The ‘Press Your Luck’ Whammy Animator Directed These Classic Gen X Movies


If you grew up watching game shows, chances are you caught some episodes of Press Your Luck. Remember “The Whammy,” that red little guy who could tank a contestant’s chances of winning the game? Turns out, the man who animated the kooky character also directed two of Gen X’s defining cult classic films.

What Is ‘The Whammy?’

Press Your Luck ran from 1983 to 1986. The game show’s premise was that contestants answered trivia questions in order to collect “spins.” These spins could then be used on a gameboard, where contestants could win cash and prizes. 

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“The Whammy” was a red cartoon character with a raspy voice. If players landed on the Whammy space, they went bankrupt in the game and had to start over again from $0. “The Whammy” was created and animated by “Savage” Steve Holland. 

Holland’s Directing Credits

This isn’t the only thing Holland is famous for. In addition to being an animator, voice actor, writer, and cartoonist, Holland is also a director. He directed the Gen X cult classics Better Off Dead and One Crazy Summer.

Both movies starred John Cusack, who had a bit of a contentious relationship with Holland. Holland told The Sneeze that Cusack walked out of a screening of Better Off Dead, telling him, “[That] was the worst thing I have ever seen. I will never trust you as a director ever again, so don’t speak to me.”

One Crazy Summer came out the following year (it had been filmed before the drama went down) and the actor kept his word; Cusack and Holland have not collaborated on anything since the ’80s.

Better Off Dead didn’t get great reviews, and Holland wasn’t sure he wanted to keep directing. “After Better Off Dead didn’t do so good, I thought, I just can’t do any better than this,” he told InsideHook.

“This is from the heart and as funny as I can be. What’s so sad is it was my first movie and it was all downhill from there. With One Crazy Summer, I was like, I don’t think I’m achieving what I should be achieving like I think I did in Better Off Dead.”

What Does He Do Now?

He directed one more movie, How I Got into College, and then moved into directing children’s movies and TV shows.

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Holland’s work includes movies like Legally Blondes, Big Time Movie, and A Fairly Odd Christmas, as well as episodes of Even Stevens, Lizzie McGuire, Zoey 101, and Big Time Rush. Holland has quite the lengthy resume, but many would be surprised to learn that he had a hand in “The Whammy” on Press Your Luck

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