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Everyone has to start somewhere.
Ron Howard was very well-known for his role as Richie Cunningham in the hit television series Happy Days (1974-1984) but he had yet to make his mark as a director, the career he is most known for today (his directorial credits include Frost/Nixon, A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, and Cocoon).
This little movie may seem odd choice of materials from our perspective, some 33 years later. But in in 1981, when Through the Magic Pyramid debuted, much of the country was still fascinated by the touring collection of artifacts from the King Tutankamaun collection, which had not been in the States for more than a decade. The popularity of Tut and Egyptology in general was ironically given a boost by the comedian Steve Martin, who had a megahit with his song, "King Tut" in 1979:
Another contributing factor to Ron's decision to direct this movie? His father, Rance Howard, wrote it. This fact, and the popularity of Egyptology, likely seemed to Howard that he could, at the very least, get a lot of eyes on the project.
Here is a the basic plot: A ten-year-old boy named Bobby is transported back in time to the age of the mysterious pyramids and their dazzling pharaohs. There, Bobby meets the young King Tut. The boys form a friendship and band together to stop Tut's elders from assuming control of the land.
Howard was able to get a few names to star in his movie. Vic Tayback was well known from his role as "Mel" on the hit sitcom Alice (1976-1985) and Jo Ann Worley of Laugh-in fame (1967-1973).
The television movie was a success for Howard. It was called a "Disney-level" tale and was nominated for an Emmy for "Outstanding Children's Special."
The film aired twice: first, in two one-hour segments a week apart, and then later as a full two-hour movie.
Here is a clip from Through the Magic Pyramid:
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