Tim Burton's classic Beetlejuice is a comedy, but it's also got some remarkably dark moments. It turns out that the darkness very nearly extended to the ending, which went in a very different direction. While everything in Beetlejuice ultimately ends on an upbeat note, dead people notwithstanding, it turns out that the original ending was significantly darker, as it ended with Winona Ryder's Lydia dying in a fire and joining her friends in the afterlife. As Beetlejuice producer Larry Wilson explains...
Our first ending was Lydia --- she died in a fire and was able to join Barbara and Adam in the afterlife. A couple of people said to us, 'Do you really think that's a good idea? Is that really the message you want to be sending to the teenagers of the world? Die in a fire?' So, yeah, it probably was darker.
The original ending was a happy ending of a sort, as the "strange and usual" Lydia felt largely out of place in the world and was clearly more at home with her dead friends, played by Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis. Still, the point here is well taken. Showing a teenager that was happier dead than alive on screen is not necessarily the sort of message one wants to put forth in the world. So, while the intent may have been for this to be a happy ending, producer Larry Wilson admits to Yahoo, that the reality was it was actually much darker.
Instead, we got an incredibly upbeat ending to wrap up the movie. Beetlejuice is defeated, the living Deetz family and the dead Maitland's find a way to live together, and Lydia starts doing well in school, and, as a reward, gets to perform a dance number. Seriously, nothing says "happy ending" like Harry Belafonte music.
Beetlejuice is one of those movies that has aged remarkably well, and the idea of anything being different certainly doesn't feel right. While the movie certainly portrays death as something that isn't necessarily terrible, seeing a teenager die and be happy with it probably isn't the ending you want. It's not a message that you want to convey in a movie that is ultimately a comedy.
Luckily, we got the ending that we did, which fits much better with the rest of the movie, and also has the viewer tapping their toe as the credits roll. Now if we can just figure out what's going on with that sequel.