The Internet is filled with half truths, dead ends, and flat-out lies. But to my mind the single greatest disappointment is on YouTube: the video called “Mark Twain’s Voice.” I’ll admit, it’s interesting in its own right. (And it does lead one to Val Kilmer’s Mark Twain impression, a service in itself.) But the title is, to say the least, misleading.
Perhaps the strangest of all Twain’s many pop-cultural portrayals is his claymation iteration in 1985’s The Adventures of Mark Twain. If it’s been a while, allow me to refresh your memory: A stop-motion Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn and Becky Thatcher have to convince a suicidal, disillusioned Mark Twain not to ram his magical, time-traveling balloon into Halley’s Comet. Along the way, there’s history, some dramatizations of Twain’s work, and more oddness than you could possibly imagine. But you don’t have to take my word for it!
Its creator, Will Vinton, was apparently inspired by the quote in which Twain prophetically predicted the year of his death:
I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year (1910), and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’
Personally, I love that this film exists. Did it terrify me as a child? Yes. (But what didn’t? This was the era of Return to Oz and The Black Cauldron.) But it’s also a respectful, albeit bizarre, introduction to the works of Twain that gives children a lot of credit. You wouldn’t, maybe, want to use it as the basis for a paper—that’s why God made Val Kilmer—but as a testament to the author’s enduring appeal, it’s noteworthy.