Twice Upon a Time Reviews
Botch hatches a diabolical plan to use his ravens to deploy nightmare bombs all over Din in the hope of plunging the world into nightmares. Two most unlikely heroes are chosen to set things right: Ralph- an all-purpose animal who can shapeshift into anything at any given situation and Mumford- a mute Charlie Chaplin look-a-like who can only talk in sound effects. Botch tricks them into tampering with the Cosmic Clock only to end up loosening and losing the spring that drives it to Botch. Thus, stopping time and putting Din into an eternal slumber. Along the way they come across a no-nonsense fairy godmother, an amateur superhero Rod Rescueman, an aspiring actress Flora Fauna, Botch's screamwriter Scuzzbopper, and a video-faced gorilla named Ibor, who talks through pop cultural referencing images that appear on his screen.
Twice Upon a Time is a rather unique, yet nearly forgotten gem of a movie. Having been made by the Ladd Company and one of the early films that was produced by Lucasfilm and George Lucas himself, Twice Upon a Time only saw a limited theatrical release due to The Ladd Company nearing bankruptcy and licensing issues. This also resulted in the movie being a box office flop. Despite this, the movie did help to introduce a unique animation style of animation that John Korty referred to as "Lumage"- a technique that uses characters that are crafted out of construction paper on a light table with a blend of live-action rendered environments/segments. Korty utilized such a technique earlier in some of the Sesame Street shorts and ironically one of the voice actors of those shorts just so happened to be the brother of the now famous director David Fincher. Much of these animated shorts were made in Korty's barn and such directors like George Lucas, Francis-Ford Coppola, and Henry Selick (one of the animators for the surreal action sequence where Ralph and Mumford are attacked by office supplies) started off their careers there.
While "Twice Upon a Time" does use repeated animation sometimes the manner in which its style is used to complement its story is very unique. While not the first movie to utilize the cutout style of animation, the creativity that is used to blend in live-action footage and backgrounds helps to provide the viewer a dream-based, fantasy, tour-de-force is really well done. There are places in which the story can drag a little, such as Floura Fiona's character gag about being an aspiring actress and Rod Rescueman's bumbling antics of trying to woo her.
Comedians and famous radio actors improvise much of the dialogue. As far as I know, there exist multiple edits of this film, but there are two more prominent ones in particular: a more family- oriented version and one with more adult language. The former was Korty's more intended version. The latter was once aired on HBO, but Korty threatened legal action of they ever showed that version of the film again. In the more adult version, Marshal Efron caters toward the raunchier aspects of his character, Botch who curses more frequently and is more inhumane to his vulture minions.
There where a lot more politics involved during the making. As mentioned before, Korty preferred a more family-oriented approach, but the writer/producer Bill Coutrie catered more towards making it a more mature film in response to the walkouts that occurred during its early screenings. Despite the cast consisting of improvisational comedians, the actors shine through as their characters. Two of which: Lorenzo Music and Julie Payne are famous for voicing Garfield and Dr. Liz Wilson in the classic cartoon "Garfield and Friends". There are some times where the dialogue can be too briskly delivered, but nothing comes off as too awkward, though the worst the film can get is questionable in terms of decision making.
The first time I've ever seen "Twice Upon a Time" was back in 1998 when it aired on Cartoon Network's Cartoon Theatre. I remember being much in awe with this movie and eagerly anticipated it to air again, but it never did. It got a limited VHS release and was destined to become an underground cult film that would almost fade into the ether. Fortunately, TCM has aired it earlier last year and the Warner Bros. Archive finally gave it a DVD release that contains both the family-oriented and more adult version. Both tell the same story, only with the latter having some more edgy character quirks.
Among other reasons, movies like "Twice Upon a Time" have been the main reason why I've gotten into reviewing. It's always been such a passionate satisfaction of mine to promote such hidden, more obscure gems such as this. "Twice Upon a Time" is not perfect and does have its flaws; I do however feel as if it deserves a place of relevancy along with the great animated movies of Don Bluth and Ralph Bakshi. The unique animation, fantastic soundtrack, likable characters, and creative story make "Twice Upon a Time" a movie that any animation enthusiast should check out. I gave kudos to Warner Bros. for finally giving this movie a needed DVD release, but I must add that it really demands a soundtrack.
Enjoy it with your friends or smarter kids, but be careful about what version you are getting. One version has plenty of swearing (more intense than early South Park, but no where near the George Carlin level).