ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN
/ DVD. Eureka.
Vinton is probably best known for his California Raisins
animations, but this charming, if slight film shows he was capable
of more interesting projects too. A feature length claymation
movie based around the stories of Mark Twain, it’s a film
that seems oddly out of time (it was made in 1986 but has no sense
of 1980s cynicism or Speilbergian crass commercialism about it)
and while it’s hard to see this playing in cinemas, it has
a sweetness that makes it well worth while.
The film sees Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher stow away
on Twain’s impressively steampunk airship, as he sets off
on a trip to meet Halley’s Comet – and his destiny.
Along the way, they are told – or discover – various
of Twain’s stories – The Diary of Adam
and Eve, The Famous Jumping Frog of
Caliverous Country, Captain Sormfield’s
Visit to Heaven and others. Animated with humour
and as much irreverence as the original stories, this are entertaining
little tales, small in scale but with a definite charm. A section
based on The Mysterious Stranger takes
the film into a darker place, with ‘Satan’ creating
and destroying life at a whim, complete with creepy visuals that
might well freak out most susceptible nippers.
The film admirably avoids sentiment until the end, and even then
keeps it in check, as Twain arrives at the Comet – which
had last visted Earth the year he was born, and now returns the
year he died – and meets his fate.
The claymation animation here is less slick than the likes of
Wallace and Gromit, and everything here is clay
– the characters, the sets and the special effects. The
result is a quaint little universe that seems almost as out of
time as the characters themselves. This film must have seemed
an oddity in the 1980s; today, it’s inconceivable that it
could be made. And that’s a pity.
This new release comes complete with commentary tracks an interviews,
a documentary on claymation that is a bit too much of a Vinton
puff-piece, behind the scenes footage and more. A nice package
for a nice film.
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