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Twice Upon a Time

Twice Upon a Time is a 1983 animated movie directed by John Korty and Charles Swenson. This film had an unusual history in terms of release and editing, but it has been named one of the most important films in the history of stop-motion animation. This was also the first animated film George Lucas produced.

The film uses a form of cutout animation, which the filmmakers called "Lumage," that involved prefabricated cut-out plastic pieces that the animators moved on a light table.



Twice Upon a Time is an action-adventure-fantasy-comedy about two oddballs who are so eager to be heroes that they do something very wrong in trying to do something right. One of the two would-be heroes is Ralph, the all-purpose animal. He's a nice guy -- a friendly, dog-like animal who wears glasses, and has the special (yet unmastered) ability to transform into any creature he wishes to be. Mum, Ralph's prankster sidekick, is a trim fellow in a black suit who speaks in special effects and loves mischief and magic and a good time. Their relationship is the opposite of human and dogs: Mum is happy-go-lucky, Ralph is a worrier. Together they are funny, lovable dupes who have recently been exiled from Frivoli, Home of Sweet Dreams.

Frivoli bakes sweet dreams, The Murkworks hammers out nightmares, and the harried people who receive these two very different kinds of dreams are called the "Rushers of Din".

Greensleeves (affectionately known as "Greenie") is in charge of delivering sweet dreams to the sleeping Rushers of Din with his helpers, the Figs (Figmen of Imagination). But the paunchy and raunchy Synonamess Botch, maniacal ruler of the Murkworks Nightmare Factory wants to foil Greenie's efforts and increase his own production of nightmares, to the point where the Rushers are subjected to non-stop nightmares. Botch uses his vultures - who deliver the nightmares - to kidnap the Figs and Greensleeves.

Botch also cons the innocent Ralph and Mum into freezing time in Din by releasing the Magic Mainspring from the Cosmic Clock, telling them that it's the humane thing to do. The naive "heroes" soon find out that stopping time was a big mistake. Their Fairy Godmother twinkles in to spell it out in her Bronx accent that they have been tricked. Ralph and Mum must now find the Spring before Botch's menacing vulture minions can drop thousands and thousands of so-called "Nightmare Bombs" on Din, preparing for world-wide misery when Botch starts time again.

Ralph and Mumford join forces with Flora Fauna, a true flower and aspiring movie star, who is the heroes' heart throb, as well as Greensleeves' niece, and Rod Rescueman, a recent graduate (D-average) from Superhero School. They free Greensleeves and the Figs and attempt to stop Botch before he can start time back up and activate the bombs simultaneously - with a button he calls "The Big Red One."

Together they foil Botch's plan and defeat both he and his henchmen: Ibor, the half-gorilla, half-robot who responds to Botch's commands with old, cliched television clips, and Ratatooie, Botch's pet rat/armadillo who has a voracious appetite for garbage and an inscrutable passion for bowling balls. Scuzzbopper, Botch's Head Screamwriter, turns coat to help the heroes. Eventually, Ralph and Mum become true heroes and restore cosmic balance.


The studio that was distributing, The Ladd Company, was about to go bankrupt at that point and had a choice of either putting Twice Upon a Time into limited release or worldwide release. They also had the same problem with The Right Stuff. Since Twice Upon a Time was animated, it was put into limited release and failed at the box-office. The Right Stuff also suffered the same fate when it premiered worldwide and caused The Ladd Company to die out. Still today, it has created a cult following, it is accepted by movie fans and kids alike with its witty humor and catchy dialogue.

Alternate versions

There were many different versions of this movie, because the producers could only hire improvisation comedians.

In one version, where Greensleeves is not kidnapped by Botch's vultures, Ralph and Mumford stop by a bar, before seeing the Fairy Godmother, and meet Greensleeves. He tells the boys to get the spring, after they tell him that they released it. Later, the spring escapes the vultures and meets Greenie, who is then asked to put the spring back in the cosmic clock. At this point, the vultures swoop in and kidnap the spring and Greensleeves.

There were at least two versions of the movie: one with adult language and one with PG-rated language. From the outset, John Korty didn't want to use the dialogue of the original script, but Marshall Efron thought his lines were perfect and played up the raunchier aspects of his character. Some lines were selected by Bill Couturié. Korty was unaware of this until opening night and was very angry about how Marshall Efron's lines were delevered from the script.

Years later, Twice Upon a Time was shown by HBO. However, the version that HBO received and showed was the version that Couturié liked. When Korty found out, he immediately contacted HBO, threatening legal action if this version was aired again. So, HBO dropped the film after only three showings. Two months later, Showtime acquired the film, but the version they got was a Korty-approved version. Interestingly enough, this version had the complete scene of "Out on My Own" as well as the uncut final reel of the film. In 1991, the film was finally released to videocassette and laserdisc (but not letterboxed or CAV or with the alternate audio available on an additional track). Apparently, John Korty won the battle, as the version released is very cleaned-up and a bit shorter in certain scenes. The basic story is there, but with the original scenes and dialogue altered, this version is incomplete in its final presentation.

To date, the film has yet to see any form of DVD release, and Warner Home Video has not stated if there is one planned. Though when the film was placed on the internet onto viral video sites, its minor cult status boosted and the home video version is now available as a rental download on Amazon Unbox as well as a boost of used VHS copies on its "Used and New" section on Amazon. As for the cable version, it's now available on the internet as a bittorrent.


The soundtrack features several songs performed by Maureen McDonald written by Tom Ferguson, her brother Michael and she. Also included is one song performed by Bruce Hornsby written by his brother John and he, as well as one track performed by Lawrence Welk and His Orchestra.


See also

External links

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