Pee-Wee's Big Adventure

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure

Synopsis of Movie

"I know you are, but what am I?"

The tagline described this 1985 fantasy comedy live action cartoon-come-to-life as “the story of a rebel and his bike”. But this was more than a rebel yarn—this was a quest.

This was also Tim Burton’s live-action directorial debut, but all his years in animation showed. From the cartoony production design alone, we know that Pee-Wee Herman’s world isn’t a normal one. Not a lot of earth tones or grit here—no shadows, no cynicism, and any little thing can warrant a giggle. If happy little kids ran the world, this is what it would be.

Pee-Wee lives in a sparkling, gadget- and toy-filled house. He has a Rube Goldberg contraption to ready his orange juice and “Mister T” cereal in the morning, he has ample scotch tape, and best of all, he has his beloved souped-up Red Racer bike, which he keeps safe and sound at a state-of-the-art storage facility.

One sunny morning, Pee-Wee retrieves his bike and rides to the magic store, where x-ray glasses and boomerang bow ties are the order of the day, and when he comes out, horror of all horrors, his bike is gone. Pee-Wee’s first suspect is rich kid Francis, who has always been jealous of the gleamin' two-wheelin’ machine, but a corrupt psychic informs the desperately gullible Mr. Herman that actually, the basement at the Alamo is the place to look.

So the Texas-bound quest is on. In the course of the road trip, Pee-Wee meets an escaped convict, a rude child star, a truck driver/ghost named Large Marge, the huge boyfriend of flirty waitress Simone, and your everyday menacing biker gang. But in the face of every danger, Pee-Wee either escapes or works his charm. A rousing dance number rendition of “Tequila” gets him in with the bikers, and he borrows one of their steel horses for a leg of his journey—hence the memorable long shot of Pee-Wee riding right up to, and then up into, a billboard (from which only the bike comes back out).

After a tour of the Alamo (hosted by gum-chewing Saturday Night Live vet Jan Hooks) and integrating with all his new Lone Star State friends, Pee-Wee’s Arthurian quest takes him to Hollywood, where a movie studio chase turns "P.W." into both a felon and a potential movie star.

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure was written by the man behind the tight gray suit, Paul Reubens, along with Michael Varhol and SNL’s late Phil Hartman. The movie was also infused with a well-loved, the-circus-is-in-town kind of score by Danny Elfman.

A sequel, Big Top Pee-Wee, directed by Randall Kleiser, would follow in 1988. The man-child also starred in his own CBS Saturday morning kids’ show, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, which thrilled kids with its talking furniture and puppets, wrangling an adoring adult following as well.

Movie Release History

1985 - Pee-Wee's Big Adventure
1988 - Big Top Pee-Wee

Movie Sub Categories


Movie Studio

Warner Bros.


Pee-wee Herman  Paul Reubens
Dottie  Elizabeth Daily
Francis  Mark Holton
Simone  Diane Salinger
Mickey  Judd Omen
Neighbor  Irving Hellman
Mario  Monte Landis
Chip  Damon Martin
BMX Kid  David Glasser
BMX Kid  Gregory Brown
BMX Kid  Mark Everett
Chuck  Daryl Roach
Policeman #1  Bill Cable
Policeman #2  Peter Looney
Sergeant Hunter  Starletta DuPois
Butler Professor Toru Tanaka
Mr. Buxton  Ed Herlihy
Francis' Accomplice  Ralph Seymour
Amazing Larry  Lou Cutell
Gang Member  Raymond Martino
Madam Ruby  Erica Yohn
Highway Patrolman  Bill W. Richmond
Large Marge  Alice Nunn
Trucker  Ed Griffith
Man in Diner  Simmy Bow
Andy  Jon Harris
Hobo Jack  Carmen Filpi
Tina  Jan Hooks
Bus Clerk  John Moody
Cowboy #1  John O'Neill
Cowboy #2  Alex Sharp
Biker #1  Chester Grimes
Biker #2  Luis Contreras
Biker #3  Lonnie Parkinson
Biker #4  Howard Hirdler
Biker Mama  Cassandra Peterson
Kevin Morton  Jason Hervey
Studio Guard  Bob McClurg
Movie Lot Actor  John Paragon
Movie Lot Actress  Susan Barnes
Director  Zachary Hoffman
Mother Superior  Lynne Marie Stewart
Japanese Director  George Sasaki
Tarzan  Richard Brose
Kid #1  Drew Seward
Kid #2   Brett Fellman
Fireman  Bob Drew
Policeman at Pet Shop  John Gilgreen
Reporter  Noreen Hennessey
Reporter  Phil Hartman
Photographer  Michael Varhol
Hobo  David Rothenberg
Hobo  Patrick Cranshaw
Hobo  Sunshine Parker
Pierre Gilles Savard
"P.W."  James Brolin
"Dottie"  Morgan Fairchild
Terry Hawthorne  Tony Bill
Dee Snider Himself
Milton Berle Himself

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