In 1988, Tim Burton introduced us to a foul-mouthed freelance “bio-exorcist” ghost, simply named Beetlejuice (or, to those sticklers out there, Betelgeuse). Like most entities of his ilk, chanting his name three times would give him power, allowing him to interact with the real world and perform hauntings and create monsters. Michael Keaton took on the guise of the demonic anti-hero with a penchant for perversion and trickery and director Tim Burton created a bonafide horror icon for the 90s. In 1989, the love for Beetlejuice had hit its high and Burton cemented himself as a master of Goth tales with Batman and Edward Scissorhands soon after.
Since the 80s and 90s were a period of children’s television where literally any movie could become an animated series, regardless of how adult its source material was (see: Rambo), Beetlejuice followed suit and was soon transformed into its own Saturday morning cartoon. Oddly enough, it worked. Surely, our demonic trickster was watered down and given a PG treatment, but the 1989 animated adventures of Beetlejuice carried over much of Burton’s whimsy, gothic horror, dark comedy, and utterly fantastic gallery of monsters and demons. It more than compensated for taking the murderous, evil, antagonist who delighted in humping on Gina Davis, and transformed him into a more lovable lug with a heart somewhere beneath his rotten exterior, who often meant well.
Come to think of it, the animated Beetlejuice was more of a horror version of Bobcat Goldthwait circa 1985 and even though Lydia Deetz was Beetlejuice’s nemesis in the movie, she’s now his sidekick. The pair travel through his dimension, experiencing all sorts of misadventures, all the while enduring Lydia’s yuppy parents, whom we last saw in the movie played by Catherine O’Hara and Jeffrey Jones. Alec Baldwin and Gina Davis’ characters are not mentioned, but that’s likely because by the end of the movie they’ve moved on to the afterlife. With pretty surreal animation mimicking the art style of Burton, much of the show involved Lydia and the ghost either being trapped in some tough situation in the nether realms, or in Lydia’s every day life.
In the series she attends an all-girl’s school, is rivals with a popular girl in her school, and is subjected to her woefully oblivious parents. The voice acting was top notch, with Stephen Ouimette replacing Keaton as the demonic anti-hero, while Alyson Court did a bang up job of mimicking Winona Ryder’s monotone Goth heroine. There were appearances from the dreaded sand worms that torment the demonic individual constantly. The series also introduced a wide array of horror based characters, including Ginger, a tap dancing spider; Poopsie, Beetlejuice’s demented pet dog; and alternate personalities to the character including Snugglejuice, Posijuice, and Negajuice. Much the series was random and relied on a lot of horror based elements and oddities to really sell the surreal humor and interplay between Lydia and Beetlejuice, all the while painting Lydia’s own world as her own personal hell.
Beetlejuice aired on ABC from 1989 to 1991, and then was carried over to FOX Kids from 1991 to 1992. It then flourished in syndication for a few years, as well as earning a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program. The series also helped spawn a ton of merchandise that tied in with the original film, including trading cards, stickers, puzzles, coloring books, lunchboxes, party favors, and a PC Game. After the series came to an end, Warner released a portion of the first season on six home videos in 1993. Various episodes were also featured as extras on the 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition DVD of Beetlejuice in 2008. In 2012, Shout! Factory granted the series a deluxe release, with individual seasons, and a complete series set on DVD.
Despite straying from the original movie considerably, the series was a pretty good success, and it’s fairly loved by eighties and nineties kids that appreciate it as its own entity. It’s aged surprisingly well and really stuck to Burton’s dark humor without completely watering the franchise down for its child audience. If you’re a Burton fan, it’s well worth experimenting with.