HomeAmerican EntertainmentTVClassic TV‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Why One Reboot Wasn’t Filmed in the Original Mayberry

‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Why One Reboot Wasn’t Filmed in the Original Mayberry

by Taylor Cunningham
(Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

In the 1986 Andy Griffith Show reunion movie titled Return to Mayberry, it wasn’t exactly Mayberry that the classic TV characters went back to.

The film centered around Andy Taylor’s long-awaited homecoming to the sleepy North Carolina hometown that made him famous in the 1960s. While the former sheriff had moved away, all his iconic friends and family were still living in the famous slice of utopia.

Opie was married and awaiting the birth of his first child. So he could instill the same fatherly life lessons that Andy did decades before. Andy Barney Fife was campaigning to become the next Mayberry sheriff. While everyone had grown, everything else about the quintessential old-fashioned city remained mainly the same. Or, had it?

There was one major difference between the set that Andy Griffith pioneered in 1960 and the set that he returned to in the 80s. They weren’t the same.

The original series was filmed on a 40-acre studio lot located in Culver City, California. The spot was the main set for Desilu Production, which Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz owned. The studio used the set for several iconic shows, including Mission: Impossible and Star Trek.

But in 1967, Desilu went defunct. The famous couple decided to call their marriage quits. And the dissolution of their marriage resulted in the dissolution of the business. Then in 1976, the new landowner came in and completely demolished the old Mayberry. So when Andy Griffith decided to head back to his old stomping grounds, he had to build a new one.

Aunt Bee’s Florence Frances Bavier Didn’t Return to Mayberry

Another major difference between The Andy Griffith Show and Return to Mayberry is that Aunt Bee doesn’t make an appearance in the latter.

Almost all of the major players returned to film the reboot in the 80s, including Ron Howard, Don Knotts, Andy Griffith, and Jim Nabors. But Frances Bavier opted out of the reunion.

To give the character a spot in the film, the writers decided to give her a voice-over—because what’s Mayberry without Aunt Bee? But without the original actress, they had to improvise. So Janet Waldo stepped in and took her place.

Waldo was a famous voice actress from the 1930s all the way to the early 2000s. She lent her vocals to animated characters such as Judy Jetson, Morticia Addams, and Josie from the Pussycats.

No one knows why Bavier refused to reprise her role for the flick. She had appeared in every other Andy Griffith spinoff after all. But what we do know is that she had retired to a small town in North Carolina that neighbored exactly where the fictional Mayberry supposedly lived.