Full page view
HISTORY

The following prologue appears in opening credits: “Once every seventy-five years, Halley’s comet pays its cosmic visit. In 1835, the comet returned and America’s most famous author was born. Mark Twain, ‘the most conspicuous man on the planet,’ believed his destiny was linked to the comet. He wrote: ‘The Almighty has said, no doubt, ‘There go those two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’ In 1910, as Halley’s comet glowed again in the night sky, Twain wrote: ‘It is the final chapter,’ and he never wrote again. On April 21, 1910, he died.”
       The following acknowledgments appear in end credits: “Special thanks to Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) for writing the following stories which inspired this motion picture: Tom Sawyer Abroad, The [Celebrated] Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, The Diary of Adam and Eve, Extracts from Captain Stormfield’s Diary, [The] Mysterious Stranger, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Life on the Mississippi, Autobiography of Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson, The Innocents Abroad.
       According to the Nov 1985 AmCin and 14 Mar 1985 LAHExam, the film was animator-producer-director Will Vinton’s first full-length feature, using Claymation®, a process by which scenes or characters made of plasticine clay are slightly altered and shot frame by frame in a fashion similar to cell animation. The picture was conceived as a sequence of film shorts adapted from some of novelist Mark Twain’s best-known work, which was organized into a unified whole. Vinton and his team used more than two tons ... More Less

The following prologue appears in opening credits: “Once every seventy-five years, Halley’s comet pays its cosmic visit. In 1835, the comet returned and America’s most famous author was born. Mark Twain, ‘the most conspicuous man on the planet,’ believed his destiny was linked to the comet. He wrote: ‘The Almighty has said, no doubt, ‘There go those two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’ In 1910, as Halley’s comet glowed again in the night sky, Twain wrote: ‘It is the final chapter,’ and he never wrote again. On April 21, 1910, he died.”
       The following acknowledgments appear in end credits: “Special thanks to Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) for writing the following stories which inspired this motion picture: Tom Sawyer Abroad, The [Celebrated] Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, The Diary of Adam and Eve, Extracts from Captain Stormfield’s Diary, [The] Mysterious Stranger, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Life on the Mississippi, Autobiography of Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson, The Innocents Abroad.
       According to the Nov 1985 AmCin and 14 Mar 1985 LAHExam, the film was animator-producer-director Will Vinton’s first full-length feature, using Claymation®, a process by which scenes or characters made of plasticine clay are slightly altered and shot frame by frame in a fashion similar to cell animation. The picture was conceived as a sequence of film shorts adapted from some of novelist Mark Twain’s best-known work, which was organized into a unified whole. Vinton and his team used more than two tons of plasticine clay from a supplier in Florence, Italy, and another in California. The clay was melted to add color that matched color charts, corresponding to various characters, sets and props.
       A sketch stage determined how the characters would look. After the sketches were approved, eight-inch character prototypes were built with clay on brass and lead armatures. The clay was sculpted with ordinary tools, and never handled by fingers because fingerprints would distract and reveal the figures’ actual size relationship. Production molds were developed to accommodate at the same time the use of two colors of clay for flesh and hair. Approximately one hundred and fifty heads of main characters were cast during the production.
       Set designer/Claymator Joan C. Gratz used liquid clay painted onto Plexiglas to create sky and other backgrounds. Still photographer/Claymator Bruce McKean animated an airship to look like a cross between a hot-air balloon and a Mississippi riverboat. After all the clay characters passed inspection, the entire film was storyboarded. Filming began after storyboards were completed.
       Due to the painstaking nature of animation, animators would complete ten seconds of film a day on average, which was equivalent to two hundred and forty frames of film. In order to speed up some of the tedious aspects of stop motion animation, Vinton knew he needed to automate a portion of the process, and hired motion control developer and fellow filmmaker, Sam Longoria, who had devised “an eight-axis motion control system,” with a customized Radio Shack personal computer. However, the retailer discontinued the model on which Longoria had based his software. Delays occurred as Longoria developed new software to interface with an updated personal computer. In Longoria’s system, motor drives were computer controlled to move lenses, cameras or background elements in between each frame as needed. In addition, practical set lights balanced with low-intensity lamps, coupled with long-exposure times, were used for each frame to prevent the clay from melting.
       A 3 Oct 1984 Var item announced that principal photography on The Adventures of Mark Twain By Huck Finn, the film’s working title, was completed on that day after three-and-a-half years of production at Will Vinton Productions in Portland, OR. According to the 14 Mar 1985 LAHExam, the budget was $4 million.
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Nov 1985
p.75-76, 78.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jun 1985.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jan 1986
p. 24.
LAHExam
14 Mar 1985.
---
Los Angeles Times
17 Apr 1986
pp. 2-3.
New York Times
17 Jan 1986
p. 18.
Variety
3 Oct 1984.
---
Variety
20 Mar 1985
p. 13, 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Harbour Town Films Ltd. presents
A Film in Claymation® by
Will Vinton Productions
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Addl writing & research
Addl writing & research
PHOTOGRAPHY
Still photog
Negative processing
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
Film ed
Addl ed
Addl ed
Negative conforming
Negative conforming
SET DECORATORS
Set des
Set des
MUSIC
Mus comp and arr
Mus ed
Mus ed
SOUND
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Asst sd ed
Sd eff rec
Sd eff rec
Synthesizer eff
Synthesizer eff
Sd re-rec
Addl mixing
Addl mixing
Foley artist
Re-rec
VISUAL EFFECTS
Mechanical & computer eff
Motion control development
Spec photog eff
Spec opt eff
Lookout Mountain Films
Spec opt eff
Lookout Mountain Films
Main title des
Main title des
Title layout
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv & gen mgr
Asst to Mr. Vinton
Asst to Mr. Vinton
Prod asst
Post-prod supv
Spec creative consultant
Legal consultant
Prod accountant
ANIMATION
Char des
Becky Thatcher, Principal char claymation
Tom Sawyer/Dan'l Webster, Principal char claymatio
Huck Finn, Principal char claymation
Mark Twain, Principal char claymation
Stormfield/Aliens, Principal char claymation
Airship, Principal char claymation
Claypainting eff
Addl claymation
Addl claymation
Addl claymation
Asst claymator
Asst claymator
Addl claymator
SOURCES
SONGS
"Heroes," music by Billy Scream and Paul Jamison, lyrics by Susan Shadburne, performed by Billy Scream Band, lead vocalist Craig Carothers, published by Falcon Heights Music.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Adventures of Mark Twain by Huckleberry Finn
The Adventures of Mark Twain by Huck Finn
Mark Twain
Release Date:
17 January 1986
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 17 January 1986
Los Angeles opening: 18 April 1986
Production Date:
Spring 1981--3 October 1984 in Portland, Oregon
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Animation
Duration(in mins):
86
MPAA Rating:
G
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

On a raft moored on the riverbank, Tom Sawyer tells his friend, Huck Finn, he is jealous that his friend, Becky Thatcher, has gone on an adventure to St. Louis, Missouri. Soon, Tom realizes that he and Huck can create their own adventure by finding a hot-air balloon on display in St. Louis. There, the boys meet Becky, learn that Haley’s Comet will appear shortly, and hear author Mark Twain tell the crowd that he will embark on a voyage aboard the hot-air balloon “to meet” the comet. Since the comet appeared when he was born, Mark Twain plans to depart with its return. Meanwhile, Tom and Huck stow aboard the balloon, and Tom starts the engine, gloating that he will have stories to tell Becky, only to find that Becky has also climbed aboard. While Twain is pleased to see unexpected company, Huck wonders how they will return to Earth. However, the writer says the goal is to find the comet, not to go home. As Twain shows them a map pinpointing the comet’s trajectory, he sees Homer, the boys’s frog, and proceeds to tell them his story about the famous frog of Calaveras County, in which his friend Jim Smiley caught a creature, and spent three months teaching it to jump great distances. One day, Smiley bet a miner that his frog could out jump any frog in Calaveras County. Smiley found the miner a competing frog so that he could place a forty-dollar bet. After the miner’s frog easily won, Smiley discovered that his frog’s stomach was weighed down with tools, and other miscellaneous detritus. Smiley searched for the miner that swindled him, but never found ... +


On a raft moored on the riverbank, Tom Sawyer tells his friend, Huck Finn, he is jealous that his friend, Becky Thatcher, has gone on an adventure to St. Louis, Missouri. Soon, Tom realizes that he and Huck can create their own adventure by finding a hot-air balloon on display in St. Louis. There, the boys meet Becky, learn that Haley’s Comet will appear shortly, and hear author Mark Twain tell the crowd that he will embark on a voyage aboard the hot-air balloon “to meet” the comet. Since the comet appeared when he was born, Mark Twain plans to depart with its return. Meanwhile, Tom and Huck stow aboard the balloon, and Tom starts the engine, gloating that he will have stories to tell Becky, only to find that Becky has also climbed aboard. While Twain is pleased to see unexpected company, Huck wonders how they will return to Earth. However, the writer says the goal is to find the comet, not to go home. As Twain shows them a map pinpointing the comet’s trajectory, he sees Homer, the boys’s frog, and proceeds to tell them his story about the famous frog of Calaveras County, in which his friend Jim Smiley caught a creature, and spent three months teaching it to jump great distances. One day, Smiley bet a miner that his frog could out jump any frog in Calaveras County. Smiley found the miner a competing frog so that he could place a forty-dollar bet. After the miner’s frog easily won, Smiley discovered that his frog’s stomach was weighed down with tools, and other miscellaneous detritus. Smiley searched for the miner that swindled him, but never found him. Soon, the friends ask Twain to land and remove Becky as a ruse to leave the balloon, but Twain refuses, and the journey continues. Tom and Huck explore the balloon to find another escape. They discover a teleporter machine onboard called the Indexivator, which transports them to Twain’s study. Becky follows, and all the youngsters listen to Twain’s reading of The Diary of Adam and Eve. In the story, God created a beautiful garden, and formed Adam out of a ball of clay. Adam had no cares, and for fun, he rode over a waterfall. Soon, he met Eve, but he was frightened by her and ran away. Eve kept a diary of Adam’s activities. He avoided her, and she tried unsuccessfully to pick apples from the forbidden tree as a token of friendship. Eve occupied her time naming objects in the garden. Adam was not impressed, but eventually they spoke. When Eve’s presence became too suffocating, Adam kept his distance. Eve made friends with other animals in the garden such as the snake. Meanwhile, Adam cautioned Eve that eating forbidden apples would bring death into the world. Eve thought this would be a good thing for lions, tigers and vultures. Once Eve ate the apple the world became sadder and darker. Adam escaped so as not to be touched by the troubles brought on by the apple. Back on the balloon, the travellers encounter a storm. Soon, the Indexivator introduces them to a mysterious stranger, a headless figure carrying a mask on a stick. He shows them a miniature castle, and gives them clay to create people to inhabit it. The mysterious stranger brings the clay people to life, but as they start to fight, he destroys them. Then, he causes an earthquake that wipes out the rest of the clay people. As the mysterious stranger’s face metamorphoses into a skull, he proclaims life is only a vision. Twain and the friends escape by the Indexivator. While they stand around perplexed, Twain leaves through an Indexivator door marked “The Damned Human Race.” The next day, the friends chain Twain to a chair in hopes of hijacking the balloon. However, they see a liberated Twain peering through his telescope on deck, and learn that their mutinous act was an illusion courtesy of the Indexivator. Soon, they reach the Great Sphinx in Egypt, and Twain drops anchor on the monument. Tom secretly rigs a hatchet to damage the ship’s power panel for a second hijack attempt. As the friends wait, they persuade Twain to read more of Adam and Eve’s diary. In the story, Adam was content to live outside the garden, although the world changed because of Eve. Adam and Eve lived together, and Adam earned a living being a superintendent. Eve discovered how to build a fire, and gave birth to Cain. However, Adam was confused, and, at first, thought that Cain and subsequent offspring were fish. Later, he came to appreciate his children, and he and Eve grew old together. Adam remarked that Eve represented Eden wherever she might be. At the story’s end, Twain comments that he is old and tired and wishes to be with his wife, Lilly. When the children say they do not want to die, Twain tells them once he finds the comet, the ship will be theirs. They are relieved, but then the ship’s power panel is destroyed thanks to Tom’s efforts. Before the ship blows up, Huck directs Homer to jump through a porthole to the deck, and push the emergency control button. After Homer saves them, they recognize the comet high in the sky. Twain orders the friends to throw his heaviest possessions overboard to lighten the load so that the balloon can reach the comet. Twain activates the ship’s thrusters, and they float into the comet’s atmosphere. Suddenly, a Mark Twain clone appears, representing Twain’s darker side. Only Becky realizes the clone has been aboard all along. The boys want to know which Twain is the real one. However, Mark Twain explains that the second man is part of him, and he cannot make the journey without him. Both Twains take turns giving advice to the children. Then, their bodies fuse together, and hitch a ride with Haley’s comet. Twain tells Becky he is on his way to Eden. As the friends steer the balloon back to civilization, Twain’s voice, emanating from the cosmos, tells them that laughter is the human race’s only effective weapon. With it, nothing else can stand. Tom and Huck figure that they can write about their adventure since Twain’s life is over, and the torch has been passed.
+

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.