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Western Animation / The Adventures of Mark Twain

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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.

Attempting to describe The Adventures of Mark Twain in any sane fashion is probably an exercise in futility. But what the heck. We'll give it a shot.

First of all, discard any historical knowledge you might have of Samuel Clemens, because in this world, he doesn't exist. But his nom de plume, Mark Twain, is real, and so are Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and Becky Thatcher. Yeah, we know. Just roll with it. In this world, Mark Twain also has a Cool Steampunk Airship, which he intends to ride into outer space to chase Halley's comet. Tom, Huck, and Becky catch word of his balloon and sneak onboard, joining Mr. Twain on a journey beyond the stratosphere to chase the comet. How do they pass time onboard the airship? By telling (and living) stories, of course. Famous Mark Twain stories. Like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. (We know. Again.) And The Diary of Adam and Eve. And The Mysterious Stranger.

This 1985 movie is known for being absolutely gorgeously rendered in Claymation by Will Vinton Studiosnote . It's also known for being creepy as hell. Literally. It's sometimes considered a "children's movie," but this isn't strictly the case — it's probably too scary for some kids, but anyone who likes animation will probably enjoy the lush visuals. All in all, it's a fascinating and loving Deconstruction of the man and a number of his stories — particularly his later ones which caused many to label him a Nietzsche Wannabe.

This film contains examples of:

  • Adam and Eve Plot: ...The Diary of Adam and Eve.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The short based on The Mysterious Stranger manages to cram most of the essentials into 5 minutes of film, much to the terror of its audience.
  • Adaptational Ugliness: In The Mysterious Stranger, Satan is described as a very handsome and charming man. Here, he is a creepy Humanoid Abomination that doesn't even have a head, just a moving mask that he holds up with a stick.
  • Affably Evil: Of sorts. The Mysterious Stranger/Satan kills the little clay village he and the kids make and generally talks about how humans mean nothing in his eyes. At the same time, not only is he very cordial to the children, going as far as offering their favorite snacks, at no point he tries to harm the children even telling them to step aside when he kills the clay village because they might get hurt.
  • Ambiguous Innocence: Invoked by the Mysterious Stranger/Satan, when he claims "I can do no wrong, for I do not know what it is." as he annihilates the clay town he created not moments ago.
  • Animated Armor: The Mysterious Stranger is depicted as an empty suit of red plate armor, holding an animate masquerade-style mask on a stick where its head should be.
  • Apple of Discord: During the Mysterious Stranger segment, Becky makes a cow for the tiny people. The people begin fighting over it the minute it enters the scene.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "What happened to Livy, Mr Twain?"
  • Baby Planet: The angel Satan dwells on one made of clay (of course).
  • Babies Ever After: Adam and Eve eventually has a huge brood of children, though only Cain and Abel are mentioned by name.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The ending to the Diary of Adam And Eve. Paradise is lost, but with the end of Innocence comes Love and the ability to grow and learn, and both Eve and Adam considers themselves better off at the end of their lives.
    • The movie itself has Twain reaching the comet and "dying" as he hoped... but the two halves of his personality - the Light and the Dark - are able to reconcile and merge before doing so, and Twain becomes one with Halley's Comet as well. Taken together with Eve and Adam's ending, it's implied he's with his lost wife and in Eden with her.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Satan is either this or Above Good and Evil, depending on how you interpret his comment that "I can do no wrong, for I do not know what it is."
  • Book Ends: Twain merges with his dark side, and fuses with the comet, and with the comet, returns to Eden, where the story once started
    Becky: Mr Twain, where is the comet going now?
    Twain: To Eden, angelfish. Back to Eden.
  • Cain and Abel: The brothers themselves make a brief appearance at the end of the Adam and Eve story. True to form, Abel is a literal Boy Scout while Cain is a biker.
  • Call-Back: At the very end of the movie, Tom gives Becky the heart shaped leaf from Paradise hidden inside Adams diary, that Adam had saved and given to Eve at the end of their life as a last token of his love. And Huck found Adam's Groucho Marx Glasses.
  • Cool Airship: As in, "it runs on the Rule of Cool;" one travels between decks via the "Indexivator", which accesses the two riverboat-esque "main" and "hurricane" decks, Twain's lounge — and interactive versions of Twain's writings.
  • Cool Gate: Twain's airship is in possession of such a door, which leads into all his stories and the different parts of the ship. It can simply appear out of nowhere on the ship deck as well.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: The Mysterious Stranger creates a miniature civilization out of clay figures and bestows life on them only so that he can snatch it away again. He points out that he does not do this out of malice, as he has no concept of human morality. Though he might be lying, being Satan and all.
    Satan: I can do no wrong for I do not know what it is.
  • Deadpan Snarker: True to real life, Twain is a fount of endless quips both on Tom and Huck's antics and on human nature.
    • Most of those quips are taken from real life - the screenplay was written by Vinton's wife, a Mark Twain scholar.
  • Death Seeker: Mark Twain.
    Mark Twain: I am old, and tired. I wish to be with my Livy...
  • Died Happily Ever After: Twain rejoins his dark side and the two fade into light, becoming part of Halley's Comet! Now if that isn't a cool way to go out, nothing is.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Mysterious Stranger's stated hatred towards humanity doesn't prevent him from advising the kids to stand clear so they aren't struck by his lightning.
  • Evil Twin: "Dark Twain" is constantly stalking around the ship, until they finally meet up with the comet. However, in a case of Dark Is Not Evil, Dark Twain isnt so much evil as melancholy and weary of life, and as the regular Twain notes, he's not whole without him.
  • The Fool: Adam in a nutshell.
    Adam: *snoring*
    God: Adam.
    Adam: *snoring*
    God: Adam.
    Adam: *snoring*
    God: Adam!
    Adam: What?
    God: It's...for you.
    Adam: (*grabs banana and holds it to his ear*) Hello?
  • Foregone Conclusion: It's a fairly famous bit of trivia that Mark Twain "came in with Halley's Comet, and went out with it." So it's no surprise what happens to him at the end of the movie.
  • Fluffy Cloud Heaven: Twain's Deconstruction of it.
    Captain Stormfield: "I begin to see that a man's got to be in his own Heaven to be happy."
    • And even then things are confusing.
  • Fully-Clothed Nudity: Adam and Eve have underwear. After Adam eats the apple, he suddenly realizes this and covers up.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Becky.
  • Going Cosmic: Following The Mysterious Stranger, the rest of the film takes on a more philosophical bent.
  • The Hand Is God: In the Adam and Eve segment, God is depicted as a live-action hand in an otherwise entirely claymation world.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Mysterious Stranger of the highest degree. As mentioned above, this version of Satan is an empty suit of red armor whose face is a jester mask held in one hand. Their voice is a mixture of at least two different voices, one being masculine, the other feminine. They seem to be forming out of the ground itself. When asked what they are, they say they're an angel.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Satan (and by extension Mark Twain's dark side) is under this impression.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: At the end of the film, Huck decides to write a book on their adventure.
  • It Runs on Nonsensoleum: See "Cool Airship", above.
  • Leitmotif: The comet has one. It even gets an 80's-tastic synth-heavy Epic Reprise during the credits.
  • Manchild: Adam. Not surprising, since he was "born" into adulthood, and had no experience or understanding of the world until Eve showed up.
  • Market-Based Title: Called Comet Quest in the UK. Perhaps it's because Mark Twain doesn't hold quite the same, seminal place in the UK mindset as he does in the American one, being a distinctly American author.
  • Misanthrope Supreme: The Mysterious Stranger/Satan has a demonstrably low opinion of mankind, viewing our existence as utterly pointless in the grand scheme of things.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: "What's your name?" "Satan"
    Huck: It's sure is a really sorry name for an angel.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Nice job sabotaging it, Tom Sawyer.
  • Nightmare Face: Injun Joe, the Mysterious Stranger
  • No Antagonist: Ultimately, there is no villain here. The Mysterious Stranger is terrifying, but makes no move against the children. Injun Joe makes a cameo, but nothing comes of it, and while it's implied that Mark Twain's dark side summoned the storm that damaged the Cool Airship, he helps reactivate the power and goes along with regular Twain without much fuss.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Huck's frog, Homer.
  • Non-Serial Movie: When you get down to it, this movie is essentially a Framing Device story strung together by Big Lipped Alligator Moments of varying length. The Mysterious Stranger segment is probably the worst offender. Still amusing, though.
  • Not So Above It All: Eve is depicted as much smarter than Adam, even before eating the apple from the Tree of Knowledge, but she does make a bit of a mistake once. She confuses her reflection in the water for another person, and falls in trying to greet her new friend. After getting "strangled" by the water, Eve concludes that the fish are also uncomfortable and takes them out. As Adam notes, the fish aren't much happier on dry land, "only quieter."
  • Oh, Crap!: Tom, Huck, and Becky have this reaction when they realize they're face-to-face with Satan.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: Played by Twain's dark side.
  • Only Sane Man: Poor Becky Thatcher...
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Some details of Samuel Clemens' historical life do make it in to the film, and there is one scene in which he quietly mourns for his departed wife.
    Becky Thatcher: "That's really why you want to meet up with the comet, isn't it, Mr. Twain?"
    • A portrait of Twain and his wife shown just after the poignant ending of the "Diary of Adam and Eve" segment adds additional poignancy by revealing that Twain has been mentally imaging himself and his wife as the titular couple - particularly that like Eve, Olivia died first, leaving Twain alone for the final years of his life.
      "Wherever she was, there was Eden."
    • Samuel Clemens was born in the Halley's Comet year 1835, and died in the Halley's Comet year 1910. This film was released in the next Halley's Comet year 1985, when Clemens would have been 150 years old. In the film's story, Mark Twain said that if he missed Halley's Comet, he'd have to wait until he was 150 (in 1985) to catch the comet again.
  • Satan is The Mysterious Stranger.
  • Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere: the world of The Mysterious Stranger aka Satan.
  • Something-Nauts: Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn and Becky Thatcher stow away on Twain's airship. Tom calls themselves "aeronorts", with Becky correcting him as "aeronauts".
  • Split-Personality Merge: Twain and "Dark" Twain come together at the end of the film, just before he goes to meet the Comet.
  • Steampunk: The airship.
  • Sugar Bowl: The Garden of Eden in the "Diary of Adam and Eve" segments.
  • Tag Along Kid: All three of the kids sneak aboard the airship.
  • That Reminds Me Of A Story
  • Verbal Tic: Tom keeps saying "aeronort" instead of "aeronaut".
  • Wham Line:
    Dark! Twain: Do you remember your old friend- Injun Joe?
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • During The Mysterious Stranger sequence, Huck's not afraid to call it as he sees it.
    • Becky calls out Twain for opening the gate to Injun Joe's lair, which almost gets Huck killed. It was actually Dark!Twain who did it
  • Watch Out for That Tree!: Adam attempts to imitate a monkey swinging on a vine through the treetops, but ends up crashing into a tree trunk.
  • The Wonka: Mark Twain
  • Women Are Wiser: Adam didn't really seem to grasp the facts of life until around middle-age or so. In fact, during Cain and Abels childhoods, he operated under the assumption that they were some odd breed of fish, and later, bear. In Eve's words; "He is self-educated, and really knows a multitude of things. But none of them are true".
    • Unusual for this story, Adam doesn't actually eat the Apple of Eden until after the Fall and loss of the Garden. If Eve hadnt offered him the Fruit of Knowledge, he'd likely have starved to death in the wasteland.