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This article is about the television series. For the amusement park, see Martin's Fantasy Island or Fantasy Island UKmarker

Fantasy Island is the title of two separate but related Americanmarker fantasy television series, both originally airing on the ABC television network.

Original series

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 Montalbán as Mr. Roarke, the enigmatic overseer of a mysterious island somewhere in the Pacific Oceanmarker, 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, "Ze plane! Ze plane!"). In later seasons, he would arrive in his personal go-kart, sized for him, and recklessly driven 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 both fans and the cast, 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.

The actual aircraft used in the series, a Grumman Widgeon seaplane, was rented from a local charter company and almost all of the footage of the plane used throughout the series and films was shot in one day and recycled over the entire run. It is speculated that Tattoo never actually saw the plane; during the filming of the actual episodes, the guests climbed out of a paper-mache and plywood mock-up of the back of the plane. It is sometimes apparent that that number of people could not have all arrived in the plane at the same time. For example in one episode, seven adults and two children come out of the six-seat seaplane. In another episode, there is a sizable pile of luggage on the dock which viewers are to believe came out of the plane.

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."

Roarke's personal vehicle was an orange Dodge Aspen station wagon with a Safari top with the stance of a modern-day sport utility vehicle.

Tattoo and Mr. Roarke welcome visitors 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 had 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. In at least one episode, Mr. Roarke faces "The Devil", who has come to the Island to challenge him for his immortal soul. It is mentioned this is not the first time they confront each other, and Mr. Roarke has always been the winner.

Roarke had a strong moral code, but he was always merciful. He usually tried to teach his guests important life lessons through the medium of their fantasies, frequently in a manner that exposes the errors of their ways, and on occasions when the island hosted terminally ill guests he would allow them to live out one last wish. Roarke's fantasies were not without peril, but the greatest danger usually came from the guests themselves; in some cases people actually got themselves killed due to their own negligence, aggression or arrogance. 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 (for example, one featured a man who clamored for the "good old days" to be taken back to the Salem witch trials), 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 had been in a Tarzan-type TV series in the 1960s.

The show was broadcast 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 previously mentioned 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.

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, Californiamarker with the opening scenes of the enchanting island coastline being that of Kauai, Hawaiimarker. 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 Gardenmarker in Arcadiamarker. The plane, "arriving" with the guests, was filmed in the lagoon behind the Queen Anne Cottage. Sometimes, outdoor scenes were filmed at the Arboretum.

1998 series

In 1998, ABC revived the series in a Saturday timeslot. 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 Hawaiimarker, rather than in Californiamarker.

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).

Reality series

Mark Burnett and Sony are teaming up to turn the classic series into a reality show, in which contestants will compete to become a real-life Mr. or Ms. Roarke, Variety reports. On the new series, 12 contestants will greet guests to a tropical island on a weekly basis and try to turn their guests' fantasies into reality. The guests will judge the wannabe Roarkes and one contestant will be eliminated each week. Survivor creator Burnett, whose credits include The Apprentice, and Sony do not have a U.S. TV deal in place yet, but will be shopping the series around domestically and internationally.

Feature film

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.

Parodies and cultural references

  • Canadamarker's comedy duo of Wayne and Shuster parodied Fantasy Island as Fantasy Motel. A bus dropped off the passengers, who stood looking around at the inside of the motel, wondering at the sights, while Roarke (Wayne) told "Juan-too" the fantasies of the guests. Juan-too, however, was very tall, and when one guest (Shuster) blurted that he thought Juan-too was supposed to be short, Roarke said it was Juan-too's fantasy to be tall and Juan-too apparently regularly threatens Mr. Roarke with a beating to keep it that way. This guest had everything, and his fantasy was to have something he didn't have. Roarke discovered the guest didn't think he was particularly handsome, so Roarke arranged for plastic surgery.

  • 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.

  • 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. Pattoo also reveals that Roarke's fantasy is to "tie up women with rich Corinthian leather" -- a reference to commercials for Chrysler voiced by Ricardo Montalban.

  • 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 envisions himself as a Mr Roarke-like character and his main antagonist, Roger, as Tattoo.

  • In the Entertainment TV show El Lavadero, on the Colombianmarker 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 in a certain movie or program.

  • In the video game Destroy All Humans: Big Willy Unleashed, one of the levels is called "Fantasy Atoll", where visitors live out their fantasies. The owner is a midget named "Porke" 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.

  • South Park has mentioned Fantasy Island twice. 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!"

  • A similar thing happened on an episode of The Jetsons. The Jetsons got fed up with their lifestyle, so they visited a planet where a man and his short sidekick (called Tee-Too) had two heads. Each of the Jetsons got to live their own fantasies, until it became too much for them to handle.

  • In the 2008 movie Meet Dave, Dave's attire was mistaken for being like "He stepped out of a Bee Gee's concert. Number three said that all white clothing was not as standard as they thought, according to the only signal intercepted from Earth, which showed Tatoo saying "Ze plane, ze plane!"

  • In a MadTV sketch parodying the ABC drama, "Lost", Roarke and Tattoo emerge from the jungle at the end of the skit, with Roarke welcoming them, and announcing that the survivors are actually on Fantasy Island. Tattoo, on seeing their downed plane, exclaims, "The Plane! The Plane is in the ocean!".

  • In Robot Chicken, Mr. Roarke and Tattoo appear, with guests stating that they would like obscure, inappropriate fantasies, such as being able to have sex with a donkey or to administer a violent beating to Roarke.

Current broadcasts

In Canada, episodes of the original series are aired during primetime some evenings and again on the weekend on TV Land (as of January 15, 2009).In Greece episodes are aired very early in the morning (sometimes 04.00-04.30) every day on Mega Channel.

Selected episodes from the first, second and third seasons are available free at Hulu. Selected Minisodes from seasons one, three, four, five, and six are available free at Crackle, along with complete episodes from seasons one, two, and three.

Guest stars

DVD release

Original series

On November 15, 2005, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released Season 1 of the original series on DVD. 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
  • Includes the 1977 pilot Fantasy Island and 1978's Return to Fantasy Island


According to Entertainment Weekly Tattoo is one of the "greatest sidekicks."


  1. Ben Schott, Schott's Mischellany Calendar 2009 (New York: Workman Publishing, 2008), March 21.

External links

1978 series
1998 series
(original pilot)
The Queen Anne Cottage at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardenmarker, Arcadia, Californiamarker (featured in the opening credits of the original series)

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