The best George Lucas film you’ve probably never seen

 

From the same brain in the same year.

In 1983, George Lucas released a little-known movie called The Return of the Jedi.

No wait. That was the movie that everyone heard of, even people who swore off modern life and had moved into caves in the Himalayas. There is no way you could not have heard about Return of the Jedi, or George Lucas for that matter.

But what about the best George Lucas movie you’ve never seen? Have you heard about Ralph the All-Purpose Animal? Or his loyal friend Mum? Or the evil Synonamess Botch?

Left to right: Mumford, Ralph, and Synonamess Botch

How about Scuzzbopper, the well-meaning minion who really wants to write the Great Amurkian Novel?

Nightmare writer and aspiring author

If you never heard of these characters, then you’ve missed out. But there’s hope. First, some details.

Just three months after ROTJ conquered the box office and put a major bookend on the childhood development of Generation X, Twice Upon a Time was quietly released. It was the first animated movie produced by George Lucas, and considering that the father of Star Wars and the Uncle of Indiana Jones helped make it, you can’t help but wonder why 50-year old men today don’t have Synonamess Botch pope hats on their “collectables” shelves.

Evidently the roll out of Twice was a mess, and the movie, which received very mixed reviews, didn’t do well at all.

Some art is not appreciated in its time

A couple of years after Twice failed at the box office, it was released on HBO, which is where the dashing writer of this article first saw it. And the next few times I watched it, the show mysteriously changed. Bad words disappeared, words I knew I had heard.

It wasn’t until I recently read the wiki page that I realized there was a fight between the director of  Twice Upon a Time, John Korty, and a producer and screenplay writer Bill Couturié. See, Bill liked a version of the film that included some swear words. The director, however, did not. But the producer Couturié slipped in the foul language version and the director didn’t know about it until the movie was released.

After hearing that HBO was playing the version with potty language, Korty threatened to sue if they played anything other than a “family friendly” version that he released. This caused a storm of controversy over censorship, which started Twice Upon a Time on the path towards legal limbo.

The movie has been intermittently available over the years, but it wasn’t until 2015 that a DVD version was released. Interestingly, it is rated PG, which implies this version is the one with profanity. I’ll let you know after I receive it.

The George Lucas film you’ve probably never seen:


This really is a wonderful film. A mix of 2D cutout animation, still photography, and stop-motion animation, Twice Upon a Time tells the story of two worlds: the Rushers of Din (essentially, our world) and the world where dreams are made.

In this dream world are those that make "sweet dreams," Frivoli, and those that make nightmares, Murkworks, which is ruled by the hilariously evil Synonamess Botch. Botch hatches a plan to plunge the Rushers into an eternal nightmare, and it’s up to our heroes to thwart him. And what a team of heroes:

Ralph the All-Purpose Animal: A vaguely dog-shaped character who wears glasses and can sort-of change shape.

Mumford, his pal. He doesn’t speak, but reminds one of Charlie Chaplain or maybe an animated Groucho Marx. Although silent, he still helps land some jokes.

Rod Rescueman: a not-too-bright superhero who loves the idea of saving a damsel-in-distress but is really bad at it.

Flora Fauna: the niece of Greensleeves, the unlikely leader of the Figs, who deliver sweet dreams, and who is kidnapped by Botch.

Scuzzbopper: my favorite character. Scuzzbopper works for Botch as a nightmare screenwriter, but he really wants to write a novel. He has hands but no arms, which has stuck with me since I first watched this cartoon.

We’re not going to spoil any of this movie for you. If you haven’t seen it yet, or maybe it’s been a while, you can buy it on Amazon now. Now is the time, if you're one of the many who haven't seen this film, to fix this oversight. 

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