Pennywise: The Story of It – the nostalgic documentary we’ve been waiting for

Pennywise: The Story of IT - Courtesy Projection PR/Cinedigm
Pennywise: The Story of IT - Courtesy Projection PR/Cinedigm /

I was 12 years old when I first heard about a shape-shifting, child-eating clown who lives in the sewers. My friend at the time was enthusiastically reading Stephen King’s It. I saw the 1,138-page novel and was astounded that a fellow middle schooler was thoroughly invested in the reading. She told me all about Pennywise the Dancing Clown and convinced me that I just had to toughen up and watch the 3-hour TV miniseries. From then on I loved Stephen King, adored Tim Curry, and was obsessed with horror… in a healthy way.

It was the 1990 cultural phenomenon whose television premiere introduced an entire generation of young viewers to the horror genre. The 2017 and 2019 films reintroduced the classic story into our hearts. Thankfully, our journey with the Losers Club isn’t over yet.

Pennywise: The Story of IT – Courtesy Projection PR/Cinedigm /

The new Cinedigm documentary Pennywise: The Story of It gives us a heartwarming look into the making of the miniseries with interviews of the cast and crew as well as behind-the-scenes footage. I encourage you to check out directors John Campopiano and Chris Griffiths’ other works, as horror documentaries are their bread and butter! Campopiano directed the 2017 documentary Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary and Griffiths directed the 2016 documentary You’re So Cool, Brewster! The Story of Fright Night.

Pennywise: The Story of It is split into 9 chapters detailing the miniseries’ creation and societal impact.

Warning – mild spoilers for Pennywise: The Story of IT.

We open with old footage of Stephen King discussing how he initially got the idea for It. The atmosphere was masterfully set and I immediately dawned a smile that did not leave for the remainder of the film.

Although there was no interview with King for the documentary, we get to see interviews with the 1990 cast and crew! Thinking back to the 90’s and seeing how far they’ve come was incredibly nostalgic, and it was fun to compare the grown up child actors to their initial adult counterparts. I questioned if Tim Curry would be involved due to his unfortunate stroke back in 2012. To my delight, the 76 year old actor was back on screen with all of the charm that we’re used to. To get a taste of Curry’s interview and the documentary’s delicious content, check out the exclusive clip at the bottom of the article!

Pennywise: the Story of It gives insight into the creation of Pennywise and the evolution of his character design. In the end, Tim Curry’s performance was the biggest effect, and other than the bulbous head and nose, heavy prosthetics and SFX for the evil clown were ditched.

Pennywise: The Story of IT – Courtesy Projection PR/Cinedigm /

What’s so special about It (other than Tim Curry’s masterful performance, of course)? Well, we are in part drawn to the 1990 miniseries because of the chemistry between the actors. The adult actors like Richard Thomas, Tim Reid, Annette O’Toole, Harry Anderson, and John Ritter were all thriving television actors. They had worked together and had known each other for a long time, and you could feel the friendship truly present in their performances. In fact, It director Tommy Lee Wallace stated that the ensemble of adult actors was more rowdy and obnoxious than the group of 7 kids!

The kid actors bonded throughout filming by pulling pranks and being goofballs, specifically Seth Green who played young class clown Richie Tozier. It is no surprise that Seth Green has grown up to make a living in comedy.

On a sadder note, the documentary covers the untimely deaths of two main cast members. John Ritter, who tragically passed in 2003, was spoken of fondly and said to constantly light up the set. Beloved child actor Jonathan Brandis was also mourned, as he had undergone severe depression and committed suicide at the age of 27, just 2 months after Ritter’s passing.

If you are familiar with the 1986 novel and all its elements, you’re probably wondering… do they address the child orgy in the book? That’s right, after the young losers beat Pennywise, each boy takes turns having sex with Bev (the only girl) in the sewers under Derry. King meant this as a bridge between childhood and adulthood, which I suppose makes sense, but it is still truly uncomfortable. It turns out, most child actors knew about that part of the book, and would often reference it. The only one who didn’t know was Emily Perkins, who played young Beverly. In the documentary, Perkins tells of her fellow actors making jokes about it on set without her understanding until she finally read the book.

Pennywise: The Story of IT – Courtesy Projection PR/Cinedigm /

The off-putting sex scene from the novel was one thing, but there was also the matter of addressing the ending. The big spider finale in both the novel and the miniseries is widely recognized as a disappointing let down. While Tommy Lee Wallace and others spoke of how they would fix the ending if they could, the spider itself was also delved into. The mechanics behind the big creature were incredibly intricate and well done, with many features that we did not get to see in the miniseries.

Why do we love It? To quote Pennywise himself, because it’s “everything you ever were afraid of.” Its focus on childhood fears and the terror of being a kid who doesn’t fit in are the driving features of the story that let so many people feel understood. Pennywise: The Story of It shows the power of the 1990 miniseries and devotes itself to giving further appreciation to the cult classic.

You can stream Pennywise: The Story of It on Amazon Prime Video, Google, Apple, Vudu, and Screambox.

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Was Stephen King’s It an important part of your childhood? Tell us about it in the comments!