Mel Brooks’ iconic sci-fi spoof movie Spaceballs was released on June 24, 1987. That’s today, 29 years ago. When it was released, the movie boookened the back part of Brook’s directing career beginning nearly 20 years before with The Producers in 1967. Brooks is responsible for some of the most iconic comedy movies of all time – Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and History of the World Pt. 1. What’s not often thought about is that Brooks was light on directing comedy in the 80s. After a (ahem) blazing 70s, he started the decade off strong with History in 1981 but other than a 1983 TV special, Brooks wouldn’t direct another movie until Spaceballs in 1987. While the decade wasn’t nearly as prolific, it’s the decade that gave us Spacballs so it’s his best, no argument. Please don’t even try.
Now that we’ve determined that Spaceballs is one of Brooks’ finest films, let’s dive into some fun facts about the film to celebrate its anniversary.
Mel Brooks spoofed a lot of genre films
Mel Brooks decided to make the movie when he realized that he hadn’t yet made a spoof of space film. He already mocked Westerns (Blazing Saddles), Horror (Young Frankestein), and silent films (Silent Movie). With the explosion of Star Wars, it seemed the right time to take the jokes to space.
History of the World: Part II
Brooks foreshadowed the film at the end of his 1981 movie History of the World: Part I with the ending joke of the movie saying that sequel would be titled Jews in Space.
Welcome to Planet Moron!
It took Brooks six months to write the script for the movie, which he had originally planned to call Planet Moron. When he learned there was already a British science fiction spoof called, Morons From Outer Space he felt the need to change the name. He and his production team of Ronny Graham and Thomas Meehan decided to go through letters of the alphabet to find another word to add to “Space” for the title. As they were doing it, Brooks spilled a drink and shouted “Balls!” and Ronnie Graham shouted, “Spaceballs!” and they had the new final title of the movie. The name also allowed them to add the idea that the movie villains would wear ball shaped helmets.
Jovial Bob Stine
There was a novelization of the movie written by Mr. Goosebumps himself R.L. Stine. Stine, writing under the name Jovial Bob Stine added some facts to the story that weren’t in the movie. He revealed the names of the Dinks to be Rinky Dink, Blinky Dink, Stinky Dink, Pinky Dink, Finky Dink and Winky Dink. Stine also added an interaction between Barf and Yogurt at the desert temple. Barf asks Yogurt if he was the leader of the Red Eye Knights and the possessor of the force. Yogurt replies that it wasn’t him but Alec Guinness, otherwise known as Obi Wan Kenobi.
It was expensive
Spaceballs was the most expensive film Brooks would ever produce, costing $25 million. He came close with Dracula: Dead and Loving It in 1995 by spending $22 million. To put it into perspective, in 1967, Brooks’ first film The Producers cost less than $1 million.
The George Lucas/Star Wars Connection
Brooks went to George Lucas to get approval to make the film. Lucas, who was working on Howard The Duck at the time. Lucas liked the jokey nature of idea so much that he gave Brooks full permission to parody any and all things related to Star Wars. Lucas had one condition for their fair-use agreement, no merchandise of any kind could be made from the film. To this day none has. So the underlying joke of Yogurt’s merchandising empire exaggerates that sentiment in the film, it’s also the reason we never got Spaceballs: The Flamethrower.
Other Spaceballs merchandise shown in the movie include: bed sheets, lunch boxes, cornflakes, towels, Yogurt figure, toilet paper, shaving cream, place mats, and action figures. The lunch box and coloring book are simply The Transformers items with a Spaceballs logo stuck on them. The box for Spaceballs: The Breakfast Cereal says it contains “100% Sugar.”
Industrial Light and Magic
Brooks also helped ensure the cooperation from Lucasfilm by booking their services for about $5 million in post-production work. Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic constructed the puppet chest-burster in the film. Lucasfilm supplied the escape pod launch sequence clip as it was an unused clip from Star Wars. Another effects unit was used for the film as well. Apogee, Inc. was headed by John Dykstra and split from Industrial Light and Magic in 1978 when Lucasfilm moved to a different portion of the US. So, Spaceballs was the first time that the Star Wars special effects crews reunited to work on a movie project.