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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Adventures of Mark Twain
Deluxe 25th Anniversary Edition


Starring (voice): James Whitmore Gary Krug Chris Ritchie and Carol Edelman
Eureka Entertainment
RRP: £16.34
Certificate: PG
Available 31 October 2011

There was a period when it seemed that Claymation could become an important form of artistic expression, however no studio ever made this form of animation a success until Aardman Animations came up with Wallace & Gromit. So, regardless of its quality any Claymation film made in the late nineteen eighties was almost guaranteed to failure.

The Adventures of Mark Twain (1986 - 1 hr, 26 min, 07 sec) is a Claymation film directed by Will Vinton, who would go on to financial success with the The California Raisins animation.

The basic idea of the film is that Mark Twain, having been born at the same time as the return of Halley’s Comet, has become obsessed enough by it to build a balloon ship meaning to fly to the comet. Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn and Becky Thatcher stow away on the ship and it is here that they are exposed to some of Twain’s most beloved stories.

Now everyone will have a favourite, so it would be difficult to please everyone, but the film covers Twain’s first short Story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County as well as Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven, The Mysterious Stranger, The Diaries of Adam and Eve and, of course, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

The sad thing is that the film died a spectacular financial death on its first outing. It’s sad really because as a film it's not half bad. Fans of Twain’s work will enjoy the stories, while animation fans will wonder at the enormous amount of sculpturing skill on show here.

For a relatively obscure American work it’s good to see that the DVD comes with some impressive extras, including a full length commentary by Will Vinton, as well as members of the cast and crew. There is a trailer (2 min, 17 sec) for the film as well as The Story of Claymation (16 min, 45 sec) which oddly looks at the origins of Claymation as a film technique.

The Behind the Scenes Featurette (6 min, 57 sec) looks at how the film was made and The Music of Mark Twain (19 min, 41 sec) gives an isolated version of the score. There are crew interviews with Barry Bruce (12 min, 15 sec) Character design, Bill Scream (10 min, 13 sec) Music and sound, Mark Gistafson (9 min, 33 sec) animator, Susan Shadburne (9 min, 30 sec) and writer / producer / director Will Vinton (12 min, 47 sec). Each of the people involved talk about their part in the film and how this came about.

Even if you have never heard about this film before, it’s well worth looking out for, especially if you have kids. The animation is high quality as is the writing, add in some quality extras and you have a good value for money package.


Charles Packer

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