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For other uses, see Rocket Man (disambiguation).
RocketMan (1997 film).jpg
Promotional film poster
Directed by Stuart Gillard
Produced by Roger Birnbaum
Written by Oren Aviv
Craig Mazin
Greg Erb
Music by Michael Tavera
Cinematography Steven B. Poster
Edited by William D. Gordean
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • October 10, 1997 (1997-10-10)
Running time
95 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $16 million
Box office $15,448,043

RocketMan is a 1997 comic science fiction film directed by Stuart Gillard and starring Harland Williams, Jessica Lundy, William Sadler and Jeffrey DeMunn. It was produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Caravan Pictures, and was released on October 10, 1997.


NASA is training for the first manned mission to Mars by the spacecraft Aries. Due to a supposed glitch in the computer navigation system, NASA looks for the original programmer of the software to see why the software seems to be broken. Fred Z. Randall (Harland Williams), the eccentric programmer who wrote the software, meets Paul Wick (Jeffrey DeMunn), the flight director of the Mars mission; William "Wild Bill" Overbeck (William Sadler), the commander of the Mars mission; and astronaut Gary Hackman (Peter Onorati), the computer specialist. After a display of hard-headed stubbornness by Gary, he is hit in the head by a model of the Pilgrim 1 Mars lander, resulting in a skull fracture. NASA decides to replace him instead of delaying the mission. Fred is brought to NASA to see if he has what it takes to be an astronaut; he, along with Gordon Peacock, go through a series of exercises, which sees Fred do well, even going as far to break every record that Bill had. In the end, Fred gets the job.

While getting ready to board the Aries, Fred chickens out and refuses to go on the mission. Bud Nesbitt (Beau Bridges), who Wick claims is the cause of the Apollo 13 accident, tells Fred about the three commemorative coins given to him by President Johnson. He gave one coin to Neil Armstrong, another to Jim Lovell, and finally shows Randall a gold coin reading, "Bravery". "It hasn't done me much good," Bud says. "Maybe it'll mean something to you one day."

Fred, along with Commander Overbeck, geologist Julie Ford (Jessica Lundy), and Ulysses, a trained chimpanzee, will look for fossils on Mars. To save on resources, crew members are put into "hypersleep" for eight months while the ship heads towards Mars. Ulysses purposely takes Fred's "hypersleep chamber" for his own and Fred has to sleep in Ulysses' chimp-shaped chamber. He sleeps for only 13 minutes and has to stay up for eight months. While looking at Mars weather data Fred notices severe sandstorms that could endanger the crew. He contacts Bud in Houston and tells him about the storms that are forecast to hit the landing site. If the crew get caught in the storms, they could be lost forever. Bud tells Wick about the situation but Wick ignores him. The crew makes it to Mars, after Overbeck barks at Fred for being awake the whole time and using all the food, except food that the former despises (anchovy paste, creamed liver, and gefilte fish), for painting. They land the Pilgrim on the Martian surface. As Overbeck prepares to be the first human to step on Mars, Fred slips from the ladder and lands first.

A day after the crew lands, the sandstorms arrive ahead of schedule. After almost losing Overbeck and Ulysses in the sandstorm, the crew lifts off from the Martian surface. Wick is replaced by Bud when it becomes clear that Wick does not trust his NASA crew. The ship has almost made it out of the sandstorm when rocks kicked up by the wind hit the lander. Pilgrim 1 loses power and begins to spin out of control. Fred has to rewire the entire system, reboot it and power everything back up in less than two minutes or they will crash. With less than 20 seconds, he has to complete the circuit. He frantically searches for something and finally shoves the commemorative coin into the slot, allowing the lander to regain power. The crew safely return to the Aries orbiting Mars. Fred then asks Julie to dance with him in zero gravity to "When You Wish Upon A Star".

As Fred gets ready for "hypersleep" one last time, Ulysses climbs into his "hypersleep chamber" once again, forcing Fred to stay up for another eight months on the journey back home.

In a post-credits scene, the crew's flag pole on Mars is shown missing its flag. It is revealed that Randall's American flag boxers, which were earlier used as a replacement for the original flag, had been stolen by a Martian.


Actor Role
Harland Williams Fred Z. Randall
Jessica Lundy Julie Ford
William Sadler William 'Wild Bill' Overbeck
Jeffrey DeMunn Paul Wick
James Pickens, Jr. Ben Stevens
Beau Bridges Bud Nesbitt


The film was shot on location at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas and in Moab, Utah for the scenes on the surface on Mars.


The film mainly received negative reviews, with a 24% rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.[1] However, Roger Ebert gave the film a positive review, giving it 3 out of 4 stars.[2]

Home media[edit]

The film was one of the first Disney titles released on DVD (through a different distribution company, as Disney was not supporting DVD at the time) and soon went out-of-print. In April 2006, the Disney Movie Club began distributing a DVD re-release.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Rocket Man". Retrieved 2011-12-20. 

External links[edit]