DVD Review – ‘The Adventures Of Mark Twain’

     February 13, 2006

Review by Matt Morse

Will Vinton’s The Adventures of Mark Twain is the sort of movie that college kids pop in when they’re wasted.

It’s also a thoughtful, nuanced portrait of one of America’s greatest minds. In Claymation.

A few of you may remember The Adventures of Mark Twain from its theatrical run, all the way back in 1985. I know I do. I dragged my parents, kicking and screaming, to see it. They’ve never forgiven me. I kid you not when I tell you that my mother still brings up “that claymation movie.”

Seeing it now, as an adult, I can’t say I really blame her. The Adventures of Mark Twain is a deeply weird little film. It’s shot in Claymation – traditionally a kiddie medium – but it’s really not a movie for kids. It’s stuffed, chock-a-block, with references to all of Twain’s works, most of which will fly over the heads of children (and adults – there are large sections of the film which appear utterly bizarre, but are, apparently, adaptations of Twain’s writing). Basically, the whole thing’s pretty damn trippy, in a “Pop the Wizard of Oz in while we sync up Dark Side of the Moon and Load the Bong” kind of way.

Fans of “traditional” animation (ie: animation without the fancy-pants computers) will want to check this out for the breathtaking work that Vinton and his team accomplish. The fluidity and creativity of it is astonishing, and makes this particular old man even grumpier about the ubiquity of CGI and computer animation.

Fans of Twain will be blown away by the level of detail Vinton works at. He includes references/appearances/scenes to/from seemingly every story Twain ever wrote. Casual fans of Twain (like, oh, say, me) will be totally bewildered by much of the film, which features appearances by snarky, multi-headed aliens, “Evil” twins, and Satan(!), all of which are apparently drawn from Twain’s work.

The rest of America will go on living their lives, contently unaware of the existence of Claymation-existentialism.


Ummm….none. I suppose if you count the trailer, that’s one extra. But I don’t.

Shame, too. This is one of those films where it would have been interesting to see the process. Or hear Vinton’s thoughts as to why he believed that a Claymation adaptation of Twain’s books would be a commercial success.


Weird. Really, really weird. But if you’re a fan of traditional animation, a fan of Twain, or a college kid looking for the next stoner-classic, then pick this one up.

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