The Millennium Falcon, from the Star Wars saga, makes a cameo appearance in this movie. Given a close look at the exterior shot of the Space Diner, and it can be spotted parked there among the other space vehicles. George Lucas got a chance to read the script before production began, and loved it so much, that he decided to have his special effects company, Industrial Light & Magic, help make the film.
Of all the many jokes in this film, Mel Brooks says that the two he is most proud of are the running gag about merchandising ("Spaceballs: the Breakfast Cereal", "Spaceballs: The T-Shirt", et cetera), and Colonel Sandurz's renting "Spaceballs" before it was finished.
The scene in which Dark Helmet is playing with his dolls was not in the script. Writer and Director Mel Brooks came up with the idea on the set one day, and told it to Rick Moranis, who then improvised the entire scene, including the dialogue.
In a 2013 television interview (shorty before receiving the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award), Mel Brooks stated that he personally obtained George Lucas' full permission to parody any and all things Star Wars-related but, on one condition, that absolutely no merchandise of any kind be produced from the film. This is the reason why all Yogurt and the Dinks do is merchandising (it is also why none of the merchandise seen in the film was ever mass produced or publicly sold in any way).
In the DVD commentary, Mel Brooks talks about how difficult it was playing the Yogurt character. The gold-colored make-up gave him a terrible rash on his face and neck (necessitating the shooting of all of Yogurt's scenes out of sequence), and his knees were hurting constantly, since he had to walk around on his knees, even though he was wearing kneepads. Brooks also goes on to say that in spite of the difficulties, he enjoyed playing Yogurt tremendously, and that it was all worth it.
Every time Dark Helmet has his face covered, his voice is lower and more basal, similar to James Earl Jones, when he played Darth Vader. In the DVD commentary, Mel Brooks says that the idea of Dark Helmet's voice changing whenever his face was covered was actually Rick Moranis' idea.
In the scene where Dark Helmet is dressed in safari clothes searching for Lone Starr and the others with binoculars, he is on top of a floating vehicle. In reality, the vehicle was not floating, nor suspended on wires of any kind, but it was on top of a platform that was surrounded by mirrors that reflected the sand around it, to give it the appearance of floating.
Mel Brooks came up with the idea for this film when he discovered he had yet to spoof space movies, since he already "destroyed" the western films with Blazing Saddles (1974), made fun of the horror genre with Young Frankenstein (1974), and gave silent movies the ax with Silent Movie (1976).
The castle on Druidia is King Ludwig II's Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria. It has been modified by matte painting with additional ramps. Neuschwanstein Castle has been featured in many motion pictures, and it is the original inspiration for the castle at Disneyland.
Six complete Dot Matrix suits were built for Lorene Yarnell Jansson to wear, and all of them were used up, due to breakage on-set. For the interior scenes, the feet were outfitted with roller skates, but for the desert exteriors, she was given flat-bottomed shoes. Dot's face was somewhat inspired by Joan Rivers, who had already been contracted to provide the voice.
According to Mel Brooks, this was one of the most expensive movies he had ever made, at twenty-five million dollars, with Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995) a close second at twenty-two million dollars. By contrast, The Producers (1967) cost less than one million dollars to produce.
The Barf costume was operated by three people. John Candy operated Barf's tail using a hidden control in his paw, while two assistants each controlled an ear. Candy's costume was powered by a thirty-pound battery that he wore on his back.
A full face mask resembling a wrinkled bulldog was originally constructed for the character of Barf, but Mel Brooks quipped that "If they were going to hide John Candy behind a mask, he might as well hire someone else for half the price." A nose and upper lip piece was tried next, which Candy approved, but again Brooks did not. They finally settled on animatronic ears connected to a hairpiece, a small nose application, and a patch over one eye, just like the dog "Petey" from the "Our Gang" shorts.
According to Mel Brooks, George Lucas loved the film so much, and wrote him a letter after its premiere, saying he thought he was going to bust something from laughing so hard. Lucas also told Brooks had he not chosen to parody Star Wars, Spaceballs would have succeeded as a great adventure film. Brooks said he was extremely flattered by Lucas' compliments and support.
The filmmakers had to replace the original title of this film, "Planet Moron", when they heard about the British science fiction spoof Morons from Outer Space (1985). Mel Brooks, Ronny Graham, and Thomas Meehan went through all the letters of the alphabet to search for a word to add to "Space", which Thomas Meehan suggested. Mel Brooks spilled a drink and shouted, "Balls!" and Ronnie Graham said, "Spaceballs!", which became the film's new and final title, and they came up with the idea that the villains, The Spaceballs, would wear ball-shaped helmets. Ironically, the name of the game of sport that the morons from outer space played in their spaceship, in Morons from Outer Space (1985), was "Spaceball". Two years after that movie was released, Mel Brooks' science fiction comedy Spaceballs (1987), launched into theaters.
Spaceballs merchandise shown in the movie include: bed sheet, flame thrower, lunch box, cornflakes, towels, Yogurt figure, toilet paper, shaving cream, place mat, action figures. As part of the fair-use agreement between Mel Brooks and George Lucas, no legitimate Spaceballs merchandise ever existed in the real world. The lunch box and coloring book are simply The Transformers (1984) products with a Spaceballs logo stuck on them.
In the DVD Commentary, Mel Brooks talks about the various Jewish-related jokes (for example, "Druish Princess", et cetera) and how he felt ashamed for putting those jokes in the movie in the first place, but also felt proud for leaving them in the movie.
George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic constructed the puppet of the chestburster for the film. The main effects unit for the film was Apogee, Inc. This was the company headed by John Dykstra, that split off from Industrial Light & Magic in 1978, when Lucasfilm moved to Marin County. Thus, Spaceballs marked the first time since Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) that the two units shared work on a single project.
Pay close attention to Pizza the Hutt's sidekick, Vinnie. You'll notice that, as an excellent example of make-up artistry, and an incredible use of shading techniques, Vinnie's metallic look was successfully achieved without any silicone prosthetics whatsoever, relying solely on make-up.
After King Roland gives the combination to the air shield of planet Druidia, and the light goes out and on again, the doctor is seen making out with the nurse. Dark Helmet then tells him to go the golf course and "work on his putts". This is a pun, as "putz" in Hebrew and Yiddish, is slang for penis.
When initiating the metamorphosis of Spaceball-1 into the giant maid, Dark Helmet leans towards Colonel Sandurz and asks "Ready, Kafka?" This is a reference to the novella "Die Verwandlung" by Austrian-Hungarian author Franz Kafka, a story about a man who transforms into a giant insect. The most common English translations of said piece are titled "Metamorphosis". The same novel is quoted in Mel Brooks' The Producers (1967).
"Mr. Rental", the instant-cassette machine on Spaceball-1, features VHS tapes of Friday the 13th (1980), Rocky (1976), and over a dozen of their "sequels" on the bottom shelf (the spines are fake). The middle shelf features authentic VHS copies of Mel Brooks' films (as of 1987 - the most recent, obviously, being "Spaceballs"). The top shelf features the same tapes from the middle shelf, except with the spines facing forward.
Princess Vespa's name is a joke in-and-of itself: Vespa is the Italian word for a wasp. In North American slang, the term WASP can connote a white vainglorious person of high breeding. "WASP" stands for "White Anglo-Saxon Protestant".
Sir John Hurt claimed that Mel Brooks talked him into self-parodying his role from Alien (1979), by making it sound like it would be a brief walk-on cameo. Only when Hurt came to the set, did he realize that the entire scene was an elaborate spoof of the chestburster scene from Alien (1979). Hurt figured that he ought to have asked for a salary.
James Caan was the original choice to play Lone Starr. Unfortunately, he was struggling with addiction issues at the time. A then unknown Bill Pullman won the role, as Caan was deemed too expensive to insure.
Along with Caddyshack II (1988), Big (1988), and Beetlejuice (1988), this movie is notable for containing the "f" word in a film rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America during the early years of the PG-13 rating. Interestingly, the original video label erroneously states that the film was rated PG-13.
In 2015, it was rumored Mel Brooks had expressed in making a long awaited sequel with Bill Pullman and Daphne Zuniga returning. But some cast members won't be returning such as John Candy, Joan Rivers, and Dick Van Patten, who have sadly passed on, and it is uncertain if Rick Moranis will return as Dark Helmet. Moranis has retired from acting, and has not acted since 2006. The sequel may be a parody of Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015).
Tim Russ played the Spaceball trooper in the "Comb the Desert" scene who says "We ain't found shit!" He later went on to play Tuvok in Star Trek: Voyager (1995). Star Trek (1966) is parodied in the film.
In R.L. Stine's novelization of the film, when Lone Starr, Barf, Princess Vespa, and Dot Matrix meet Yogurt in the temple. Barf asks Yogurt, if he was the leader of the Red Eye Knights, and the possessor of the force. Yogurt replies that it wasn't him, but Alec Guinness, a Star Wars actor.
"The Schwartz" is more than just a replacement (and near rhyming) title for The Force. Schwartz is the name of Mel's legal representative for the film. This gave the phrase "May the Schwartz be with you" far more significance to the entire production, than just a catchphrase for the film itself.
Tesla Motors has used Spaceballs' star ship speeds (Light Speed, Ridiculous Speed, Ludicrous Speed, Plaid Speed) as inspiration for naming their acceleration modes. In homage to Spaceballs, Tesla has Ludicrous Mode for acceleration beyond its Insane Mode, and Plaid Mode, and over top Ludicrous.
Contrary to rumor, that is not an uncredited Michael York playing an ape. In a 2016 talk at the National Press Club York said he has unsuccessfully tried to get the credit off his online resumes, but has since given up on that.
The Spaceball, who Dark Helmet zaps in the groin with his Schwartz ring, is called Sargeant Rico. A nod to Juan Rico, the main character of the Robert A. Heinlein science fiction novel "Starship Troopers".
The film predicted Disney buying Lucasfilm Ltd. the production company behind the "Star Wars" movies which the film parodies. When The Dinks find and rescue Lone Starr, Princess Vespa, Barf and Dot Matrix in the desert, Lone Starr says "When did we get to Disneyland?".
Jim J. Bullock plays Prince Valium. Valium is a trademark of the drug diazepam. As Valium was prescribed as a sleep medication, the expression "I have a date with Prince Valium" was slang for a person taking the medication and going to bed, and the reference for the character constantly yawning and falling a sleep.
In the space diner sequence, if you look closely you can see Millennium Falcon which is one of the spaceships seen parked outside the space diner. The Millennium Falcon is Han Solo's spaceship in the Star Wars films, which Spaceballs (1987) parodies.
Dark Helmet parodies the infamous "I am your father" scene, by claiming a tenuous connection to Lone Starr, who is based on Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. In Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015), Han Solo is revealed to be the father of the new Dark Side villain, Kylo Ren.
The Druidia planet being surrounded by a planet-enclosing shield was later re-used for Rogue One (2016), which in that film, the planet Scarif is protected by a planet-enclosing shield. Rogue One (2016) is a spin-off of the Star Wars movies, which this film parodies.
The Ford Galaxy, mentioned by Lone Starr, is a reference to the Ford Galaxie, a well known line of cars marketed by the Ford Motor Company, and a predecessor to the modern Taurus. Coincidentally, the company began marketing the Ford Galaxy minivan in Europe in 1995.
After production on the film was completed, Daphne Zuniga signed on for The Fly II (1989) which Mel Brooks suggested to director Chris Walas that she play the female lead Beth Logan. The Fly II (1989) was produced and released by 20th Century Fox which was the production company behind Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) which Spaceballs (1987) parodies.