Paul Reubens starred as the over-the-top, precocious, annoying, inspirational, odd Pee-Wee Herman on his Saturday morning kid's show, Pee-Wee's Playhouse from 1986 to 1991. Pee-Wee's Playhouse wasn't our first glimpse of Paul Reubens or his madcap character. The year before the tv show's premiere, Tim Burton directed Pee-Wee's first foray onto the big screen with Pee-Wee's Big Adventure - the film that had everyone in the country saying things like, "I meant to do that."
Of course, those who were on the West Coast could have seen Pee-Wee's first incarnation when Reubens originally did the character as a one-man show before and after his HBO special featuring Pee-Wee.
As great as the one-man show and the film were, however, it is Pee-Wee's Playhouse that most children of the late eighties and their parents remember as being truly groundbreaking. The Hawaiian-esque intro that featured a claymation beaver chewing down the sign for the show, monkeys swinging through trees, rabbits bouncing around a field, a passing pterodactyl, and finally an aerial shot of the playhouse that any kid would have given his eye-teeth to actually have visited. Then the music switched... "Come on in, and pull yourself up a chair!" The theme was sung by Cyndi Lauper.
Over five seasons, Pee-Wee's Playhouse sported such famous guest stars as William Marshall (The King of Cartoons), Lynne Marie Stewart (Miss Yvonne), Laurence Fishburne (Cowboy Curtis), Phil Hartman (Captain Carl) and Jimmy Smits (Your Authorized Conky Repairman).
Paul Reuben recently spoke to Rolling Stone about a new Blu-Ray version of Pee-Wee's Playhouse and the likelihood of another Pee-Wee movie.
Reubens said that he oversaw just about every aspect of the ground-breaking show.
"I'd hired the design team and came up with conception of stuff overall. I mean, someone designed and built Chairy, obviously, but it was my idea. The team was basically Gary Panter and two associate production designers he brought in, and these guys were really, truly brilliant. We talked every day about where things would be laid out — where was the kitchen, where was the window, where did the genie live? Then they drew hundreds upon hundreds of sketches of what everything would like, and I'd basically weigh in. I don't think there's one aspect of what you see on the show where I didn't have the ability to say, 'I don't like the way this looks' or 'Let's redo that.'"
With regards to the new Pee-Wee's Playhouse Blu-Ray collection, Reubens said the restoration of the print was painstaking work.
"What a lot of people don't realize is, the show was shot on film. But it's never been seen on film — we'd shoot it and immediately transfer it to tape, then we'd edit it on tape and add the effects in on tape. The whole thing is then put on a 'broadcast tape,' for airing. You lose information and clarity the more you dupe, so in some cases, we're talking six generations of loss. We've cleaned all that up. I've spent over a year in a lab helping the folks putting this out with color corrections, helping them find the right source material for some of the effects — many of which they recreated from scratch for the Blu-Rays. The amount of work that went into this was huge."
As to why Pee-Wee's Playhouse was such a big hit, Reubens doesn't like to dissect his own work, but he does have a theory.
"It was a show that assumed its viewers were very young but very smart. It never seemed like a kid's show if you actually were a kid. Does that make sense? We weren't under the auspices of something like the Children's Television Workshop, where a certain part of the content has to be educational, I'm guessing. We tried to disguise anything that might seem overtly like a lesson or a lecture, but we still got some important points across. It's tough to make a kid's show; it's even tougher to make a kid's show that real kids like. And I take great pride in the fact that that's what we did."
As to a new Pee-Wee Herman movie? Paul Reubens dropped a bombshell on the interviewer when asked about it.
"There's going to be a big announcement any minute now... It's been months and months of being right on the verge of being announced… I thought something was going to go public yesterday, actually, and that you'd be the first person I'd be talking about this with. But I'm thinking there will be something made public very soon. It's going to get made shortly after the new year. I wish I could tell you about it right now, because…I mean, it's amazing. It's going to be amazing. It think it first got leaked four years ago or so that the movie was going to be made, and ever since then it's just been stalling and stalling. So I'm really ready for this to happen. But I'm not kidding: It's very imminent."The Blu-Ray edition of Pee-Wee's Playhouse is available now according to Blu-Ray.com, and the announcement of a new Pee-Wee movie is... well, imminent.
[images via video killed the movie stars, galleryhip, ign]