15 Fun Facts About Pee-wee's Big Adventure

YouTube
YouTube

He may be a perpetual man-child, but Pee-wee Herman has been around for nearly four decades (the character made his first appearance in 1977). His first (and so far best) feature film, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, debuted on August 9, 1985. Since then, millions of people have no doubt pondered the question, "Does the Alamo have a basement?" The answer is, yes! Read on for more fascinating facts about Pee-wee and his big adventure. 

1. The movie was originally supposed to be a remake of Pollyanna.

Before the inspiration struck for the quest for Pee-wee’s missing bicycle, the writers planned on more or less remaking the Disney classic Pollyanna. Pee-wee would arrive in a new town in need of some fresh perspective, and by the end of the movie, he would have endeared himself to even the most curmudgeonly of the citizens.

2. And then, Warner Bros. gave Reubens a Schwinn.

Cast and crew members often take bicycles around studio lots to get from point A to point B. Reubens was given a 1940s Schwinn to ride while he was at Warner Bros. working on the movie script; he loved it so much he decided to retool the whole Pollyanna concept.

3. It’s a retelling of The Bicycle Thief.

After the idea of Pee-wee as Pollyanna bit the dust, the script ended up turning into a “surrealistic reworking” of The Bicycle Thief, an essential example of Italian Neorealism that was given an Honorary Oscar and regularly shows up on every “must-see” film list. But Pee-wee’s Big Adventure has its own champions ...

4. It made Roger Ebert’s list of “Guilty Pleasures.”

Though he never officially rated the movie, in 1987 Ebert confessed that it made his list of Guilty Pleasure movies:

“The movie is not just a strange little man acting goofy. Pee-wee has created a whole fairytale universe as consistent and fascinating as Alice’s Wonderland or the world of the Hobbits in The Lord of the Rings. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure is one of those movies like The Wizard of Oz, I think, that kids can look at in one state of mind while the grown-ups enjoy it on a completely different level.”

5. Reubens fought to get a 26-year-old Tim Burton to direct.

Although Paul Reubens had a long list of directors he wanted to work with, the studio chose one not on the list. Rather than go along for the sake of getting the movie made, Reubens put his foot down and refused to proceed. Shortly thereafter, one of Reubens’ friends mentioned a short film called Frankenweenie (the precursor to the feature-length movie that came out a few years ago) by Tim Burton. Reubens was friends with Shelley Duvall, who was in the Burton film, so he gave her a call. She agreed that Reubens and Burton would make a perfect match, and the connection was made. “It was the biggest piece of luck early on in my career that I could have had,” Reubens later said.

6. It was the first Tim Burton-Danny Elfman collaboration.

Not only was it Tim Burton’s first big movie; it was also Danny Elfman’s. Elfman wasn’t actually scoring films at the time, at least not on the scale that he is now. But Burton knew him through his work with Oingo Boingo, and Paul Reubens knew him from music he had written for a film called Forbidden Zone. After meeting with Burton to chat about the project, Elfman went home with a tune in his head. “I did a demo on a four track tape player, playing all the parts, and I made a cassette and sent it to him and never expected to hear from him again. But that piece of music became the main title of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, and it got me the job. I was really shocked.” It was, of course, the beginning of a longtime collaboration and friendship.

7. Tim Burton has a cameo.

Check it out:

8. Elizabeth Daily, a.k.a. Dottie, is the voice of Tommy Pickles.

In addition to acting in front of the camera, Elizabeth Daily is also a talented voice actress. If you don’t know her as Tommy Pickles in Rugrats or Buttercup in The Powerpuff Girls, you’ve probably heard her in a number of small roles in Wreck-It Ralph, Happy Feet, and many, many more.

She was also on The Voice a couple of seasons ago.

9. Warner Bros. thought the movie was weird.

After seeing the finished product, the studio wasn’t so sure it wanted to put much more money behind it. Finding it all a bit bizarre, they decided to roll the film out slowly and on a regional basis. When it proved to be popular with even a limited audience, Warner cranked up the publicity machine. By the time all was said and done, Pee-wee had earned nearly $41 million at the box office.

10. Phil Hartman co-wrote the script.

Reubens and SNL legend Phil Hartman originally developed the Pee-wee character when they were in the Groundlings together. HBO picked up Pee-wee for a comedy show in 1981, which is what eventually led to the movie in 1985. Hartman was Reubens’ writing partner throughout all of that, and also for Pee-wee’s Playhouse, where he made occasional appearances as Kap’n Karl.

11. Pee-Wee’s Bicycle was sold on eBay last year.

Though Pee-wee estimated his bike’s value at “a hundred million, trillion, billion dollars” in the movie, it didn’t quite fetch that much when it was sold on eBay in 2014. It did, however, sell for $36,600.

12. There were at least 10 bikes used in the movie.

Missed out on the auction? Never fear—there could still be an authentic Pee-wee bike in your future, since at least 10 bikes were built for use in the film. The Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh had one of them on display for a while.

13. It wasn’t the first time Paul Reubens did the “Pee-wee Dance.”

He performed it on The Gong Show in the late 1970s, but the choreography goes back even further than that. The dance, he has said, was actually inspired by a dirty joke his dad used to tell. “The joke was something [like] you put one thumb in your [Reubens points at his backside] and one in your mouth, and then you switch.”

14. The idea for a TV show came up at the movie’s premiere.

Executives at CBS approached Reubens’ manager at the movie's premiere and wanted to know if “Pee-wee” was interested in doing a cartoon show. But Reubens had another format in mind, and asked how they would feel about something live-action. “I was thinking about how important all those kids’ shows were to me when I was a kid, and how much I feel like they affected me, and that just seemed really exciting to me," he said. "I was really excited by the idea that doing a real kids’ show could potentially affect kids in an amazingly positive and great way.” Pee-wee’s Playhouse debuted a year later.

15. Large Marge almost got the axe.

It’s one of the most memorable scenes in the entire movie, but it almost didn’t make it to the screen. “I almost cut the best thing before an audience saw it,” Burton said in Burton on Burton. “It was a special effect and those are the first things to go.” IFC lists the scene as #5 on their list of "25 Scariest Moments in Non-Horror Movies."

13 Father's Day Gifts for Geeky Dads

Amazon/Otterbox/Toynk
Amazon/Otterbox/Toynk

When in doubt, you play the hits. Watches, flasks, and ties are all tried-and-true Father’s Day gifts—useful items bought en masse every June as the paternal holiday draws near. Here’s a list of goodies that put a geeky spin on those can’t-fail gifts. We’re talking Zelda flasks, wizard-shaped party mugs, and a timepiece inspired by BBC’s greatest sci-fi series, Doctor Who. Light the “dad” signal ‘cause it’s about to get nerdy!

1. Lord of the Rings Geeki Tikis (Set of Three); $76

'Lord of The Rings' themed tiki cups.
Toynk

If your dad’s equally crazy about outdoor shindigs and Tolkien’s Middle-earth, help him throw his own Lothlórien luau with these Tiki-style ceramic mugs shaped like icons from the Lord of the Rings saga. Gollum and Frodo’s drinkware doppelgängers each hold 14 ounces of liquid, while Gandalf the Grey’s holds 18—but a wizard never brags, right? Star Wars editions are also available.

Buy it: Toynk

2. Space Invaders Cufflinks; $9

'Space Invaders' cufflinks on Amazon
Fifty 50/Amazon

Arcade games come and arcade games go, but Space Invaders has withstood the test of time. Now Pops can bring those pixelated aliens to the boardroom—and look darn stylish doing it.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Legend of Zelda Flask; $18

A 'Legend of Zelda' flask
Toynk

Saving princesses is thirsty work. Shaped like an NES cartridge, this Zelda-themed flask boasts an 8-ounce holding capacity and comes with a reusable straw. Plus, it makes a fun little display item for gamer dads with man caves.

Buy it: Toynk

4. AT-AT Family Vacation Bag Tag; $12

An At-At baggage tag
ShopDisney

Widely considered one of the greatest movie sequels ever made, The Empire Strikes Back throws a powerful new threat at Luke Skywalker and the Rebellion: the AT-AT a.k.a. Imperial Walkers. Now your dad can mark his luggage with a personalized tag bearing the war machine’s likeness.

Buy it: ShopDisney

5. Flash Skinny Tie; $17

A skinny Flash-themed tie
Uyoung/Amazon

We’ll let you know if the Justice League starts selling new memberships, but here’s the next best thing. Available in a rainbow of super-heroic colors, this skinny necktie bears the Flash’s lightning bolt logo. Race on over to Amazon and pick one up today.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Captain America Shield Apron; $20

A Captain America themed apron
Toynk

Why let DC fans have all the fun? Daddy-o can channel his inner Steve Rogers when he flips burgers at your family’s Fourth of July BBQ. Measuring 31.5 inches long by 27.5 inches wide, this apron’s guaranteed to keep the cookout Hydra-free.

Buy it: Toynk

7. Doctor Who Vortex Manipulator LCD Leather Wristwatch; $35

A Doctor Who-themed watch
Toynk

At once classy and geeky, this digital timepiece lovingly recreates one of Doctor Who’s signature props. Unlike some of the gadgets worn on the long-running sci-fi series, it won’t require any fancy chronoplasm fuel.

Buy it: Toynk

8. Wonder Woman 3-Piece Grill Set; $21

Wonder Woman three-piece gill set
Toynk

At one point in her decades-long comic book career, this Amazon Princess found herself working at a fast food restaurant called Taco Whiz. Now grill cooks can pay tribute to the heroine with these high-quality, stainless steel utensils. The set’s comprised of wide-tipped tongs, a BBQ fork, and a spatula, with the latter boasting Wonder Woman’s insignia.

Buy it: Toynk

9. Harry Potter Toon Tumbler; $10

Glassware that's Harry Potter themed
Entertainment Earth

You can never have too many pint glasses—and this Father’s Day, dad can knock one back for the boy who lived. This piece of Potter glassware from PopFun has whimsy to spare. Now who’s up for some butterbeer?

Buy it: EntertainmentEarth

10. House Stark Men’s Wallet; $16

A Game of Thrones themed watch
Toynk

Winter’s no longer coming, but the Stark family's propensity for bold fashion choices can never die. Manufactured with both inside and outside pockets, this direwolf-inspired wallet is the perfect place to store your cards, cash, and ID.

Buy it: Toynk

11. Mr. Incredible “Incredible Dad” Mug, $15

An Incredibles themed mug
ShopDisney

Cue the brass music. Grabbing some coffee with a Pixar superhero sounds like an awesome—or dare we say, incredible?—way for your dad to start his day. Mom can join in the fun, too: Disney also sells a Mrs. Incredible version of the mug.

Buy it: ShopDisney

12. Star Wars phone cases from Otterbox; $46-$56

Star Wars phone cases from OtterBox.
Otterbox

If your dad’s looking for a phone case to show off his love of all things Star Wars, head to Otterbox. Whether he’s into the Dark Side with Darth Vader and Kylo Ren, the droids, Chewbacca, or Boba Fett, you’ll be able to find a phone case to fit his preference. The designs are available for both Samsung and Apple products, and you can check them all out here.

Buy it: Otterbox

13. 3D Puzzles; $50

3D Harry Potter puzzle from Amazon.
Wrebbit 3D

Help dad recreate some of his favorite fictional locations with these 3D puzzles from Wrebbit 3D. The real standouts are the 850-piece model of Hogwarts's Great Hall and the 910-piece version of Winterfell from Game of Thrones. If dad's tastes are more in line with public broadcasting, you could also pick him up an 890-piece Downton Abbey puzzle to bring a little upper-crust elegance to the homestead.

Buy it: Hogwarts (Amazon), Winterfell (Amazon), Downton Abbey (Amazon)

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

10 Great Father’s Day Gifts to Celebrate Every Kind of Dad

Amazon
Amazon

The very first Father’s Day was celebrated in Washington State on June 19, 1910, and from there, the holiday slowly spread across the country as a regional event. While presidents recognized it on and off, there was never an official, permanent proclamation about the holiday's future until 1972, when President Richard Nixon declared that the federal government would recognize Father's Day on the third Sunday in June from there on out (though it's still not technically a federal holiday.) Initially established as a response to Mother’s Day, and skirting a movement that sought to combine both holidays into a single “Parents’ Day,” Father’s Day has become a day to be celebrated all on its own.

Fathers, grandfathers, and uncles all deserve to be honored on this special day, and that’s why we’ve put together a list of thoughtful gifts to help you say “thank you” to every dad in your life. Whether he’s a grill master, a tech wizard, or a lover of the great outdoors, your dad will love any one of these gifts.

1. Beard Care Kit; $27

A beard kit
FULLLIGHT TECH/Amazon

This beard care kit will keep your dad looking—and feeling—fresh all year long. This set features beard shampoo for cleansing and conditioning, balm for moisturizing and styling, and oil for softening and nourishing. The kit also comes with a comb, brush, scissors, and an eBook on beard care so he can style and maintain his signature look to his heart’s content.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Cuisinart Deluxe Grill Set; $44

Cuisinart grill set on sale at Amazon.
Cuisinart/Amazon

Let dad embrace his inner barbecue master with this 14-piece grill set from Cuisinart. Including a chef's spatula, grill tongs, basting brush, and more, he’ll never have to stress about flipping a burger or cooking the perfect steak ever again. And since the spatula touts a built-in bottle opener, he can enjoy a much-deserved cold one while he gets dinner ready. All the tools fit neatly inside a sturdy carrying case, allowing your dad to bring his tools on the go and be heralded as the king of outdoor cooking wherever he travels.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Wireless Charging Station; $28

A wireless charging station
Seneo/Amazon

Tech dads will rejoice with this wireless charging station designed to charge iPhones, Apple Watches, and Airpods all at the same time. The dock can get all three devices to 100 percent in only three hours, and the phone stand and Apple Watch/Airpods dock can be connected or kept separate for a more streamlined look. The dock can even charge through most cases.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Garmin Running Watch; $230

A running watch from Garmin
Garmin/Amazon

This unique running watch from Garmin will help your dad stay fit, track his miles, and train for that 5K he’s always dreamed of. The watch uses a wrist-based heart monitor to track not just miles, but also stride length, ground contact, balance, and more. And with the built-in, contactless payment chip, your dad can buy a water bottle or protein shake on the road and leave credit cards at home. He can even sync the watch with his phone to receive and respond to text messages, emails, and social media updates while he’s (literally) on the run.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Growlerwerks Growler Keg; $99

A growler keg that's available on Amazon.
GrowlerWerks/Amazon

If you've got a craft beer lover in the family, look no further than this portable growler keg. This growler can store 64 ounces of beer (or kombucha, hard cider, and soda), and all it needs to keep the suds from going flat is a CO2 charger (sold separately). Your dad simply has to fill the growler at his favorite local brewery; select high or low carbonation, depending on what he's drinking; and pull the tap to pour the perfect pint. The keg will keep beverages cold for seven to nine hours, so whether he's going for a hike or a long day at the golf course, he’ll be able to serve up brewery-fresh beverages all day long.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Constitution Tie; $30

Constitution tie on Amazon.
Museum Artifacts/Amazon

History buffs will love this stylish tie inspired by one of the United States’s most important documents: the Constitution. Featuring a screen print of the nation’s founding document with “We the People” featured front and center, this tie will help your dad start up conversations about his favorite Founding Father at social gatherings, rather than going through his well-worn joke book yet again. Each tie is printed on imported silk and hand-finished to give him that personalized touch that he deserves.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Outdoor Tumbler; $30

An OtterBox outdoor mug
Otterbox

For dads who love nothing more than a morning walk—whether that’s around the block or on a hike at the state park—this outdoor tumbler will help him stay hydrated and feeling good until he’s back home. Made with an internal copper lining to keep hot and cold beverages at a consistent temperature, this to-go drinkware will quickly become one of his favorite accessories. It fits most cup holders, so it can travel easily from his favorite lawn chair to the car and back again.

Buy it: Otterbox

8. National Geographic Parks Guide; $19

A guide to the National Parks by National Geographic
National Geographic/Amazon

Fathers with a sense of adventure will be ready for a road trip by the time they’re through with this travel guide from National Geographic. Containing “5000 ideas for the ultimate vacation,” this book includes a comprehensive overview of both the United States and Canada’s best national parks. Including travel tips, planning advice, maps, activity options, and fun facts about wildlife, this book will help your dad embark upon the journey of a lifetime (or simply envision one from the comfort of his back porch).

Buy it: Amazon

9. RCA Wireless Noise-Canceling Headphones; $44

A set of headphones from RCA
RCA/Amazon

Capable of 30 hours of Bluetooth playtime in a single charge, these wireless RCA headphones will let your dad listen to his favorite podcasts, oldies bands, and TV shows all while staying hands-free. With the ability to easily turn the noise-canceling mode on and off, adjust the volume, skip tracks, and answer calls directly from the right ear cup, these headphones make for a great (and easy) listening experience. And at only $44, they’re a fraction of what other wireless headphones cost—but he doesn’t have to know that.

Buy it: Amazon

10. New Balance Trail Running Shoes; Price Varies

A set of sneakers from New Balance
New Balance/Amazon

New Balance sneakers are a signature look for many dads—and for good reason! This 481V3 Trail Running Shoe is designed for both smooth tracks and rough trails, making it a great choice for gym rats and cross-country runners alike. Made from 100-percent leather and textile with cushioned rubber soles, it’s built to pad your dad’s heels while also offering the stability he needs to do the things he does best. With five different colors to choose from, he'll be able to show off his acute fashion sense for many Father’s Days to come.

Buy it: Amazon

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.