Up the Academy
|Up the Academy|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Downey, Sr.|
|Produced by||Danton Rissner
|Written by||Tom Patchett
|Music by||Jeff Rawluk|
|Cinematography||Harry Stradling Jr.|
|Edited by||Bud Molin
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
At the Sheldon R. Wienberg Academy, four young teens are sent to school and learn the discipline that the school teaches. Almost immediately, they don't like what is going on. Along the way, they plan their own actions from looking for girls to holding a party without the faculty's knowledge. The film's title comes from the fictitious academy itself.
The movie was an attempt to cash in on the phenomenal and unexpected success of National Lampoon's Animal House, which was also a movie made by a comedy magazine about a group of misfits at college. In 1983, Mad publisher Bill Gaines explained the genesis of his magazine's involvement in the film to The Comics Journal:
What happened is that we had a contract with Warner Brothers to put out a Mad movie. It's like four years old now. They came up with a script that we didn't like, and then they came up with a script using our scriptwriters that they didn't like, but meanwhile they threw this script onto our desk... Although there were many things in it that I thought were offensive and should be removed, generally I liked the script. And I thought, 'Well, in addition to a Mad movie, there's nothing wrong with having something like Lampoon did with Animal House. Animal House was "Lampoon Presents" and really had nothing to do with the magazine, it was just using their name, and it was a good movie, and it was very successful, and it made Lampoon a lot of money. I guess. So we were going to do the same thing. "Mad Magazine Completely Disassociates Itself from Up the Academy". But that was too long for them, they can't think in that many words. They put the damn thing out without all the deletions they had promised to make, which means they're liars. I'm talking about one of my sister companies [laughter]... And there we were connected with it, and there wasn't much we could do about it. I paid Warner Brothers 30 grand to take Mad's name off for television. So for $30,000 we got out of being associated with it on Home Box Office. It won't say "Mad Magazine Presents" and Alfred E. Neuman won't be in it. And it was well worth $30,000. [laughter]
It was directed by Robert Downey Sr., and starred Wendell Brown, Tommy Citera, Harry Teinowitz, Hutch Parker (younger brother of Parker Stevenson and now known as movie executive J. Hutchison), Tom Poston, Barbara Bach, Stacey Nelkin, Ralph Macchio (his screen debut) and King Coleman. The movie was filmed entirely in Salina, Kansas, mostly on the campus of St. John's Military School.
The film was neither a commercial nor critical success when it was originally released, and was disowned by both the staff of Mad magazine and actor Ron Leibman (who, despite his sizable role, had his name completely removed from the credits and promotional material). Besides paying Warner Bros. $30,000 to remove all references to Mad from the film when it was released on home video, Mad's publisher William Gaines issued personal handwritten apologies to every person that wrote the magazine to complain. However, the film developed a small cult following. Following Time Warner's purchase of Mad (and after Gaines' death in 1992), all references to the magazine were reinstated on cable television. In 2006, the original version of the film was issued on DVD.
- Make up effects wizard Rick Baker designed the Alfred E. Neuman masks for the film.
- A young Robert Downey, Jr. appears as an extra in some soccer scenes.
References in Mad magazine
- In the tradition of Mad making fun of movies, the magazine spoofed their own film with "Mad Magazine Resents Throw Up the Academy". The parody mainly concerned Ron Leibman's name being removed, and the teenage troublemakers being punished by having to star in the film. Unlike most Mad movie parodies which are often several pages in length, this one was only two (appearing in place of the magazine's usual letters column), as the piece devolved into a series of supposed interoffice memos by the writer, artist and editors, all decrying their role in the parody. Finally, a fake note said that the entire staff of Mad quit over their shame. and the article was hereby discontinued.
- The statue featuring Alfred E. Neuman with a pigeon on his head is currently located in Mad's editorial offices.