Western Animation: Beetlejuice

It's showtime!

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. With Beetlejuice as the main character, this ends up making the entire series something of a Villain Episode.

Since it was a children's show, despite many characters being technically dead, very rarely was the concept of actual mortality brought up. Beetlejuice's antics became more greed and prank-based, he remained 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, and most of their adventures took place in Beetlejuice's ghostly home dimension - the Neitherworld. Rather than the bureaucratic nightmare that was the Afterlife from the movies, Neitherworld was inhabited mostly by outrageous monsters with ironic quirks, including a skeleton who wants to be a bodybuilder.

Despite all the changes, 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. Tim Burton was 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.

The Animated Adaptation TV series provides examples of:

  • Absentee Actor: Lydia doesn't appear in the episode where Beetlejuice's feet ran away (except when he briefly morphs into her).
    • Lydia also doesn't appear in "B.J.'s Roadhouse," "Scarecrow," and "Don't Beetlejuice And Drive."
  • 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.
  • Alpha Bitch: Claire Brewster.
  • Alternate Continuity: From the movie, starting with Beetlejuice not being a villain.
  • 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.
  • Amazingly Boring Parents: BJ's folks "are so dull, their picture is in the Neitherworld Dictionary, under "boring". Literally.
  • 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.
    • He also can't stand a wild goose chase, literally.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Beetlejuice pulls this off every now and again when Lydia is in real danger.
  • Bizarro Universe: "Dr. Beetle and Mr. Juice".
  • Black Sheep: Beetlejuice qualifies as this, as proven in the episodes where Lydia meets his parents pleasant, hard-working clean freaks.
  • Blah Blah Blah
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Charles, Lydia, and Delia.
    • Also, Claire, Bertha, and Prudence.note 
    • In addition to May, Zippora, and Delia.
  • Camp Straight: Jacques LaLean
  • Catch Phrase: It's SHOWTIME! Also, Lydia's "Deadly Vous!"
    • Examples. You know I hate 'em.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The cartoon adaptation doesn't have Otho, Juno or the Maitland couple (the couple played by Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis). Ironically, there is theoretically room for Juno.
  • Clingy Jealous Guy: A platonic(ish) variant. Beetlejuice shows this whenever anyone else wants to seriously occupy Lydia's time - including a copy of himself.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Lydia's mother Delia borders on this trope. She actually seems to like the Neitherworld, and her bizarre art is extremely popular there.
  • Cool Car: The Dragster of Doom, a.k.a. "Doomie."
  • 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.
  • Curse Cut Short: In the episode "Robbin Juice of Sherweird Forest", the minstrel character Alan Airedale sings songs about Beetlejuice that alternate from praise to a type of The Villain Sucks Song. One particular verse:
    "Robin Hood, he can't be trusted; Robin Hood, his heart is rusted. Robin Hood, he's got no class; Robin Hood is such an..."
    *BJ breaks his lute over his head*
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Beetlejuice, for the most part.
    • Despite being into the dark and macabre, Lydia is very much a Nice Girl.
  • Dark Skinned Blonde: Claire.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Some of the other characters in the show occasionally have episodes that focus on them, although Beetlejuice and Lydia are still involved.
  • Depraved Kids' Show Host: Beetlejuice on the episode "Uncle BJ's Roadhouse."
  • Did You Just Have Tea With Cthulhu: Basically the whole premise. Beetlejuice is... somewhat more powerful than many of the specters that show themselves, and is certainly very strange, yet the two are mostly inseparable.
  • 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.
    Mr. Beetleman: Where's the drip?
    Delia: In the kitchen, trying to fix the leak.
  • Don't Try This at Home: When he's about to jump into a small glass of water from 15,000 feet in the air, Beetlejuice takes a moment to warn the kids watching at home about his stunt:
    Beetlejuice: Whatever you do, don't try this at home, because I Have No Idea What I'm Doing.
  • Door Judo: In one episode, Beettlejuice repeatedly fails to break a door down before remembering he can simply teleport past it.
  • Doomy Dooms of Doom: The Dragster of Doom.
  • Dumb Blonde: Beetlejuice has his moments.
  • 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.
  • Every Proper Lady Should Curtsy: Lydia at the end of the Fox series opening.
  • Evil Laugh: Beetlejuice does this every now and again - and in the intro. Lydia did it along with him when they turned into Mad Scientists while building Doomie.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: In Not So Peaceful Pines, Beetlejuice's evil half speaks in a slightly deeper voice.
  • Evil Twin: Actually, Beetlejuice is the evil twin. Surprised much? Didn't think so...
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The Monster Across the Street is a... monster who lives across the street. (From BJ.) Who wears a cowboy hat and plays the guitar.
  • Expy: Prince Vince is based off of Vincent Malloy from Tim Burton's short film Vincent.
  • Face Heel Revolving Door/Heel-Face Revolving Door: In a Robin Hood parody, BJ steals from the corrupt Sheriff of Rotting-Ham and gives to the poor, but begins to keep more for himself, until he is the wealthiest person in the village. The sheriff, now destitute, becomes a vigilante to steal from BJ and give to the poor.
  • "Fantastic Voyage" Plot
  • Flanderization: Lydia's dad. "Large crowds make me nervous! Being nervous makes me nervous!"
  • Fusion Dance: Beetlejuice has cloned himself, had his skeleton develop a mind of its own and leave his body, or been split into his "good" and "evil" halves. They always end up fusing back into the regular Beetlejuice.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: And plenty of it. That's what happens when Tim Burton produces a kid's show.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Whenever Beetlejuice eats a bug.
  • Halloween Episode: This show had two: "Laugh of the Party" and "Bewitched, Bothered, and Beetlejuiced".
  • Hanging Judge: Judge Mental.
  • Hartman Hips: Delia
  • He Cleans Up Nicely: Beetlejuice when he was under the effects of his "New-U" Cologne in "Dr. Beetle and Mr. Juice". It didn't last long, though.
  • 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.
    "DON'T SPREAD IT AROUND! I have a reputation to keep up."
  • Hostage for MacGuffin: Lydia was once held as "collateral" to make Beetlejuice pay his credit card bills.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Lots of that too. They can get a little tiresome at times...
  • 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.
  • Inexplicably Awesome: Beetlejuice really is the Ghost With The Most. How? We'll never know.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Lydia and Beetlejuice. At a guess Beetlejuice may have been in his late 30s at his time of death - and he's hundreds of years old now.
  • 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 Doomie, Lydia's parents, and also likes Jacques, which mortifies Beetlejuice when Jacques finds out. Though he won't admit to any of them (except about Lydia), he does have a reputation to keep.
  • Kick the Bitch: Claire Brewster is Beetlejuice's most common target, but she usually has it coming.
  • Kid with the Leash: Lydia is the only person Beetlejuice will willingly listen to.
  • Large Ham: Beetlejuice as a general rule, but in some episodes more than others. The episode where he becomes a rock star by making armpit noises is a particularly strong example.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Beetlejuice delivers this to Claire Brewster on a regular basis.
  • 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.
  • Let's Meet the Meat/Raising the Steaks
  • Lighter and Softer
  • 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.
  • Literal Genie: Beetlejuice's Involuntary Shapeshifting.
  • Lying Finger Cross: Beetlejuice does this A LOT throughout the series.
  • Mad Scientist: Beetlejuice occasionally becomes this, such as when he made his "New U" cologne and when he built Doomie. Lydia became a female version when she helped BJ build Doomie.
  • Magic Spiderweb Poncho: Lydia changes into a red spiderweb-patterned poncho when she enters the Neitherworld.
    • The later season episodes subvert this trope and occasionally have Lydia's poncho moved aside to reveal the black leotard she wears underneath.
  • Man Child: Beetlejuice was possibly in his late 30s at his time of death. And he's been dead for several hundred years. Mentally though he's about eight years old.
  • Media Watchdog: Goody Two-Shoes the fairy is a pretty obvious parody of them.
  • Medium Awareness
  • Medium Blending: In-Universe television commercials are CGI animated - although the quality is clearly dated.
  • Meganekko: Prudence.
  • Monster Clown: Scuzzo the Clown, as well as his brother Fuzzo.
  • Morality Chain: Lydia is this for Beetlejuice on occasion.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: Beetlejuice either started living in the Neitherworld after his death or he lived in the Neitherworld his entire life and always was a ghost.
  • Mythology Gag: Several scenes and in-jokes from the movie:
    • Beetlejuice sings Harry Belafonte's "Banana Boat Song" in the debut episode.
      • Lydia also sings that song in the debut episode as well.
      • In the beginning, she rode her bike through the bridge where the Maitlands crashed.
    • In "How Green is My Gallery", Beetlejuice hocks into his jacket.
    • In "Stage Fright", after Lydia (accidentally at first) sends Beetlejuice away to keep him from trouble, he screams at Claire to "SAY IT!!" (saying his name 3 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.
    • Several episodes feature cameo appearances by ghosts that attended the waiting room of the dead, such as the diver that was eaten by a shark 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.
    • In "Spooky Boo-Tique", he advertises through the TV like he did with the Maitlands in the movie. He even dresses like a cowboy at one point, but exactly like in the movie.
  • Name Drop: From "Super Zeroes":
    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.
  • Once an Episode: A short animated clip directed by Tim Burton, usually framed as a Show Within a Show. And it's often revenant to the plot of the episode.
  • One-Gender School: Ms. Shannon's School for Girls.
  • 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.
  • Parental Bonus: The Shakespeare and Poe episodes, among others.
  • Perky Goth: Lydia
  • The Pig Pen: Beetlejuice himself.
  • Power Incontinence: Implied. Beetlejuice suffers Involuntary Shapeshifting to match some throwaway word or phrase he uses.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Lydia, natch.
  • Reality Warper: Beetlejuice seems to be on the lower-end.
  • Redheads Are Uncool: Prudence.
  • Rich Bitch: Claire Brewster, again.
  • The Rival: Scuzzo the Clown is Beetlejuice's arch-rival.
  • Running Gag: Several.
    • "Grimdiana Boooooooooooones!" (Is run over by a boulder)
    • And a one-episode gag - "Brink-a-doom!"
    • Ginger crying every time she's called a spider in the Wizard of Oz episode.
  • 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.
    • The Monster Across the Street resembles Gossamer.
    • The Prom Scene from the Whole Episode Flashback in "Highs-Ghoul Confidential" is a subtle one to Stephen King's Carrie, minus the bucket of pigs' blood.
  • 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.
  • Something Completely Different: "Uncle BJ's Roadhouse," a full episode parody of Pee-Wee's Playhouse and "Poe-Pourri," which can best be described as "What if someone put Edgar Allan Poe's poetry to animation?"
  • Split-Personality Merge: Done in multiple episodes:
    • 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!
  • Standard Snippet: "Also Sprach Zarathustra" appears frequently.
  • 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.
  • Transformation Sequence: Lydia
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: Delia's weird sculpture art makes her a laughingstock in the real world, but the residents of the Neitherworld love it. invoked
  • 24 Hour Party People: In the Neitherworld, you can buy them in cans. Just don't use them during a full moon.
  • The Unintelligible: Fuzzo the Clown's brother Scuzzo, who speaks solely in honks, beeps and squeaks.
  • Useless Superpowers: Beetlejuice's powers are only good for "juicing" (pranking) people. This is good when Acceptable Targets are present. It is not good when one, say... needs stock for a bake sale.
    Beetlejuice: "Do not dunk?" (dunks Neitherworld cookie in milk) "Instant Monster, Just Add Milk!"
  • Valley Girl: Like, Claire Brewster.
  • Vanishing Village: The episode "Brinkadoom."
  • Villain Team-Up: In the episode "The Neitherworld's Least Wanted", several antagonists from past episodes team up to get revenge on Beetlejuice by tricking him into making himself fall apart, at which point his powers won't work and he's easy prey.
    • They form the Society of Neitherworld Outlaws, Thugs, Rogues and Goons. Or, S.N.O.T.R.a.G!
  • Visual Pun: Beetlejuice's Involuntary Shapeshifting.
  • 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.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: This show had two of them, "Highs-Ghoul Confidential" and "Journey to the Center of the Neitherworld" (although it's implied that the latter of the two never even happened.)
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Or Sandworms, in Beetlejuice's case.
    • Or even cutesy things.
  • Writer's Block: In one episode, William Shakespeare shows up suffering from this.
  • Yes-Man: Mayor Maynot's assistant I.M. Smallhead.