Shout! Factory // 1989 // 2115 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // May 24th, 2013
He's the ghost with the most...animation cels.
One of the 1980s most memorable characters was Michael Keaton's Beetlejuice. Part con-artist, part zombie, and all stand-up comic; the character and the movie of the same name were runaway hits, spawning a cartoon series only a few years later. Shout Factory has come through for fans of this series and has released Beetlejuice: The Complete Series in a brand spanking new box set that will make fans flip over in their graves.
Meet Beetlejuice (Stephen Ouimette, X-Men: The Animated Series), one of the craziest apparitions you'll ever run across in this world...or the next! Beetlejuice spends his time paling around with his best (and only) friend, the goth-inspired Lydia Deetz (Alyson Court, Garbage Pail Kids). Lydia lives with her artsy mother, Delia (Elizabeth Hannah), and mild mannered father, Charles (Roger Dunn). Throughout the series Lydia and Beetlejuice get into all manner of adventures, from Beetlejuice hosting his own TV program to putting together one of the best Halloween party ever!
There's no denying that, love it or hate it, Tim Burton's Beetlejuice was one of the most wildly original and inventive movies from the 1980s. Burton's vision of a weird family living among two married ghosts and a 'bio-exorcist' from beyond the grave is bizarre, entertaining and funny. For a long time there's been buzz about a sequel (the title Beetlejuice in Love has been bandied about through the years), but now that the movie is over twenty-five years old, I have the feeling that may never come to fruition.
For those who yearned for more of Beetlejuice's antics, the movie's main characters were transformed into animated versions for Beetlejuice: The Animated Series, which ran on both ABC and Fox from 1989 until 1992. A total of 94 episodes were produced, each of them following the antics and exploits of Beetlejuice and his best friend Lydia Deetz. The good news was that those who loved the movie got to see their favorite "ghost with the most" in animated form. The bad news was that the show, while often funny and just as weird as Burton's film, didn't follow the same plot or character lines as the movie.
In Beetlejuice: The Animated Series, the title character (voiced by Stephen Ouimette doing his best second rate Michael Keaton impersonation) has been switched around from the antagonist to the protagonist; in the movie Beetlejuice is a lecherous, perverted prankster who has a tendency to want to maim and kill the Deetz family. In the animated version, Beetlejuice is now merely just a harmless jokester who has befriended Lydia and spends his days going on adventures with her in both the real world and the 'Netherworld'. While the animated version of Beetlejuice retains the character's core sensibilities -- wacky humor, outrageous personality, gross out gags -- but any malice has been exorcised, as it were. Also missing from the series are the Maitlands (played by Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin in the movie), who gave the film a real heart. Without them, the animated series is mostly just a set piece of Beetlejuice to run wild, which is fun, but hardly substantial.
The rest of the cast has also been given quite the overhaul. The character of Lydia Deetz (played by Winona Ryder in the film) is a precocious teenager who is a bit more upbeat than the movie's version. Her parents, Charles and Delia (Jeffrey Jones and Catherine O'Hare in the 1987 movie) are a bit more domestic this time around, with Delia's wackiness toned both up (she's way too happy) and down (but her art doesn't play as big of a role here). The supporting characters are really just around to play off of Beetlejuice's wackiness; in a sense, that makes Lydia the ultimate straightman...err, straightwoman.
Purists may stick up their nose at Beetlejuice's animated adventures, but the fact is two of the movie's crucial creators -- director Tim Burton and composer Danny Elfman -- came on board to co-produce and adapt the film's title theme for the series. The writing is sharper than most kid's cartoons, with some of the humor wallowing in the macabre (Beetlejuice likes to eat bugs, natch), which is par for the course in a show about the hereafter. Heck, it even won an Emmy Award for "Outstanding Animated Program!"
I was in junior high and high school when Beetlejuice: The Animated Series had its run, but aside of coming across it while channel surfing a few times, I don't have many memories of the show. Watching it over twenty years after it was on the air, it holds up better than most cartoons of this ilk. The 1987 film's sense of the absurd remains in tact, and while Beetlejuice himself isn't nearly as funny or unique as he was in the movie (he's always been better in smaller doses), it's fun to see him playing pranks on the Deetz family and their friends. Kudos to Shout Factory for bringing Beetlejuice: The Animated Series to DVD complete and intact; all 94 episodes on 12 discs are here for your ghoulish pleasure.
Each episode of Beetlejuice: The Animated Series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers for each of these episodes look very nice, especially considering this is a television show from the late 80s/early 90s. By no means is the video quality revelatory, but at least Shout Factory has made sure these cartoons look as good as they're going to get on DVD (don't hold your breath for a special edition anytime soon). The soundtracks are each presented in what I assume is Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo in English (no mention is made on the box). The audio track for each of these episodes is mostly front heavy with only the musical score giving the tracks any boost. Dialogue, music, and effects are all easily distinguishable and well recorded. No alternate soundtracks or subtitles are available on this set. There are no bonus features.
Fans of Beetlejuice: The Animated Series are going to be thrilled to finally have the entire show on DVD, and I'm happy to report it's still a hoot to watch.
Not guilty. Zagnut bar, anyone?
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 2115 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Not Rated