The Adventures Of Mark Twain


Patricia Truslow, Contributor

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The Adventures of Mark Twain is a stop motion animated film about the life and adventures of its namesake. Written by Doug Ferrar and directed by Will Vinton, the film was released to movie theatres in 1985 and on DVD in 2006. Stop motion animation is a process of filming where objects are brought to life by filming one frame, or increment, of the objects movement at one time. Given Mark Twain's real like reputation of being a humorous and witty writer, the use of puppet-like movie characters seems to suit him.

The storyline is based on Twain's determination to find Halley's Comet while traveling in a hot air balloon. The concept developed out of a quote by Twain: "I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it." True to his prediction, Twain died the day before the comet appeared closest to Earth again. In The Adventures of Mark Twain, many of his and his readers' favorite characters join Twain in the pursuit. Dialog from the film relays the fact:

Becky Thatcher: How come you want to catch that comet so bad, Mr. Twain?

Mark Twain: Oh-ho-ho, the comet and I are part of the plan, angelfish. No doubt the Almighty said here, 'There go those two unaccountable freaks. They came into this world together, they must go out together.

As the balloon rises higher into the sky, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and Becky Thatcher try to convince Twain not to speed up his death by crashing into Halley's Comet. To this end, Tom decides to fix the problem:

Tom Sawyer: We're only waiting for the right moment now.

Becky Thatcher: What are you talking about?

Huck Finn: Yeah?

Tom Sawyer: Becky, do you swear not to tell?

Becky Thatcher: Sure.

Tom Sawyer: On your grandmother's bones?

[Becky rolls her eyes]

Tom Sawyer: Well, do ya?

Becky Thatcher: Yeah.

Tom Sawyer: We're gonna hijack this balloon.

Becky Thatcher: What?

Huck Finn: Hijack?

Tom Sawyer: Just imagine: Tom Sawyer, aeronort, saves airborne friends from madman's death wish.

Despite Twain's tremendous disgust with the human race, the trio tells him that he still has a lot to offer the world that would improve society. Of course, Twain's three friends also understand that if they don't convince him to return to Earth, they will also perish if the balloon reaches Twain's intended destination.

Along the journey into the universe, the group is visited by some of Twain's characters in animated form, many of whom exchange conversation with the traveling quartet, as in Becky Thatcher's encounter with Satan:

Becky Thatcher: Who are you?

The Mysterious Stranger: An angel.

Huck Finn: What's your name?

The Mysterious Stranger: Satan.

Huck Finn: Uh oh.

The Mysterious Stranger: What's the matter?

Huck Finn: Nothing. Just that it's sure a sorry name for an angel.

Not only does this quote demonstrate typical conversations between the occupants of the balloon with Twain's characters, it is also an indication of what some critics have described as elements that make the film overly mature for children. It clearly includes cynicisms about Twain's view of God and the afterlife. Even conversations between Adam and Eve in the movie tend to move it more toward adult entertainment than a children's animated movie. From midway the movie to the end, the theme concentrates more on Twain's views about death, immortality and life than it does entertainment.