magic, most often as payback for something she's done to Lydia, though occasionally it's just an accident.
- Bertha & Prudence - Lydia's friends. Bertha (nicknamed "Burp" by Beetlejuice) is tall and skinny with a noticeable overbite, while Prudence (nicknamed "Prune" by Beetlejuice) is quite tiny with large glasses. They are usually portrayed as nerdy and helpless, but they not only they share some of Lydia's interest in the bizarre, in one episode they join her (and a disguised Beetlejuice) in a rock band called "the Brides of Funkenstein", while in another they survive in the wild and become (temporarily) a pair of female Tarzans.
- Miss Shannon - Lydia's teacher and headmistress, first (or possibly last) name unknown.
Often, when Beetlejuice acts as part of Lydia's life in the living world, he puts on one of these personas. Betty, Mr. Beetleman, and cousin B.J. have appeared multiple times; the others were one-time disguises.
- Betty Juice - Beetlejuice uses this disguise to go to Lydia's school and/or to be with her human friends. In simple terms, he just changes into the same uniform as Lydia's school and styles his hair into a tacky ponytail while speaking with a female (if barely so) voice.
- Mr. Beetleman (Form 1) - Used when he involves himself in some business affair, often with the Deetzes. He pretends to be a jack-of-all-trades and is seen in white and black overalls.
- Mr. Beetleman (Form 2) - This form is similar to a carnival barker. BJ sports a thin mustache and is usually dressed in a red and white seersucker shirt, a straw boater, and cape.
- Mr. Beetleman (Form 3) - This form has BJ wearing a coonskin hat, Hawaiian shirt, striped shorts, and sandals.
- Mr. Beetleman (Form 4) - This form has BJ wearing a ringmaster's outfit, and was used by Beetlejuice when he helped Lydia in the school play and when he fixed her Halloween Party.
- Cousin B.J. - Only used twice in the show: when Beetlejuice wanted to be involved in Lydia's family reunion, and when he took advantage of Charles's desire for male bonding. He takes on the form of a little kid, and wears a white and black T-shirt.
- Grandpa Beetleman - BJ took this form, a balding old man, when he volunteered to show Charles Deetz's mother around. In this form, Beetlejuice wears typical senior-citizen clothing.
- Professor Beetleburg - Beetlejuice once used this disguise--that of a teacher--to take Lydia's class on a field trip.
- Beatrice - In the second-season finale episode, "Bothered, Bewitched and Beetlejuiced," Beetlejuice and Lydia disguised themselves as witches to rescue her cat, Percy, from a witches' party in the Neitherworld.
- Odious - Beetlejuice disguised himself as a dog to pull a prank on Poopsie, only to be impounded and later rescued by Lydia and taken to her world to remove the collar that was stunting his ability to transform back. Delia noticed him and immediately decided to keep him, much to Charles' dismay (he's allergic to dogs). Beetlejuice was eventually rescued by a disguised Jacques, recruited and brought to the real world by Lydia.
- B-Gore - When they were making Doomie, their car, BJ took on the form of a balding hunchback, a parody of the mad-science lackey Igor from Frankenstein.
- Super Slob - A superhero costume he turned into by ripping his suit off (Superman style) to save Doomie.
- Surelock Homely - Beetlejuice took on the aspect of Sherlock Holmes when working with Lydia (whom he calls "Lydson") in a search for Doomie, whom he believed had been stolen by some mysterious person.
- Beetallio - Beetlejuice disguised himself as an Italian barber to help Lydia capture all the monsters that had appeared in her Halloween party.
- General Splattin - (after General Patton) Beetlejuice used this disguise to make Doomie move out from a ditch, so he could win the Neitherworld Groan Prix, instead of Scuzzo and Fuzzo the Clowns; it recurs in other episodes.
- Stephen Ouimette - Beetlejuice
- Alyson Court - Lydia Deetz
- Elizabeth Hanna - Delia Deetz
- Roger Dunn - Charles Deetz
- Harvey Atkin - Lipscum
- Tara Strong - Bertha, Claire Brewster, Little Miss Warden
- Len Carlson - Judge Mental, Mr. Juice, Uncle Clyde
- Paulina Gillis - Prudence
- Keith Knight - Flubbo, Armhold Musclehugger, Chester Slime, Dr. Zigmund Void
- Ron Rubin - Germs Pondscum
- Colin Fox - Dragster of Doom
- Keith Hampshire - Doomie
- Joseph Sherman - Scuzzo the Clown
- David Goldberg - Fuzzo the Clown
- Stuart Stone - Ramon
- Robert Cait - The Monster Across the Street
- Dan Hennessey - Mayor Maynot, Jesse Germs, Captain Kidder, Bully the Crud
- Peggy Mahon - Mrs. Bugsley, Ginger, Aunt May
- Susan Roman - Miss Shapen, Percy, Poopsie, Poopette, The Monstress Across the Street, Mrs. Juice
- Richard Binsley - Donnyjuice
- Don Francks - Count Mein, Mr. Big
- Michael Stark - Fleagor
- Charles Kerr - Jacques
- Allan Stewart Coates - Ed
- John Stocker - Mr. Monitor, Bartholomew Batt
- Hadley Kay - Prince Vince
Much as with the original 1988 film, various merchandise was released for the Beetlejuice
animated series in 1990. This included trading cards
by Dart, a sticker album
and sticker/activity book by Panini
, a jigsaw puzzle
, a party centerpiece by Party Creations, a PC game
by Hi-Tech Expressions
, and six PVC
figures available with Burger King Kids' Meals
, the company behind the Beetlejuice
movie action figures
, had begun developing figures for the animated series, but the project did not come to fruition (at least one prototype for that ill-fated collection has been showcased online).