Pee-wee’s Playhouse was a TV show unlike anything before it. If you grew up watching it, you were dazzled by the silliness of it all. If you were an adult who couldn’t stop watching, like me, you were impressed by the show’s outrageous creativity. With a show that wacky, it had to have a great opening sequence. Who can forget the claymation beaver and monkeys, the zoom to the sphinx, the pterodactyls, and the wacky dance Pee-wee did to introduce the characters? The inside story of how that intro was done comes to us in an oral history form from Paul Reubens, Senior Animation Producer Prudence Fenton, and Animation Director Phil Trumbo. Here’s a snippet:
Phil: Another thing that people don’t really talk about much is that Paul is originally from Florida, where they have things like snake farms and alligator ranches, these like roadside attractions. I’m from Virginia, and I think Ric and Gary are both from Texas. Wayne’s from Tennessee — home of the schmaltzy Smoky Mountains. In the south you have these bizarre pop art museums and stuff. Civil War battlefields, mini-golf. There’s this giant fireworks stand called South of the Border in South Carolina, and it looks like Pee-wee’s playhouse. It’s just this grotesque thing.
In California you have the giant donut, those stores and stuff like that. There’s a lot of roadside attraction, feeling like a kid in a car, driving by these giant fibreglass dinosaurs for Dino Land, and you want to stop. Pee-wee’s Playhouse is where you can stop at every roadside attraction in the world.