SpaceCamp was released on June 6, 1986, advertised as "The Summer's Greatest Adventure". The film cost somewhere north of $18 million and box office was only about half that, no doubt a disappointment to production company ABC Motion Pictures. The film had the bad luck to be released less than six months after the space shuttle Challenger disaster in January. A tie-in novel by Joe Claro was published by Scholastic.
The film was the first feature directed by Harry Winer. The cast includes such then or soon-to-be well known actors as Kate Capshaw [star of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, etc., and future Mrs. Steven Spielberg], Lea Thompson [star of Back to the Future and many other films] and Kelly Preston [star of Twins, Waiting to Exhale, etc and future Mrs. John Travolta]. Also appearing are Joaquin Phoenix [as Leaf Phoenix] and veteran actor Tom Skerritt. The music was composed by John Williams of Stars Wars and many other films; the cinematographer was another industry veteran, William A. Fraker.
Some filming was done at the Huntsville Space Camp, but the film is set at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Astronaut Capshaw, who has not yet worked on a shuttle mission, is instructor of four teens who come to the camp. Various romantic, robotic and other hijinks ensue in addition to training until the group boards the shuttle Atlantis to experience a routine engine test. A problem that only movie magic can create requires the actual launching of the shuttle. After a visit to a space station to pick up extra oxygen, one of the female campers safely lands the shuttle.
Space Warriors came out in 2013 and follows two competing Space Camp teams as they vie for a chance to visit the International Space Station. A lively group of young actors play members of the two competing groups. Several veterans also appear in the film including Mira Sorvino and Dermot Mulroney, who play the parents of the precocious Jimmy [Thomas Horn], leader of the Warriors team.
Jimmy has been denied permission to go to Space Camp. His father is a former astronaut and his lawyer mom worries about disaster in space. So Jimmy comes up with an elaborate scheme to fool his parents and take the spot he has won in a world-wide competition. Josh Lucas plays Col. Roy Manley, a friend of Jimmy's father and the one in charge of the competition.
Another veteran, Danny Glover, plays the Space Camp Commander, who notes in his opening remarks to the competitors that he welcomes them to his home state. The credits for the film declare, "Filmed in Huntsville, AL and at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center." Early in the film "Huntsville, Alabama" is noted onscreen as well and mentioned several times.
Both of these films are far-fetched, but fun to watch especially for those of us from Alabama. The cast members are appealing and the special effects are well done. Too bad neither film made much of a dent at the box office.
A third movie, A Smile as Big as the Moon, was also filmed at Space Camp and released in 2012. The Hallmark film is based on the memoir of the same title by teacher Mike Kersjes and his co-author Joe Layden.