Bill & Ted's Excellent Filming Locations Tour
The 1989 film, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure has always had a special place in my heart. The story of 2 California rocker/slacker buddies who travel through time to collect famous historical figures for a high school history class presentation that will determine the future of the world as we know it, straddles the line between cult classic and cultural phenomenon in a way few others do. Responsible for countless quotable lines (Excellent!) and forever cementing Keanu Reeves as a brainless surfer dude in the mind of moviegoers, this buddy comedy actually produced a superior sequel in 1991 called Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, a forgotten TV series, a video game and even a short-lived Saturday morning cartoon with tie-in action figures and cereal!
While talks of a 3rd Bill & Ted film have been swirling around for the last decade and a controversial stage show is presented featuring the characters each Halloween at Universal Studios Hollywood, nothing can beat the sweetness and fun of the original film. It was among my most quoted movies in elementary school before Wayne’s World hit in 1992 (Schwing!) and being from Southern California myself, I always felt a special connection to these dudes from San Dimas. I often dreamed of traveling the time circuits myself and visiting epic events in history. My love and long relationship with the film recently inspired an Excellent Adventure of my own that I can’t wait to share with you.
You see, though I’m originally a California kid, life brought me to the desert of Arizona several years ago and as it turns out, I live and work in the areas where a majority of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure was filmed in 1988! So on a recent Saturday with my 2 year old son playing Bill S. Preston, Esquire to my Ted “Theodore” Logan (I always wanted to be Ted), we hopped in our vehicle and traveled Arizona’s freeways to see what time has done to the “most excellent” filming locations. It was fun to walk in the footsteps of the Wyld Stallyns and now you can too, dudes!
When mapping out the plans for this adventure, I knew my first stop would be the Circle K where Bill & Ted first meet their mentor, Rufus as played by George Carlin and step into the time travelling phone booth to begin their wild ride. In Orange County where I grew up, there are no Circle K stores to be found, 7-11 definitely has the monopoly in that area. It wasn’t until I moved to Arizona that I began seeing them every 3 or 4 blocks, especially in the more “economically challenged” neighborhoods. Often while at a stop light I would see “pharmaceutical transactions” taking place in the parking lot of this urban establishment, which definitely brought to mind the line, “Strange things are afoot at the Circle K”. But when I arrived on the hallowed ground once tread by Reeves, Winter and Carlin I was the only strange one.
Yeah, I got some curious looks from the local clientele while snapping pictures with my phone, but it was totally worth it. Though this shot was taken in the daytime, it’s plain to see that this is the same structure featured in the film. What’s cooler is that most every detail is still in place as it was when Bill and Ted asked that question for the ages, “Excuse me, do you know when the Mongols ruled China?” From the payphones, to the ice machine, to the trash can, they basically just slapped a 21st century coat of paint on this Circle K that’s been located at 1010 W Southern Ave in Tempe, AZ since the mid 80’s. I did inspect the section of the parking lot where the phone booth landed, but unfortunately there was no remnant of scorched asphalt. I'm half-inspired to take up a collection to get a commemorative plaque placed on the spot for the sake of posterity, but I have a feeling I would be the only one coming to visit it. Next up was the Bowling alley where an infamous French leader got into some trouble.
You might recall that the first historic figure nabbed by Bill & Ted was that “short dead dude” Napoleon Bonaparte, who was left in the care of Ted’s younger brother, Deacon. After some “strategic scorekeeping” and embarrassing attempt at knocking down some pins, Napoleon gets into an altercation with the manager of the lanes and is thrown out. Luckily, I didn’t run into the same issue as I began snapping photos of the newly renovated AMF Tempe Village Lanes 4407 S. Rural Road, Tempe, AZ. You can see they have changed the generic “Bowl” sign into a giant wall mural that matches the new red and white color scheme, but the basic structure is still very recognizable.
Inside they have really upgraded their décor. The place is in perpetual Rock N’ Bowl mode. Gone are the wood grain and earth tones, replaced with mood-lighting, red leather furniture and projector screens that play retro music videos. Arriving at Noon on a Saturday we got Rick-Rolled as we walked in. Seeing Rick Astly strutting his stuff to “Never Gonna Give You Up”, definitely put me in the head space of 80’s pop culture.
They’ve even upgraded their snack counter and turned it into a mini-sports bar and lounge. I got a chance to talk to the manager on duty who was aware of the lanes’ claim to fame. He said that before the re-model they used to have a Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure movie poster hanging in the bar that was signed by the cast. One lucky manager got to go home with that unique piece of movie memorabilia when he retired a few years earlier, sweet deal! As you’ll remember, after Napoleon was ejected from the “10-Pin Palace”, he ended up at the most famous San Dimas waterpark, the aptly named “Waterloo”, so that was our next stop.
What’s interesting is that San Dimas is home to the famous land of waterslides, Raging Waters, but since filming was already taking place in Arizona it was more cost effective to move the cameras down the road to the Golfland-Sunsplash water park in Mesa, AZ. We caught them during the off season (yes, it gets cold in the desert), but that didn’t dampen the sunny spirit of our expedition. Here you can see 2 of the waterslides that Napoleon slid giddily down in disturbingly see-through undergarments during his day of fun in the sun. The pure joy he exudes as he races up and down the steps is so fun to watch. My favorite moment of the Waterloo montage is when Napoleon has a deep philosophical discussion with a 7 year old girl about the transcendent experience of zooming down the water slide, all in French. He is just so earnest about how important it all is to him.
As I said, the slides were closed this day, so I couldn’t give you an actual re-creation of the view Napoleon gets before his descent into the watery pool below, but believe me I’m just crazy enough to do it for the sake of an article that only me and...OK, I know I’m the only one reading this thing. Despite the change in color scheme, that is clearly the same castle the tiny dictator glimpsed in that thrilling moment of water-based fun.
Finally because I am completely obsessive, here is a look at the pool area you can see when Bill & Ted come to wrap Napoleon in a towel and drag him away to San Dimas High for the big History class presentation. It was crazy to think that Keanu Reeves spent 5 minutes waiting in that spot by the pool to dry-off a soggy Frenchman, but even movie stars have to pay their dues, I guess. Getting back to the history report, let’s take a look at the school that doubled for Bill & Ted’s alma mater.
This is the only location I wasn’t able to visit personally. Not for lack of trying, I just missed the exit and by this point my partner in crime was getting the munchies, so these photos will have to suffice. You can see that the campus of Coronado High School in Scottsdale, AZ has been heavily renovated since it was filmed, but the mural on the Performing Arts Building remains as a testament to what once was. I did get a chance to talk to my co-worker who attended Coronado several years back and he said that the school’s notoriety was passed on through the generations of students. He remembered renting the movie with his friends during his school days and getting all excited when they saw their daily paths immortalized on the screen. It would be pretty sweet to say you went to the same school as Wyld Stallyns, but what about seeing their rehearsal space?
This was the point at which I was feeling a little “stalkerish”, driving by and shooting photos of people’s homes. But come on, the Tours To Stars Homes thing is big business in Hollywood and I wasn’t even charging anything (Paypal donations can be made to HojuKoolander@...just kidding.) But there it is, the garage from the opening of the film where while lamenting the lack of Eddie Van Halen on lead guitar, the dudes fry their equipment with poor musicianship…if that’s possible…which it isn’t. The garage is really the only exterior part of Bill’s house that you see in the film, it looks like they got rid of the second mini garage door, but otherwise that is the place where the music that united a galaxy was created. You may commence your slow-mo power chord strumming motion now.
More prominently featured during the movie is Ted’s house, where repeated threats from his Dad of being shipped off to General Oates’ Military Academy in Alaska echoed through its hallowed halls. Though it looks like the new owners added some arched roofing to the entryway, they left the unmistakable lattice work on the window and extended patio area which made it so distinct. Oh and though the address for these homes is available online at this awesome website, I decided to remove myself from any liability in the off chance that a whacked-out “Royal Ugly Dude” shows up for revenge against the bandits who stole the hearts of the Princesses.
We’re down to the last location on this epic journey through time and traffic. That's right, it’s the San Dimas Mall where the true mayhem took place when the icons of the past were let loose on the modern day gathering place of all humanity! Actually filmed at the Metrocenter Mall in Glendale, AZ this place is pretty rundown. Most of the shops spaces are empty, but as the security guard who asked me why I was taking pictures informed me, they are looking to bring consumers back by putting a Wal-Mart into the 2 story department store space that used to be Robinson’s–May. Yeah, classy. To begin we’ll take a look at the area where a giant aerobics demonstration caused Joan of Arc to turn into a “Maniac…maaaniac , on the floor…”.
To my knowledge most aerobics classes in the 80s were confined to health clubs and fitness centers, but maybe spandex manufacturers knew the material was on the way out once flannel hit in the early 90’s and thought mixing it with workout equipment demonstrations would be a great way to get one last push for the stuff. Anyway, the aerobics set was pretty dressed up, but the giveaway is the area behind the instructor where you can see a glass and steel structure. While watching the film you can actually see that it’s an elevator going up and down. Plus if you look just past “The New Nautilus” sign you can observe the now empty space that used to house Waldenbooks.
I love the fact that this corner which once housed a fancy Dolcis ladies shoe boutique is now the site of a Sprint. Truly a sign of the times and how things have changed since the movie was made. We switch out our cell phones like they’re a pair of shoes these days, whereas as businessmen looking to get Gordon Gecko cool were paying thousands for that kind of mobility in the late 80’s. May I also draw your attention to the mohawk on that gal walking through, she’s definitely keeping the flame of the 80’s punk scene alive. I know these examples aren't the most impressive then and now showcases, but hang in here, because we've got a cool one coming up.
You might recall the scene where Billy the Kid and So-Crates try to unsuccessfully to hit on some Valley Girls while Sigmund Freud or “Siggy” as he likes to be called, bought a corn dog at Hot Dog On A Stick stand-in, “Hot Dog On A Bat”. Well up until 2 years ago this was still a Hot Dog On A Stick where I personally bought a snack once or twice. But the funniest thing to me is the tag line of the current Gelato vendor. It’s almost as if they thought they could trick loyal customers who arrived on auto-pilot asking, “Can I have 1 hot dog on a stick?” to which they would reply, “No, but I can offer you heaven on a spoon.” It rolls off the tongue almost identically, very clever. My buddy, “Little Bill” doesn’t see the humor, but he’ll learn. For our final photo comparison, I have doozy of a bombshell for you.
Do you see what I see? That’s right, the New Jade Chinese Food restaurant is still there! Sure, they ditched the neon and re-branded to Jade: The Taste of China, but the fact that this food court staple has hung in there for 25 years fills me with ridiculous glee. Who's to say Abraham Lincoln didn’t try his first egg roll on that very spot or perhaps Ghengis Khan beheaded the cook in a fit of rage for not making chow-mein like his grandma did. They have earned my business for years to come, just so I can sit at that table and shout “Party on, Dudes!” like Honest Abe.
Sojourns like this are a guilty pleasure of mine, but I know that discovering the architectural changes of fictional cinematic world’s isn’t for everyone. So if you made it to the end of this thing I applaud you. I’m just excited that now I can watch the movie with my son when he’s old enough not to repeat the line, “You medieval d*&%-weeds!” in front his Kindergarten teacher and tell him that he personally visited all those famous locales, while following in the footsteps of Bill & Ted.
So tell me, have they filmed any famous films or TV shows in your neck of the woods? I’m hoping it wasn’t for an episode of COPS, but hey, killer theme song, man.