Harold Ramis describes the original ending of National Lampoon’s Vacation

National Lampoon's vacationTest screenings are sometimes viewed with disdain as an intrusion into the artistic vision of a filmmaker in the name of placating the unwashed masses. But they can be tremendously helpful as well, particularly for comedies. That was the case for National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983).

Based on a 1979 John Hughes magazine story about a middle class family’s disastrous trek to Disneyland, Vacation ends with frazzled dad Chevy Chase commandeering the theme park. That ending was the result of a reshoot after test audiences expressed severe displeasure with the original conclusion, which was taken from Hughes’ story. Director Harold Ramis described that ending during a visit to Late Night with David Letterman back in 1983.

“The film basically involves Chevy (playing) a father with two young teenage children. He’s promised them the vacation of their lives. They’re headed cross country in a car to Disneyland (only) we couldn’t call it Disneyland because the Disney company likes to sue (so we called it Wally World). In the original ending, they get to the park….(and) they don’t have the time they bargained for so Chevy gets so incensed he buys a movie star map and drives to this character – we called him Roy Wally (instead of) Walt Disney – drives to his house with a gun he’s recently purchased, crashes through the gates and makes Walt Disney sing and dance for him at gunpoint.”

Below is the Letterman interview in its entirety:

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