Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Flight of the Navigator’s Special Effects

A 41-minute analysis of the groundbreaking visuals in one of my favorite childhood movies? Yes, please.

I’ve never made any secret of my love for 1986’s Flight of the Navigator. I must have watched it at least a dozen times on VHS when I was in 6th grade. And unlike a lot of things that conjure up childhood nostalgia, Flight of the Navigator still holds up surprisingly well today.

One reason for that is the movie’s groundbreaking special effects. Flight of the Navigator was one of the first Hollywood movies to rely heavily on CGI, as well as one of the first movies to use morphing (an effect that would later be perfected in James Cameron’s The Abyss and Terminator 2). But as this video shows, much the movie’s visual magic was also achieved through a clever use of rather old school techniques, including models, stop-motion animation, puppetry, and even mirrors.

There have been rumors of a Flight of the Navigator remake circulating for years, with filmmakers like Colin Trevorrow and Neill Blomkamp attached to it. More recently, Bryce Dallas Howard has been attached to a Disney+ remake. If and when a remake happens, I hope it doesn’t go the full CGI route, but rather, sticks with the original’s more practical approach. Not just out of nostalgia, but because — as the video shows — sometimes practical really is better.