15 Fun Facts About Midnight Madness

Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures / Walt Disney Pictures

If you were alive during the first half of the 1980s and lucky enough to have access to HBO, you’ll need no convincing that fagabeefe is indeed a word and will have no problem completing the following jock chant: "M-E-A-T…"

For those of you who are stumped, it’s "M-A-C-H-I-N-E," the battle cry of the muscle-headed green team. They're one of five teams competing against four other color-coded player groups (each one its own stereotype) in an all-night scavenger hunt known as Midnight Madness. Alan Solomon portrayed Leon, the character who coordinated the contest as the "Game Master" and slowly garnered the interest of everyone else in his apartment building, who cheered on the five teams. Here are 15 fun facts about the cult comedy film classic, which was released on February 8, 1980.

1. Midnight Madness was Michael J. Fox's feature film debut.

David Naughton, David Damas, Joel Kenney, Michael J. Fox, and Debra Clinger in Midnight Madness (1980).
David Naughton, David Damas, Joel Kenney, Michael J. Fox, and Debra Clinger in Midnight Madness (1980). / Walt Disney Pictures

Though he'd portrayed roles on scattered TV shows and made-for-TV movies since an episode of The Beachcombers back in 1973, Midnight Madness marked the soon-to-be-teen-heartthrob’s first appearance on the big screen. It was so early in Fox’s career, in fact, that he wasn’t even using the “J.” yet. He’s simply Michael Fox (just a couple years before the film’s release, he was Mike Fox).

2. Midnight Madness was based on a real thing.

The film is based on a real all-night scavenger hunt, which graphic designer Don Luskin staged in Los Angeles for the first time in 1973.

3. Midnight Madness inspired a number of alernate reality games.

Getty Images

The most famous among them is probably Microsoft VP Joe Belfiore’s The Game. He started it as a high school student in Clearwater, Florida, before moving it to Stanford University and then to Seattle when he began working for Microsoft. During a TED Talk about The Game in 2004, Belfiore made all of the audience members’ cell phones ring. (Top that, Leon!)

4. David Naughton was promoting Dr Pepper at the time.

Walt Disney Pictures

Product placement in movies is nothing new, so David Naughton gulping down a bottle of Dr Pepper shouldn’t seem suspicious. What is curious—or, perhaps, coincidental—is that Naughton just so happened to be the soft drink’s pitchman. He spent four years singing, dancing, and making us believe that “I’m a Pepper, You’re a Pepper.” He lost the job a year later after delving into R-rated fare, notably the 1981 John Landis classic An American Werewolf in London.

5. Paul Reubens had a small (but memorable) role in Midnight Madness.

Paul Reubens played the proprietor of Pinball City, who has a very distinct way of making change (there’s gunplay involved). It was one of four big-screen appearances for Reubens that year, including Pee-wee Herman’s first on-screen gig in Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie. It was a busy year for Reubens; he launched The Pee-Wee Herman Show as a live stage show in 1980, too.

6. Midnight Madness was a Disney movie, but no one really knew that.

Because Disney was only known for its kiddie fare, the studio opted to keep its association with the film rather quiet. Their trepidation being that the teenage audience for which the movie was intended might be turned off by the fact that it came from Mickey Mouse’s house. Midnight Madness was only the second PG-rated film released by the studio (the first was The Black Hole).

7. Winnie the Pooh's buddy Piglet plays Leon's neighbor in Midnight Madness.

Getty Images

At least the man who voiced Piglet—John Fiedler—was. Fiedler portrayed Wally Thorpe, one of Leon's apartment neighbors who gets caught up in the action of the treasure hunt. Other faces you might recognize in the film include Dirk Blocker (son of Dan "Hoss Cartwright" Blocker) and J. Brennan Smith, who portrayed Englebert in the TV version of The Bad News Bears..

8. Midnight Madness's working title was The All Night Treasure Hunt.

The title was changed to Midnight Madness so that the film wouldn’t be confused with 1979’s Scavenger Hunt. But it didn’t seem to concern the producers that actor Stephen Furst starred in both films.

9. The yellow team's Jeep in Midnight Madness isn't a Jeep at all.

The yellow team can call their ride a Jeep all they want. It’s not. It’s a Toyota Land Cruiser.

10. Maude Flanders is the leader of the red team in Midnight Madness.

Maggie Roswell—who has voiced a number of characters on The Simpsons, including Maude Flanders and Helen Lovejoy—plays the mouthy leader of the all-girl red team. The movie marked her feature film debut.

11. A Midnight Madness book followed the movie.

In 1980, the movie got novelized, courtesy of author T.M. Wright.

12. Diablo Cody is a major Midnight Madness fan.

Getty Images

The Oscar-winning screenwriter included Midnight Madness in her lineup of favorite films when she took over programming at Los Angeles’ New Beverly Cinema (which Quentin Tarantino owns) for two weeks in 2008, an event dubbed “Mondo Diablo.” She even managed to persuade a few cast and crewmembers to take part in a Q&A.

13. Heltah Skeltah dug Midnight Madness, too.

Brooklyn-based rap duo sampled the film’s catchier-than-it-should-be theme in their song, “Midnight Madness.”

14. The Bonaventure Hotel only has 35 floors.

Elevators are deployed as the teams race to be the first ones to cross the finish line, which they only know is “somewhere ... in the Bonaventure Hotel.” The only problem is that while the elevator panel in the movie offers guests 51 floors from which to choose, the real Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites in Los Angeles is only 35 stories tall.

15. You really can look between the two giant melons.

It’s just not going to happen at Johnie’s Fat Boy, because the restaurant never existed. The historic restaurant that was used as one of the scavenger hunt’s more memorable locations (especially if you were into double entendre and busty waitresses) was Johnie’s Broiler in Downey, California, part of which was illegally demolished in 2007. Fortunately, the fine folks at Bob’s Big Boy Broiler stepped in and saved the landmark eatery.