Flight of the Navigator

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Flight of the Navigator
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Randal Kleiser
Produced by Dimitri Villard
Robert Wald
Screenplay by Michael Burton
Matt MacManus
Story by Mark H. Baker
Starring Joey Cramer
Paul Reubens (voice)
Veronica Cartwright
Cliff DeYoung
Sarah Jessica Parker
Howard Hesseman
Music by Alan Silvestri
Cinematography James Glennon
Eric McGraw
Edited by Jeff Gourson
Janice Parker
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution
Release dates
July 30, 1986[2]
Running time
90 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $9 million[3]
Box office $18,564,613

Flight of the Navigator is a 1986 comic science fiction film directed by Randal Kleiser and written by Mark H. Baker and Michael Burton, about David Freeman, a 12-year-old boy who is abducted by an alien spaceship and finds himself caught in a world that has changed around him.

The film's producers initially sent the project to Walt Disney Pictures in 1984, but as the studio was unable to approve it, it was sent to Producers Sales Organization, which made a deal with Disney to distribute it in the United States.[4] It was partially shot in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Norway, it being a coproduction with Norwegian company Viking Film.[5]


It is July 4, 1978. David Freeman (Joey Cramer) is an ordinary 12-year-old boy living in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in an ordinary family, forever fighting with his little brother, Jeff (Albie Whitaker), and beginning to discover girls for the first time.

Sent by his mother, Helen (Veronica Cartwright), to rendezvous with Jeff, David goes into the forest. Jeff scares him and runs away. He finds his dog, Bruiser, looking into a ravine and looks down to see what he is looking at. He grabs on to something while looking. It breaks and he falls into the ravine. He wakes up and returns home to find that his family no longer lives there. The police reunite him with them, but they have aged, and regard him as having been missing for a long time.

Elsewhere, an alien spaceship crashes into an electrical tower and is rendered seemingly inert. NASA agents, led by Dr. Louis Faraday (Howard Hesseman), confiscate it, explaining to police that it is their experimental spacelab, and bring it to their own hangar, but are unable to penetrate it.

David is taken to the hospital for testing and observation, and learns that eight years have passed. During the testing, his mind exhibits images of the ship, and the lead doctor alerts NASA. Faraday convinces him and his family that the truth concerning his absence will be discovered within 48 hours, takes him to his research facility, and locks him away as a "national security risk". During this time, he is taken to a room to rest, and while he watches Blancmange's "Lose Your Love" music video, he befriends Carolyn McAdams (Sarah Jessica Parker), a charming intern who is in charge of his upkeep and gives him some company in the meantime.

Faraday runs his own tests on David and finds his mind overflowing with alien technical manuals and star charts covering expanses of the galaxy far exceeding anything Earth observers have recorded. His subconscious mind tells the scientists that he was taken to a planet called Phaelon, 560 light-years away, in just over a two-hour journey and they realize that he has been subjected to time dilation as a result of having travelled at speeds far exceeding light, thus explaining why eight years have passed on Earth, but not for him. He himself, unable to comprehend what Faraday is telling him, panics and flees the room, leaving Faraday muttering that 48 hours will be insufficient to finish his investigation. Carolyn informs him and he tells her to alert his family.

The next morning, the ship telepathically contacts David, who hides in a robotic vehicle which takes him to the hangar where it is being held. He boards it, and its robotic commander, (voiced by Paul Reubens, credited as Paul Mall), referring to him as "Navigator", evades NASA pursuit after some initial confusion and hides on the ocean floor.

The ship's artificial intelligence, who refers to himself as a "Trimaxion Drone Ship" and is addressed by David as "Max", tells him that his mission was to travel the galaxy, collect biological specimens, take them to Phaelon for analysis, and then return them to their homes. Phaelon's scientists discovered humans only use 10% of their brain and, as an experiment, filled the remainder of his with miscellaneous information, including all of the star charts. Max then returned him to Earth, but didn't take him back to his own time, fearing that a human would be vaporized in the process. Before leaving Earth, Max accidentally crashed the ship into the power structures, erasing all the computer's star charts and data. He therefore needs the information in David's brain to return home. David is shown the eight remaining alien specimens on board, and bonds with a Puckmaren, a tiny bat-like one and last of its kind.

Max performs a brain scan on David to reacquire the star charts, but in the process also contracts human emotional attributes. He and David start bickering, he shuts down, and allows the ship to fall from the sky, taunting David as he struggles to gain control. Eventually controlling the ship, David wanders Earth looking for Fort Lauderdale, triggering several UFO reports. In the meantime, Carolyn has made contact with his family and told them about his escape in the ship; as a result, Faraday has them put under house arrest.

David arrives in the Florida Keys, and telephones his family to ask Jeff to signal from their new house so that he can find it. Jeff sets off the fireworks that had been intended for use in 1978, but of course never were set off. David homes in on them, but NASA agents, having tracked the ship's every move, are there first. He, realizing what a circus his life would be if he remained in 1986, orders Max to return him to 1978, regardless of the risk to his life.

David wakes up in the ravine he fell into, walks home, and finds everything as he left it. On the family boat, Jeff sees the Puckmaren, who had stowed away in David's backpack, and David watches Max flash the sky against the backdrop of fireworks, "See you later, Navigator!" sounding in his head.



The film received mainly positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes rated it a fresh rating of 81% based on 26 reviews with the consensus: "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".

Kevin Thomas of the LA Times said its biggest plus was "its entirely believable, normal American family".[6] The New York Times described it as "definitely a film most children can enjoy".[7] People declared it "out-of-this-world fun".[8] Empire gave it 3/5 stars, saying it was "well-made enough to keep the family happy, but it certainly won’t challenge them".[9] Variety was more critical, announcing that "instead of creating an eye-opening panorama, Flight of the Navigator looks through the small end of the telescope".[10] Dave Kehr gave it 3 stars and described it as "a new high for Disney".[1]


The music score for the film was composed by Alan Silvestri. It is distinct from his other scores in being entirely electronically generated, using the Synclavier,[11] one of the first digital synthesisers and samplers.

  1. Theme from "Flight of the Navigator"
  2. "Main Title"
  3. "The Ship Beckons"
  4. "David in the Woods"
  5. "Robot Romp"
  6. "Transporting the Ship"
  7. "Ship Drop"
  8. "Have to Help a Friend"
  9. "The Shadow Universe"
  10. "Flight"
  11. "Finale"


In May 2009, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Disney was readying a remake of the film. Brad Copeland was writing the script and Mandeville partners David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman would serve as producers.[12] In November 2012, Disney hired Safety Not Guaranteed's director Colin Trevorrow and writer/producer Derek Connolly to rewrite it.[13]


  1. ^ a b Dave Kehr (1986-07-30). "'Flight Of Navigator' A New High For Disney". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2009-12-20. 
  2. ^ "Flight of the Navigator - 1986 - Joey Cramer, Randal Kleiser - Variety Profiles". Variety.com. 1986-07-30. Retrieved 2009-12-20. [dead link]
  3. ^ "Flight of the Navigator (1986)". The Powergrid. Wrap News inc. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  4. ^ Mark Damon; Linda Schreyer (2008). From Cowboy to Mogul to Monster: The Neverending Story of Film Pioneer Mark Damon. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse. p. 376. ISBN 978-1-4343-7737-1. 
  5. ^ Charles Solomon (1987-08-01). "Commentary : Computer Graphics Shows Its Stuff". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-10. 
  6. ^ Kevin Thomas (1986-07-31). "Movie Review : 'Flight Of Navigator' Offers A Family Outing". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-10. 
  7. ^ Caryn James (1986-07-30). "The Screen: 'Flight Of The Navigator'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  8. ^ Scot Haller; Tom Cunneff; Ira Hellman (1986-08-18). "Picks and Pans Review: Flight of the Navigator". People (magazine). Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  9. ^ "Flight of the Navigator". Empire. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  10. ^ "Review:"Flight of the Navigator"". Variety. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  11. ^ Film's end credits
  12. ^ Borys Kit (2009-05-26). "Disney, Mandeville file new 'Flight' plan". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  13. ^ Jeff Sneider (2012-11-27). "Disney taps 'Safety' duo for 'Navigator' rewrite". Variety. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 

External links[edit]