Beetlejuice Study Guide

Beetlejuice was one of Tim Burton’s first full-length movies, and established him as an unusual, singular, outrageous, and exciting director. The first screenplay for the film was written by Michael McDowell, and was apparently much darker than the version that was eventually made, which had with a re-tooled screenplay by Larry Wilson and Warren Skaaren. Originally, Beetlejuice was imagined as a far more evil character, bent on murder, destruction, and rape. The film went through numerous changes in production; originally, Burton wanted the famous Rat Pack member Sammy Davis Jr. to play Beetlejuice, but eventually settled on Michael Keaton on the suggestion of producer David Geffen.

The film, a truly oddball creation, became a smash hit. After being made on a meager budget, the film earned about $80 million in theaters and spawned a cult following. Burton’s signature visual style and darkly comic tone struck a chord with audiences who identified with the outlandish story and its morbid preoccupations. Michael Keaton had a huge part in crafting the character of Beetlejuice, giving the character an iconically comic characterization that transformed his career even with just 17 minutes of screen time. The film even won an Academy Award for Best Makeup.

The movie was so successful that it spawned a cartoon spinoff that had 94 episodes and a proposed sequel. At the time, the earnings for the movie were so large that producers were ready to finance a sequel in 1990 called Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian. When Batman became Tim Burton’s creative priority, the sequel was shelved—until recently. In 2011, talk of a sequel resurfaced, and then in 2014 Burton said that a sequel was indeed in the works.