EarthBound (film) (Johnsonverse)

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EarthBound 1997 poster.png
Genre: Action
Science fiction
Photography: Color
Running Time: 210 minutes
Release Date: May 4, 1997
Production Companies: Johnson Studios
Timothy Hill Productions
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox (US)
Johnson Studios (worldwide)
Directed by: Timothy Hill
Written by: Timothy Hill
Sheldon Johnson, Jr.
Tammy Jo Johnson
Shigesato Itoi (story)
Produced by: Timothy Hill
Music by: John Williams
Akira Ifukube (uncredited)
Starring: Gary Nelson
Kate Locklain
Jeffrey Paul
Andrew Hall
Matthew Morrison
Liam Neeson
William Shatner
Robin Williams
Tim Curry
Language: English
Country: United States
United Kingdom
Photography: Color
Budget: $320.5 million (estimated)
Box office: $2.592 billion
Previous film: Mother (1991)
Next film: Revenge of the Sontarans (2002)

EarthBound (released in the Japanese states as Mother 2) is a 1997 American-British science-fiction epic film based on the video game of the same name developed by Ape Inc. and HAL Laboratory and published by Nintendo, and a sequel to Mother (1991). It stars Gary Nelson, Kate Locklain, Jeffrey Paul, Shiro, Andrew Hall, Matthew Morrison, Liam Neeson, William Shatner, Robin Williams, and Tim Curry. Like its predecessor, the film was produced by Johnson Studios in conjunction with the BBC, Toho, and Timothy Hill Productions, with 20th Century Fox handling US distribution. A high-budget, star-studded film with elaborate special effects, it is often noted for being one of the longest films Johnson Studios has ever made, clocking in at three hours and thirty minutes.

The film was produced and directed by Timothy Hill from a screenplay written by Hill, Sheldon Johnson, Jr., and Tammy Jo Johnson, adapted from a story treatment by Shigesato Itoi. It was released on May 4, 1997 to universal acclaim, and was followed up by Revenge of the Sontarans (2002), along with two additional movies (2008 and 2011). It went on to become the highest-grossing film of all time, a record which stood for twelve years until the release of James Cameron's Avatar (2009).


The movie begins with a meteor crashing outside Onett, Washington in the year 2011. A 13-year-old boy named Ness Jones (Gary Nelson) leaves to investigate with his "friend", Pokey Minch (Andrew Hall). Armed with only a crack wooden baseball bat, Ness and Pokey find the latter's younger brother, Picky (Matthew Morrison), asleep beside the meteor. They are soon confronted by an insect named Buzz Buzz (voice of Patrick Stewart). He tells Ness of Giygas (Tim Curry), the brother of Giegue, who invaded Earth in 1988. Giygas has chosen December 21, 2012 as the date he will invade Earth and exact his revenge on the humans. But a group known as the Chosen Four are prophecized to defeat Giygas, and Buzz Buzz tells Ness that he is the one chosen by Gaia, Goddess of the Earth, to save not just Earth, but the entire universe.

On the way back to the Minch residence, the group is confronted by a Dalek. The Dalek has been sent back from 2022 to eliminate Ness and ensure the stability of the timeline. The Dalek, however, is unable to kill them as Buzz Buzz puts up a psychic shield that protects them. The Dalek is destroyed by Ness' dog King, who lunges at it and mauls the mutant within it. At the Minch residence, Aloysius Minch gives Pokey and Picky a massive tongue-lashing, while Lardna mortally wounds Buzz Buzz. With his dying words, Buzz Buzz gives Ness the Sound Stone and tells him to assemble the Chosen Four. Ness proceeds to yell at Lardna for putting the world at stake, but Lardna doesn't get it and Ness beats her with his bat in a cartoonish way. Ness sets out on his adventure. He defeats the Sharks and their leader Frank, gains access to Giant Step and defeats the Titanium Ant. After defeating Captain Strong of the Onett Police Force, he heads off to Twoson, Oregon.

In Twoson, he checks into the hotel. That night, he speaks to a girl named Paula Polestar (Kate Locklain) in the PK Realm. She tells him that she is being held hostage in a cabin in Peaceful Rest Valley by Mr. Carpainter, who plans to sacrifice her. The next morning, Ness speaks with Everdred in Burglin Park, who says Mr. Carpainter did indeed kidnap Paula in the dead of night. Ness meets Apple Kid (who is more a kid in a man's body than an actual kid), and gives him some food and $200.

On the way to Happy Happy Village, Ness encounters a Pencil Statue in the way. After comically attempting to get around it, Ness receives a call on his Reciever Phone from Apple Kid, saying he has a new invention that could help him. Ness returns to Twoson and gets the Pencil Eraser. He uses it and makes his way past Dalek Mini Saucers, Robotic Drones, and living bushes and trees. Ness arrives in Happy Happy Village, Idaho, where he finds out the village is the home base of the Happy Happy Cult, who was responsible for the Seattle Nerve Gas Attack that killed 300, and the Alaska Way Viaduct Bombing that killed 506. Ness' hatred for cultists is aroused, and he vows to kill each and every last one of them.

After killing several Cultists and a woman that was hassling him for money, he finds a cabin in the woods. Enraged Cultists who followed him try to attack him, but Ness hides in the cabin. Inside, he notices a Glock lying on the floor, and he gets an idea. He grabs the Glock, goes back outside and shouts "Piss off, paintheads!", before shooting them. Then, he grabs a matchbox and a propane tank located nearby and sets the bodies aflame. Going back inside the cabin, Ness ponders where Paula might be, before seeing the jail cell with her in it. Paula, overjoyed to finally meet Ness, gives him a Franklin Badge and tells him that when he frees her, they will burn Happy Happy Village to the ground. Ness, clearly smitten, goes outside and his anger reaches new heights.

Just as he is about to head back to the village, Pokey comes with a pair of Cultists. He tells Ness that the time for Minch family to have their revenge has come, and tells the Cultists to kill Ness. Ness kills them easily and heads back to the village. In a bloodthirsty rampage, Ness storms the Main Hall and uses PK Blasts to kill every Cultist in the way, and then brutally murders Mr. Carpainter. Retrieving the key to the cell door, Ness returns to the cabin. He frees Paula from the cell, who proceeds to (rather unexpectedly) hug Ness and speak of her eternal gratitude to him. After Ness confirms Mr. Carpainter is dead, he and Paula proceed to level Happy Happy Village, killing all of the inhabitants. After clearing out Lilliput Steps and defeating the Mighty Mole, Ness and Paula return to Twoson, and the Polestar Preschool. Paula's father, Paul Polestar (Michael Douglas), knows of Paula's destiny, and insists that she go with Ness, as does Paula's mother, Phoebe (Julie Kavner).

In Burglin Park, Everdred gives Ness and Paula a wad of U.S. dollar bills (which, according to Everdred, are "not" counterfeit) worth $10,000. They happen upon the Chaos Theater, where a group know as the Runaway Five is deep in debt. After giving the $10,000 to the theater manager (who is too stupid to realize the bills are counterfeit), the grateful Runaway Five give Ness and Paula a lift in their bus through the haunt Two-Three Tunnel to Threed, California. Arriving in Threed, Ness and Paula find the town overrun by Zombies. The zombies, though numerous, are easily defeated with Paula's PK Fire. They are lured into a hotel room by a Mysterious Woman, where zombies ambush them. Awaking in a rundown room with anti-American graffiti that offends them both, Paula identifies member no. 3 of the Chosen Four: Jeff Andonuts (Jeffrey Paul), son of famed British scientist Dr. John Andonuts (Liam Neeson). Knowing somehow that they are "on the menu for the Zombie's dinner", Paula desperately contacts Jeff through telepathy. In the town of Winters, England, Jeff responds. He gets his friend Tony (Kyle Taylor), who is obviously gay but his advances are ignored by Jeff, to help him get to the Sky Runner, an experimental hypersonic jet. Taking it to Threed, Jeff crashes it, freeing Ness and Paula. After introductions, Jeff uses his Bad Key Machine to unlock the door (and Ness wonders why he and Paula didn't think to just break down the door).

Back in town, Ness, Paula, and Jeff encounter an advanced Dalek Scouting Party. Jeff retreats to charge his laser gun at an outlet. Ness and Paula, using PK Blasts, manage to kill two of the Daleks, before the Daleks bring in a Special Weapons Dalek. Ness saves Paula's life again by diving to the ground while holding her. Jeff returns with a fully charged gun and blasts all of the Daleks. The group happens upon the Boogey Tent, which is a cover name for "Dalek Processing Facility". They find out that the Daleks have been re-animating the dead and using them to fill gaps in Dalek patrols. Jeff sabotages the machinery, while Ness and Paula engage the Daleks in battle. After the machinery is taken off-line, the Daleks are forced to evacuate Threed, but forget to exterminate the zombies in their haste, leaving the town still infested. Ness then receives a call from Apple Kid, saying he has invented Zombie Paper. A RoundTable deliveryman brings it to him. At the former Dalek Processing Facility, a detachment of the US Army, under the command of Gen. William Landon (William Shatner), sets up the Zombie Relief Corps. The Zombie Paper attracts the remaining zombies, where they are contained and taken away for "normalization" (a process that is never explained). As the group leaves, Landon notes the similarities between Ness and Ninten. An even larger Dalek Processing Facility is uncovered. Tighter security negates sabotage, so Ness and Paula storm the factory while Jeff provides them with information. After destroying the Supreme Dalek in charge of the facility, they leave town as Landon and his men move in to restore order. They come to Saturn Valley, where they encounter the strange Mr. Saturn. They are told that a monster lives in the nearby cave called Milky Well. Paula concludes that the cave is the third Sanctuary. The group clears out the cave and defeats a giant sprout, then return to the town.

On the road again, they cross a vast desert that nearly kills Jeff, but Ness and Paula think he's being overly dramatic. They soon reach Fourside, California, where they find out the Runaway Five is deep in debt again. They pay it off again (and Paula thinks they have a running gag). At the Department Store, a mysterious figure tries to kidnap Paula, but Ness brutally murders it. They soon learn the figure was a Mook, an alien species enslaved by the Daleks, and that a man named Geldegarde Monotoli is also a Dalek puppet. Monotoli has overthrown the mayor and replaced the Fourside Police Dept. with Daleks. The also learn that Pokey and his father have left Onett and are working for Monotoli. Ness, now realizing his "friend" is an agent of evil, vows to liberate Fourside of the Dalek presence. The group eats lunch at Jackie's Cafe. While eating, someone states they hear strange noises coming from outside. Going to investigate, they find Everdred lying on the ground, surrounded by Daleks. The Daleks are mowed down by Paula, as Ness speaks with Everdred. He tells Ness that the Daleks have begun a major extermination of all humans in Fourside. Knowing very well the direness of the situation, Ness and Paula head to the Monotoli Building while Jeff stays behind to protect the townspeople.

At the Monotoli Building, Ness and Paula find Daleks patrolling the grounds. Using the Daleks' lack of peripheral vision to their advantage, they sneak by and go into the building. The Daleks are alerted to their presence and Ness and Paula are forced to charge the Daleks, a risky strategy but well worth it. Going from floor-to-floor, Ness and Paula clear out each one until they reach the top floor. There, they confront Monotoli, Pokey, Aloysius, another Supreme Dalek, and several other Daleks. After exchanging heated words, Ness and Paula engage the enemies. The Daleks fall to Paula's PK Fire, while Aloysius, not being a good fighter, cowers in a corner. Pokey, armed with a baseball bat, engages Ness in a "lightsaber duel", as Paula describes it. After Pokey admits defeat, Ness and Paula turn to Monotoli, who starts using PK powers himself. The battle is heated and Ness gets a bloody nose, but eventually, the fight moves to the roof, where Ness and Paula together push Monotoli off. As Monotoli falls to his death, Paula moves to heal Ness. They move in on Monotoli's helicopter, but Pokey steals it, saying that he and Ness will meet again, and when they do, the Minch family will have their revenge.

Back in Fourside, Jeff reports that the Daleks didn't try making a move, as he kept them at bay with a Jammie Dodger he claimed was a Nuclear Launch Device. The Runaway Five repay them again by taking them back to Threed in their bus. Back in Threed, the group finds out that the good townspeople have repaired the Sky Runner. After a short 15-minute flight at Mach 10, they arrive in Jeff's hometown of Winters. After clearing out Rainy Circle and defeating a giant mushroom, the group crosses the English Channel and travel to Summer, Germany. While experiencing German culture and visiting World War II battle sights, Ness suddenly falls unconscious and enters the PK Realm again. Here, he meets Poo (Shiro), a Japanese prince who is PK-sensitive. He tells Ness that he lives in Dalaam, Japan, and that he has found out he is the fourth of the Chosen Four, and is waiting for them to arrive. Awakening, Ness finds that Poo has teleported to their location. He swears allegiance to Ness, and they set off once more.

Returning to Fourside, Paula alerts Ness to the location of the fifth Sanctuary: Magnet Hill. After clearing it out and defeating the Plague Rat of Doom (and in the process, preventing the spread of an alien virus whipped up by Dalek scientists), they procure a small yacht and travel to Egypt (which takes longer than Jeff would like). In Egypt, they find that the Daleks have taken over the Great Pyramid of Giza and are in the process of taking it apart. But it is not to create a new processing facility. Giygas, curious about human history, sent these Daleks to extract information. Ness and his crew manage to clear out the Daleks and destroy the Supreme Dalek in charge of the operation. Next, they take the Sky Runner to Poo's homeland of Dalaam. They meet Poo's father Eichi, and then venture to the sixth sanctuary: Pink Cloud (a name that makes Ness and Paula wonder who named these places and briefly break the fourth wall by glaring at a passerby played by Shigesato Itoi in a cameo appearance, who notices and throws his arms up defensively). They clear it out and defeat an extra-terrestrial entity called Thunder and Storm. Soon after, they acquire a submarine (which Ness calls "black market", since there are several Soviet markings on it) and take it to the Deep Darkness, a large underwater cave. They find a subterranean village called Tenda Village. After meeting the shy Tendas, they teach them bravery and the Tendas manage to hold off a Dalek incursion. The Tendas show them the way to the Lost Underworld, where they find and clear out the final two sanctuaries. Upon learning the final melody, Ness falls unconscious and enters the Magicant. Here, he encounters his predecessor Ninten (Mike Vogel), who tells him that no matter what they do, the Dalek Army is infinite, and they will never be able to destroy them. Eventually, the Daleks will invade and destroy humanity, and Ness and his friends will fall in the final stand. Ninten then battles Ness, telling him that he has no choice. Despite being equals, Ness emerges victorious.

Returning from the Magicant, the group finds that the Daleks have begun the invasion early. Giygas, tiring of Ness and his friends constantly meddling in Dalek affairs, decides to invade now than wait for the December window. Returning to Saturn Valley, Dr. Andonuts and Apple Kid reveal they have made a time machine. After transplanting their minds into robot bodies, Dr. Andonuts states he is sending them back in time to Skaro, the home planet of the Daleks, to destabilize the Dalek timeline. The group arrives on Skaro at the time the last of the Thals were driven out of Dalek City. Unable to speak because there was no time to install voice boxes, Ness uses morse code with his eye lights to give commands. Jeff and Poo will assault the main production line, while Ness and Paula will attack the city itself and hopefully destroy the Emperor. The Daleks soon find themselves under a massive assault. The Automated Dalek Production Line sustains severe damage from Jeff and Poo, while Ness and Paula raise hell in the city, destroying many buildings with lasers and flames. Believing enough damage has been done to set the Daleks back many, many years, the group returns to the present day. Unbeknownst to them, Giygas, now assuming a human form, had followed them back in time. He tells the Emperor he will make the Daleks stronger than ever.

Back in the present, the Chosen Four regain their bodies, but are horrified to find that Giygas also meddled with the Dalek timeline, and the invasion is underway again. Ness formulates a game plan: Jeff and Poo will hold off the Daleks, while Ness and Paula will seek out and kill Giygas. On the American Prairie, Ness and Paula engage a large group of Daleks, which they defeat with ease. Jeff and Poo fight tirelessly and prevent a horde of Daleks from invading New York City. All of a sudden, Ness and Paula are teleported to the Moon by Giygas. After exchanging heated words, they engage in a PK Duel, throwing attacks left and right. Eventually, Giygas decides to make things interesting by turning them all into kaiju. He turns Ness into Godzilla, Paula into Anguirus, and himself into King Ghidorah. The battle is what you would expect; Godzilla and Anguirus basically thrash Ghidorah. Finally, Giygas turns into his ultimate form: Super Giygas. Paula, desperate for Ness' survival, prays for him. On Earth, other people Ness met over the course of his journey pray as well. The combined prayers allow Ness to harness the power of God, and he turns into this ultimate form as well. A massive battle of gargantuans thrashes about the lunar surface, trying to kill each other. The hate is clearly seen on their faces and in their voices, as Giygas reveals he killed Ness' father. This causes Ness to become extremely enraged, and he begins violently using PK Blasts against Giygas. But Giygas stands firm and is about to blast Ness at point-blank range, when Paula intervenes, having transformed into her Ultimate Form.

Back on Earth, Jeff and Poo believe they have killed the last of the Daleks. Suddenly, a barely-functioning Dalek is about to blast Jeff, but Poo pushes him out of the way. Poo is hit at point-blank, causing Jeff to go ballistic and destroy the Dalek in cold blood. On the Moon, the final showdown between Ness and Giygas begins, with Paula bearing witness. Ness nearly gives in to his anger and destroys Giygas, but instead of destroying Giygas on the spot (and thus the Moon), he throws Giygas to the Earth. Giygas hits the ground at an inconceivably high rate of speed, exploding and leaving a giant crater. Ness also falls into the crater, and is grievously injured. Landing on Earth, Paula reverts to her normal form and pulls Ness from the crater. Using PK Heal, she nurses his injuries and he regains consciousness. Ness asks why Paula would pull him from the crater and revive him after he almost used his powers for revenge. Paula simply states that she loves him. And with that, Ness and Paula share their first kiss. Jeff comes in with the mortally wounded Poo. With his dying breath, Poo transfers his ultimate power, PK Starmstorm, to Ness. With that, he dies, and his friends mourn. In Dalaam, Eichi, Ness, Paula and Jeff give Poo a funeral pyre. Poo's father states that his son died protecting someone, and that there is no greater honor. Jeff believes the entire Dalek affair is over, but Ness and Paula know it's just the beginning. The movie ends with Ness and Paula, in each other's arms, looking at the full moon, which looks slightly different after Ness and Giygas re-arranged it in the fighting.

In a mid-credits scene, Ness calls his father, who is proud of his son; in a post-credits scene, Ness receives a letter from Pokey, saying he is now the leader of the Daleks, and the Minch family will have their revenge. This leaves Ness and Paula wondering about the future.


Live Actors

  • Gary Nelson as Ness Jones - Ness is a 13-year-old boy living in the town of Onett, Washington. He is a
  • Kate Locklain as Paula Polestar - Paula is a
  • Jeffrey Paul as Jeff Andonuts - Jeff is a
  • Shiro as Poo - Poo is a
  • Andrew Hall as Pokey Minch -
  • Matthew Morrison as Picky Minch -
  • Kyle Taylor as Tony -
  • Liam Neeson as Dr. John Andonuts -
  • Robin Williams as Apple Kid -
  • Tim Curry as Giygas (human form) -
  • William Shatner as General William Landon -
  • Michael Jeter as Mr. Carpainter -
  • Tony Randall as Geldegarde Monotoli -
  • John Goodman as Aloysius Minch - Aloysius is the father of
  • Rosie O'Donnell as Lardna Minch -
  • Tommy Chong as Everdred
  • Ken Watanabe as Eichi
  • Michael Douglas as Paul Polestar
  • Julie Kavner as Phoebe Polestar
  • Ray Liotta as Frank Fly
  • Burt Reynolds as Captain Strong - Captain Strong is the
  • Mike Vogel as Ninten
  • Lisa Kudrow as Vanessa Jones
  • Zoey Nelson as Tracy Jones
  • Regis Philbin as Reporter
  • Kenpachiro Satsuma as Godzilla (suit actor)
  • Toshihiro Ogura as Anguirus (suit actor)
  • Hurricane Ryu as King Ghidorah (suit actor)

In addition, Shigesato Itoi makes a cameo as a passerby.

Voice Cast

  • Dalek Voices: Peter Hawkins, David Graham, Roy Skelton, John Leeson, Royce Mills, Brian Miller, Terry Molloy, David Gooderson, Nicholas Briggs
  • Mr. Saturn voices: Dan Castellaneta
  • Various creature and alien sounds: Frank Welker
  • Buzz Buzz: Patrick Stewart
  • Mr. Jones: Rob Paulsen


Production on the film began in December 1995 after several script drafts were written, and filming began in March 1996 at Johnson Studios. Live scenes in caves and houses were filmed on Soundstage 23, model shots for the Invasion and Skaro scenes on the famed Soundstage 13, Dalek facility scenes and the Moon fight on Soundstage 5, and vehicle shots in the Johnson Model Studio, and scenes in shops and other buildings on Soundstage 19. Location filming was conducted in various settings, including the Tunisian Desert for the desert scenes, Sequoia National Park for Peaceful Rest Valley and other forest scenes, Yosemite Village for Happy Happy Village, Egypt for the Egypt scenes, Stuttgart for Summer, the Isle of Man for Winter, Beijing, North China for Dalaam, and an area near Lawrence, Kansas for the Prairie and Giygas Crash scenes.

The film used little, if any, CGI effects. A lot of the effects were practical and employed old methods. For example, when Paula's PK Fire is used, Locklain's outstretched arm hides a flamethrower used by a crew member to shoot fire and set various props on fire.

During one of the Dalek Facility scenes, Ness and Paula flee a group of Daleks by sliding on a zipline. During filming, the zipline's brake stuck, leaving Nelson and Locklain suspended in mid-air without harness or airbag. The only thing keeping them from falling was Nelson straining to keep ahold of the zip-line handle while having to hold up Locklain. Eventually, props were moved to bring in a cherry-picker to get them down. The snag became one of the most celebrated bloopers of all time, and an entire featurette was released on the bonus disc of the 2011 Blu-ray release.

For the Daleks, almost every surviving actor who had ever voiced them in the original Doctor Who was brought back to voice them. The principal Dalek voices were Peter Hawkins, David Graham, Roy Skelton, and Nicholas Briggs, with other actors doing voice work for crowd scenes. The only Dalek actors not brought in were Michael Wisher, Oliver Gilbert, and Peter Messaline (Wisher had voiced the Daleks in the early 1970s before Skelton took over for the remainder of the classic series run, and the latter two had done the voices in Day of the Daleks; Wisher had died half a year before production commenced, while Timothy Hill explicitly excluded Gilbert and Messaline for how wooden their performances were, even giving their Daleks the derogatory nickname "the Shatner Daleks").

The Godzilla sequence garnered much media attention in the Japanese States. Toho lent suits to Johnson Studios for the sequence. The Godzilla (MogeGoji) suit was fresh out of Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (and reverted back to its original state from Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla), the Anguirus (ShoshingekiGira) suit had sat in storage since Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla in 1974, and the King Ghidorah suit and puppets (HeiseiGhido) were last used in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, released in 1991. All three suits were retained and put to use the next year in Monster World, and are still owned by Johnson and used on a regular basis; notably, SoshingekiGira is now typically worn by Chloe Johnson.


The movie's score was composed by John Williams and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. Williams was told to use a few themes from the original game, notably the title screen music. Songs from The Beatles were used at points, like how the game used samples from their songs. His score was well-received, winning him an Academy Award for Best Musical Score in 1998. The song in the end credits, called "Going EarthBound" and performed by legendary pop singer Michael Jackson, is inspired by Beatles music, has lyrics referencing the film's events, and utilizes audio samples from the video game.

The Godzilla sequence was the only scene not scored by Williams. Instead, Akira Ifukube made an uncredited contribution by scoring the entire scene; it was ultimately the last time he contributed music to a Godzilla-related piece of media before his death in 2006, as, although his music was (and still is) used extensively in Monster World, he never directly contributed to it.


Among the list of filming methods:

  • In the opening scene with the meteor, the meteor itself is a burning piece of charcoal dropped into the hill. Within the hill are explosive squibs used for most of the explosions in the model shots. This shot was reused in the eighth season premiere of Monster World.
  • Also in the opening scene, when Ness is jolted awake by the meteor impact, director Timothy Hill wanted the full effect. Therefore, Gary Nelson was given no indication as to when the hydraulics under the set and the loud blank shot. When both happened, Nelson actually fell out of the bed, but the shot was kept since it was the full effect Hill was looking for.
  • As mentioned, whenever Paula uses PK Fire, Kate Locklain's outstretched arm hides a flamethrower that shoots the fire itself. The things Paula sets on fire are actually burned by the flamethrower. This method is still used.
  • Happy Happy Village's destruction was not filmed in Yosemite Village as it is usually stated. Only close-up shots of Ness and Paula in the village killing Cultists were actually filmed on location. The rest were model sets filmed at Soundstage 13.
  • The Monotoli Building scenes were mostly filmed in the North Tower of the original World Trade Center in Manhattan, New York. This caused some media attention post-9/11, and there was serious consideration to refilm the scenes on Soundstage 6 for the then-upcoming 3D re-release of the film in 2002, but by this time, Nelson and Locklain had outgrown the roles. Another idea was to film with their replacements John Helbert and Vanessa Parsons, but they were knee-deep in filming for Revenge of the Sontarans. It was decided to leave the scene intact for said re-release, with a disclaimer added in the beginning.
  • The long-shots of the Runaway Five's tour bus were filmed on both US Highway 50 near Carson City, with the Two-Three Tunnel being filmed at Cave Rock. Care had to be taken in order to ensure Lake Tahoe did not show up in any shots. When the crew couldn't get any shots without Tahoe, the tunnel scenes were moved to the Waldo Tunnel near Marin. The shots of Cave Rock were later recycled in several third and fourth season episodes.
  • The Skaro scenes were difficult to film, since the whole sequence, from start to end, was based on the Dalek Civil War from the 1967 Doctor Who serial, "Evil of the Daleks". Since only the second episode of the serial is the only part to survive in whole, stock footage was hard to come by. Several telesnaps from the seventh episode that do survive were spliced with footage of the Ness and Paula robot props opening fire. A surviving clip of the assembly line scene from "Power of the Daleks" was also used, with CG explosions superimposed when Jeff and Poo open fire. The robots themselves were animatronics running on tracks that were composited out of the final cut. Actual robot suits for Nelson, Locklain, Paul, and Shiro to wear were actually constructed, but they were too bulky and if someone fell, they couldn't get up by themselves. The suits were nixed and were later used in the second season episode, "Insurrection on Sondor", where they were effectively disposed of.
  • The Giygas Crash scene was the only point where CGI was noticeable. Super-Ness and Giygas falling to Earth was filmed using harnesses and green screens, with the harnesses composited out. The far shots of the re-entry and flyby shots were CGI. The crash itself was filmed on Soundstage 5, where the largest explosion on a Johnson model set to date was set off. The explosion was so powerful, most of the soundstage's windows were blown out. The sound of the blast could be heard up to 3 miles away, and caused windows in Downtown San Jose to rattle and many calls to the police department.
  • In the funeral pyre scene, a dummy of Poo with Shiro's head and other enhancements digitally added was used.
  • The submarine the protagonists use to get to Deep Darkness was actually stock footage of the Neptune's Trident from Detective Jenny. In the original 1997 theatrical release, an oversight during editing saw Team Jenny's iconic insignia (the "J of Doom") clearly visible on the conning tower; this was digitally removed by the home video release later that year, and the edit is present in all subsequent releases.

Surfacing of Original Script

On June 16, 2007, the original firt draft for the movie (written in August 1995) surfaced, showing different characterizations for the characters. Ness was originally a cocky, self-centered, yet likable jerk, Paula was a stereotypical, whiny damsel-in-distress, Jeff was a stereotypical nerd who has an aversion to physical confrontation, and Poo was a Japanese nationalist who secretly resented his partners for being from the countries that defeated Japan in World War II. The film was originally going to be a hand-drawn animation film, and Eddie Deezen was slated to voice Jeff. The script was rejected as being too stereotypical and containing offensive material glorifying the Allied victory in World War II, before it was discovered that the script had been anonymously written by Jim Aaron, a former writer for The Cool Adventures of Chocodile who was blindly loyal to Phil Stacker (who expressed great disdain for the series after his resignation) and was trying to bring the company down with an expensive box-office bomb to "avenge him"; Aaron went under the pseudonym "Alan J. Sanderson". This script was thrown out, Aaron was blacklisted from Johnson, and a new script was written that became the final product.



Upon its release, the film received universal acclaim. Critics praised the story, acting, effects, soundtrack, and props. Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel gave the film "two big thumbs up" on the May 10, 1997 episode of Siskel & Ebert, and went on to say "Johnson Studios has officially become the messiah of cinema", with Ebert, in particular, famously calling it "one of the greatest films we've seen in all our years as film critics". The New York Times called the film "re-assurance of Johnson Industries (Johnsonverse)' return to form", saying the film exceeded all expectations and "put its predecessor to shame", as well as being an example of a good video game adaptation.

Critics highly praised the performances of Nelson, Locklain, Paul, and Shiro as "the definitive depictions of these underrated characters". Critics also highly praised the relationship and chemistry between Ness and Paula, saying they "avoided the most annoying and repetitive cliches". Paula was praised for being a strong female lead capable of fighting instead of a whiny damsel-in-distress (as she was in the original script). The film holds a rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, with its critic consensus reading, "With great performances, powerful effects and sympathetic characters, this film has a rightful place in history as one of the all-time greats". It also holds a rare 100% on Metacritic.

The movie brought attention to the EarthBound SNES game, and both it and the SNES quickly saw a huge boost in sales in retailers and used game stores, especially after the former did poorly initially thanks to the "This Game Stinks!" campaign conceived by Nintendo of America, extending the lifespan of the SNES until 2006. The movie was extremely popular in the Japanese states, with lines stretching miles long and theaters running out of food and being filled to capacity.


On its opening weekend, the movie was a blockbuster, opening at No. 1. At the end of the year, it was the highest-grossing film of 1997. In total, the film made $2,592,409,102 worldwide, making it the highest-grossing film of all-time at the time (currently the third highest-grossing).

Subsequent re-releases

In 2002, in anticipation of the release of Revenge of the Sontarans, the film was re-released in 3D; a disclaimer was added saying "This movie was originally released before the World Trade Center tragedy on September 11, 2001", along with a dedication to the victims of the attack, saying "To the men, women, and children who were killed in the attack, you will never be forgotten".

Home video

On November 7, 1997, six months after the film's release, EarthBound was released on VHS, LaserDisc, and the then-fledgling DVD format, making it one of the first titles released on DVD. The DVD release was supplemented by a "Collector's Edition" release, which came with a variety of bonus features, including a commentary by Hill, Nelson, and Locklain.

In 2005, EarthBound was one of the first films to be released on Blu-ray, and on May 4, 2007, exactly ten years after the release of the film, it was released on home video once again on DVD and Blu-ray. It was labeled as the "Tenth Anniversary Edition", and came with even more bonus features. In 2017, to commemorate the film's twentieth anniversary, the film was re-released on DVD, Blu-ray, and USD, with bloopers, additional deleted scenes, costume tests, and the documentary Going EarthBound: The Legacy of an Icon. The Blu-Ray features thirty-two foreign audio tracks, including a new Navajo-language track, the 1997 DVD commentary, a new 2017 commentary, a music-and-effects track, and a descriptive audio track, and the USD contains even more additional material.


The success of the film spawned a follow-up television series, EarthBound: The Series, which ran from September 1, 1997 to June 21, 2015, a remake of the original game for SNES and N64 that follows the plot of the movie, a comic book series that has run since 2000, novels and novellas (most notably, a 750-page novelization written by Hill published at the same time as the movie), a toyline by Hasbro (later made in-house by Johnson Toys), a LEGO theme starting in 2004, a clothing line, among other merchandise. Three sequel films were also released: in 2002 (Revenge of the Sontarans), 2008 (Mother 3), and 2011 (EarthBound 2: Invasion).

In 2017, the movie was inducted into the National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

See Also