Flight of the Navigator

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Flight of the Navigator
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRandal Kleiser
Produced by
  • Dimitri Villard
  • Robert Wald
Screenplay by
  • Michael Burton
  • Matt MacManus
Story byMark H. Baker
Music byAlan Silvestri
Edited by
PSO Productions
Viking Film AS[1][2]
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures (United States)
PSO Productions (Internationally)[1][a]
Release date
  • August 1, 1986 (1986-08-01)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States[4]
Budget$9 million[5]
Box office$18,564,613

Flight of the Navigator is a 1986 American science fiction adventure film directed by Randal Kleiser and written by Mark H. Baker, Michael Burton and Matt MacManus. It stars Joey Cramer as 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. It features an early film appearance by Sarah Jessica Parker as Carolyn McAdams, a key character who befriends David in a time of need.

The film's producers initially sent the project to Walt Disney Pictures in 1984, but the studio was unable to approve it and it was sent to Producers Sales Organization, which made a deal with Disney to distribute it in the United States.[1] It was partially shot in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and in Norway, being a co-production with Norwegian company Viking Film.[2]

Flight of the Navigator is notable for being one of the first Hollywood films to use extensive CGI effects, namely, it was the first use of image-based lighting, and an early use of morphing in a motion picture. The film is also known to be one of the first Hollywood productions to feature an entirely electronic music film score, composed using a Synclavier, one of the first digital multi-track recorders and samplers.

Flight of the Navigator has since become a cult classic, and has a large cult following among science fiction and Disney fans. In September 2017, Walt Disney Pictures announced that a reboot of Flight of the Navigator was in the works.[6]


On the night of July 4, 1978, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 12-year-old David Freeman walks through the woods to pick up his 8-year-old younger brother, Jeff, from a friend's house when he accidentally falls into a ravine and is knocked unconscious. When he comes to, he discovers that eight years have passed and it is now 1986. Police are shocked to see David fits exactly the same photo on a missing child poster, having not aged at all. David is reunited with his aged parents and the now 16-year-old Jeff.

Meanwhile, an alien spaceship crashes through power lines and is promptly captured by NASA. David is taken to the hospital for tests, where his brainwaves reveal images of the spaceship. Dr. Louis Faraday, who has been studying it since its arrival, persuades David to come to a NASA research facility for just 48 hours for extra tests, promising him that they can help him learn the truth about what happened to him. There, Dr. Faraday discovers that David's mind is filled with alien technical manuals and star charts covering expanses of the galaxy far exceeding NASA's research. It tells the scientists that he was taken to a planet called Phaelon, 560 light years away, in just over 2.2 hours. They realize that he has experienced severe time dilation as a result of having traveled faster than the speed of light, explaining why eight years have passed on Earth, but not for him. He is unable to comprehend what Dr. Faraday tells him and flees the room, making Dr. Faraday decide to keep David confined to finish his investigation, severely breaking his 48-hour promise.

The next morning, following a telepathic communication from the spaceship, David secretly boards it and meets its robotic commander, "Trimaxion Drone Ship" (or "Max" for short), which refers to David as the "Navigator". After they escape from the facility, Max tells David that his mission was to travel across 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 David's with miscellaneous information. This includes all of the star charts discovered by Phaelon's astronomers, some of which were shown to the NASA scientists during David's interrogation. Max then returned him to Earth, but did not take him back to his own time, having determined that a human would be unlikely to survive a trip back in time. Before leaving Earth, Max accidentally crashed the spaceship, erasing all the computer's star charts and data. Therefore, he needs the information in David's brain to return home.

While Max programs the spaceship for a mind transfer, David is shown the other remaining alien specimens on board, and bonds with a "Puckmaren", a tiny bat-like creature that is the last of his kind after a comet destroyed its planet. Max performs the mind transfer on David to reacquire the star charts, but in the process also contracts human emotional attributes, resulting in Max behaving eccentrically and making goofy laughs. He and David start bickering, and their antics trigger several UFO reports in Tokyo and the US. Meanwhile, NASA intern Carolyn McAdams, who has befriended David, contacts David's family and tells them about his escape in the spaceship; as a result, Dr. Faraday has them confined to the house, and Carolyn is sent back to the facility.

When the spaceship stops at a gas station in the Florida Keys, David calls Jeff and asks him to send a signal to locate their new home, and Jeff sets off fireworks on the rooftop. David and Max arrive at the house, but NASA agents, having tracked the spaceship's every move, get there first. Fearing that he would be institutionalized for life if he remains in 1986, he orders Max to return him to 1978. Max warns this could vaporize David, but David accepts the risk. After the journey back in time, he wakes up in the ravine, walks home, and finds everything as he left it. During the Fourth of July celebration, Jeff is surprised to see the Puckmaren in David's backpack; David tells him to keep it secret while Max flies home across the firework-lit sky, remarking "See you later, navigator!".


  • Albie Whitaker as Jeff Freeman (8 Years Old)


The Trimaxion Drone Ship was rendered in computer-generated imagery (CGI) by Omnibus Computer Animation, under the supervision of Jeff Kleiser, the brother of director Randal Kleiser.[7]


The music score for the film was composed and performed by Alan Silvestri. It is distinct from his other scores in being entirely electronically generated, using the Synclavier,[8] one of the first digital multi-track recorders and samplers.

Flight of the Navigator
Soundtrack album by
GenreElectronic, film score
LabelPSO Music
  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"
  12. "Star Dancing"

Critical reception[edit]

The film received mainly positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes rated it a fresh rating of 84% based on 31 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 Los Angeles Times said its biggest plus was "its entirely believable, normal American family."[9] The New York Times described it as "definitely a film most children can enjoy."[10] People declared it "out-of-this-world fun."[11] Empire gave it 3/5 stars, saying it was "well-made enough to keep the family happy, but it certainly won’t challenge them."[12] 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."[13] Dave Kehr gave it 3 stars and described it as "a new high for Disney."[14]


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.[15] In November 2012, Disney hired Safety Not Guaranteed's director Colin Trevorrow and writer/producer Derek Connolly to rewrite the script.[16]

In September 2017, Walt Disney Pictures announced that a reboot of Flight of the Navigator is in pre-production with Joe Henderson from TV's Lucifer writing the script.[17] Shortly after the Lionsgate/Henson announcement, in November at the same year, Neill Blomkamp tweeted that Oats Studios has began developing a reboot as its first feature film.[18][19][20] However as of 2021, no remake has appeared. A feature documentary "Life After the Navigator" was released in 2020 which profiles the rollercoaster career of actor Joey Cramer who played the central character David Freeman in the 1986 movie.

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Buena Vista/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures only have North American distribution rights. Copyright to the film still rests at PSO.
  1. ^ a b c Mark Damon; Linda Schreyer (2008). From Cowboy to Mogul to Monster: The Neverending Story of Film Pioneer Mark Damon. Bloomington, Indiana: AuthorHouse. p. 376. ISBN 978-1-4343-7737-1.
  2. ^ a b Charles Solomon (1987-08-01). "Commentary : Computer Graphics Shows Its Stuff". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-10.
  3. ^ "Flight of the Navigator - 1986 - Joey Cramer, Randal Kleiser - Variety Profiles". Variety. July 30, 1986. Retrieved December 20, 2009.[dead link]
  4. ^ https://www2.bfi.org.uk/films-tv-people/4ce2b71907468
  5. ^ "Flight of the Navigator (1986)". The Powergrid. Wrap News inc. Archived from the original on January 10, 2016. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  6. ^ McNary, Dave (2017-09-28). "'Flight of the Navigator' Reboot in Works With 'Lucifer' Showrunner". Variety. Retrieved 2017-09-28.
  7. ^ Anderson, Martin (2009-07-15). "Jeff Kleiser Discusses the Early CGI of Flight of the Navigator". Den of Geek!. Retrieved 2016-01-15.
  8. ^ Film's end credits
  9. ^ Kevin Thomas (1986-07-31). "Movie Review : 'Flight Of Navigator' Offers A Family Outing". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-10.
  10. ^ Caryn James (1986-07-30). "The Screen: 'Flight Of The Navigator'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-09-08.
  11. ^ Scot Haller; Tom Cunneff; Ira Hellman (1986-08-18). "Picks and Pans Review: Flight of the Navigator". People. Retrieved 2013-09-08.
  12. ^ "Flight of the Navigator". Empire. Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2013-09-08.
  13. ^ "Review:"Flight of the Navigator"". Variety. Retrieved 2013-09-08.
  14. ^ Dave Kehr (July 30, 1986). "'Flight Of Navigator' A New High For Disney". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 20, 2009.
  15. ^ Borys Kit (2009-05-26). "Disney, Mandeville file new 'Flight' plan". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2013-09-08.
  16. ^ Trumbore, Dave (2012-11-27). "Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly to Rewrite FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR Remake; Trevorrow May Direct". Collider. Retrieved 2017-04-23.
  17. ^ McNary, Dave (2017-09-28). "'Flight of the Navigator' Reboot in Works With 'Lucifer' Showrunner". Variety. Retrieved 2017-09-28.
  18. ^ Blomkamp, Neill (22 November 2017). "So for clarity on @oatsstudios shorts, people are asking for part 2's of certain films, - the first follow up short will be for ADAM, coming soonish. The first proper feature film will be ..." Twitter. Retrieved 1 March 2020.
  19. ^ Blomkamp, Neill (22 November 2017). "Image from the film, indicating that Oats Studios is making a remake of Flight of the Navigator". Twitter. Retrieved 1 March 2020.
  20. ^ Brew, Simon (23 November 2017). "Flight Of The Navigator Remake Teased by Neill Blomkamp". Den of Geek!. Retrieved 1 March 2020.

External links[edit]