Though I know I should be wary, Still I venture someplace scary. Ghostly haunting I turn loose: Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, BEETLEJUICE!
— Lydia Deetz
Meet Lydia Deetz, a Perky Goth girl attending a private school in a sleepy little Connecticut town while trying to deal with her well-meaning but eccentric parents. One day she comes across Beetlejuice, the manic self-described "Ghost With the Most", who befriends her and whisks her off from her ordinary life into frequent adventures in the Cloudcuckooland world of the Neitherworld. Hilarity Ensues on a regular basis.Based on the hit movie of the same name, the animated series was produced by Nelvana and aired for several years on ABC and Fox Kids. Its original run lasted from September 1989 to May 1992, with a total of 94 episodes - which in Recycled: The Series terms is equivalent to about 10 years. It bore only a passing resemblance to the movie: Barbara and Adam Maitland, the straight-laced protagonists of the movie, and Juno the Caseworker were eliminated entirely, and the titular character's name was spelt "Beetlejuice" rather than "Betelgeuse".Other differences were that rather than the bureaucratic nightmare that was the Afterlife from the movies, Beetlejuice lived (sort of) in the Neitherworld, which was inhabited mostly by outrageous monsters. Beetlejuice's antics became more prank-based, although he did still attempt to con people out of their money on a regular basis. He remained largely a Jerkass, though now a family-friendly, moderately well-meaning Jerk with a Heart of Gold. The Dirty Old Man aspect of Beetlejuice's personality was cut almost completely to avoid the Unfortunate Implications that would otherwise arise from him now being the best friend of a 12-14 year old girl, and most of their adventures took place in Beetlejuice's ghostly home dimension - the Neitherworld.Since it was a children's show, despite many characters being technically dead, very rarely was the concept of actual mortality brought up.However, the show maintained a lot of the same manic energy and clever visuals as the movie. Many jokes from the movie were recycled throughout the series. Also, Tim Burton remained involved as a producer, and Danny Elfman did the theme music. Therefore, it's generally considered one of the better film-to-TV translations - admittedly this isn't hard, but it is rare.The entire series—ABC and Fox episodes—was released on DVD in a 12-disc set on May 28, 2013.
Achilles' Heel: Beetlejuice's powers won't work unless his body is whole. If he's missing his head or his feet (to name but two examples), he's all but helpless. His shapeshifting isn't entirely voluntary either. Cleanliness is also like Kryptonite to him.
Adaptational Heroism: Well, heroism is probably taking it a bit far but Beetlejuice is not the antagonist he was in the film.
All Just a Dream: Subverted in one episode with a The Wizard of Oz parody. After apparently clicking her heels (repeating "Ripple dissolve to scene 326" instead of "There's no place like home") and returning home, Lydia wakes up and realizes what a sappy dream she had. Beetlejuice then appears to tease her about it. The subversion comes when Lydia asks how Beetlejuice could know what she dreamed about, and why everything was still in black and white. It then turns out that Beetlejuice was the one who was dreaming. He's mortified to have dreamt about a lot of the "cute" stuff that occurred in the Neitherworld's version of Oz.
Alternative Character Interpretation: invoked Beetlejuice is still a ghostly con artist, but he's no longer a lech. Lydia still likes gothic, freaky things, but she's no longer suicidal, and she actually likes BJ - she didn't like him much at all in the movie. Delia is still an oblivious flake, but instead of being a social-climbing urban yuppie on the cutting edge of fashion, she's a blissful, preppy, suburban homemaker who now seems to be Lydia's biological parent. Oddly enough, the only character that was in the movie that didn't change much was Lydia's father.
Only because there was nothing to change in him to begin with.
Animated Actor: We discover in one episode that the cartoon is actually a (reality??) show on the Neitherworld Network, where Mr. Monitor works. After Mr. Monitor cancels BJ's show, BJ goes to work in the mailroom. He quickly takes the opportunity to steal some show ideas from a colleague and is rapidly promoted to Mr. Monitor's supervisor. He eventually gets demoted after running out of ideas, and ultimately gets his old "show" back.
Subsequent episodes sometimes came back to this idea and featured BJ hosting shows on the Neitherworld Network like MonsterPiece Theatre.
Anti-Hero: Beetlejuice is a type IV/V - while the series mellows him out from the villain of the movies, he's still the most disliked person in the Neitherworld. Not only is he a constant prankster, but he's also lazy, selfish, greedy and arrogant. It's easy to believe that he would be much, much worse if it weren't for the fact that he idolises Lydia and would do absolutely anything to help her or make her happy.
Author Appeal: Tim Burton's love of spirals and stripes has been noted in his entry on this trope's main page, and he indulges it here. While Beetlejuice wore a variety of outfits in the film, in the cartoon he almost exclusively wears his black-and-white pinstripe suit and purple shirt, and almost all of his transformations involve stripes in one form or another. The sandworms are also colored with purple and blue stripes.
Berserk Button: When anybody threatens Lydia, or threatens to get between Beetlejuice and Lydia, he always gets mad.
Big Damn Heroes: Beetlejuice pulls this off every now and again when Lydia is in real danger.
Convicted by Public Opinion: Subverted when Beetlejuice is framed for some sort of crime and everyone automatically assumes he's guilty. The subversion comes when you remember that Beetlejuice has already pulled so many pranks that it's a lot easier to understand just why the rest of the Neitherworld immediately blames him whenever something goes wrong.
Crossdresser: Beetlejuice, who often disguises himself as "Betty Juice" to pass off as one of Lydia's girlfriends.
Do It Yourself Plumbing Project: Charles insists on trying-and failing-to fix a leaky faucet in one episode. To earn money to buy one of Lydia's photos, Beetlejuice disguises himself as a repairman named Mr. Beetleman, and offers to fix it himself. Of course, he's even worse at it than Charles.
Even Evil Has Standards: Beetlejuice loves playing pranks on Lydia's parents, but he'll only go so far. Boris Todeath didn't have that problem, and Beetlejuice ended up actually protecting Lydia's father when one of Boris's pranks threatened to make him a ghost.
Hero with an F in Good: Beetlejuice often fails in his attempts to be nice to others. When suggested to make his neighbors feel "wanted," he does this by putting up Wanted Posters of Ginger all over town, getting her arrested.
Hidden Heart of Gold: Beetlejuice has one of these, although the absolute last thing he wants is for anyone but Lydia to find out about it.
Hostage for MacGuffin: Lydia was once held as "collateral" to make Beetlejuice pay his credit card bills.
Hypocritical Humor: In the episode "Two Heads are Better than None", Beetlejuice claims that he never wears "stupid cowboy hats", when he actually did wear a cowboy hat in previous episodes and in the movie.
Inconvenient Summons: Beetlejuice is a rock-star so famous that fans can't stop chanting his name... which proves problematic when Lydia is in a bind.
In the Name of the Moon: Lydia has a magical incantation she recites to summon Beetlejuice and change her own clothing. Usually, however, she skips the long version and just says his name three times. She uses the full incantation multiple times throughout the series:
Lydia: Though I know I should be wary
Still I venture someplace scary
Ghostly haunting I turn loose
Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice!
Presumably, this full incantation is unnecessary, and just serves to remind us that Lydia has a flair for the dramatic.
Insult Backfire: Whenever Beetlejuice is called ugly or smelly, he is flattered.
Involuntary Shapeshifting: Beetlejuice, based on wordplay in his dialogue. It has been the cause of many a troublesome escapade and is his greatest weakness.
It's a Wonderful Plot: A rare example of being both subverted and played straight when it seems like everyone in the Neitherworld is better off without Beetlejuice, but it turns out that Lydia is miserable in the real world. BJ immediately thinks that he can just become part of her life and make her happy again, but is informed by his guide that he's allowed no contact with her. Cue the demand to have everything put back the way it was.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Beetlejuice is this trope. Aside from his affection for Lydia, he also seems to have a soft spot for Lydia's parents, and also likes Jacques, which mortifies Beetlejuice when Jacques finds out.
Kick the Bitch: Claire Brewster is Beetlejuice's most common target, but she usually has it coming.
Let's Get Dangerous: Most of the time, Beetlejuice is a lazy, pranking con-man. But if Lydia is ever in any real danger, or if someone like Claire Brewster has insulted her, BJ will show just how he got the title of Ghost With The Most.
Light Is Not Good/Sugar Bowl: The Neitherworld's prison system consists of a Candyland-like environment run by an Expy of Little Bo Peep, where malcontents are "rehabiliated" into cute, sweet and playful creatures. Beetlejuice is absolutely terrified of the place.
Beetlejuice singing Harry Belafonte's "Banana Boat Song" in the debut.
Lydia also sings that song in the debut episode as well.
She also rode her bike past the bridge where the Maitlands crashed.
In one episode, Beetlejuice hocks into his jacket.
In another episode, Beetlejuice screams "Come on, say it!" when Claire says his name three times.
In "Not So Peaceful Pines," Beetlejuice introduces himself as a "bio-exorcist" - his job from the movie.
Beetlejuice's fear of sandworms comes from the movie, where one eats him.
After Lydia sends Beetlejuice away to keep him from trouble, he screams at Claire to "SAY IT!!" (saying his name 3 times).
Several episodes feature cameo appearances by ghosts that attended the waiting room of the dead, such as the diver that was eaten by a fish and the fashion model who was cut in half.
In the episode "Running Scared", Beetlejuice shuts up Claire Brewster by making a metal plate appear over her mouth, which he did in the movie to keep Barbara Maitland from saying his name after she unzipped her lips.
Beetlejuice: (as "Super Beetleman") As Jack Kirby as my witness, I'll never go arch-villainless again!
Nephewism: Beetlejuice sometimes disguises himself as Lydia's nonexistent cousin B.J. in order to tag along on Deetz family outings. Her parents, though mildly confused, never seem to outright object or question this. Charles and Delia apparently each consider "Cousin B.J." to be the other's nephew.
New Powers as the Plot Demands: Aside from shapeshifting according to what he says and flying, Beetlejuice sometimes displays other bizarre powers, such as controlling inanimate objects, using his shapeshifting power on other ghosts, and making Claire grow a thick black moustache, among other things.
Nightmare Fetishist: Lydia. She's an ordinary human with a taste for the macabre, likes bugs and spiders, takes frequent trips to the Neitherworld, and is best friends with a proudly disgusting ghost.
The Not So Harmless Punishment: In one episode, Beej and Lydia (and others) are playing baseball in the Neitherworld. At some point it is announced that the game has changed to "Sudden Death", meaning that the losers will have to stand in the "Losers' Circle", an area enclosed by a rope. Beej is unimpressed (as he's been dorking around the entire game anyway) until the "circle" opens up into a fang-lined maw that belches a fireball into his face.
Overly-Long Gag: All throughout the episode "Beauty and the Beetle": "Grim-diana BOOOOOOOOONNNNEESSSSS! *Cue the giant boulder* This happens a grand total of six times over the course of one episode. Beetlejuice lampshades it, too, the last time it happens:
Beetlejuice: Talk about a running gag.
Papa Wolf: Picking on Lydia is a bad idea. A very bad idea. And when she's in real danger, Beetlejuice will do whatever it takes to rescue her.
Shout-Out: While training for a fitness contest, Jacques - who is himself a shout out to Jack LaLanne - copies a scene out of the Rocky franchise. This is just the tip of the iceberg, mind you.
One of Beetlejuice's other neighbors is a tap-dancing spider named Ginger.
Shrunken Head: There's a character who appears to be based on the hunter at the end of the movie, in that he has a tiny head and his lips seem to be sewn together.
The Slacker: Beetlejuice dreads the idea of having to get a job, preferring to play pranks on people and con them out of their money. It's subverted in one episode when he gets a job as a scarecrow on a beetle farm and proves to be very good at it. In part, it was because he wanted to eat the beetles himself, but also because he had a lot of fun using his powers to screw around with the birds who were trying to eat the beetles first.
Small Name, Big Ego: Claire is convinced that she is God's gift to Peaceful Pines. She's also oblivious to the fact that just about everyone hates her guts.
One episode has Beetlejuice accidentally cloning himself. The two Beetlejuices start competing for Lydia's attention, which ends up making her miserable. When they realize this, the two Beetlejuices merge back into one.
Another episode has Beetlejuice splitting into his good and evil sides. When the evil side threatens to destroy Peaceful Pines, Lydia and the ghostly psychiatrist Dr. Zigmund Void have to merge them back together again.
Yet another had Beetlejuice's skeleton escape from his flesh out of protest. His bones preferred a classy lifestyle, rather than seeing things through "gross-colored glasses".
Stalker Shrine: A humorously innocent variation on the trope. Beetlejuice's adoration of Lydia extends so far that he's built her a shrine... in his head.
Will Power: He thinks about you all the time! See? *pointing* His shrine to Lydia!
Sugar Bowl: Neither-neither Land, the only place the ghouls truly dread.
Take That: "Uncle B.J.'s Roadhouse", a parody of Pee Wee's Playhouse. See also Goody Two Shoes, who represents the Neitherworld Bureau of Sweetness and Prissiness, or BS&P for short.
Three Shorts: Some episodes were made up of two eleven-minute shorts, while others were full-length twenty-two minute stories. The episode with Uncle B.J.'s Roadhouse was the first and only episode to screen three shorts. The other shorts that episode contained were Scarecrow and The Son Dad Never Had.
Wild Card: Beetlejuice is one - even when he makes a promise to Lydia, he inevitably crosses his fingers, and usually breaks it. He's extremely unreliable as a good guy and it's only because of Lydia that he does anything vaguely heroic at all - and even then it's usually to set right what he made wrong.