20 Crazy Details Behind The Making Of The Neverending Story

The NeverEnding Story is one of those classic films from the '80s that just about every kid saw. It tells the amazing story of a young boy who steals a special book and sneaks into the scariest room in his entire school to read it. As he settles in to read the book, the audience gets the feeling they are also experiencing the story in much the same way. As the story unfolds, it turns out he is truly experiencing the story and even the characters become aware of his involvement in stopping The Nothing!

The story reveals that a terrible thing called The Nothing is sweeping across the magical world of Fantasia because children all over the world aren't reading and enjoying fiction and fantasy enough. It's up to Bastian Bux, the young boy with the book, to save Fantasia by naming the Childlike Empress.

It's one of those movies people remember fondly and enjoy showing their own children, but the making of the film suggests it wasn't the easiest movie to get off the ground. Like many other movies, it was plagued with production delays, went over budget, and was sometimes a nightmare to film. Watching the final product almost never reveals everything that goes into the making of a movie, but for The NeverEnding Story, there's plenty going on behind the scenes.

With everything that went into it, some details have emerged many might find surprising.

Are you such a fan that you already knew these 20 Crazy Details About The Making Of The NeverEnding Story?

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Neverending Story Falkor Atreyu Dragon
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Neverending Story Falkor Atreyu Dragon

Most fans in America may not know it, but The NeverEnding Story is technically a German film. It was shot mostly in Germany and was directed by famed German director, Wolfgang Petersen. Petersen's biggest film prior to this one was Das Boot, which previously took the title of the most expensive film in German history.

Never one to not outdo himself, Petersen's budget for The NeverEnding Story greatly surpassed that of Das Boot, making it significantly expensive for the time.

When all was said and done, the production ended up costing $27 million.

That may not seem like a lot these days, but in 1984 dollars, that would equate to $65 million. Unlike Hollywood, the German film industry spent much less than that on most of their films in the '80s.


Noah Hathaway as Atreyu

Filmmaking is not without its risks, but for the actor who played Atreyu, it almost cost him an eye. Noah Hathaway was injured on more than one occasion while filming the movie. In one case, he was thrown from a horse that then stepped on him.

Fortunately, he wasn't seriously injured then, but he nearly lost an eye in the final scene where he fought the wolflike beast, Gmork. During the scene, the robot that was Gmork malfunctioned somewhat and one of its claws slashed the young actor's face right beside his eye.

It was incredibly heavy so when it landed on him, he completely lost his breath, which also injured him pretty badly. They only ever got the one shot of the scene due to how badly Hathaway was injured and that's what you see in the final cut.


Neverending Story Childlike Empress

When you're working with children on a film, you have to follow some rules. They can only work for a brief period of time and someone responsible for them has to be present. That's not a big deal and it's to be expected. Something else that should be expected is that when you have an 11-year-old playing a character, she might have some missing teeth.

Tami Stronach, the actress who played the Childlike Empress lost her two front teeth in the normal course of growing up.

Because they didn't want the character to be missing her two front teeth as that would detract from her otherwise stately appearance, she was fitted with false teeth.

Unfortunately, the falsies caused her to speak with a prominent lisp. It took her a considerable amount of time and diction training to overcome the lisp.


The Neverending Story

Because much of the filming took place in Germany, a lot of the actors brought onto the production were German. This doesn't mean they couldn't speak English, but as it happens, a lot of the actors' dialogue was spoken in German and then dubbed over in English in post-production.

The actor who played the Night Hob, Tilo Prückner, spoke most of his dialogue in German and had it dubbed over. The same is true for the Rock Biter, which can be seen pretty clearly if you go back and watch their lips as they speak. In some scenes, it's not as obvious, while in others, it's pretty telling.

This little detail is yet another reminder that The NeverEnding Story is not an American film, even if most people believe that to be the case.


Neverending Story Sphinxes

There were a lot of aspects of the film that author Michael Ende didn't approve of. It wasn't just the fact that his vision was altered in a number of ways that he felt weren't in line with his book. Some of the visuals disturbed him to no end.

Considering this was a children's film, it makes sense he had some consternation with the sphinx statues.

Not only are the states incredibly large in stature, they are much more voluptuous than necessary. 

Ende made specific comments to this effect, saying, "The Sphinxes are quite one of the biggest embarrassments of the film."


Neverending Story shot of book

When Steven Spielberg was given the German cut of the film to edit, he didn't simply give it a viewing and move along. Spielberg focused on what would work for an American audience, which required some shuffling around of a few scenes, the editing out of a touch of profanity, and the removal of seven full minutes of video and dialogue.

That may not seem like a lot of time, but seven minutes in a film that is only 94 minut4es after Spielberg got his hands on it is significant.

Some of Spielberg's notable changes include increasing the Rockbiter's rumbling sound as he approached the Night Hob in the beginning of the film, trimming a few scenes, and generally boosting the pacing of the movie to make it play better for the American audience.


Noah Hathaway

By all accounts, the cast of the film was a pleasure to work with. The actor who played Bastian, Barret Oliver, was praised by Wolfgang Petersen as someone who was easy to work with and a joy to have on the set. His legendary counterpart, Noah Hathaway, didn't get the same response.

Brian Johnson, the special effects director for the film, said: "Noah Hathaway was a bit of a pain.... It was very difficult for Wolfgang to get anything out of him. Barret Oliver delivered all the time, he was just brilliant, absolutely brilliant."

It's fortunate that you can't tell of the on-set difficulties after viewing the final product.

Looking back, it's not the most unbelievable aspect of the production of The NeverEnding Story.


Neverending Story Swamp of Sadness

One of the production delays that nearly ended the film before it began came as a result of the most heart-wrenching scene in the movie. The Swamp of Sadness scene involved Atreyu's horse Artax drowning. It was sad and horrific, but a nightmare to shoot because horses don't normally allow themselves to be submerged in black goo.

It took seven weeks to properly train the horse to stand on the submerged platform and remain there as it descended.

Initially, the scene was slated to take only two weeks to completely film, but the increased time needed to get the horse on board became a serious problem.

The scene was convincing and after the movie was released, a rumor began circulating that it perished during filming. This turned out to be untruel it was actually gifted to Hathaway.


Neverending Story Falkor Behind the Scenes

These days, a giant Luck Dragon would probably be made via CGI and it would be convincing and beautiful. Back in the '80s, that wasn't possible, so Falkor was constructed as a practical effect. In order to build the character, several concepts and designs were attempted resulting in two fully-constructed models.

The Falkor we see in the film is 43 feet long, constructed of used airplane steel (to make the frame), and weighed quite a lot. The head alone weighed in at 200 lbs.

Ende wasn't too happy with the final version of Falkor and hated the fact that he looked a lot like a dog. Petersen's vision made the character look like a "golden/retriever/dragon," which didn't sit well with the author. Fans loved it and Falcor quickly became one of the movie's most popular characters.


If you're like us, you may have caused your VHS copy of the movie to tear by pausing it and replaying the scene where Bastian screams a name out the window at the end of the film.

Bastian was compelled to scream his mother's name so that the Childlike Empress could take it and save Fantasia from The Nothing.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to hear or understand the name he screams at the end of the film. Fortunately, we have the book to tell us the answer and it is "Moonchild."

Granted, there has been plenty of debate about the name and there are more than a few Reddit threads devoted to the name Bastian screamed. Since all we really have to go off of is the book, it stands to reason that's what he said.


Ygramul the Many Neverending Story Book

The book and script detailed two important scenes that never made it to the big screen.

The first was the initial scene with Falkor, which involved Atreyu rescuing the Luck Dragon from Ygramul the Many. The monster was a shapeshifting beast that took the form of giant poisonous wasps which coalesced into a giant spider. The special effects available at the time were simply inadequate to make this scene.

The second scene also included Falkor and had the two encountering the Wild Giants. The creatures were meant to be made of clouds, but they were constantly shrinking as a result of The Nothing's growth. This scene was also impossible to shoot at the time due to the lack of special effects capabilities available to the studio.


Wolfgang Petersen on the set of the Neverending Story

There are some directors like Stanley Kubrick who are known for their impossibly high standards. As it happens, Wolfgang Peterson is a lot like Kubrick and his time working on The NeverEnding Story was some of the most strenuous filmmaking in German cinematic history.

While some directors might run a scene for 5-10 cuts, which is not out of the ordinary, Petersen reportedly pushed for up to 40 takes on each and every scene in the movie.

Petersen's perfectionist nature caused the budget to inflate considerably and the shooting schedule of 3 months was extended to a full year.

It's a wonder he was able to finish the movie without having the producers pull the plug, but fortunately, that didn't happen.


Like most movies, The NeverEnding Story was shot in multiple locations. A lot of the soundstage work was done at Bavaria Filmstadt in Munich, Germany. You can even tour their facility and have your picture taken as you ride Falkor.

A lot of the exterior shots for the film were done in Spain while most of the buildings seen throughout were shot in Gastown, a small neighborhood of Vancouver, British Columbia.

Bastian's home, the city he is seen running through, the bookstore, and some other interior shots were all done in Canada.

None of the filming was done on-location in the United States and while most people assume the film is American, the locations suggest it takes place in Canada. The book doesn't make a distinction about this either and, seeing as it was written in German, that makes sense.


Neverending Story Ivory Tower

During the filming in Germany, the country was suffering its hottest summer in more than 25 years. Germany isn't normally known for being hot, but when it heats up, there is rarely any air conditioning to be found.

Production had to be halted when the weather became so unbearably hot that the model for the Ivory Tower actually melted.

The prop department had to replace it and some other items, which upped the budget and increased the shooting time needed to film some scenes.

On a few occasions, the heat also forced a production slowdown due to the bluescreens not functioning properly. Entire days had to be scrapped to wait for the heat to pass so filming could resume.


It's not unusual for a writer to hate seeing his or her work reimagined by someone else on screen. Alan Moore famously hates everything he has ever written that has been turned into a film and it seems Michael Ende isn't dissimilar.

Ende was incredibly vocal about how much he hated the movie even going so far as to have his name removed from the opening credits. The filmmakers did throw his name into the end credits, though it is noticeably small.

Ende began a campaign to have the production of the film shut down due to how much it was changed from his original story.

He even asked that they change the title of the film and went so far as to sue the producers when they refused to meet his demands. He ultimately lost the suit.


E.T. the Extra Terrestrial bicycle scene

Because the movie was based on a German book, produced by a German company, and directed by a German director, an American filmmaker was tapped to help bring the film to the United States.

Back in 1984, you couldn't do any better than the king of movies himself, Steven Spielberg.

Spielberg's cut of the film is a little different than the finished version that made its way into German cinemas, but those changes helped solidify it as a beloved children's fantasy film.

As a gift of appreciation, the Auryn from the film was given to Spielberg, who proudly displays it in a glass display case in his office.


Neverending Story Limahl

If you've seen the movie, odds are, the theme song is probably running through your head now that we've reminded you of it. Back in the '80s, it wasn't uncommon for a film to feature a song written specifically for the production, but most of the time, they fall kind of flat. That wasn't the case for The Neverending Story.

The song, written by Keith Forsey, was composed by Giorgio Moroder and performed by Limahl. The song was an instant earworm that quickly shot up the charts in Sweden, Norway, and the United States.

The U.S. Billboard Hot 100 slotted the sog in at number 17 and the single went on to sell more than 200,000 copies in the United Kingdom alone. Also, it's definitely playing through your head now.


Neverending Story Book Prop Ebay Auction

Movie props are a big industry for collectors, which is why it should come as no surprise that the original book prop from The NeverEnding Story is available for purchase. A seller on eBay named spiritrobyn57 has listed the prop twice, but it hasn't sold as of the writing of this article. That means you could own this piece of cinematic history!

The first auction listed the item for $75,000, but there were no takers.

Following this unsuccessful auction, it was listed again for $28,500, but again, it didn't sell.

The seller even tracked down Noah Hathaway to help solidify its authenticity. Seeing as it didn't sell, it could come up again at a reduced price so keep your eyes open if you are interested.


The title of the book may be The NeverEnding Story, but like all tales, it certainly comes to an end. That being said, the movie doesn't meet the end of the book and only covers half of what was written in the book. This was yet another reason the author didn't like the movie.

Unfortunately, the missing half of the story was eventually made into a film. The Neverending Story II: The Next Chapter was released six years after the first movie, but it wasn't made by Wolfgang Petersen and nobody from the original film returned for the second outing.

The movie did cover the remaining half of the book, but it was so different thematically and visually that most fans weren't impressed. The movie bombed at the box office, pulling in less than $18 million.


Neverending Story Ivory Tower Extra Characters

Fantasia is supposed to be a realm where all of fiction resides, which is why the director decided to make some additions to the scene pictured above. All of the characters in the scene are meant to be representative of various fictitious tales so, as a sort of Easter egg, some people were added you may not expect.

Wolfgang Petersen was a good friend of Steven Spielberg so it shouldn't come as a surprise to learn that E.T. is in the scene. Also included are some of George Lucas' characters including Chewbacca, Ewoks, Yoda, and C-3PO.

If you look close enough, you will also spot a rather lanky Gumby and none other than the kind of animation himself, Mickey Mouse. Can you find anyone else in the picture?


Do you have any other trivia to share about The NeverEnding Story? Leave it in the comments!

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