Flight of the Navigator
|Flight of the Navigator|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Randal Kleiser|
|Produced by||Dimitri Villard
|Screenplay by||Michael Burton
|Story by||Mark H. Baker|
Paul Reubens (voice)
Sarah Jessica Parker
|Music by||Alan Silvestri|
|Editing by||Jeff Gourson|
|Studio||Producers Sales Organization|
|Distributed by||Walt Disney Pictures|
|Release date(s)||July 30, 1986|
|Running time||90 minutes|
Flight of the Navigator is a 1986 science fiction film directed by Randal Kleiser and written by Mark H. Baker and Michael Burton, about a 12-year-old boy named David who is abducted by an alien spacecraft 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, Navigator was sent to Producers Sales Organization, which made a deal with Disney to distribute the film in the United States. It was partially shot in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and in Norway, it being a co-production with Norwegian Viking Film.
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (April 2013)|
David Freeman (Joey Cramer) is an average 12-year-old American boy living in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 1978. On the night of July 4, his mother Helen (Veronica Cartwright), asks him to get his 8 year-old brother, Jeff (Albie Whitaker), from a friend's house on the other side of the woods. While walking through the woods, he is startled by a freight train and accidentally falls down a ravine, knocking himself unconscious. He wakes up after what seems like a few moments and walks home. He is shocked to find that his family no longer lives there; somehow he's traveled eight years into the future, to 1986. The police take him to a house where he is reunited with his family, including his brother who is now 16 years old.
Meanwhile, an extraterrestrial spacecraft has crashed into some high-tension power lines. NASA agents convince the police that it is theirs and take it to their base. They intend to study it, but find the craft seamless and impenetrable. In the meantime, David is taken to the hospital to discover why he hasn't aged. The doctors begin performing tests on his brain and find it contains information on the spacecraft. The lead NASA scientist, Dr. Faraday (Howard Hesseman), hears about David and requests that he be taken to the same facility where the UFO is kept. Dr. Faraday assures David and his family that David will only be kept for 48 hours so they can find out where he's been, why he can't remember anything, what all his strange brain activity is and why he hasn't aged. Further scans reveal that his brain contains alien data and unknown star charts from a planet called Phaelon, 560 light-years from Earth. The concept of time dilation due to faster-than-lightspeed travel is used to explain how he may have been in space for only 4 1⁄2 hours, while eight years passed on Earth. The data in David's brain begins to excite Dr. Faraday and his team as they know that this could be their chance to gain a whole new knowledge of the universe and take science to new heights. David gets freaked out, disconnects himself from the machines and runs off. As Dr. Faraday watches David run down the hall, though they've solved the mystery of why David hasn't aged, he knows that the data in David's brain would be highly valuable to them but 48 hours is not going to be nearly enough time to get it all. Without telling David or his family, Dr. Faraday makes arrangements to have David kept at the institute, indefinitely.
David befriends an intern named Carolyn McAdams (Sarah Jessica Parker) who tells him that she's learned that the institute is planning to keep him for a lot longer than 48 hours. David tells her to let his parents know that the institute plans to keep him locked up. The next morning, he hears a voice telepathically. He escapes from his room by hiding in a service robot and is taken to where the ship is stored. Once inside, he meets its pilot, an artificial intelligence called a Trimaxian Drone Ship from the planet Phaelon, who David nicknames Max (voiced by Paul Reubens). Referring to him as "Navigator", Max accepts his command to escape the base. The ship takes off from the NASA facility and travels straight up to a low earth orbit as David struggles to issue precise orders to Max. After working through their initial confusion they hide on the ocean floor.
Max tells David that his mission was to travel the galaxy, collect biological specimens, and take them back to Phaelon for analysis before returning them to their homes. He discovered humans only use 10% of their brain and as an experiment, David's brain was filled with miscellaneous information, including star charts. Max then returned him to Earth, but didn't take him back to his own time, fearing that humans were too delicate for time travel. Before returning to Phaelon, Max stopped to examine a patch of wild flowers and accidentally crashed the ship into the nearby power lines, erasing all the computer's star charts and data. He therefore needs the information in David's brain to return home.
While Max prepares to perform a brain scan on David, he shows the boy the remaining alien specimens he has to return to their homeworlds. David bonds with a Puckmaren, a tiny alien species and the last of his kind, since his world was destroyed. After a while, Max performs the scan, but in the process also contracts the ability for emotions and attitude, making him more human in behavior, but also funnier, stubborn and argumentative.
David and Max start bickering, so Max's response is to shut down and allow the ship to fall from orbit, taunting David to become the navigator. He manages to activate the manual controls and takes over. They travel around the planet looking for Fort Lauderdale, all the while being tracked by NASA. In the meantime, Carolyn has made contact with David's family and told them about his escape in the ship; as a result, Dr. Faraday has them put under house arrest.
To find his way home to his family, David stops to use a gas station pay phone, calls home and has Jeff send a signal so he can find the new house. Jeff lights a series of fireworks, which David is able to home in on. He is initially thrilled that he will soon return home, but becomes despondent upon realizing that he has lost eight years with his family. Upon arriving and seeing government agents waiting for him, David decides that he does not belong in 1986, says goodbye, and orders Max to take him back to his own time, regardless of the risks.
Max reluctantly travels back with David and successfully returns him unharmed and at the same moment he left. David makes his way home and finds everything the way he left it. His family take off in their boat to see the fireworks and he makes up with Jeff. He discovers that he has a stowaway in his backpack, the Puckmaren. Jeff sees the tiny new pet, too, and agrees to keep it a secret. The film ends with Max flying off amidst the Fourth of July fireworks, shouting "See ya later, Navigator!"
- Joey Cramer as David Freeman
- Paul Reubens (credited as "Paul Mall") as Trimaxion/Max (voice)
- Cliff DeYoung as Bill Freeman
- Veronica Cartwright as Helen Freeman
- Albie Whitaker as Jeff Freeman, 8 Years
- Matt Adler as Jeff Freeman, 16 Years
- Sarah Jessica Parker as Carolyn McAdams
- Howard Hesseman as Dr. Faraday
- Robert Small as Troy
- Jonathan Sanger as Dr. Carr
- Richard Liberty as Mr. Howard
- Iris Acker as Mrs. Howard
- Raymond Forchion as Detective Banks
- Brittney Vance as Female Officer
- Steve Ramos as Night Guard Brayton
- Thomas White as Darrell the Hockey Coach
- Lawrence Mikashus as Fort Lauderdale Fire Department Chief
|This section requires expansion. (September 2012)|
Visual effects innovations 
Released at the dawn of 3D animation technology, Flight of the Navigator was the world's first 35 mm feature film to use environment mapping, creating the illusion of a chrome object occupying a live-action frame, considered by many[who?] to hold up to today's standards. The computer graphics shots were produced by Omnibus Graphics, one of the first computer animation companies, responsible for most of the classic advertising 3D animation of the 1980s.
Computer-generated imagery (CGI) was not used to depict the suspended steps leading into the ship. The effect of the door liquefying to form them was achieved through stop-motion animation by creating a series of metallic sculptures for every frame of the animation. They appeared to support David's weight with a simple optical illusion. They were mounted on thin beams that were angled in a way such that they hid the beams from the camera's lens. This arrangement even allowed for slight camera movement, as can be seen the first time he climbs them. Also note that when he presses on the middle one, they all move slightly.
The two full-scale spaceship hulls used in most of the shots throughout the film (one with an open entrance, the other sealed) were constructed out of thin, curved sheets of wood over a metal framework and finished with primer and reflective paint. One of the hulls underwent refurbishment and is currently used as the Cool Ship in Tomorrowland of Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. The other hull can today be seen on the Studio Backlot Tour at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
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, one of the first digital synthesisers and samplers.
- Theme from "Flight of the Navigator"
- "Main Title"
- "The Ship Beckons"
- "David in the Woods"
- "Robot Romp"
- "Transporting the Ship"
- "Ship Drop"
- "Have to Help a Friend"
- "The Shadow Universe"
In May 2009, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Disney was readying a remake of the movie. Brad Copeland was writing the script and Mandeville partners David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman would serve as producers. In November 2012, Disney hired Safety Not Guaranteed's director Colin Trevorrow and writer/producer Derek Connolly to rewrite the film.
- Kehr, Dave; Critic, Movie (1986-07-30). "'Flight Of Navigator' A New High For Disney". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2009-12-20.
- "Flight of the Navigator - 1986 - Joey Cramer, Randal Kleiser - Variety Profiles". Variety.com. 1986-07-30. Retrieved 2009-12-20.[dead link]
- Damon; Schreyer, Mark; Linda (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.
- "Commentary : Computer Graphics Shows Its Stuff". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-10.
- "Movie Review : 'Flight Of Navigator' Offers A Family Outing". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-10.
- "The Screen: 'Flight Of The Navigator'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-06-10.
- Film's end credits
- Disney taps 'Safety' duo for 'Navigator' rewrite
- Flight of the Navigator at the Internet Movie Database
- Flight of the Navigator at the TCM Movie Database
- Flight of the Navigator at AllRovi
- Flight of the Navigator at Box Office Mojo
- Flight of the Navigator at Rotten Tomatoes