Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What happened to Bobby?...


I have been asked a million times, "What happened to Bobby at the end of RADIO FLYER?"

A few years ago my friend, Stephen Greenfield interviewed me for an article and my answer to this question is as good a one as I think I have ever given. If after reading the Q&A you're still questioning the ending, sit-tight until I have my Blog figured out you'll be able to get a copy of the original screenplay and the original novella.

Here ya go:

"What's the Message?"
Article by Stephen Greenfield

Many years ago, friends warned me about seeing Radio Flyer. This 1992 film was the result of a very hot script auction (reputed to be $1 million). The production was the subject of additional controversy when the 27 year-old writer, David Mickey Evans, having negotiated a pay-and-play contract to direct the picture, was deliberately slowed down and caused to go over schedule, so that he could be thrown off the project after two weeks and replaced by Richard Donner. Donner is the esteemed director of the original Superman movie, the Lethal Weapon series, Conspiracy Theory, and more. That move escalated the budget of the small, deeply personal story from $18 million to $30 million.
Mixing warm, reminiscent fantasy with frighteningly real drama, Radio Flyer is about a young boy (Bobby), who endures the secret abuse of a sadistic stepfather (The King), and Bobby’s distressed older brother (Mike) who desperately tries to end that abuse. The concerned brother is inhibited from telling anyone, especially the mother, because knowledge of the abuse would destroy her happy relationship with the stepfather. So the kids can’t tell anyone: not the mother, not the concerned policeman who sees that something’s going on, not anyone. Nor do they attempt to run away to escape the abuse.
What these kids do, in fact, is build a pretend airplane out of a Radio Flyer wagon, and in the end, the seriously abused brother flies off into the night sky.
When I saw this, I thought, these kids seemed so concerned about mom’s feelings, don’t they think she’s going to be SHATTERED when she finds out her son has flown off, never to return?
To me, and to many other critics of the movie, the message seemed to be that although child abuse is a real problem, there is no solution short of suicide. Exactly what did the filmmakers think a child seeing this movie was going to think? That they, too, could build an impossible device and fly it away to solve their problems? I have kids, and I’m certain this wouldn’t be a message for any child I cared about.
But there are many stages between the idea and intent that forms in the writer’s mind, and what gets filmed, edited and ultimately interpreted by the audience. Over the intervening years, I had become acquainted with the writer, David Mickey Evans. Before revisiting my reaction 18 years ago to “Radio Flyer”, I realized I had a unique opportunity to go right to the source! David answered my questions with some very candid replies:
Stephen Greenfield: How did the story change from what you ultimately sold? Were there changes the studio compelled you to make, that you perhaps only did because you (at that time) didn't want to rock the boat directorially?
David Mickey Evans: It was softened, which I never liked, and in comparison to a recent film like "Precious," seems to have vindicated my point of view. Things that bothered me about the changes were that they kept coming from places that I didn't think had the right to make and/or suggest them. For example, the V.O. over the scene when The King comes back to the house after having been arrested, was written by the editor, Stuart Baird. Donner liked it. I did not. It was never a matter of me not wanting to rock the boat, it was simply that ALL decisions began and ended with Mr. Donner. The most glaring change was the end of the film, the original script ended with a reunion of sorts between Mike and Bobby, grown up, in the Smithsonian National Aerospace Museum where the Radio Flyer is on display next the The Wright Flyer -- with the exception that is has no visable means of support (no wires, nothing... just hovering in mid air proudly). I wrote it because I intended it to mean that the Radio Flyer had actually worked -- whatever the machinations of how Bobby survived notwithstanding. Mr. Donner's opinion was that the ending should be a "Rorschach Test" for the audience. I believe that is entirely wrong. Having said that, he was very kind to me, and included me at every stage of production and post-production.
SG: What changes were made to the story without your participation?
DME: The only thing I can recall as having been "sprung" upon me was the rewritten V.O. over the scene I mentioned above.
SG: Were aspects of abuse in the story either toned down or amped up after you were "replaced" as director?
DME: Yes. Toned down. I had in mind something more like "The 400 Blows." Mr. Donner had in mind, I think, something more like, "My Life As A Dog."
SG: Mike and Bobby never tell mom about The King's abuse, presumably because doing so would ruin her relationship with him. They also don't tell anyone, including the police. Is this for the same reason? And was this a key requirement of the plot for the ending to work?
DME: No, it wasn't specifically so that Mom's relationship with The King not be ruined, it was because, "Mom's happy now." There's a big difference there. Yes, they do not tell the police for the same reason. Yes, the ending, as I wrote it, but was not included in the film, had to have this element to make it work. Keep in mind the time the story is set in -- the early 70's, and there wasn't the sort've help and support for domestic abuse issues as there is today.
SG: Why is it Mike and Bobby can't run away? That's usually the first thing that kids think of. Was the reason for not being able to run away ever addressed in the script?
DME: Sure it was addressed, and that small piece of explanatory dialogue was edited out. Sure they could've both run away, but Mike wasn't getting abused, Bobby was, and the logic the kids use is that "someone has to stay home and take care of mom." Simple. Honest.
SG: The kids seem so concerned about Mom's feelings — but don't they think she is going to be SHATTERED when she finds out her son has flown off, never to return?
DME: That's hardly something that would've occurred to them in their state of fear. Their thought process goes like this, "Bobby's getting hurt. Can't tell Mom because she's happy now. Gotta get Bobby away and safe. I, Mike, will stay and take care of her. That's a good plan." Anything after that is asking too much of the 10 and 8 year-old minds to consider. There's also a metaphorical sense in which it is meant, and that is simply, "the radio flyer having worked" = "that Mike and Bobby finally got help" however that may have actually happened. I did not intend it that way, but I acknowledge it's potential.
SG: In the beautifully set up montage, "seven things all kids under 12 believe" (one of my favorite bits of writing!) you set up that “monsters exist”, “animals can talk” and most importantly, “kids can fly”. But at virtually every point in this film, where the kids have an opportunity to come face to face with the seven things, they ultimately see the truth: monsters don’t exist, animals can’t talk, and a favorite blanket can’t protect you like a force field from the neighborhood bully. So why do these kids have any faith that the Radio Flyer can deliver?
DME: Really good question! Because in the original script, they're real: monster do exist, animals do talk (in fact all the material with Mike and Shane [the dog] communicating was removed), a blanket is an impenetrable force field; e.g. (in the original script) when Bobby hops off the roof with the umbrella, he floats gently to the ground. That was the point of the entire section, to depict that within their world, all that stuff is vitally real, actual, it "is"... it's their reality, childhood magic to be sure, but real.
SG: Does the ending of the film essentially amount to suicide for Bobby? Is the message of the ending, and thus the film, that even though child abuse is a very real problem (and portrayed as such), there is no real world solution short of suicide? Because the argument that a kid can build an impossible but magical device to whisk himself away from abuse seems contradicted by the setup of the "seven things". And you make a compelling case for why these characters cannot tell anyone else.
DME: No f***ing way! I've been asked that a thousand times. I understand how an audience could come away with that impression considering the way the story was altered, but I NEVER intended that. Ever. The argument I was making was entirely the opposite, in effect, "Never give up no matter what!" And really, i was blurring the metaphorical line as it were in the original script, the Radio Flyer is a metaphor, it worked in the vastness of childhood imagination, and because of the 100% belief the kids had in it, it worked in reality-reality as well. If that seems contradictory, read the paragraph again, and remember, that the original ending of the film is not in the film -- Mike and Bobby as adults, Bobby in an Air Force Officer's uniform, in the Smithsonian Aerospace museum (the hallowed hall of the preeminent artifacts of flight) reconnecting after a long absence in front of the Wright Flyer and the Radio Flyer both on display beside one another. There was also V.O. there that tied the entire story up on a cathartic and understandable bow.
SG: And ultimately, how do you frame the message you were trying to send? Was it aimed at a purely adult audience? Was it a mistake for the film to be marketed as a PG-rated "family" movie?
DME: I never aim any story at any audience when I write it. The story was the story. Who was "The 400 Blows" aimed at? Who, for that matter, really, was "Precious" (to use a much more recent example) aimed at? I really couldn't care less. And was it a mistake to market it as a PG-rated family film? Of course it was. Look at the disaster it was at the box office. I'm proud of the story, the script, but handling what should've been an intimate, tense, dramatic, lower budget sort've story in a HUGE holly-woody way (budget, marketing etc...) was clearly a mistake.
So there you have it.
Personally, I believe the project was intended as an exploration of a real issue, with the cinematic and entertaining device of a kid flying off in a impossibly non-aerodynamic contraption.
David told me that the head of Columbia really identified with the story, quoting “Hey, kid, you wrote my life…” David’s desire to blend the serious aspects of abuse in the framework of entertainment was probably the key decision that launched “Radio Flyer”.
Unfortunately, the film’s intent was mangled in the delivery. The result was a movie with a confused and disturbing message, targeted at parents and kids.
For a more detailed historical article on the genesis of “Radio Flyer”, see Entertainment Weekly article: 
http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,309669,00.html.

108 comments:

  1. No offence, but I think the film as it is works better than the film as it could have been from the original script. Combining a story of realistic abuses with magical child-like elements sounds odd; I doubt it would have worked. Perhaps Mr Donner saw that as a filmmaker.

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  2. I agree with Robert (previous comment). This movie would have been horrible with the original script. It is perfect as is.

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  3. Thank you for this. The movie is disturbing and was great in a lot of ways, but the ending just didn't FIT. Now it makes sense. There's a reason it gets a lot of low reviews, the mess they made of the ending is it.

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  4. I loved this movie as a kid. im 29 now.. i always wondered what happened to Bobby. The original Smithsonian exit gives me some closure that he did survive.

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  5. Just saw it... i think Donner ruined the ending. Thank you for the writers version. It's too bad Donner didn't really "get it" there was so many better endings that could have sent a message of hope for abused children.

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  6. Is the original screenplay available now?

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    1. Hey Erin, unfortunately the script is not available. But the book upon which I based the script (THE KING OF PACOIMA) is available at Flyingwagonbooks.com and on Amazon.com

      Best,

      DME

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  7. I was 10 when I first saw this movie. With my understanding at the time Bobby got away and radio flyer really did work. To me it was a miracle. As an adult it seemed more as a metaphor for being free, and that he possibly died. Not as a suicide, but as the first kid, Fisher who tried to fly on his bike, and maybe Bobby wasn't as lucky. I do wish that the writer's ending and magical parts were in the movie. It would have solidified their belief in the impossible. I'm glad the abuse was toned down. Not sure I could've watched it if it weren't at that time. Thank you for these answers.

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    1. Fisher didn't die. He worked at the gas station. That he died was only to enhance the legend.

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  8. Love this film and your talent in resurrecting the magic of childhood. I wish another musical symbol had been chosen and your original ending had been retained. The V.O. 's children would have known about such a heroic uncle and he wouldn't have to tell the history as he remembered it. Still, a favorite along with Sandlot.

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  9. Love this film and your talent in resurrecting the magic of childhood. I wish another musical symbol had been chosen and your original ending had been retained. The V.O. 's children would have known about such a heroic uncle and he wouldn't have to tell the history as he remembered it. Still, a favorite along with Sandlot.

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  10. I must over think things when Tom Hanks tells his boys that history is in the eye of the person remembering it, I take it to mean that The King got to Bobby first like you see in the film, he kills Bobby. The flight is a metaphor for Bobby going to heaven. I was a child abuse victim, this was suggested by my therapist.

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    1. I think you are right because the children in the end, ask their Dad, Tom Hanks, "Is that how we got Sampson?" The turtles name was Sampson and supposedly flew off with the turtle.So how did Mike get it?

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    2. I meant the turtle flew off with Bobby

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    3. This is exactly what I have thought since the first time i saw it.

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    4. Same tom hanks makes it see that thats the way he chose to remember what happened to bobby. Suggesting that he was killedfrom the abuse. And also the way there seems to be an emphasis on the cuffing of the king at the secret spot. tGreat movie. Can remember having profound memories of this movie as a child.

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  11. Hey "Unknown" and "Nurse Tracy" and "Katherine Udavcak," the answers to all these questions about "What happened to Bobby" are answered in my book (the book upon which I based the script for Radio Flyer) THE KING OF PACOIMA. The film's ending in the film was changed drastically from what my original intentions were as written int he book. You can get it at Flyingwagonboos.com, or on Amazon or CreateSpace. Thanks for posting, DME

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  12. I just want to say "thank God" Mr. Evans for your original ending. It has always bothered me not knowing or imagining what happened to "Bobby". I definitely think Donner should have went with your original ending. It would have been so much more endearing, uplifting and hopeful for children as well as adults. Also, I strongly believe it would have been a box office hit. People enjoy 'happy endings". There is nothing wrong with believing in the unbelievable. Congratulations to you for staying steadfast in your original work. Bravo!

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  13. I agree with Nurse Tracy...I saw this "family film" at seven years old. As an abuse victim I always mourned Bobby in the end because my interpretation was that not only Bobby, but also his dog had perished, and the whole VO was a reflection of society's tendency to ignore abuse and pretend like the truth is better left unsaid. I think this interpretation was also fueled by my awareness of the story of Ursula Sunshine. So for a happy, well cared for child, this could have been received as you intended, even with the changes. But for someone who lived with the reality of an abuser, the film version definitely gives a sense of hopelessness and loss. Screw them for ruining your vision of hope and happiness.

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  14. I saw this movie over 20 years ago and just now finished watching it again which prompted me to look this up. I always thought Bobby got away and was just fine both 20 years ago and just now. They may have tried to ruin your ending but the foundation of your script didn't allow it. For me, what you saw as the original ending, came through loud and clear.

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  15. I saw this movie over 20 years ago and just now finished watching it again which prompted me to look this up. I always thought Bobby got away and was just fine both 20 years ago and just now. They may have tried to ruin your ending but the foundation of your script didn't allow it. For me, what you saw as the original ending, came through loud and clear.

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  16. Wow I was over thinking this movie! I saw it at 10 and thought Bobby got away. My step mom told me she took it as if Bobby was imaginary. That mike made him up to cope with the abuse and it was really him being abused. I watched it again today (more then 20 yrs later) and when he said history is in the mind of the teller, I believed she was right. That he was saying he could tell his history what ever way he wanted. After all, he had sampson. He mentioned everytime he would start to forget he would get another postcard. Also, that when you turn 13 you forget the 7 childhood secrets. This all happened before 13 and he was starting to forget. It all made sense. I should have just stuck with my thoughts! It's was better then thinking the kid committed suicide!

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  17. If bobby survived why wasn't he there in the begining with tom hanks to tell the story? From what I gathered they never met their uncle bobby...

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  18. I like to look.at this movy in the sense that there was no little brother, there was one boy and the final flight was the abused boy leaving him and The King being locked away. In the end it shows Mike and his sons still have Sampson, the turtle that supossidly flew awy with Bobby.

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  19. I always thought that was bobby flying the plane at the end of the movie. And I always wondered how he survived through the years as far as food and shelter. He was just a kid!

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  20. I always thought that was bobby flying the plane at the end of the movie. And I always wondered how he survived through the years as far as food and shelter. He was just a kid!

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  21. Unless you lived a life of fear of a devil in your house and scared s*******you will never understand what it really means! That fricken cord is a stab in the heart of fear! Being beaten just for being alive is more than anyone can handle! A step dad like this should be eaten alive by mad dogs! Most kids don't speak of it in fear of getting beaten! It is a movie but what a crazy truth it brings to the table. Child abuse is more than a black eye or broke nose. It is a fear of life.the movie shows there can be a way out. Be strong and believe the good Lord will step in.

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  22. Unless you lived a life of fear of a devil in your house and scared s*******you will never understand what it really means! That fricken cord is a stab in the heart of fear! Being beaten just for being alive is more than anyone can handle! A step dad like this should be eaten alive by mad dogs! Most kids don't speak of it in fear of getting beaten! It is a movie but what a crazy truth it brings to the table. Child abuse is more than a black eye or broke nose. It is a fear of life.the movie shows there can be a way out. Be strong and believe the good Lord will step in.

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  23. I just watched the movie again I haven't seen it in years it this makes me cry. I think even though Tom hanks was narrating it you can kind of drawn a conclusion either way he could be Bobby cause he ended up with the turtle in the end or he could have been mike.

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  24. I just watched the movie again I haven't seen it in years it this makes me cry. I think even though Tom hanks was narrating it you can kind of drawn a conclusion either way he could be Bobby cause he ended up with the turtle in the end or he could have been mike.

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  25. Wow. I just read the article and the comments... and I want to thank everyone. All the perspectives and truths have provided great closure for me.

    I saw this movie at a young age, and loved it (I still do). But seeing it as a 30+ year old, it feels different. As a youth, I really believed that Bobby flew away and found safety... because I believed in miracles (I still do). I negated his need for logical elements, like money, food, sleep, etc. Bobby was 8, with limited education... so how could he explain why/how he was flying around in a flea market airplane with one wheel. It's funny how young minds work.

    I recently watched this movie again... as an adult, and the logic was bothering me so much that I had to ask Google for answers... which lead me here.

    I love the truths that David Mickey Evans provides. Thanks chief. The original story seems like genius material... and the ending could have been epic (kinda like that Twilight Zone where the fighter pilot draws the landing gear for the plane, and saves it from crashing). But what most stood out to me on this page was the comment from the Unknown at September 24, 2015 at 9:49 PM. It makes so much sense... Mike made up Bobby as a way to cope with the abuse and explain the abuse to his kids. Think, how hard is it to relive childhood abuse? And how difficult would it be to explain to your kids? The main clue is Sampson.

    I imagine the incident at the hill played out as Mike trying to "fly" away on his wagon and the King catching him before he endangered himself (potentially committing suicide)... however the police officer shows up in time to witness the King's abusive handling of Mike, and arrests the King (ending his reign). The mother's cries of "Where's Bobby" was imagined by Mike... he misinterpreted her frightened tears mixed with tears of joy and assumed she was crying about "Bobby". But now he and "Bobby" were safe, and he lost touch with the abused victim side of his life as Bobby flew to freedom. And the postcards that Mike receives are metaphorical for him both rediscovering and losing his innocence.

    In closing, I think this explains all the logical holes in the movie... like the mother's response to losing a child, the narrator's kids never meeting their uncle, etc. It's definitely on some Fight Club level logic.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Hey Ian, thanks for posting. Yours is one of the most insightful posts I've seen on this subject. If you'd like to know what I originally intended with the ending of the story, I suggest getting a copy my book THE KING OF PACOIMA, it's the book I wrote in 1989 (published finally in 2013) upon which I based the screenplay. The ending is substantially different from what is in the movie - and again, what I originally meant and intended which was utterly lost in the film version. I a confident it will answer all your questions. Best Regards, DME

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  26. I've always pondered the ending of this film. I assumed Bobby was beaten to death and Mickey was using the radio flyer story as a coping mechanism to sort of romanticize the story as he tells it to his children. I'm going to have to search out the book.

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  27. Hey Brittani, thanks for posting. You can get a copy of the book h (or on Amazon): http://www.flyingwagonbooks.com/ Best, DME

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  28. I took it similar to what Brittany said. I wish it would have had your original ending. I let my 7 year old watch it today. To him, he flew off and survived. Makes me happy to know he believes.

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  29. I think it's a well-known coping mechanism that children of abuse often compartmentalize the various aspects of their personalities such that the abuse is actually happening to someone else. From the first time I saw the movie, I believed that "Bobby" was Mike's way of isolating that part of his life, and that he was ultimately freed when The King was arrested...hence Bobby didn't need to return. The comment made by Tom Hanks at the end, indicating that that is how he "remembered it," as well as the fact that Sampson was alive and well and living with Mike's family seemed to support that.

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    1. these are my thoughts. thats why i was so amazed that it was not in the original story and not the intended meaning

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  30. I was a child when this movie came out and was expirancing some of the same things at the time.I can answer the question posted above to why the boys don't tell? I would have lied and never told. You don't really understand what there (parent)doing is wrong at that age. You just know you don't want it to happen or it hurts. I would have takin a beating everyday to keep my parents together. Looking back I'm happy my abuse stopped. I think the writer really tapped in to the mind of a child. On the other hand kids that have this problem like bobby seem to be more grounded. Forced to grow up faster. Having mike helped bobby still hang on to that not the other way around. Now that I'm an adult (33) I watch the movie again and wondered what really happened to bobby. Even as a kid I knew the movie ending wasn't right. Rich.burns hotmail com

    Great story

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  31. THis movie was on tonight (last night? It is now after midnight, though the movie just ended) and my mom gave her opinion off how she always thought it was a stupid ending because "He flew off by himself with no one to care for him. He left his mom and brother behind. How did he survive on his own?". She never really did understand fantasy elements, but she did get that he survived. I always believed that too, though I was 8 when it first came out. Having read your post, I dream of a day when your original script could be made a reality. I would love to see Radio Flyer get a remake, like they have done with so many others over the years. If it ever gets one, I want them to use the ORIGINAL scripted Ending.l Pray tell, what would it take to get this movie a remake?

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  32. keemew2 I totally agree. I think if I had never known the original story was different then I could appreciate this story as a lot of others have commented, that Mike created Bobby as a way to cope with the abuse and Bobby flying off was the abuse ending. Now that I know the true ending, the movie ending is irritating. They've made so many remakes over the years, surely they could make this again closer to the original story.

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  33. I saw this movie as a teenager and believed whole-heartedly that Bobby got away, that he lived, and was reunited with his brother because that's what I wanted to believe. Then my sister, sadist that she is, watched the movie with me and decided that Bobby didn't live, but that the King killed him, and Mike's way of dealing with that was to make up a story about how Bobby flew away...a metaphor for death. I hated her for a week. And I argued with her, because the very end indicated he heard from Bobby. She furthered her assault on my sensibilities by saying, "He's a writer, Tara. He makes shit up, and he made that up too" (or something like that).
    Thank you for renewing my faith. I love this movie, and I never wanted to believe that Bobby's end had to be through the tragedy of the abuse he suffered, and that childhood beliefs, with just enough magic mixed in with practicality (one of them had to take care of mom) could save them both.

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    1. Thanks very much for your post. You're right. Bobby lived. The key to the whole story is the last lines of dialogue int he book when adult Mike says to his two sons that the Flyer flew powered by "...Hopes and Dreams." You can get a copy of the book at flyingwagonbooks.com. Best, DME

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  34. I still think Roger Ebert nailed it with "child abuse meets Peter Pan"

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  35. i really loved this movie as a kid. i am 33 now and analyze things a little differently. i was suprised by the q&a. i really thought that you would say bobby was a figment and (flew away) once he was safe. since you did not seem to intend that interpretation in the orginal screenplay it really changes everything. i think i like the changes but i cant be sure without seeing the intended movie. it just seems a little happier this way.

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  36. Great movie, but what a convoluted mess Donner made it. I would love to have seen the original, but the big 5 will always have their cake and eat it too, I guess.

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  37. Great movie, but what a convoluted mess Donner made it. I would love to have seen the original, but the big 5 will always have their cake and eat it too, I guess.

    ReplyDelete
  38. After the Goonies and The Lost Boys, you'd think Donner would have known what he was doing. Of course, it could be that he wanted to leave his own mark on the film. Some people won't acknowledge a good idea unless it is their own.

    Anyway to me the message isn't a great one...basically that running from your problems can in fact solve them. I suppose The Never ending Story wasn't much different in that respect. Bastion escapes from bullies by reading a book, then uses Falcor from the book to scare them away. But at least in that story they said imagination and creativity are what is needed to prevent "the nothing" from taking over. With child abuse, simply running away from the problem isn't going to solve it. And having a vivid imagination just further provides escapism. So to me the story in its original form, and the final movie version, doesn't have a very useful message for abuse victims.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Hello, thanks so much for answering questions on here. I was wondering what the crying, lonely buffalo represented in the film? I always liked the ending where Bobby sent a postcard from Geronimo Bill's Wild West Adventure; to me it was his way of making sure the buffalo wouldn't be lonely anymore.

    I read somewhere that the buffalo crying was supposed to represent the tears of abused children but they encounter the buffalo well before the abuse begins.

    Any clarity on this? Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  40. I also would like to see a remake, but differ in the opinion about the film not working as is. I think the validity of the ambiguous ending is in this string of comments. People can interpret it in many different ways and all these different ways work for the people that believe them. In fact, you can see the changes in their belief as they mature. I think that is the power in Donner's vision. The ending may be interpreted in different ways without losing sight of the story. Thus, the ending works by providing infinite ways of interpretation and not pigeon-holing into one absolute way. No one likes uncertainty but it sure is more interesting!

    ReplyDelete
  41. I have two boys that age 10 and 8 and it really got to me and my 8 year he said mommy did the king killed bobby I said I think so but I don't know he said it showed he flew I said wagons can't fly so can anybody answer my 8 year old son questions please did bobby die in that movie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi "Unknown" no, Bobby does not die in the end of Radio Flyer. To answer your question about what happened to him, you'll have to the read the book I wrote upon which I based the script for the movie. Here's a link: https://www.amazon.com/King-Pacoima-David-Mickey-Evans/dp/099159990X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1480181091&sr=8-1&keywords=the+king+of+pacoima

      Delete
  42. Hi I'm 8 my name is dustin did bobby died or live

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Dustin, Bobby lived in the end of the movie. Here's a link to where you can get the book I wrote - that I based the movie on. It will answer all your questions. Hope you enjoy reading it! Thanks for posting. https://www.amazon.com/King-Pacoima-David-Mickey-Evans/dp/099159990X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1480181091&sr=8-1&keywords=the+king+of+pacoima

      Delete
  43. I have seriously been haunted by the ending to this movie since I saw it in the theater in 1992. I vividly recall being captivated all the way through the film only to be stunned and dismayed by the nonsensical ending. I actually remember standing up angrily and saying "that was the stupidest ending I've ever seen." To me, it seemed like the logic completely fell apart. A successful story can absolutely include elements which are open to interpretation and which provoke further contemplation, but when movie-goers leave the theater feeling bewildered to the point of wondering if the filmmakers botched the ending I'd call that a fail. I mulled it over later and decided that it had to have been a figurative ending — that Mike was in reality an only child who had created Bobby, a dissociative alter-ego, as a means of dealing with the abuse, and that once he was free from the abuse he no longer needed Bobby in order to cope. That was the only way I could reconcile the ending in a manner that seemed logical. I think the original fantastical ending would have worked well or the more psychological figurative ending would have worked well. Unfortunately, they chose door number 3: a literal ending to a fantasy concept that made the entire story line seem absurd. It's unfortunate that editors feel the need to hack away at something that has been so carefully conceptualized by the author. I'm glad, at least, that the original concept exists in publication.

    ReplyDelete
  44. nice

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    ReplyDelete
  45. David,

    Thanks for bringing his story to life. I loved it when I saw it as a teenager and I love it as an adult. As a writer myself, I understand the difficulty of telling deep stories with 90 - 120 pages. Your dialogue was true spirited and the scenes were genuine.

    ReplyDelete
  46. I was about 13 when I saw this and I remember assuming Bobby died and the mother just lightened the burden of Mike assisting in what basically was the death of his brother by sending him postcards. As others mentioned the link to this thought was the fact Mike's kids had Sampson (which would be hard to explain if Mike hadn't seen Bobby since the flight). Wanted to thank DME for sharing what his original script/vision was. Personally from what I had read of that I think that would have actually enforced my thoughts that it was all fabricated. Especially with the Radio Flyer floating in the air with no wires. It just would seem sadder since Mike was still living a lie (again just trying to think of how I would have seen it at a young age).

    Also I find it odd that several people look at what Bobby did as suicide. His intentions were to fly and escape, not die.

    ReplyDelete
  47. I wound up here as it appears that Tom Hanks' name was dropped from credits on the version the Movies Network showed today and I wondered if he chose to do so in order to dissociate himself from the production.

    I think I will hunt down this book. The film seemed filled with clich├ęs and the sappy music showed how superficially Donner & Co. treated the subject of child abuse.

    I would have preferred the ending as DME states in his interview. Also the fuzzy warm visual sort of aids in the fantasy I think that could have been more so. Thanks for maintaining thid site.

    ReplyDelete
  48. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  49. I only saw this film for the first today at the age of 19 and was confused by the ending i wanted to believe he flew away but couldn't help thinking that he didnt. I was relieved to see that the intended ending was to prove that Bobby survived.

    Although I saw comments from people who say as a child they believed Bobby flew away and adults believe he died or didnt exist at all. To me this proves the line in the film that states people stop believing at the age of 13. As kids who watch this have the mindset that anything is possible. Whereas adults have the mindset of 'oh that could never happen'. I was surprised to see no one else noticed this about the way the film could be precieved based on age (if anyone has pointed this out im sorry i didnt see).

    I enjoyed this film but would love to see a remake with the ending that DME intended

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You made a really good point and observation. I didnt really look at it like that until now.

      Delete
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  53. I just watched the movie for the first time tonight. I liked it, I really liked it. But saying that I think this movie would have been a lot better if they would have went with what the director originally aimed to do with this film. I didnt lile the ending where it left you guessing if it was really true that the flyer worked, or if Bobby really survived (the beatings, or the takeoff) that nighy.

    ReplyDelete
  54. I just finished watching this movie again, having seen it as an adult when it originally screened and also at other times when it appeared on TV.

    Each time I watch the movie, I become tearful at the end. As a child, my brother and I used build and fly model airplanes. Our shared interest in the hobby served to keep as close friends, as well as siblings. Each time I watch the movie, I choose to believe that Bobby survived, and ultimately became a pilot, thereby following his dreams. Also, I loved Tom Hanks' narration. And although some have alluded to the fact that the ending implies that the story was a way of conveying the fact that Bobby died and went to heaven... tears form in my eyes because I'm happy the Bobby made it.

    Sometimes I wish that it would have been nice if, at the end of Tom Hanks' tale, grown-up Bobby could be seen walking across the tarmac, having just landed one of the small planes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Jules,

      Thanks for your post. In the original script, and in the book I wrote upon which the script is based, Bobby and Mike do indeed reconnect at the end. They meet in the Smithsonian Institute's Aerospace Museum where the Flyer is on display. Bobby is wearing an Air Force Officer's uniform. So you were right. Cheers, DME

      Delete
  55. PLEASE DO A SEQUEL and include the Smithsonian piece that David Mickey Evans wanted. Would be great to get the original cast back. I like the angle of Bobby going to the Air Force- maybe he crash lands just a few miles away and lives on a rural farm (this was 1970's) before going to the Air Force as a young man. Okay, DME... you finish the rest.

    Loved this movie growing up. I was 11 when it came out and I've probably seen it a dozen or so times since. A close third behind Stand By Me and Sandlot. Even at 11, I imagined two scenarios for Bobby. My mind wrestled with the ideas that he either made it and crash landed somewhere to be taken in by some sweet, sympathetic woman with a pie cooling on her window sill, or that he didn't make it but was free now. Both poetic and not knowing is partly the reason it is exciting. Sometimes the ambiguity (Rohrshack?) let's the audience make it personal.

    ReplyDelete
  56. Off and on during the movie I thought Bobby was an imaginary friend and Mike was suffering disassociative disorder, dillusions, etc. when The King was arrested he could release his "brother" to move on.

    ReplyDelete
  57. I am surprised that no one has suggested that Bobby's death (after the contraption crashed) would have been hidden from Mike (at age 10), so he would not feel responsible for his "brilliant idea" having killed his little brother. The post cards would have supported this merciful delusion.

    ReplyDelete
  58. HMP3 I was thinking the same thing....I too figured the flyer crashed and someone else mailed out the post cards!!

    ReplyDelete
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  63. CORRECTED COMMENT: There were elements of the movie that drew me in and held me captive and there were elements that turned me off completely. Reading the above, the elements that drew me in obviously were the original elements and the ones that turned me off were the elements of the movie that were mangled. Such a shame! I now know there is a book upon which the original script was based(thank God the correct ending is out there somewhere). I I would have rather spent my time reading it. I love Tom Hanks and it is such a shame that this movie had to be ruined with a different ending; the movie just seemed off which is so sad because usually anything that I have seen with Tom Hanks has been sheer magic. It is maddening to me to see how many people assume suicide. If they had met in the museum as originally scripted, that would have driven home the message to never give up. The ending is produced is just too disconnected from the body of the movie. Too bad some big ego(s) in Hollywood had to ruin the whole message by narcissitically insisting upon changing the content so badly. Thank you for posting what the ending should have been. At least I won't be scratching my head anymore tonight, other than my perplexion over why such a perfect plot was ruined. I'm so sorry that they did this to your beautiful movie. The Hallmark of a genius creator is knowing when to keep the message alive and not to kill it. The movie as viewed tonight was just plain confusing and my mom was not impressed at all. Again, thank you for solving the enigma by telling us what the end was supposed to have been. The thing most confusing to me was how such a beautiful and enthralling plot could end so abruptly and disturbingly. I wholeheartedly disagree with the people that said the movie was better the way it was released. No no no no no. It would have been a very fine movie. The good thing about Brilliance is that it is not a static quality; now that I know a little bit more I shall be looking for your name. I definitely would seek out and attend another movie based on an original unadulterated script written by you.

    ReplyDelete
  64. Thank you for this blog! I love this movie and have seen it many times, just finished watching again tonight. The original ending would definitely have given a more uplifting resolution. The idea of Bobby and Mike together as adults warms my heart ♥
    But I always wondered about the years after the "flight" ... I had a few theories, but the one that made the most sense to me was that Mary lost custody of Bobby due to the abuse, and he was placed with a foster or adoptive family. This would explain how Bobby survived and had the resources and support to become a pilot. The postcards were the only way the boys could stay in touch, perhaps without the new parent's knowledge. Mike, being a child, would have invented a story to cope with the loss of the brother he tried to protect. This theory, of course, is from an adult mind. ;)
    Thank you! I am going to seek out the book.

    ReplyDelete
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  68. Thank you for that interview! I had no idea the script changed as much as it did. I watched Radio Flyer quite a lot when I was a kid. I watched it with my siblings and mom. As a child watching the movie, the only take away I had was that Bobby escaped and traveled the world. When I talked about the movie years later with my mom, she had a very different take away. She thought that there was one story line for kids and one story line for adults. For kids the story line is as depicted, Bobby flies away. For adults, my mom thought that the story line was that Bobby was killed by Jack, but that adult Mike as Tom Hanks makes the choice amidst his storytelling to change the ending for his young audience.

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  76. Have not seen this movie in about 15 years (I was still well into middle-age at that time) but I remember how sad it made me. Another poster has spoken about how younger viewers believe that Bobby lived and older viewers, cynical with the 'truths' of life, believed he died. I hope there was/is a middle-ground, since that's where I ended up, never sure (but hoping) that he lived, but suspecting that he died and that Mike's telling was his own special sort of closure. I'm not glad for you, DME, that H'wood took your vision and twisted it, for it lost the power of its intent thereby. However, I must say that we would not be having this discussion had this not happened. IF we'd known, straight off, that Bobby survived, I wonder if we'd have thought as deeply as a lot of folks have in terms of child abuse. And I wonder, too, if the original ending had been kept (the Flyer 'floating' in the Smithsonian) if that would have blown everything out of the water at the last moment, causing viewers to question even more the intent/genre of this movie. If the 7 were proved to be true (ie: monsters exist, blankets *are*, essentially force fields, etc) and if the Flyer was a vehicle which worked upon unknown technology (or does it work because it is believed in by unjaded children?), then I'm not sure where this leaves a pretty serious story. I'm not approving Donner's version, which always seemed very strange to me, I'm just wondering how the serious theme of abuse would have played against what seems to me to be fantasy/s.f. themes. (but perhaps I need to read the book, as is often true with book to film projects). with respect to you and your vision, jan

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