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]


The film opens with a shot of a Frisbee flying over Florida. Through slo-mo shots of dogs trying to catch frisbees, the film reveals that it is July 4, 1978. David Scott Freeman (Joey Cramer) is an ordinary 12-year-old boy living in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in an ordinary family, constantly bickering with his little brother, Jeff (Albie Whitaker), and beginning to discover girls for the first time as he is interested in a girl named Jennifer Bradley, whom Jeff talks about on the way home from the South Florida Frisbee Dog Championship, believing that his dog, Bruiser, can catch a Frisbee.

After Jeff stays at the Johnson's house, David is sent by his mother, Helen (Veronica Cartwright), to rendezvous with Jeff at the forest. While on his way, Jeff scares him by dropping from a branch and then runs away. He finds Bruiser looking into a ravine and looks down to see what he is looking at. He grabs on to something while looking, until it breaks and he falls into the ravine, knocking him unconscious. He wakes up and returns home to find that his family no longer lives there, and it's the year 1986. After the current owners call the police, they find a missing person report about David by his parents; the police run through a computer with the date he went missing, and find out he was declared legally dead. The police reunite him with them, but they have aged, and regard him as having been missing for a long time. When his parents go to greet him, he faints.

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 is impregnable from the outside.

David is taken to the hospital for memory testing and observation, and learns that eight years have passed. His parents are somewhere middle-aged, and Jeff, who is 16. During the memory testing to regain memory of what happened at the ravine, his mind exhibits images of the ship and communicates with the computer with a different language, 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, while maintaining a robotic assistant named R.A.L.F.

Faraday runs his own memory tests on David and finds his mind full with alien technical manuals and star charts covering expanses of the galaxy far exceeding anything Earth 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 4.4 solar hour (2.2 Earth hour) journey and they realize that he has been subjected to time dilation as a result of having travelled at light-speed theory, thus explaining why eight years have passed on Earth, but not for him. David himself, unable to comprehend what Faraday is telling him, overreacts and flees the room, leaving Faraday muttering that 48 hours will be insufficient to finish his investigation. Carolyn informs him about the schedule for him to stay all week, and he tells her to alert his family, because of Faraday promising his parents he'd be home in 48 hours.

The next morning, the ship telepathically contacts David, who tells him to hide in a R.A.L.F unit sent to his room, 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 for 20 miles from location across, not up, and transforms the ship to hide 20 miles west from the facility.

The ship's artificial intelligence, who refers to himself as a "Trimaxion Drone Ship" and is named 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 discovered by Phaelon's astronomers, and the information whereafter leaked from his brain. Max then returned him to Earth, but didn't take him back to his own time, knowing 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. When agents dispatched by Faraday try to retrieve the ship and David, Max transforms again and hides under the ocean when David commands a place to hide from the agents. Realizing David doesn't know instructions to guide with a star chart, Max programs the ship for a mind transfer, and 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 after a comet destroyed his planet.

Max performs a mind transfer on David to reacquire the star charts, but in the process also contracts human emotional attributes, which results in him speaking in a Pee-Wee Herman-like voice and contracting his characteristic laugh. He and David start bickering, like David and Jeff, and when David calls him a geek, 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 many cities, including Tokyo. 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 and Carolyn transported to the facility.

David arrives in the Florida Keys, and asks the owner of a gas station for money, and telephones Jeff to ask for a signal from their new house so that he can find it, while the owner stares at the ship and the children of a family observe it. When the ship leaves, the whole family looks up at the ship. The owner remarks, "He just said he wanted to phone home," resembling a homage to E.T. David reaches Fort Lauderdale and Jeff sets off the fireworks that had been intended for use in 1978, but of course never were set off, and due to difficulties for firing them from the chimney. David homes in on them, but NASA agents, having tracked the ship's every move, are there first. David, fearing that he would remain in the facility for his life if he remained in 1986, orders Max to return him to 1978, regardless of the risk to his life. Through space-time travel, he soon reaches the ravine.

David wakes up, walks home, and finds everything as he left it. On the family boat, after apologizing, Jeff sees the Puckmaren, who had stowed away in David's backpack, signals Jeff to keep it a secret. David watches Max flash the sky against the backdrop of fireworks, with the specimens and Max laughing, and Max saying "See you later, Navigator!" telepathically to David as the film closes.



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]