The early '80s were littered with valiant attempts to make animated films that would appeal to an older audience than the one Disney catered to (although even the House of Mouse took the plunge into PG territory with 1985's The Black Cauldron). One such film, which came with the imprimateur of executive producer George Lucas, was 1983's Twice Upon a Time, which is also notable for being the first animated feature to be shown on TCM Underground. Directed by John Korty and Charles Swenson, it's a film with a unique visual sensibility and a higher concentration of Borscht Belt humor than one would expect. It's also one where everybody -- heroes and villains alike -- is plainly certifiable, which is just fine by me.
In broad strokes, its story is centered on the conflict between Greensleeves (Hamilton Camp) and his Figmen of Imagination, which deliver pleasant dreams to the people of Din, and Synonamess Botch (the film's MVP, Marshall Efron) and his hard-to-motivate vultures, which drop nightmare bombs on the slumbering populace. Ensconsed in his dreary castle, The Murkworks, and attended by his lead vulture Rudy and video gorilla Ibor, Botch plots to steal the mainspring of The Cosmic Clock so he can plunge Din into a state of perpetual nightmare. To that end, he recruits a couple of easily swayed knuckleheads -- Ralph, the All-Purpose Animal (Lorenzo Music), and his mute chum Mumford -- who can't tell when they're being used and are tasked with setting things right by their Fairy Godmother (Judith Kahan Kampmann).
Also in on the action are Frivoli's foremost aspiring actress Flora Fauna (Julie Payne), who needs to be rescued from hero-in-training Rod Rescueman (James Cranna) as much as she does from Botch, and Botch's Head Scream Writer, the much put-upon Scuzzbopper (also voiced by Cranna). And working behind the scenes were such future luminaries as Henry Selick, who was one of the sequence directors (Ralph and Mumford's office-themed nightmare is apparently one of his), and David Fincher, who worked on the special photographic effects. (His other screen credit that year? A little film called Return of the Jedi. Not bad for a kid hired by ILM right out of the high school.)