Adventures of Mark Twain, The (1985)

The Adventures of Mark Twain (1985), produced and directed by Will Vinton.

Mark Twain pilots a magical airship to rendezvous with Halley's Comet: "I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year and I expect to go out with it" (which in fact he did in 1910).

Kids stowaway and have adventures from excerpts from several of his stories, the longest and funniest of which explores the domestic life of Adam and Eve. A truly bizarre, unsettling episode features the "Mysterious Stranger", a masked faceless Satan who delivers cryptic notes on the nature of humanity.

This is a Claymation feature directed by the creator of that medium with a screenplay by his wife. You can tell the makers are Twain enthusiasts who put in a lot of details that are going to fly by the kids. The characterizations are good:

The airship looks like a combination balloon and Mississippi riverboat. When they need to lighten the load he ejects the experimental typesetting machine; he lost a fortune on that.

I had never heard of this before a friend loaned me the DVD. The Claymation adds a whole dimension of weirdness: on the one hand -- like Ray Harryhausen's stop motion effects -- it seems like a rudimentary craft. On the other the artists employ amazing inventiveness. It is great for fantasy transformations, sometimes humorous but often not.

James Whitmore provides the voice of Twain.

Available on Blu-ray, although my thumbnails are from the DVD.