Monday, March 14, 2011

“Do I get the job, or should we move right onto the shark infested waters test?”

So, digging into the category of “movies I know for certain almost nobody but me has ever heard of” I present to you one of the formative film experiences of my youth: 1983’s Twice Upon A Time, a fractured kind of fairy tale featuring a rare (or at least uncommon) animation style called “Lumage.”

Well, dreams come from two places. Good dreams come from Frivoli and nightmares come from The Murkworks. The residents of both places refer to the real world as Din and us humans as “rushers,” on account of how we’re always concerned about this thing called “time.” The ruler of the Murkworks, unrepentant jerk Synonamess Botch (Marshall Efron), hatches a plan to freeze this “time” and explode a bomb in Din that would effectively cause permanent nightmares. Its up to several Frivolians to put a stop to his mad scheme. Recruited by a particularly cynical Fairy Godmother (Judith Kahan) they are: Ralph, the All-Purpose Animal (Lorenzo Music), Mumford (who doesn’t speak so much as make sound effects), Flora Fauna (Julie Payne) who’s looking for her uncle Greensleeves (Hamilton Camp) who works in Din making sure dreams get distributed, and eventually Rod Rescueman, a superhero still on his learner’s permit (James Cranna). Oh yeah, and there’s also Scuzzbopper, Botch’s head writer at the Murkworks. (also James Cranna).

Directed by John Korty & Charles Swenson, the real draw here is the Lumage style animation. What that means is they used cut out pieces of paper (or plastic in this case) and animated them over a light table. The result is a very unique “illuminated” feel to the film that also looks like moving watercolors, if that makes sense. Also of special note are the credits of Special Photographic Effects by David Fincher (yes, THAT David Fincher) and Sequence Director Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline)

Screenplay & Story credits to Bill Couturié, Suella Kennedy, and John Korty. Written by Charles Swenson. The story takes a standard heroic plot, mixes in a bunch of fairy tale tropes and then turns a lot of stuff upside down. There’s also two versions of the film, one marked by saltier dialogue that mixes in occasional mid-level potty words.

Original music by Dawn Atkinson and Ken Melville. There are also several songs by Maureen McDonald and one by Bruce Hornsby. The soundtrack is very "early 1980s," but not in a bad way.

Twice Upon A Time is another one of those “movies I love deeply but you’ve probably never heard of.” Which is a shame, because I can guarantee you’ve not seen an animated film that looks quite like this AND has a surprisingly sophisticated sense of humor. Its also unfortunate that its kind of caught up in a legal snarl between the director and producer, since this really deserves to be on DVD. I don’t normally recommend finding movies through less than legal sources, but since it would take a miracle to get this thing re-released, do so (and if it actually DOES happen I vow to pick up a copy on day one). VHS copies exist and the internet has copies of both versions circulating around.

Not a trailer, but it shows plenty of scenes, so good enough.

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