Having earned a Student Academy Award for his USC thesis film, "For Heaven's Sake!," he spent the early part of his career alternating between TV and features. Kwapis broke in showbiz directing specials designed for young teens at CBS and ABC. In 1983, he helmed "Revenge of the Nerd," a "CBS Schoolbreak Special," about a studious young man who uses his brains to turn the tables on his tormentors. The next year, Kwapis won strong reviews for directing Robert Klein and Scott Schwartz in "Summer Switch," an "ABC Afterschool Special" in which father and son unwittingly change places. Other small screen credits included an episode of "Amazing Stories" (NBC, 1987), starring Kathy Baker, two segments of "Eerie, Indiana" (NBC, 1991-92), the pilot for the short-lived NBC remake of "Route 66" (1992) and several episodes of the critically praised "Bakersfield, P.D." (Fox, 1993-94). Kwapis made his feature debut with the sweet children's comedy "Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird" (1985). He segued to adventure comedies with the Jeff Goldblum-Cyndi Lauper misfire "Vibes" (1988). In 1991, Kwapis shared directing chores with Marisa Silver on "He Said, She Said," a gimmicky romance told from both points of view with Kwapis handling the Kevin Bacon segments and Silver those with Elizabeth Perkins. After honing his craft in TV, Kwapis returned to the big screen with the frothy children's comedy "Dunston Checks In" (1996), about an orangutan who runs amuck in a five-star hotel and featuring comic turns by Jason Alexander, Faye Dunaway and Rupert Everett. He was next tapped to helm the fairy tale-inspired romantic comedy "The Beautician and the Beast" (1997), co-starring Fran Drescher and Timothy Dalton as, respectively, a Queens cosmetician and a middle-European monarch.