When I heard Los Angeles magazine was planning a road trip movie series at Arclight Cinemas Hollywood, the first film that came to mind was Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, and guess what: we’re screening it on March 23.
If you’ve not seen the film, it follows its protagonist (a forlorn Pee Wee Herman) as he seeks to recover his lost bicycle. Nobody wants to lose something important (and Pee Wee obsessed over that bike), but we all want to have experiences like these. This journey into a world of gadgets, dinosaurs, and supernatural encounters is an amazing kaleidoscopic vision from Paul Reubens and Tim Burton, but even more amazing: most of the escapades seen in the film took place less than an hour from home. Go search out these iconic sites after you’ve seen the movie and plan your own adventure.
Mission San Fernando
There’s no basement at the Alamo nor at the Mission San Fernando where most of the film’s scenes set at the Texas fort were shot. The adobe (“a-dohhh-bee”) church is over 200 years old, and the kitchen tableau seen in the film is still open for tours.
Grand Central Airport Terminal
The art deco tower of the long-closed airport doubles as a Texas bus station where Pee-Wee is chased by Simone’s former boyfriend Andy. The Walt Disney Company is planning a major restoration of the 1929 terminal building, which will house a visitor’s center.
Los Angeles County Fairgrounds
Pee-Wee avoids Andy at the bus station, but he reappears with the bulls at the rodeo. This scene was filmed at Fairplex in Pomona, home of the Los Angeles County Fair every fall. The rest of the year, the fairgrounds hosts art shows, hot rod cruise-ins, and even immigration ceremonies for new citizens.
King Gillette Ranch
The 600-acre parkland once owned by razor mogul King Gillette and featuring a mansion designed by Wallace Neff played host to the Tour de France in a dream sequence that opens the film. Today, hiking, bird-watching, and Chumash educational walks are offered at the ranch.
Warner Bros. Studio
The Warner Bros. studio is one of the most historic in Southern California. Their legendary lot in Burbank was built in 1926 and continues to be a hub of the movie industry. The company offers a VIP tour that visits functioning soundstages, drops in on working craftsmen, and cruises through New York Street (home of fortuneteller Madame Ruby in the film) and other neighborhoods seen in the movie.