Upon A Time
(1983/Ladd Company/Warner Archive DVD)
C+ Sound: B- Extras: B- Film: B+
Upon A Time
DVD is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner
Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.
in a limited number of theaters by Warner Bros.-distributed
The Ladd Company (Blade
Upon A Time is
a stop-motion animated film taking place in an amazing fantasy world.
Directed by Charles Swenson and John Korty the film was not an
instant success due to its limited release; only receiving a second
chance when released on HBO and later distributed by Warner Bros. for
home video release. The film is notably creative and was the first
animated feature film produced by George Lucas (Star
The creativity of the film is multifactorial as it utilized a blend
of film styles (stop-motion, classic 2D animation, and live action)
as well as improvised dialogue to craft a brilliant world.
film has a long history of alternate cuts and limited (unavailable)
releases. John Korty wanted the film to be a scripted, family
friendly event; but other creative parties involved in the film's
production enjoyed the improvised, more liberal language that the
voice talent was delivering. In the end, the version released
(briefly and limitedly) in theaters was the uncensored, improvised
version; something that would later enrage Korty. After being a
financial flop in theaters, the uncensored version managed to have
several airings on HBO before Korty threatened legal action and HBO
opted to air a censored/Korty approved release. Spectrum and
Showtime (premium channels) would also later air the altered version.
for about 30 years, Twice
Upon A Time gathered
a cult following as it was shown limitedly on television, in censored
video cassette/12-inch LaserDisc releases, and bootleg VHS uncensored
copies. Warner Archive now has given audiences across the globe to
finally view both censored and uncensored releases here on DVD.
voice cast included Lorenzo Music (Gummi
plus the unseen Carlton The Doorman on the live action TV hit Rhoda)
as Ralph, Judith Kahan as the Fairy Godmother, Julie Payne as Flora
Fauna, voice legend Paul Frees as The Narrator and various other
parts, Marshall Efron as Synonamess Botch, and Hamilton Camp as Green
Sleeves; all of which demonstrated an exceptional ability to
improvise and bring the characters to life. The story takes place in
the far, far away city of Din where people known as the
black-and-white Rushers go about their day only stopping to sleep.
Din is sandwiched between two worlds; Frivoli which creates happy
pleasant dreams for the Rushers and Murkworks which creates dark,
gloomy nightmares delivered by bomb dropping vultures. Frivoli is
ruled by Greensleeves, whereas Murktown is ruled by the crazy and
maniacal Synonamess Botch. Botch hatches a plan to kidnap
Greensleeves so that Rushers will only have nightmares.
before his abduction, Greensleeves manages to get an S.O.S. message
to Frivoli; a message found by Greensleeves' niece Flora Fauna.
Flora enlists the help of two dimwitted characters, Ralph the shape
shifting animal and Mumford the Mime who are already on the society's
last nerve, to help her find her uncle. Botch is spying on the trio
with his mechanical gorilla and uses the opportunity to trick them
into helping him. Ralph, Flora, Mumford and a host of other
characters are suddenly thrown into an amazing adventure where they
meet a host of interesting and fantastical characters.
film is sophisticated yet filled to the brim with childhood
Upon a Time's blend
of media and improvisation is nearly flawless and has truly stood the
test of time. It is never boring and keeps the audience engaged
throughout. Whereas the story may be timeless the soundtrack is
totally 1980's, which this reviewer finds only adds to the already
odd atmosphere; it was Bruce Hornsby after all. Audiences will be
floored by the creativity demonstrated here and what was accomplished
with paper/plastic cutouts on a light table, along with 2-D
animation. Fantastic from beginning to end.
previously mentioned, both cuts of the film exist on this DVD
release, but sadly are only technically a step up from VHS visual
quality. The sound is better than the picture, but still needs
restoration work completed. The picture is a simple 16 X 9 letterbox
(1.85 X 1) that is nice but does not have the crispness and clarity
one would hope for with such a classic, cult film. The colors are
adequate, but again should have been brighter and the blacks are not
nearly as deep and inky as they should be; leaning toward the grey
side. The sound is better in its lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
(from its old analog theatrical Dolby A-type theatrical sound), but a
7.1 surround for those bodacious '80s track and zany worlds would
have been much better, though we're at the mercy of the fidelity of
include a commentary track by John Korty and supporting crew/cast.
It is an interesting track worth the viewer's time as it gives
insight into what Korty was trying to accomplish with this amazingly
that this film is finally available, no excuses; everyone should give
this a look!
order the Twice
Upon a Time Warner
Archive DVD, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive
Michael P. Dougherty II