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National Lampoon's Vacation is a series of comedy films that were originally inspired by National Lampoon magazine. The series primarily features the misadventures of the Griswold family, whose attempts to enjoy vacations and holidays are plagued with continual disasters and strangely ridiculous predicaments.
The first film, National Lampoon's Vacation, was based on a story ("Vacation '58") that John Hughes had previously written for National Lampoon magazine. John Hughes wrote the screenplay for the first "Vacation" film and co-wrote the screen play for the second one. Chevy Chase, who plays the main role in the first four films, had, during the 1970s performed in the National Lampoon Radio Hour, and in the stage show National Lampoon Lemmings, both of which were spin-offs from National Lampoon magazine.
Many "Vacation" films that came out after National Lampoon's Vacation also include the words "National Lampoon" in their titles, but not all the films did, because a few were made without the permission of the company that owned the rights to that name at the time the film was made.
Vacation is a 1983 comedy film directed by Harold Ramis and starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Randy Quaid, Dana Barron and Anthony Michael Hall. The film features numerous others, such as comedians John Candy and Imogene Coca, supermodel Christie Brinkley and future Ally McBeal and 30 Rock regular Jane Krakowski, in smaller roles.
The screenplay was written by John Hughes, based on his short story in National Lampoon magazine, although the screenplay updates the year to 1983. The original story was (reportedly) a fictionalized account of his own family's ill-fated trip to Disneyland (changed to "Walley World" for the film) when Hughes was a boy. The success of the movie helped launch his screenwriting career.
The film was a significant box-office hit, earning over $61 million in the United States with an estimated budget of $15 million. In 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted National Lampoon's Vacation the 46th greatest comedy film of all time. It is widely considered to be the best film in National Lampoon's series of Vacation films, and continues to be a popular film and a staple on cable television channels. It also currently garners a 94% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. A "Walley World Water Park" opened in Canada several years after the release of the movie.
On November 18, 2009, Us Weekly reported that HomeAway announced it was planning to use Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo in a national advertising campaign which would resemble National Lampoon’s Vacation. HomeAway purchased a replica of the Wagon Queen Family Truckster for use in the campaign. The first ad was planned to be broadcast during the CBS television network broadcast of Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010. 
European Vacation (originally given the working title Vacation '2' Europe) is a 1985 comedy film. The second film in National Lampoon's Vacation film series, it was directed by Amy Heckerling and stars Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo. Dana Hill and Jason Lively replace Dana Barron and Anthony Michael Hall as Griswald children Audrey and Rusty. After Hall declined to reprise his role (he decided to star in Weird Science instead), producers decided to recast both children.
This was the only Vacation film that did not feature Randy Quaid's "Cousin Eddie" character. In the opening "Pig in a Poke" sequence, the family's name is shown as "Griswald", though in every other instance and film it is spelled "Griswold".
Christmas Vacation is a 1989 Christmas comedy film directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik. It is the third installment in the National Lampoon's Vacation film series. The title song of the same name was written for the movie by the husband-wife song writing team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, performed by Mavis Staples. This was the first National Lampoon's movie to have made Audrey older than Rusty, now played by Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki respectively.
Vegas Vacation is a 1997 comedy film. It is the fourth film in the Vacation film series centering around the fictitious Griswold family, following Vacation, European Vacation, and Christmas Vacation, and the only theatrical film in the series that was not officially linked to the "National Lampoon" name. Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo reprise their starring roles as Clark W. Griswold and Ellen Griswold, and Randy Quaid and Miriam Flynn both return as Cousins Eddie and Catherine. Rusty and Audrey were recast yet again, now played by Ethan Embry and Marisol Nichols.
Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure is a 2003 American made-for-TV comedy movie. It premiered December 20, 2003 on NBC. It can be considered a sequel to National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, although it is more of a spin-off than a direct chapter in the National Lampoon Vacation series, because the main stars (Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo) from the original films do not appear.
This short film was a campaign ad for the 2010 Super Bowl and it was released on Homeaway.com on February 7, 2010. Clark (Chevy Chase) and Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo) are going to visit Rusty (Travis Greer) and his family at a vacation rental. Clark decides he and Ellen will have a romantic getaway at a hotel before they get there, but at the hotel everything goes wrong for the Griswolds. They check out and drive the Family Truckster to Rusty's rental. This short film was not given the National Lampoon label, but it was sanctioned by Warner Bros.
In 2010, it was announced by New Line Cinema (owned by Warner Bros., which released the previous films) that a new Vacation film was being produced. It will be produced by David Dobkin and written by Sam Brown and Dave Neustadter. The story will focus on Rusty Griswold taking his own family to Walley World before the theme park closes permanently.
In July 2012 it was announced that Ed Helms will star in New Vacation as Rusty Griswold. The film will follow Rusty, who now has his own family misadventures on the road. John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein will write and direct the film. It is currently unknown if Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo or any of the other cast members will reprise their roles in the film which is due out in 2013.
Aside from the obvious issues with the characters' physical appearances due to being played by different actors, Rusty and Audrey age on a floating timeline. It is assumed that the films take place in the year they are made, as no other indication of time is given and the characters' clothing, cars, and environment are contemporary to the time of the films' releases. In most of the films it is never indicated which of the two children is older. Rusty and Audrey appear to be in their early teens in Vacation (1983), and in their mid-teens in European Vacation (1985) two years later (at one point in the film, Rusty specifically mentions that he is fifteen years old). However, in Christmas Vacation (1989), while Audrey appears to be in her late teens, Rusty looks younger than he did in the previous film. In Vegas Vacation (1997), both of them are in their late teens. In Hotel Hell Vacation (2010), Rusty is older and has a wife and daughter. In Vegas Vacation Clark tells the kids, "I hardly recognize you anymore!" The next shot freezes for a moment on the kids sitting silently, the scene making fun of the obvious discontinuity.
Walley World is mentioned in each of the subsequent films following Vacation.
Clark Griswold is usually very laid back and mild mannered, even in the face of adversity and his family's seeming lack of appreciation for his efforts on their behalf. However, when Clark is pushed beyond the limit of his patience, he tends to lose his temper and go on insane tirades, as seen in the first Vacation, where he lashes out at his family for not wanting to continue the trip. Clark also flips in Christmas Vacation where he gets angry at his relatives because of their wanting to leave, and went into a tirade against his boss.
Cast changes for the recurring characters in the series as follows:
|Vacation||European Vacation||Christmas Vacation||Vegas Vacation||Christmas Vacation 2||Hotel Hell Vacation|
|Clark W. Griswold, Jr.||Chevy Chase||Chevy Chase|
|Ellen Griswold||Beverly D'Angelo||Beverly D'Angelo|
|Russell 'Rusty' Griswold||Anthony Michael Hall||Jason Lively||Johnny Galecki||Ethan Embry||Travis Greer|
|Audrey Griswold||Dana Barron||Dana Hill||Juliette Lewis||Marisol Nichols||Dana Barron|
|Edward 'Eddie' Johnson||Randy Quaid||Randy Quaid|
|Catherine Johnson||Miriam Flynn||Miriam Flynn|
|Cousin Vicki||Jane Krakowski||Shae D'Lyn|
|Cousin Dale||John P. Navin Jr.|
|Cousin Daisy Mabel||Violet Ramis|
|Cousin Ruby Sue||Ellen Hamilton Latzen||Juliette Brewer|
|Cousin Rocky||Cody Burger|
|Cousin Denny||Zach Moyes|
|Cousin Clark 'Third' Johnson||Jake Thomas|