Origins of Bill & Ted
The characters of Bill & Ted were created and played by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon in improv theater (originally, it was “Bill, Ted & Bob” although the third character was eventually dropped). Matheson and Solomon have described Bill & Ted as an idealized version of their friendship (Bill & Ted = Chris & Ed). In the original improvised pieces, Ted was described as having a stoner pseudo-intellectual older brother. This was changed for the film, although Bill’s stepmother Missy did make the transition from theater to the film.
The film was shot in the Phoenix, Arizona, metropolitan area, mostly in and around Coronado High School in Scottsdale, Arizona in 1987. The school itself is near Oak St. and Scottsdale Road. Much of Coronado went through a renovation between 2005 and 2007 and the auditorium setting for the final-report scene was torn down. However, the intricate mosaic (seen in an opening scene when Bill and Ted leave from school in a red Mustang) on the outside of the auditorium was saved piece by piece and moved to the new auditorium along with unique design of the gym roof.
The setting for Waterloo was the Golfland Sunsplash water park at the intersection of Arizona Highway 87 and the US 60 freeway in Mesa. (In reality, there is a water park in San Dimas, but it’s named Raging Waters, not “Waterloo”.) The bowling alley was then a Fair Lanes branded alley, but is now the AMF Tempe Village Lanes located on Rural Road at US 60 freeway, three miles south of Arizona State University. The mall was Phoenix Metrocenter located between Peoria and Dunlap Avenues at Interstate 17. The mall has since been renovated and no longer looks as it did in the film. The Circle K store is located at the intersection of Southern and Hardy in Tempe.
Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson make appearances in the film during the ice cream scene. Ed is credited as the “stupid” waiter, and Chris is credited as the “ugly” waiter. They are given similar credits in Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.
During the shot of Rufus’ hands playing his guitar solo, the actual hands are those of Stevie Salas, the composer of all the guitar work featured within the film.
The film took nearly two years to materialize. Filming took place from February to May 1987 and it was originally planned to be released in 1988. However, the film’s original distributor, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, went bankrupt before it could be released. Orion Pictures and Nelson Entertainment bought the rights to the movie in 1988, and it was released theatrically on February 17, 1989. As a partial result of the delay, certain dates in the film originally scripted as “1987” had to be redubbed as “1988”. The copyright date of this film is 1989, while 1988 incorrectly appears on the DVD cover (though some copies still note 1989 as its release date). It was followed in 1991 by a sequel, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.
Differences from original script
In earlier drafts of the script, Rufus was 28 years old and historical figures Bill and Ted plucked from history included Charlemagne (whom they referred to as “Charlie Mangay”), Babe Ruth, and a non-famous medieval person called “John the Serf”. John is listed in the credits.
Originally, the time machine was to be a 1969 Chevrolet van, but the idea was abandoned as being too close in concept to the DeLorean used in the Back to the Future trilogy. Instead, despite the similarities to Doctor Who, the time machine was styled after a 1960s American telephone booth, though a newer model Ford van would be used as the rock concert “band wagon” for the sequel.
Spin-offs and Sequels
A theatrical sequel, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, was released in 1991.
A third theatrical film in the Bill and Ted franchise was planned, and a screenplay was written, though it never got past the pre-production phase. Contrary to popular belief, a large portion of the script was not adapted into the 1996 film Bio-Dome; the rumor was debunked by Alex Winter himself.
In 2010, Reeves indicated that Matheson and Solomon were working on a script for a third film, confirming in April 25, 2011 script’s draft was complete.
Two spin-off television series were produced; both were titled Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures.
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures was an animated series that first ran on CBS in 1990, and featured the voices of Carlin, Winter, and Reeves returning to their roles in the film. A second season of eight episodes ran on Fox Kids, with the voice cast of Fox’s upcoming live-action series.
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures was a live-action series that ran only seven episodes on Fox in the summer of 1992. It featured none of the cast from the film. Evan Richards and Christopher Kennedy played Bill and Ted.
A one-shot comic book adaptation of the sequel was published to coincide with the second film’s release. Its popularity led to the series Bill and Ted’s Excellent Comic Book by Evan Dorkin and produced by Marvel Comics.
There were also Game Boy, NES and Atari Lynx games released, which were very loosely based on the film’s plot. A PC title and nearly identical Amiga and Commodore 64 port were made in 1991 by Off the Wall Productions and IntraCorp, Inc. under contract by Capstone Software and followed the original film very closely.
The annual Halloween Horror Nights events at Universal Studios Orlando and Hollywood have featured since 1992 (Orlando) and 2007 (Hollywood) Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure, a show satirizing pop culture of the year with Bill & Ted as the protagonists fighting villains who steal their phone booth for their own schemes.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure was a financial success, grossing $40.4 million domestically on a budget of about $10 million. It has become something of a cult classic. The film has an 82% freshness rating at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 33 reviews.
Both the success of the film and the animated series spawned a short-lived breakfast cereal called Bill & Ted’s Excellent Cereal.
The phone booth used in this film was given away in a contest presented by Nintendo Power magazine (in honor of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Video Game Adventure), won by a boy in Mississippi.
Since 1992, “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure” has been performed at the Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood every October during Halloween Horror Nights. The show differs from year to year, with spoofs of various pop culture icons. The main plot involves Bill and Ted being threatened by an evil villain from a popular film of that year, with appearances by a host of villains, heroes, and celebrities. The show usually includes elaborate dance numbers, stunts, and multiple double-entendres for the late night event crowd.
In 2010, the city of San Dimas celebrated 50 years of incorporation as a city. The theme for the celebrations was San Dimas, 1960-2010 An Excellent Adventure.
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