Jan Hooks improvised the dialogue for her scenes as the Alamo tour guide.
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During the entire time Large Marge tells her story, she never blinks.
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Tim Burton and Paul Reubens brought on Danny Elfman as composer after Burton had attended concerts by Oingo Boingo, of which Elfman was lead singer and songwriter. Elfman was originally apprehensive, having no formal music training, but he was assisted by Boingo guitarist Steve Bartek as orchestrator. Elfman later said that hearing his music performed by an orchestra for the first time was one of the most thrilling experiences of his life.
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The dinosaurs in the film are an actual tourist attraction located at the Wheel Inn Restaurant in Cabazon, CA (near Palm Springs). They also appear in Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs (1985) and The Wizard (1989). At [7:34] at Pee-wee's house, a silhouette of a dinosaur can be seen on the glass next to the sliding pole, somewhat of a foreshadowing.
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Approximately 10 to 12 bicycles were built for the movie by the Pedal Pusher Bike Shop in Newport Beach CA; a shop that specialized in vintage and classic bicycles and parts. They were offered $10,000 and no screen credit or screen credit only. The shop chose the money. The bike shop had an autographed 8x10 glossy of Paul Reubens that said "To Mike at Pedal Pusher: 'Arrrrgggg!' From Pee-wee Herman."
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This was Tim Burton's directorial feature debut. He had previously directed some short films.
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Inside the magic shop by the front entrance is a picture of Elvira played by Cassandra Peterson who later plays Biker Mama in the film.
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Paul Reubens mentions on the commentary that during the scene in the movie where he is wheeled out of the bike shop on a gurney, Elizabeth Daily's face went completely white. After filming the scene, he asked her what was wrong. Apparently, she was having flashbacks of her boyfriend Jon-Erik Hexum being wheeled off of a set on a gurney. He accidentally shot himself whilst filming Cover Up (1984)).
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The Drive-in sequence was filmed at the Studio Drive In, formerly located in Culver City CA. The Studio was built in the 1930s, and was the first Drive-in Theatre constructed in California. It served as a set for several films, including Grease (1978). It was closed in 1993 and demolished in 1998. No trace of this Drive-in remains.
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Paul Reubens was very sick from the flu when he filmed the return to the bike shop after his bike is stolen, where Pee-Wee falls on the bikes. This is mentioned in the commentary.
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On the DVD Commentary, Paul Reubens said that he based Pee Wee dressed in drag after his real life sister.
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During the "Large Marge" sequence in the diner, her memorial, with a death date of January 11, 1974, is briefly visible on the wall. The actors say that she died exactly 10 years ago, so the story told in the movie takes place in January 1984. January 11, 1974 was also Mike Johansen's father's 36th birthday.
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This was actually the second screenplay Reubens wrote for a feature film adaptation. The first had Pee-Wee's Playhouse friends (from his HBO special) on a road trip. Even though this was a completely different script, it also used the title "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure". In interviews, Reubens refers to the 1985 movie as "The bicycle movie."
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When Pee-wee is hitchhiking to the Alamo, the Texas-shaped sign he holds up has a big star indicating his destination. The star isn't over San Antonio, home of the real-life Alamo; it's over Bracketville, home of the Alamo facade used in many western and period movies.
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The rock band whose video shoot Pee Wee rides his bike through is Twisted Sister.
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When Pee-wee first steals back his bike, around one corner, he finds himself face to face with two elephants, a red one and a blue one. Originally, there was going to be a third elephant, but it got stuck in traffic the day that scene was being shot so two elephants were used instead.
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Many of the actors in this film also appeared with Paul Reubens in Pee-wee's Playhouse (1986), albeit in very different roles from the ones they play here.
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Paul Reubens appears in Tim Burton's Batman Returns (1992) and the Batman prequel series Gotham (2014). In each, he plays different versions of Penguin's father
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[15:55]During the magic shop scene, Mario shows Pee-wee heads of different sizes. The largest head that he shows Pee-wee last is actually Aleister Crowley.
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When Pee Wee turns around while looking for his bike and there are wheels spinning behind his head, is an homage to Alfred Hitchcock.
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Paul Reubens and Diane Salinger both had cameos in Batman Returns, as Penguin/Oswald Cobblepot's parents.
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On the DVD Commentary, Paul Reubens said that he told Alice Nunn, no matter what the film made in the cinema, her character of Large Marge would be the one remembered. He said he met her shortly before her death, and told him that she was glad Paul told her, because she would have been completely shocked otherwise.
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The Large Marge sequence is based, close to verbatim, on the story in "Phantom 309" by country singer/songwriter Red Sovine. Pee-Wee's Big Holiday also has a scene based on a country song.
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When Pee-wee weighs in at the beginning of the movie, he is literally a 98-pound weakling.
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The Mr. T cereal eaten by Pee-Wee actually existed. It was not something made up for the film.
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This is not the first time the Warner Bros. backlot was used extensively in a comedy film - this was also done in Blazing Saddles (1974), over a decade earlier.
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Pee-wee's phone number in the movie is 354-8567, in a departure from filmdom's "555" custom.
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According to her sign, Madam Ruby not only performs tarot card readings and fortune telling, but income tax preparation as well.
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At the end of the 1984 film Buckaroo Bonzai Across the 8th Dimension, Peter Weller and Jeff Goldblum are walking toward the camera. Peter Weller is wearing the famous grey suit with a red bow tie (Pee-Wee's outfit) and Jeff Goldblum is wearing a red cowboy outfit (Pee-Wee's disguise during the rodeo scene). Buckaroo Bonzai was released in 1984. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure was released in 1985.
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When Pee Wee slides down the pole in his house, he goes from his pajamas to his signature grey outfit and red bow-tie. That was written as an obvious nod to the Batman (1966) TV series, in which James Brolin and Monte Landis played guest roles. When Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson slide down the poles into the Batcave beneath Wayne Manor, they arrive as Batman and Robin. Tim Burton would go on to direct two Batman films, and James Brolin appears in the movie-within-a-movie at the Drive In as "PW".
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There is a theory stating that Pee-Wee makes his money by selling his own designs for Rube Goldberg machines.
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The car that Pee-wee gets picked up in by Mickey is a 1959 Edsel Corsair convertible.
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The map in Pee Wee's basement is of San Francisco.
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The script is a nod to the Italian 1948 Classic Ladri di Biciclette in that the main characters prized bicycle is stolen, and the police dont take the crime seriously, nor do his friends offer much help and as a last resort consults a dubious fortune teller.
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The character of Large Marge is based on a character in a song called "Phantom 309" by Tommy Faile. The song tells of a ghost trucker who picks up a hitchhiker in his rig named Phantom 309. Just like in the movie, when Big Joe drops him off at a truck stop, he is shocked to learn from the patrons that he had received a ride from a ghost.
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Mario, the magic shop owner, is named after Mario Bava, who is one of Tim Burton's favorite and most inspirational filmmakers.
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The Batmobile from TV's Batman (1966) (in which James Brolin and Monte Landis played guest roles) can be seen driving through the Warner Bros studio lot. Tim Burton would go onto direct Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992).
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Elizabeth Daily (Dottie) would later go on to provide famous cartoon voices such as Buttercup in The Powerpuff Girls (1998) and The Powerpuff Girls Movie (2002)
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Unusually for a Tim Burton film, nothing bad happens to the dog (Speck) in this movie.
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Paul Reubens said that he, Phil Hartman, and Michael Varhol had never written a screenplay prior to this film. They purchased a book by Syd Field on how to write screenplays and did exactly what the book said. As a result, this movie is sometimes used in screenwriting classes because it fits the screenwriting paradigm perfectly - the film is 90 minutes long and the script is 90 pages long. The first act ends at Page 30 / 30-minute mark, the second act ends at Page 60 / 60-minute mark, etc.
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Included among the American Film Institute's 2000 list of the 500 movies nominated for the Top 100 Funniest American Movies.
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Early on, at Chuck's shop, Pee-wee mentions "James Bond stuff." Later on, James Brolin's character introduces himself as "Herman, P.W. Herman," in the style of "Bond, James Bond." James Brolin had tried out for the role of James Bond in Octopussy (1983) just two years earlier.
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Pee-Wee's female disguise was influenced by Olive-Oyl from the Popeye cartoons.
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All three writers of Pee-wee's Big Adventure appear somewhere in the film. (Phil Hartman appears as one of the reporters, Michael Varhol appears as the photographer, and Paul Reubens, of course, plays Pee Wee.)
Film critic Gene Siskel rated this one of the worst films of 1985, and even slammed it in a "Worst of 85" special on his TV show At the Movies, and he said the following: "For me, Pee-Wee's juvenile humor, I guess, works better in seven minute skits on the Letterman show. That's the only conclusion I can draw from my negative response to this movie that... just didn't make it for me." Ebert, who had not seen the movie; said it looked funny though. Today this movie is seen as a comedy classic.
When Pee-Wee goes into the magic shop, there is a storm trooper helmet on the shelf. He would later voice Rex in Star Tours (1987).
The film was released the same year as another Warner Bros. feature film about a man who sets out to recover his stolen vehicle, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985).
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Lori Loughlin, Laura Dern, Phoebe Cates,Lea Thompson and Jennifer Jason Leigh were all considered for the role of Dottie.
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Many of the movie's props came from the personal belongings of Paul Reubens.
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When Pee-wee is at the pet shop, he frees a chimpanzee first then enlists his help (he even tells the chimp, "you can help me!"). Pee-wee is also afraid of the snakes and is very reluctant to save them, which he does but he screams then passes out after doing so. In reality, Tim Burton has a phobia of chimpanzees.
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One of two films released in August 1985 in which a childish character from a TV series goes on a road trip and discovers how tough the real world can be. The other was Follow That Bird (1985).
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Cassandra Peterson: (a.k.a. Elvira) Biker Mama at the Biker Bar.
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John Paragon: man dressed in red armor with a high voice, was "Jambi" and "Pterri" in Pee Wee's TV shows.
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Tom Berenger: Patron that turns around in the diner after the Large Marge sequence.
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Phil Hartman: reporter interviewing Francis at the drive-in is "Captain Carl" from Pee Wee's TV shows.
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Lynne Marie Stewart: impatient "mother superior" in Kevin Morton's movie is "Miss Yvonne" from Pee Wee's TV shows.
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James Brolin, Morgan Fairchild: as "PW" and "Dottie" in the film-within-a-film that purports to be based on Pee Wee's experience. As a gag, Brolin's character is only called PW Herman because it would make little sense to have a big strong man called Pee Wee. Despite this, the movie-within-a-movie is still called "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure."
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