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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Comedy > Fantasy > Adventure > Twice Upon A Time (1983/Ladd Company/Warner Archive DVD)

Twice Upon A Time (1983/Ladd Company/Warner Archive DVD)

Picture: C+ Sound: B- Extras: B- Film: B+

PLEASE NOTE: The Twice Upon A Time DVD is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

Released in a limited number of theaters by Warner Bros.-distributed The Ladd Company (Blade Runner, Outland, The Right Stuff) in 1983 Twice 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 Wars). 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.

The 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.

So 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.

The voice cast included Lorenzo Music (Gummi Bears and The Real Ghostbusters, 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.

Just 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.

The film is sophisticated yet filled to the brim with childhood wonderment. Twice 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.

As 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 the time.

Extras 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 creative film.

Now that this film is finally available, no excuses; everyone should give this a look!

To order the Twice Upon a Time Warner Archive DVD, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Michael P. Dougherty II


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