21 Things You Might Not Have Realised About Flight Of The Navigator
“See you later, navigator!”
Making alien abduction seem like something we should all pursue, Flight of the Navigator tells the story of a 12-year-old boy called David Freeman, who upon waking after being knocked unconscious, finds that eight years have passed in an instant. A movie that we try to watch at least once every couple of years, Flight of the Navigator is a true family classic, so we thought it was high time we paid tribute to it with the following fascinating facts.
21. It did NOT start life as a Disney movie
Despite being released by Disney, Flight of the Navigator actually began life as an independent movie made by a Norwegian company called Viking Film.
Unfortunately, Viking Film had to declare bankruptcy right in the middle of the shoot, and Disney eventually distributed the movie in the US.
Disney were approached by Viking Film when they realised that the project would just be left abandoned otherwise, but Disney weren’t actually crazy about it at first.
They’d just released Return To Oz, which was another live-action fantasy filming, and the lukewarm reception made them hesitant to do anything similar for a while.
With that said, they agreed to team up with a distribution company to promote the film worldwide, while they focussed on the US distribution.
20. It has a number of connections to Grease
Flight of the Navigator has a number of connections to the classic 1978 musical Grease, chief among them being the fact that both movies are directed by Randal Kleiser.
Navigator might seem like an odd directing choice for someone with classic musical credits, but in this case it’s actually Grease that’s the outlier.
That’s because Kleiser’s other credits include Honey, I Blew Up The Kids and White Fang, two films way more similar to Flight Of The Navigator than Grease.
He also directed the Honey I Shrunk The Audience attraction in Disneyland, which explains why Disney were eventually happy to take on the project.
As for other Grease references, the movie is set in the year that Grease was made, and there’s a scene in the movie where You’re The One That I Want is playing on the radio.
19. It was the movie debut of Sarah Jessica Parker
Can you name the future Hollywood star (and Desperate Housewife), for whom Flight of the Navigator was a movie debut?
It is of course Sarah Jessica Parker, who played Carolyn McAdams, a NASA intern who befriends David.
Before the movie, SJP was most well-known for her work on Square Pegs and 3-2-1 Contact, two shows on which she had a season arc.
On Square Pegs, she played Patty Greene, while on 3-2-1 contact she appeared on three separate episodes of 3-2-1 Contact, talking about animal and plant adaptations as well as how temperatures affect humans.
Nevertheless, after appearing in Flight Of The Navigator, she soon got another film credit in the Steve Martin movie L.A Story, another comedy fantasy though with a wildly different tone.
18. Joey Cramer’s Norwegian stunt double didn’t understand a word of English
Flight of the Navigator’s director Randal Kleiser revealed that they used a Norwegian stunt double when filming Joey Cramer’s David steering the spaceship.
Unfortunately, the young lad didn’t understand a word of English!
Kleiser has said that “if I said for him to move left, they translated from English to Norwegian, but by the time the boy would move left, he should have been going right.”
That meant that capturing the scenes literally took all day, and was pretty frustrating to shoot.
As for why they even had a Norweigen stunt double, roughly one-third of the movie was filmed in Norway, rather than California or Florida.
17. The special effects used were cutting-edge at the time
The special effects used in the movie certainly don’t look amazing by today’s standards, but back in 1986 they were state of the art.
Randal Kleiser himself has been quoted as saying that “the effects in Flight of the Navigator were cutting-edge for the time.”
As for specifics, it was the first use of image-based lighting and an early use of morphing in a motion picture.
This was done in a super complicated way, by digitizing moving video images from videotape that had been transferred from the background film plates, then rendering the spaceship in using a literal supercomputer.
The computer would crash unpredictably five or six times a day, which added another level of chaos to the production.
16. The soundtrack was created using one of the world’s first digital synthesisers
Flight of the Navigator’s soundtrack was composed by Alan Silvestri, and differs from his other movie scores by being completely electronically generated.
Silvestri used the Synclavier, which was one of the world’s very first digital synthesisers.
Silvestri usually scores movies with a full orchestra, and is inspired predominantly by classic sounds within classic movie.
By contrast, the score for Flight Of The Navigator is actually inspired by electronic dance music, as well as the rise of New Wave.
New Wave was a cutting edge genre at the time, which made the film sound super advanced when it was released, but now makes it feel super dated.
15. The spaceship can still be seen at Disney World
If you’ve ever taken a trip to Disney World in Florida, then you may have spotted Flight of the Navigator’s spaceship on your travels.
Because, one of the spaceship hulls used during the filming process is now part of a drinks station at Tomorrowland, which is located in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.
As for the rest of the ship, it used to be a part of the “Boneyard” in Disney World Florida, which is a long stretch of land filled with prop vehicles from the movies.
The Boneyard was a part of the Backlot tour – a backstage driving tour that allowed fans to see many unique props up close and personal.
As for where the rest of the ship is now, chances are it’s in the Disney archive, a huge underground facility filled with old Disney props and costumes.
14. The film contains a number of hilarious visible mistakes
Flight of the Navigator contains a number of mistakes that made it into the finished movie, probably due to the constantly changing shooting locations and chaotic production.
One of the major issues is that a forklift truck supporting the spaceship is clearly visible as it leaves the hanger.
There is also a scene showing David eating a chocolate bar, where a bite in the snack is visible in one shot.
The bite disappears in the next shot, and then the next thing you know it’s visible again – a major continuity error.
That’s not to mention the numerous instances of wobbly or goofy CGI, which is to be expected in a movie so early on in the history of digital effects.
13. It has become something of a cult classic
Despite receiving mixed reviews on its release in 1986, Flight of the Navigator has become something of a cult classic over the years.
Like Labyrinth and The NeverEnding Story, the movie went from not huge viewing figures to being appreciated much later on in life.
The website Rotten Tomatoes gives it an 83% rating based on 29 reviews, which is a significantly more positive aggregate score than it had at the time.
The consensus now reads that ‘bolstered by impressive special effects and a charming performance from its young star, Flight of the Navigator holds up as a solidly entertaining bit of family-friendly sci-fi.’
There are even still screenings going on in select cinemas at select times, proving that the movie has become a classic.
12. A reboot is currently in pre-production
As far back as 2009, it was reported that Disney were looking to reboot the movie, but things went fairly silent for nearly a decade.
But in September 2017, movie studio Lionsgate and The Jim Henson Company announced that a reboot of Flight of the Navigator was definitely in the works.
When it comes to reboots of this nature, it’s best not to get your hopes up until late in the shooting stage, or at the very least at the end of pre-production.
Still, the highly vocal fanbase demanding the reboot should keep the studios engaged in making sure they can deliver it.
As for a timeline though, there’s no telling how long it could actually take for the movie to come out – so keep your eyes peeled!
11. It has a surprise nostalgic cameo
Flight Of The Navigator is a majorly 80s movie, and it’s hard to imagine anything else with quite so much 80s flair.
With that said, one undeniable hallmark of the eighties was Paul Reubens – aka Pee-Wee Herman.
Reubens actually appears in Flight Of The Navigator – as he voices the spaceship’s computer Max.
However, you will not find his name in the credits, as he opted to use the name Paul Mall on all the promotional materials.
This choice to essentially remain anonymous seemed weird to a lot of people, but the director explained that he wanted it to be a surprise for any eagle-eared fans.
10. It was shot in Norway for no reason
We’ve already talked about how muddled the production of Flight Of The Navigator was, but it’s worth mentioning just how much it affected shooting.
For example, most of the movie was filmed in Florida where the film was actually set, with scenes also being filmed in California due to weather.
However, all the interior shots were actually filmed in Oslo, Norway, despite them filming essentially in a giant empty warehouse.
This meant they could have stayed in the US, but opted for Norway as the production company allegedly had funds that could only be used in the country.
It later came out that the funds never came through, meaning that moving the cast and crew from Florida to Oslo was completely pointless.
9. The director went on to make the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids sequel
Flight Of The Navigator might have been Randal Kleiser’s first foray into whimsical Disney fantasy, but it certainly wasn’t his last.
Before the project, he’d actually leaned more into serious productions, such as the infamous TV movie The Boy In The Plastic Bubble.
After Flight Of The Navigator, Kleiser was given the reigns of Honey, I Blew Up The Kid, the sequel to the family classic Honey I Shrunk The Kids.
The film soon became a cult classic in its own right, and as a result Kleiser was brought on to the team working on the Disney World attraction based on the franchise.
He was never officially credited, but he did direct the short film that people see while headed into the “Honey, I Blew Up The Audience” attraction.
8. David actor Joey Cramer has since done jail time for bank robbery
Canadian former child actor Joey Cramer was only 13 years old when he played David in Flight of the Navigator.
Unfortunately, as with a lot of child stars, Cramer’s story did not turn out the happiest one.
Cramer walked away from acting in the 1990s, and by the 2000s his name was making headlines following run-ins with the law.
The actor was arrested on multiple occasions for offences relating to drugs, firearms and forgery.
This reached a head in 2016, when Cramer was jailed for two years for bank robbery.
7. Sarah Jessica Parker doesn’t remember the movie at all
Sarah Jessica Parker might owe her entire film career to appearing in Flight Of The Navigator, but she wasn’t actually a fan of the movie at all.
In fact, she can’t remember the character she played or even the plot of the film, since to her it was nothing more than a paycheck to her.
In fact, when asked in an interview what drew her to the film, she famously replied:
“What drew me to ‘Flight of the’… Are you seriously asking me what drew me to Flight Of The Navigator? It was a part. Like, literally, I just got a part. I went and did it. That’s what I did for most of my career. Nothing drew me to it. I can’t-it was a job. That’s exactly a paycheck. That’s exactly what drew me to it.”
“I can’t even tell you what it was about or who I played. You know, all you want is a job. You’re auditioning, you want to have as much experience as possible. You know, it was great.”
6. There are some cool musical Easter Eggs
Flight Of The Navigator was shot in the eighties, and so that eighties flair is everywhere.
You can see it in the costumes and even the production design, but it’s most obviously there in the score and music.
We’ve already talked about the groundbreaking digital score, but there’s also a nod to a famous eighties band in the movie: The Cure.
Essentially, when MAX and David stop behind the car to ask for directions, the song heard in the car is a fragment of Trapped In My Mind – a fictional song made specifically for the movie.
The track is an obvious parody of The Cure’s A Man Inside My Mouth, which was seen as a trendy and underground track at the time.
5. NASA’s villainy is foreshadowed in the movie
One big twist in the movie is that NASA are actually not the heroes you might expect.
Instead, despite trying to befriend and appear kind of David, it’s obvious from the get-go that they are attempting to manipulate him.
Though they try to hide their actual intentions, you can actually see how malicious they are by the choice of gifts they give David.
Though they give him a bunch of new toys and action figures, the specific characters they reference are actually villains, such as ‘Cobra Water Moccasin’ from the G.I. Joe toyline and the Transformers Insecticon ‘Shrapnel’.
Maybe this was supposed to be a subtle nod to the audience that NASA weren’t what they seemed.
4. The movie is obsessed with geeks
One weird running joke in Flight Of The Navigator is that the movie seems to have an infatuation with the word geek, which might just be a by-product of it being made in the eighties.
Either way, it starts when David and MAX stop behind the teenagers in the car, and MAX asks if those were geeks.
Geek is also what Pee-Wee Herman was constantly called by those who weren’t fans of the show, and even lovingly by some people who were.
This makes MAX’s question pretty ironic, given who voiced him.
The movie also references Starsky and Hutch, a famous eighties movie that was also referred to as a “geek show”.
3. It had some weird box office competition
We’ve already talked about how Flight Of The Navigator didn’t make as much money as expected, because it actually opened third at the box office on its opening weekend.
That’s fairly normal for kids’ fantasy movies that aren’t huge blockbusters, but it makes less sense when you realise what it was up against.
First off, Flight opened behind the truly bizarre Howard The Duck, a pretty raunchy dark comedy based on an obscure Marvel comics character.
It also opened behind the third Friday the 13th movie, which was one of the more lower-rated installments in the franchise.
What makes this even worse is that neither of the competing movies were in their first weekend of releases.
2. Paul Reubens had another obscure Disney cameo
Paul Reuben’s decision to voice the lovable robot MAX in Flight Of The Navigator was his first brush working with the Disney company.
However, it was such a success that it became obvious it wouldn’t be his last.
He was soon brought on to do more voiceover work in the parks, specifically voicing another robot.
This robot was called Rex, and was part of an early version of the Star Wars simulator Star Tours.
The robot even went on to be a cult favourite of theme park enthusiasts.
1. It’s only the second ever Disney movie to include profanity
Thanks to the shopping around of the movie, and its muddled production history, there are some quirks that make Flight of the Navigator an unusual Disney movie.
It’s distribution was handled by different companies, as were its digital effects, and those aren’t the only differences.
The most important difference is that the movie technically features one curse word.
We won’t write it here, but suffice to say it’s much more blatant than the “gods” and “damns” usually allowed.
The movie is only the second one in Disney’s history to permit that kind of cursing, and the first is an equally unique film.
The only other time there was cursing to that degree at the time was in Pop-Eye, the comic adaptation starring Robin Williams.