(Welcome to Out of the Disney Vault, where we explore the unsung gems and forgotten disasters currently streaming on Disney+.)

With the launch of Disney+, countless long-forgotten Disney movies are finally widely available to the public. Some of these are classic that people have waited years to revisit. Some are…well, little-known for a reason. But once you’re done watching The Mandalorian, you’ll want something to pass the time with the new streaming service, right?

Sure, you can go re-watch a classic Disney animated movie. Or you can watch an old Simpsons episode. But why not experience some of the weirdest movies Disney has spent decades trying to forget actually exist?

If you’re brave enough to go with the latter, there are plenty of choices for weird, forgotten Disney movie that are finally out of the vault. If you don’t know where to start, may we suggest the truly bizarre family-friendly horror that is Mr. Boogedy?

The Pitch

In an interview with MLive, Mr. Boogedy writer Michael Janover said that the original pitch for the movie was a comedy named Cheap Thrills, an Airplane! Style parody of horror movies á la Scary Movie that was to be made by Columbia Pictures and star comedy duo Cheech & Chong. But the project fell apart when Janover unintentionally offended the then-head of the studio by adding a scene where Max von Sydow was going to play a parody version of his Father Merrin character from The Exorcist. According to Janover, the head of the studio was “an older guy who was a strict Catholic,” so the project fell apart at Columbia.

But then Disney called and had them tone down the horror, which resulted in Mr. Boogedy. While many details have been lost to time, Mr. Boogedy was at some point meant to be a TV series, but ended up as a 45-minute made-for-TV movie that was part of the Disney Sunday Night Movie anthology series.

Mr. Boogedy tells the story of the Davis family. Dad (Richard Masur) is a novelty-salesman who moves his family into a very clearly haunted house – there’s a sign outside the house that reads “Not Really Haunted” until the word “Not” gets knocked over during a storm. Mom Eloise (Mimi Kennedy) and their three kids, Jennifer (Kristy Swanson), Corwin (David Faustino) and Aurie (Benji Gregory) think the dad’s just pulling a series practical jokes at first, but they soon learn that their house is haunted by a pilgrim who liked scaring kids. And apparently taking them hostage in the afterlife, too.

The Movie

If the short runtime wasn’t enough to make you curious, Mr. Boogedy is simply ridiculous. It’s also ridiculously fun. This is a movie where the family moves to a town literally called Lucifer Town. This is a movie where the family enters the decrepit, broken down house and they’re greeted by the head of the town’s chamber of commerce, who is played by The Addams Family’s John Astin.

Are you tired of horror movies where the characters are too dumb to realize what the hell is going on around them? Well, the horror-parody aspect of Mr. Boogedy (made before Scream) has the family instantly recognize that the house is haunted – pianos start playing themselves and Jennifer’s room is glowing green after a visit from the titular Boogedy – and they want to leave right away.

Thanks to the movie’s origin as a self-aware parody, the mandatory exposition scene giving the whole backstory of the town is a bit different in Mr. Boogedy. Witherspoon tells the story of Boogedy to the family’s kids, but the entire thing is played as a surreal live-action pop-up book-style scene that includes fake trees, billowing smoke, and a creepy Satan-figure that makes you wonder how and why Disney approved any of this. 

The kids are cheesy yet endearing, and Masur is fantastic as the dad, with a goofy charm that makes his terrible gags work. Kennedy’s braying mom also gets a surprisingly touching yet absurdly hilarious scene once she runs into one of the ghosts living in the house and can only think of inviting the ghost inside for some coffee. Sure, this isn’t Scream or Airplane!, but it’s a surprisingly funny film that also serves as a great and safe gateway horror movie for kids.

Of course, the true star is the titular Boogedy – Mr. Boogedy was his father – who was a sadistic man who liked to yell “Boogedy!” at children. Played by Howard Witt, the titular ghost is pure nightmare fuel. Though we don’t know what the hell happened to him, he looks like Emperor Palpatine with severe acne that gives him a green and fungal infection-like look. His story is disturbing and not like something Disney would make today, and it’s something you have to discover for yourself. It’s too pure and ridiculous to spoil here.

The Legacy

Though it isn’t exactly clear what transpired behind the scenes, Mr. Boogedy was, at one point, meant to be a pilot for a TV show. Based on what we see in the film, it is easy to see how the story could be stretched out to include more ghosts, but 45 minutes feels like more than enough time spent with Boogedy. That being said, the movie proved popular enough that Disney commissioned a sequel just a year after the original aired. That sequel was titled Brige of Boogedy, which brought the director and writers back for a story that had Mr. Boogedy possess the family’s dad. Sadly, they replaced most of the original cast, even though they gained Eugene Levy.

What happened to the actors? Well, Benji Gregory, who played the youngest son, went on to star in another nightmare-inducing comedy, ALF. David Faustino, who played the middle child, became best known for his role as Bud Bundy on Married… with Children. Kristy Swanson, who played the oldest daughter Jennifer, went on to star in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and played the titular role in the original movie version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

On a final note, the MLive article linked above reveals director Oz Scott turned down a young actor named Leaf who auditioned for the part that went to Faustino. That actor was Leaf Phoenix, better known as Joaquin Phoenix. Now try not to imagine a world where David Faustino played the Joker.

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