success of this film meant an international release, with other countries
enjoying theatrical releases of Excellent Adventure throughout 1989 and
well into 1990. It proved to not only strike a chord with American
audiences but with audiences worldwide and a cultural phenomenon was born.
Kids and fun-loving adults alike were heard to exclaim, "Excellent!"
"Bogus!" and "Party On!" with alarming frequency. Bill
and Ted was THE must-see movie of the time. Fans responded mostly to the
strong message of friendship and good will in the film. Pretty much
everyone agreed that they knew of a Bill and Ted in their own lives . . . the
characters were universally recognizable and loved. It didn't matter that
critics, for the most part, panned the movie outright, throwing about
accusations along the lines that the movie "glorified stupidity."
Imagine trying to make a point of saying Laurel and Hardy are a bad influence
because they're stupid! A few critics took the film for what it was and
didn't criticize it because it wasn't Ghandi. More importantly,
movie-goers really didn't care what the critics thought . . . they knew a fun
movie when they saw one, and they dragged their family and friends to the
theaters again and again to share their enjoyment.
Adventure also became a lasting and memorable experience for those who
worked on the film. Swing gang member Jim Meyer recalled that years after
the film's release he happened to spot Clarence Clemons near a hotel swimming
pool. Clarence stopped, pointed at Jim, and then gave him an exuberant air
guitar. Alex and Keanu also became lifelong friends during the making of
the film and still speak fondly of the experience making it.
With success came
merchandising and talk of sequels, both of which happened pretty quickly.
Discussions about a sequel began pretty much as soon as the impressive box
office returns were in. Early merchandising began with t-shirts and other
apparel items being made available through mail order offers that were sent out
with the video game and videotape releases. Tie-ins with breakfast cereals
(Cheerios, for example, which offered an exclusive comic book adaptation of the
film), book covers, posters and other premiums were offered through various
promotions (the Play*Doh Fun Factory.) (More information about tie-ins and
promotions can be found on our Collectibles
The series would
eventually spawn a cartoon series with its own merchandising line, toys from
Kenner and even a live-action series (although that would not reach the airwaves
until 1992.) Bill and Ted became part of the collective consciousness and
were very much a part of 80's culture, even though they arrived at the tail end
of that decade. The movie did somewhat typecast Alex Winter and Keanu
Reeves as "airheads," which only proved the strength and energy of
their performances. People liked Bill and Ted and definitely wanted more
of them. A year and a half later, fans would get their wish.