Neverwhere (1968)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The film Heavy Metal features a segment titled "Den" that adapts the first Den collection, Den 1: Neverwhere (not to be confused with the animated short of the same title). The film eliminates the Uncle Dan part of the story and incorporates a green meteorite as a portal to Neverwhere. Small details are changed (Kath is now from Gibraltar) and some characters and subplots are eliminated, but the segment follows the plot of the comic story fairly closely. The biggest difference is the tone: the animated segment is told in a self-referential, humorous style, different from the straight forward adventure tone of the comic. In fact, the segment is similar in tone to "Denz", which makes fun of many of the absurdities of the Neverwhere premise.

Den is voiced by comedic actor John Candy and, to highlight the humorous tone, the script has Den speaking both to characters and in contrasting voice overs — one in which he is dead serious and strong willed to match his epic existence on Neverwhere, the other sounding adolescent, reflecting his life on Earth. The rest of the voice cast consists of Jackie Burroughs as Katherine Wells, Martin Lavut as Ard, Marilyn Lightstone as the Queen, and August Schellenberg as Norl.

This adaptation has been compared in its idea to The Wizard of Oz by critic Chris Hicks, who says the story is, "about two children changed into fantasy adults with a 'bring-me-the-broomstick-of-the-wicked-witch'-style mission, etc." Jack Stokes, the veteran animator of the film Yellow Submarine, was put in charge of the production.

A studio was set up in London because, according to Stokes "many animators are not good artists" meaning they are not skilled in drawing the human figure realistically, and art students were recruited to pitch in on the production. This accounts for the lack of consistency in the characters' likenesses. Corben painted the poster for the movie and was asked to contribute to the production. He drew three character sheet turnarounds for Den and Kath, but these were not usable due to "inconsistencies in the construction". Still, the animators tried to recreate the look of the comic by developing several techniques to reproduce the unusual colors of Corben's art.

The segment was well received, even by critics who did not think much of the film. Critic Janet Maslin gave the film a positive review in The New York Times. She said, "The other highly memorable story is about a bookworm from earth who winds up on another planet, where his spindly body is transformed into that of an extraterrestrial Hercules." She also complimented John Candy's vocal performance as Den. Corben wrote about the film, "I was pleased with the Den segment of the Heavy Metal Movie. The drawings and movement seemed stiff, rough and unpolished, but the thrust and characters were right. I thought that John Candy did a great job with Den's voice."




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Neverwhere (1968)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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