Because of the popularity of Gilligan’s Island, Sherwood Schwartz tried to sell a tv-film called Rescue from Gilligan’s Island — without success. The three networks were not interested in the least. Along the way, Saturday-morning animation company Filmation repeatedly asked Sherwood to let them do an animated version of the show. Though it seemed a natural, he was reluctant because he felt it weakened his chances of selling a full-scale reunion movie. But, after being repeatedly rebuffed by the networks, he eventually settled for the animated return to television — with the understanding that he would have a great deal of creative involvement. So, in 1974, The New Adventures of Gilligan debuted on ABC. Most of the original cast provided their voices, the exception being Mary Ann and Ginger. Tina Louise, who had originated the role of Ginger, had wanted to distance herself from the silly comedy so she did not participate. The animators changed Ginger’s hair color from red to blonde-white to avoid any possibility of Louise suing them for using her image.
A Ratings-Smash Return
Some 15 years after it first debuted on CBS, Gilligan’s Island had become even more popular in syndication reruns. Children had discovered the show and many made a point of watching it after school. Some stations ran it seven days a week. People saw the same episodes so many times that they began to believe they’d somehow missed the rescue episode. Sherwood was continually asked whatever became of his castaways. After years and years of trying to sell a rescue movie to the networks, his persistence paid off.
On October 14th 1978, Rescue from Gilligan’s Island ran on NBC as a two-part movie to phenomenal ratings. The original cast returned with the exception of Louise. Ginger was played by actress Judith Baldwin. The story picks up on the island where Gilligan finds a valuable metal disc that has fallen from the sky, unknown to him it’s from a Soviet satellite. Using it, the Professor is able to rig up a makeshift barometer that tells them of an impending tidal wave that will consume the island. The longtime friends work together and bind their huts together to create a raft to try to save themselves. The tidal wave comes and all survive though Gilligan is almost lost. After being afloat for days, Gilligan builds a fire to cook food and the raft becomes engulfed. Fortunately, the smoke draws a rescue helicopter to them and after years and years, the castaways are rescued to much celebration. After a homecoming parade, the castaways separate and try to return to the lives they’d left behind.
Skipper wants to purchase another boat but the insurance company insists on signed affidavits from the passengers stating he was not at fault for the first Minnow’s fate. As a result, he and Gilligan set about visiting their friends to procure their signatures and end up helping each of them. Unknown to them, two spies are following them, and attempt to steal back the metallic disc that Gilligan now wears around his neck as a lucky necklace.
The two first visit Ginger on the set of her new movie. She’s upset about being required to take part in filmed nudity. Skipper and Gilligan offer their support and agree with her. The film’s producer overhears the conversation and is convinced that she is right. A film without nudity might be crazy and different enough to be a big hit!
Gilligan and Skipper next visit the Professor who is working at his old high school and wants to get back to scientific research but is thwarted by school pressures to exploit his fame.
Next, the sailors visit the Howells. They’re having dinner with old rich friends who turn out to be terrible snobs and make fun of Skipper and Gilligan behind their backs. The Howells are outraged and throw the snobs out of their house immediately.
Next, we see that Mary Ann is getting married to her old boyfriend Herbert. She doesn’t really love him but he waited for her and she feels that she should. It turns out that Herbert is actually in love with Mary Ann’s best friend and, with the help of the Skipper and Gilligan, the lovebirds end up happily married.
Skipper invites all of the old friends to celebrate Christmas on his new boat. When they do, they discuss how much the civilized world has changed since they left. The spies, who have been making attempts to steal back the disk from Gilligan, arrive and take the disk at gunpoint. Just in time, federal agents arrive and save the day.
Relieved, the former castaways make plans for an anniversary cruise together. Once at sea, Gilligan accidentally breaks the compass and an unexpected storm sinks the Minnow II. The castaways are barely able to escape and swim to nearby land. Gilligan runs away after being chastised and comes back with a piece of the original Minnow. Not only are they shipwrecked again but it’s the same island as before. The movie ends with Skipper, as ever, angrily chasing Gilligan.