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 screenplay before production began, and loved it so much that he decided to have his special effects company, Industrial Light & Magic, help make this movie.
Of all of the jokes in this movie, writer, producer, and director 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 screenplay. Writer, producer, and director Mel Brooks came up with the idea on the set one day and told this to Rick Moranis, who then improvised the entire scene.
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 this movie. This is the reason why all Yogurt and the Dinks do is merchandising (it is also why none of the merchandise seen in this movie was ever mass produced or publicly sold in any way).
In the DVD audio commentary, writer, producer, and director Mel Brooks speaks about how difficult it was playing the character Yogurt. The gold-colored make-up gave him a terrible rash on his face and neck (necessitating the shooting of most 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. He also speaks with an African accent. 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. Curiously, Moranis' Dark Helmet voice bears resemblance to actor and stuntman David Prowse's actual voice, who physically portrayed Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy.
Writer, producer, and director Mel Brooks came up with the idea for this movie when he discovered he had yet to spoof space movies, since he already destroyed Western movies 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 the planet 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 Walt Disney World.
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.
According to Mel Brooks, George Lucas loved this movie 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, this movie would have succeeded as a great adventure movie. Brooks said he was extremely flattered by Lucas' compliments and support.
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.
A full face mask resembling a wrinkled bulldog was originally constructed for the character 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 writer, producer, and director Mel Brooks, this was one of the most expensive movies he had ever made, at $25 million with Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995) a close second at $22 million. By contrast, The Producers (1967) cost less than $1 million to produce.
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.
Spaceballs merchandise shown in this movie includes: bedsheet, flamethrower, lunchbox, cornflakes, towels, Yogurt doll, 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 lunchbox and coloring book are simply The Transformers (1984) products with a Spaceballs logo stuck on them.
In the DVD audio commentary, writer, producer, and director Mel Brooks speaks 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 filmmakers had to replace the original title of this movie, "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 of 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 movie's new and final title, and they came up with the idea that the villains, the Spaceballs, would wear ball-shaped helmets. Ironically, in Morons from Outer Space (1985), the name of the game of sport that the morons from outer space played in their spaceship was "Spaceball". Two years after that movie was released, Mel Brooks' science fiction comedy launched into theaters.
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.
George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic constructed the puppet of the chestburster for this movie. The main effects unit for this movie was Apogee Incorporated. This was the company headed by John Dykstra that split off from Industrial Light & Magic in 1978 when Lucasfilm moved to Marin County. Thus, this movie 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 will 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.
Tesla Motors has used Spaceballs' starship speeds (Light Speed, Ridiculous Speed, Ludicrous Speed, and Plaid Speed) as inspiration for naming their acceleration modes. In homage to this movie, 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 on-line résumés, but has since given up on that.
Along with Caddyshack II (1988), Beetlejuice (1988), and Big (1988), this movie is notable for containing "fuck" in a movie 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 this movie was rated PG-13.
When initiating the metamorphosis of Spaceball One 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).
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 orders 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.
Tim Russ played the Spaceball trooper in the "comb the desert" scene who says "We ain't found shit!" He later played Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager (1995). Star Trek (1966) is parodied in this movie. He also has a guest spot on The Orville (2017) season two, episode eleven, "Lasting Impressions".
"Mr. Rental", the instant-cassette machine on Spaceball One, 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.
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 died, 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).
"The Schwartz" is more than just a replacement (and nearly rhyming) name for The Force. Schwartz is the name of Mel's legal representative for this movie. This gave the phrase "May the Schwartz be with you" far more significance to the entire production than just a catchphrase for this movie.
Princess Vespa's name is a joke in and of itself. Vespa is the Italian word for a wasp and is also a scooter. In North American slang, the term W.A.S.P. can connote a white vainglorious person of high breeding. "W.A.S.P." stands for "White Anglo-Saxon Protestant".
In R.L. Stine's novelization, 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 was not him, but Sir Alec Guinness, who played the elder Obi-wan Kenobi in the Star Wars saga.
The twins Charlene and Marlene are a nod to the Bettys. A set of twins on Quark (1977), a television series about a garbage ship in space. They were also a reference to the Doublemint chewing gum television advertisements of the mid to late 1980s.
The Spaceball whom Dark Helmet zaps in the groin with his Schwartz ring as discipline is called Sergeant Rico. A nod to Juan Rico, the main character of Robert A. Heinlein's science fiction novel "Starship Troopers".
Jim J. Bullock played the narcoleptic 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.
This movie "predicted" Disney buying Lucasfilm Limited, the production company behind the Star Wars film franchise, which this movie parodied. 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?"
After production on this movie was completed, Daphne Zuniga signed on for The Fly II (1989), which writer, producer, and director Mel Brooks suggested to director Chris Walas that she play the female lead Beth Logan. The Fly II (1989) was produced and released by Twentieth Century Fox, which was the production company behind Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), which this movie parodied.
Dark Helmet parodied 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 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.
Writer, producer, and director Mel Brooks based the many characteristics of Princess Vespa after Dohlman Elaan, ruler of the planet Elas in the original Star Trek episode Star Trek: Elaan of Troyius (1968).
John Hurt and Dom DeLuise who provided cameo appearances also appeared in theatrical animated feature films directed/made by Don Bluth, DeLuise appeared in The Secret of NIMH (1982) as Jeremy the Crow, the An American Tail films as Tiger the Cat, the All Dogs go to Heaven films as Itchy Itchiford the Dachshund, and A Troll in Central Park (1994) as Stanley, whilst Hurt appeared in Thumbelina (1994) as the Mole.
Toward the end of the film, where Lonne Starr tries to self-destruct the Mega Maid, the second guard asks the question, "Is that you, Mylar?" While shaving. Behind him are two towels; both labeled with the two guards respective names: Mylar and Velcro.