Today we’re taking a trip to the Neitherworld, a place inhabited by ghouls and ghosts a plenty, including a particular ghost with the most, “Beetlejuice.”
The “Beetlejuice” animated series is based (loosely) on the 1988 film of the same name, though it resembles its inspiration only in aesthetics. The themes and relationships are watered down or changed altogether in order to make the show palatable for kids. In the film, Beetlejuice was an unstable element interested in carnal pleasures. In the series he trades in his more lewd behaviors for harmless insanity and a BFF type relationship with Lydia. The character of Lydia is more bubbly and adventurous than in the film but still remains “strange and unusual.” Together they find adventure each episode either in the Neitherworld or the real.
The pilot episode, “Critter Sitters,” finds Beetlejuice with two main problems. First that it is almost his (totally platonic) anniversary with Lydia and he needs to get her a gift but has no money, the second being that he can’t seem to control his transformations. If he expresses his feelings vocally, he will transform to physically match it. If he says he feels as strong as an ox, then he becomes an ox, etc.
Lydia suggests he get the transformation problem looked at but of course he declines, meanwhile Lydia must return to the real world where she has a job babysitting for two dollars an hour. Beetlejuice sees dollar signs in his future and an opportunity to get a gift for his best friend and decides to babysit as well.
Despite the fact that he has supposedly been alive for hundreds of years, Beetlejuice apparently doesn’t know what babysitting actually is and attempts to literally sit on the children, that is until a giant baby, bigger than house, arrives.
Speaking of the children, isn’t the Neitherworld inhabited entirely by the deceased? Where do these children come from? Are they families that died together? Are they dead babies that are being raised by monsters, or other random dead people? Do they ever grow up? What the Neitherworld is going on here?!
BeetleJ’s experience babysitting his three monstrous babies is juxtaposed against Lydia’s experience with one human baby, needless to say, she is having a better time of it. Bjuice appears to Lydia in a mirror asking for help, Lydia quickly makes her way to the Neitherworld with the neighbors’ human baby in tow… for God knows why.
After a quick explanation as to what babysitting actually entails, Beetlejuice lets out a sigh of relief saying “I feel like a kid again.” *POOF!* baby Beetlejuice. Now Lydia is stuck in the Neitherworld with a human baby, three monster babies (including a giant remember) and an infant version of dead Michael Keaton.
The group ends up at a mall and essentially destroy it, Lydia is occupied making sure the human baby doesn’t suffer some injury that would give it permanent residence in the Neitherworld. After a while Lydia snaps at Beetlejuice asking “Will you grow up?!” baby BJ repeats “Me grow up.” Voila, he’s back to *normal*, just in time for the police to arrive and take him away. His previous record as resident mischief maker he is quickly convicted and sentenced to execution by sandworm, basically because they are just tired of his shit.
Don’t ask me how you execute someone who’s already dead either.
Lydia arrives in the courtroom and comes to Beetlejuice's defense. A really bad musical number ensues as Beetlejuice tries, and fails, to explain his intentions. With a little help from the babies, he is rescued from the sandworms but not before Arlo, the human baby falls into the sandworm world.
Beetlejuice falls through the hole with Arlo and locks up in the presence of a sandworm, resigned to his fate. Until Lydia calls him on his bullshit and pep talks him until he gets off his ass and decides to not just sit there and let a baby die. This spontaneous act of selflessness wins Beetlejuice his freedom.
Though the series differs from the film significantly, it still allows for exploration of some interesting ideas as the series progresses. All things considered it was a good cartoon, especially at the time of its release. Plus, at least it wasn’t “Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian.”
Image by OpalLynn on DeviantART (account deactivated)