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Tattoo ecstatic at arrival of ze plane

Ze Plane! Ze Plane! (also sometimes quoted as Da Plane! Da Plane! or The Plane! The Plane!) is a cultural reference to the typical opening of Fantasy Island, a television series which aired in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Each episode began with the diminutive Tattoo (played by Hervé Villechaize), one of the main characters, spotting the seaplane approaching the island and running up a tower and excitedly yelling, with a French accent, "Ze Plane! Ze Plane!" and ringing a bell.

Ze Actual Plane

The actual aircraft used in the series was a Grumman Widgeon seaplane, US registry N4453. It was manufactured in France under license from Grumman with 200 hp engines which were later replaced with seven cylinder 300 hp Lycoming radial engines in what was called a Masandorf conversion. Ze Plane! Ze Plane! was one of the few Grumman Widgeons manufactured with radial engines, and Ze Plane is often mistaken for a Grumman Goose.

It was rented from a local charter company by a contract production 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 "Ze plane! Ze 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. If you look closely at the size of the plane when it lands and the number of guests, it's 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 pile of luggage on the dock which viewers are to believe came out of the plane which may be larger than the inside volume of the plane, and which the current owner speculates would probably have made the seaplane sink.

Ze Plane!
Ze Plane as it appeared January 2008 flying over the Ozark Mountains and Table Rock Lake near Berryville Arkansas
Prior to being owned by the charter company, the plane belonged to author Richard Bach, which he mentions briefly in his book The Bridge Across Forever (although he does not mention the television series by name, he makes it clear from the context that he is indeed talking about Fantasy Island). The aircraft was later rented or sold to parties who later used it to smuggle drugs into the United States, and it crashed in a swamp on at least one occasion. It was confiscated by the DEA and sold by the U.S. Marshals Service at auction. It again fell into the hands of other drug smugglers and was eventually confiscated and sold again. It was involved in a gear collapse accident in the 1990s and repainted deep red, so it is not as recognizable as Ze Plane of the television series when it was painted white. Ze Plane! Ze Plane! has at times been on display on the airshow circuit in the American Midwest, and is currently owned by the Ozarks Auto Show, Inc., a regional antique dealer, of Hollister, Missourimarker, and is hangared at the M.marker Graham Clark Field, Taney County Airportmarker near Branson, Missourimarker along with several other special interest aircraft.

Cultural References

  • In 1992, Hervé Villechaize referenced his famous catchphrase in a Dunkin' Donuts commercials, where he requested "De plain! De plain! Donuts!"
  • The phrase is also commonly used in many other contexts, such as articles about midgets and aircraft.
  • The entire opening sequence of the Fantasy Island series contained other repeated cultural references. Tattoo would run up a tower and ring a bell. "Smiles, everybody, smiles!" was said by Mr. Roarke to the beautiful Hawaiian Native ladies workers and came before he said "Welcome to Fantasy Island!" to the guests. Each is recognizable as a cultural reference.


  1. Farkas, Anna. The Oxford Dictionary of Catchphrases p.59 (Paperback ed. 2003)(ISBN 978-0198607359)
  2. ("The hit show turned Villechaize into a larger-than-life character thanks to his catchphrase, 'De plane! De plane!'")
  3. ("Herve Villechaize, the diminutive actor whose shout, "The plane! The plane!" greeted arriving guests on the television show "Fantasy Island," died Saturday at his home in Los Angeles.")
  4. ("Every Saturday night, millions of television watchers sit down and watch a little man less than four feet tall run up into a belfry, ring a bell three times, and excitedly announce 'The Plane. The Plane.'")
  5. (" 'De plane. De plane.' -- one of the more familiar cries on prime-time television -- will be heard no more this fall. For 5 1/2 years, a midget named Tattoo used those words to announce the arrival of guests on "Fantasy Island.")
  6. ("his diminutive sidekick -- given to frenzied exclamations of 'De plane! De plane!'")
  7. GRUMMAN G-44 WIDGEON,, Accessed 2009-10-7
  8. Les Ailes Québécoises Les Ailes Québécoises Forum, Mar 27, 2005
  9. Seaplane Pilots Association Seaplane Pilots Association Forum July 31, 2001
  10. Bach, Richard, The Bridge Across Forever p.182 (1989)(ISBN 978-0440108269)("She would become a television-star airplane, opening each episode of a wildly popular TV series")
  11. Seawings, the Flying Boat Site The Flying Boat Forum November 12, 2008
  12., Picture of the SCAN 30 (G-44A Widgeon) aircraft ("Grumman Widgeon, originally used as "da plane" in the TV series "Fantasy Island" on display at Airfest 2003.")
  13. FAA Registry N4453
  14. ("Not since Fantasy Island and those immortal words "The plane, boss, the plane!" have dwarfs enjoyed such televisual prominence.")

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