Pee-wee's Big Adventure
is a 1985
adventure comedy film
directed by Tim Burton
in his full-length debut and starring
as Pee-wee Herman
. Reubens also co-wrote the
script with Phil Hartman
and Michael Varhol
. Supporting roles are played
by Elizabeth Daily
, Mark Holton
. Pee-wee's Big Adventure
tells the story of
Pee-wee Herman embarking on nation-wide adventure in search of his
Pee-wee Herman is a man-child who lives in a house filled with toys
and pop culture artifacts, and he loves his bike more than anything
else in the world. Francis Buxton, a spoiled man-child neighbor, is
celebrating his birthday and wishes Pee-wee's bike as his present,
but Pee-wee refuses to sell it.
Pee-wee rides his bike to the local shopping district, where he
visits a bike shop and a magic store. At the bike shop, he meets
Dottie, a woman-child bike mechanic who has a crush on Pee-wee and
asks him out on a date. Pee-wee rebuffs her advances, telling her
that she doesn't want to get mixed up with a guy like him, because
he is a loner and a rebel. When he returns from shopping, he
discovers that his bike has been stolen. Distraught, Pee-wee tries
to get the police and his friends to help him recover his most
prized possession. Suspicious that Francis stole the bike (because
he had asked to buy it earlier that day), Pee-wee confronts him but
comes up empty handed.
No one else thinks Pee-wee's missing bike is an emergency, so
Pee-wee is left to search for the bike on his own. After visiting a
psychic who fabricates a story that his bike is in the basement of
Pee-wee sets off on a cross-country journey
to find his bike. Meanwhile, the viewing audience is told that
Francis did actually steal the bike, but is now getting rid of it
because he fears he will get caught.
Pee-wee starts his journey to the Alamo by hitchhiking, and he is
eventually picked up by a man named Mickey. Mickey turns out to be
a fugitive from the law for cutting off a "Do Not Remove Under Penalty
" label on a mattress. The two part ways when Mickey
leaves Pee-wee on the side of the road in the middle of the night
after Pee-wee accidentally drives over a cliff.
Abandoned and alone, Pee-wee is then picked up by a truck driver
named Large Marge, who tells Pee-wee a creepy story about a
horrific truck accident along that same stretch of road. When she
drops off Pee-wee at a diner along the road, he learns that Large
Marge was the ghost of the woman who died in that truck
At the diner, Pee-wee befriends his waitress, Simone. The two stay
up to watch the sunrise and discuss each other's dreams. But
Simone's boyfriend Andy gets violently jealous, and Pee-wee flees
into a boxcar of a passing train.
Luckily, the train takes Pee-wee to San Antonio, the home of the
Alamo. But then Pee-wee learns that the Alamo has no basement.
Disappointed, Pee-wee visits a bar to use the telephone, but
disturbs a biker gang
knocking over their motorcycles. Fearing they are going to kill
him, Pee-wee asks for one last request and dances to "Tequila
", winning the respect of the bikers.
The bikers give him a motorcycle, but Pee-wee quickly crashes it,
ending up in the hospital. There, he learns from that his bike now
belongs to Kevin Morton, a child star who is currently filming a
movie with the bike as a prominent plot device.
Pee-wee sneaks into Warner Bros.
Burbank, California, disguises himself as a nun and steals the bike
In a wild chase scene, he flees from the Warner Bros.
security staff through a variety of sets, causing havoc throughout
the lot. Various actors and props, including a boat-shaped car, a
sleigh, and a man in a
costume, get swept into the chase.
He also interrupts the shooting of a Twisted Sister
music video for "Burn in Hell"
. Using the gadgets on his bike, Pee-wee manages to
evade the guards and escape the studio. As he blissfully rides
away, however, Pee-wee discovers a pet shop in flames. After
heroically saving all the animals, Pee-wee faints on the store's
doorstep, just as the fire department and police arrive. Though the
firemen consider Pee-wee a hero, the police place Pee-wee under
Pee-wee is brought before a Warner Bros. studio executive
who offers to buy the
to Pee-wee's story in exchange for
dropping all charges. Pee-wee attends the premiere
at his local drive-in theater
, but it turns out to be a
-style action film involving
and Morgan Fairchild
fighting ninjas. Pee-wee
has a cameo appearance as a bellhop, but his voice is dubbed
All of the characters Pee-wee met along his journey show up at the
premiere of Pee-wee's movie at the drive-in. And Dottie finally
gets her date with Pee-wee, when the two go together. After
watching the opening scenes for a few minutes, Pee-wee decides to
leave, telling Dottie that he doesn't need to watch having already
lived the real story. Reunited with his bike, he rides away with
Dottie, happily ever after.
- Paul Reubens as
Pee-wee Herman: A strange man who acts like a
child. He sports a gray flannel suit with a red bow tie and
clean-cut hair. He is very obsessive over his bicycle, traveling
across America in search of it.
- Elizabeth Daily
as Dottie: She has a major crush on Pee-wee,
though Pee-wee declines to be her boyfriend. Pee-wee thinks of
himself as "a loner, a rebel". Dottie helps run a bike shop.
- Mark Holton as
Francis Buxton: A fellow man-child like Pee-wee.
He is obese and very spoiled. He offers to
buy Pee-wee's bike for a large amount of money, but Pee-wee
refuses. Francis hires someone to steal the bike before it is
purchased by Warner Brothers.
Salinger as Simone: A waitress that
Pee-wee meets in Texas. She
develops an attraction towards Pee-wee and yearns to live in
France. Her violent boyfriend Andy flunked French in High School,
and therefore dislikes France. At the end of the film, Simone is
dating a French man named Pierre.
- Judd Omen as
Mickey Morelli: A convict Pee-wee meets on his way
to Texas. Mickey is a fugitive on the run from the law because he
cut off a "do not remove under the penalty of law" mattress tag. He also has a bad temper and
abandons Pee-wee in "the middle of nowhere" for his safety.
However, Pee-wee ends up inviting Mickey to his movie.
- Alice Nunn as
Large Marge: a trucker who picks Pee-Wee up off
the side of the road and tells him the story of a gruesome wreck.
When he later tells a bunch of truckers at Simone's truck stop he
saw her, they reveal Large Marge was a ghost and that the story she
tells is of her death.
Writers Phil Hartman
and Michael Varhol cameo
as a reporter and photographer.
"Biker Mama". James Brolin
Pee-wee Herman and Morgan Fairchild
is Dottie for the scene when Warner
turns Pee-wee's life in a full-length film. Dee Snider
cameo as themselves.
The success of The Pee-wee
to hire Paul Reubens
a script for a full-length Pee-Wee Herman film. Reubens' original
idea was to do a remake of Pollyanna
with Pee-wee Herman in
the Hayley Mills
role. Reubens claims
is his favorite film. Half-way through
writing the script, Reubens noticed everyone at Warner Bros. had a
bike with them, which inspired Reubens to start on a new
Having left The Walt Disney
and with Frankenweenie
receiving positive reviews
within film studios
, Tim Burton
was looking for a full-length film to
direct. When Reubens and the producers of Pee-wee's Big
saw Burton's work on Vincent
decided Burton would be an excellent director for their film.
Burton felt he connected with Reubens' personality and the humor of
After hiring Burton to direct, Reubens, Phil Hartman
and Michael Varhol
reworked the script
locations included Glendale, Pomona, Santa Monica, Burbank, Cabazon and San Antonio.
Burton and Reubens had tensions with Warner
Bros. studio executives
. Burton hired CalArts classmate
Rick Heinrichs for scenes involving
To compose the film score
, Burton brought
in Danny Elfman
, who had not composed a
film before. Elfman already had the main title theme written before
he signed on. At the time, Elfman was the lead singer of Oingo Boingo
, but the working relationship
between Burton and Elfman would continue for most of Burton's
- Track listing
- "Overture" / "The Big Race" (3:07)
- "Breakfast Machine" (2:36)
- "Park Ride" (1:14)
- "Stolen Bike" (1:44)
- "Hitchhike" (0:56)
- "Dinosaur Dream" (0:48)
- "Simone's Theme" (1:35)
- "Clown Dream" (1:58)
- "Studio Chase" (1:24)
- "The Drive-In" (2:02)
- "Finale" (3:12)
Also in the film appeared "Burn in Hell" by Twisted Sister
" by The
Release and legacy
Pee-wee's Big Adventure
opened on August 9, 1985 in the
United States in 829 theaters, accumulating $4,545,847 over its
opening weekend. The film went on to gross $40,940,662
domestically, recouping five times of its $7 million budget, making
it a financial success. At the time of release in 1985, the film
received mostly positive reviews. Gene
gave it a rare zero-star rating, and called it one of
the worst films of 1985, but Pee-wee's Big Adventure
developed into a cult film
. Based on 23
reviews collected by Rotten
, Pee-wee's Big Adventure
highly rare 100% overall approval rating. By comparison Metacritic
calculated an average score of 47 from
13 reviews collected. The film was nominated with a Young Artist Award
for Best Family Motion
Picture (Comedy or Musical).
feedback, calling it "Burton's strangest film." Variety
compared Paul Reubens
to Charlie Chaplin
and Buster Keaton
, while Empire
called the film "a one-comic
masterpiece" and "a dazzling debut" for Burton. Stephanie Zacharek
about Pee-wee's Big Adventure
, from its toy-box colors to
its superb, hyper-animated Danny Elfman
score to the butch-waxed hairdo and wooden-puppet walk of its star
and mastermind is pure pleasure." Burton had no interest in
directing Big Top Pee-wee
and the financial success of the film prompted Warner Bros.
to hire him to direct Batman
. Warner Home Video
on DVD in May 2000. The release included
by Tim Burton
and Danny Elfman
as well as
Burton, audio commentary, 2000, Warner Bros.
- Salisbury, Burton, p.43—4
- Salisbury, Burton, p.47
- Salisbury, Burton, p.49
Elfman, audio commentary, 2000, Warner Bros.
- Salisbury, Burton, p.48
- excluding Ed Wood and Sweeney
Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
- Gene Siskel,
Roger Ebert, "
The Worst of 1985," At the Movies
with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. Tribune
- Salisbury, Burton, p.50
- Tim Burton,
Batman audio commentary,