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Author: Howard Neil Pugh Turtles Can Fly  (working title)

Writers Guild America WEST Registered: 2072312

Expiry: 8/5/2025

A Computer-Animated, Adventure-Action-Comedy

(A Christmas Cartoon)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Logline:                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

A flying turtle meets a singing butterfly. Assisted by a Wizard, the Turtle and Butterfly achieve great literary success, and as a consequence their human metamorphoses.


Taglines:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              How High Can You Fly?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     A Flying ‘Shell-ebrity’


Synopsis:

Given a turbulent world at war, and life’s uncertainty, a soldier’s ‘dream’ transformation from human being to a flying Turtle becomes his deliberate choice of escape. In a universe of human and animated characters, the Turtle chances upon a beautiful, singing Butterfly whose novel has been nominated for the Greatest Literary Prize of all. The only problem is, the Butterfly keeps dropping her manuscripts into a cauliflower field owned by Shotgun Vinny, an angry, unforgiving farmer whose land and airspace is protected by a predatory National Air Guard - two Swallows and a Fish Eagle. Rescuing the Butterfly’s lost manuscripts becomes the Turtle’s life or death mission. A mission that culminates in a prestigious Literary Awards Evening and the pairs fateful human metamorphoses. For in the Butterfly the Turtle finds his conscience and inspiration.


TURTLES CAN FLY (WORKING TITLE)

CHAPTER ONE: THE TRANSITION


A black screen

SOUND

The tapping of a microphone


MICHAEL JACKSON:

If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, then make that change!


SOUND

Silence, followed by background voices

FADE IN:


EXT. ARID AFRICAN BUSH - NIGHT - FIRELIGHT

An eighteen year old soldier in camouflage (bush warfare)

uniform lies by a fire side - his head rests on his back

pack. His face a glow with the flickering orange light. He

stares up at the clear starlit sky. Out of nowhere a bright

orange butterfly lands on his military Corporal epaulettes.


CORPORAL

(he carefully rests on his

elbows and looks sideways

at the Butterfly,

seemingly attracted by

the light of fire)

Hello there! Where have you come from?

(He puts out his finger

and to his surprise the

Butterfly jumps on to his

extended digit)

Well! You are friendly


BUTTERFLY

I am. How do you do? My name is

Marta

(she extends one of her

six limbs)


SOLDIER

(he sits up abruptly, not

believing his ears.

Whispering loudly and

then quietly not too wake

anyone)

You...you spoke...to Me!


He looks around to see if this is real. All he can see in the

dark of night are the sleeping bags of other soldiers

scattered around him. His FN rifle lies across his lap. He is

on night, guard duty...supposedly.


BUTTERFLY

(gripping his finger

tightly as the soldier

adjusts his supine to

seated posture)

You spoke to me first!


CORPORAL

(whispers)

I know...but how? I mean I’m human,

we can...speak


BUTTERFLY

So can I. Your indoctrination is

human. I have just proved ‘how’. 

(enthusiastically)

can speak!


CORPORAL

Yes? Yes! I can hear you

BUTTERFLY


You hear what you want to hear, you

believe what you want to believe


CORPORAL

I am sorry. My name is Howard

(he puts out the little

finger of his other hand

to shake the Butterfly’s

limb)

This is incredible! I am so pleased

to meet you! Aren’t you afraid...?


BUTTERFLY

Of what? Flying through the fire?


CORPORAL

Don’t do that! Afraid of me of

humans? We’re not very nice people!

Although I really enjoy talking to

you


BUTTERFLY

Oh? Why is that?


CORPORAL

You free me. I want to escape,

fly away like a butterfly


BUTTERFLY

You’re too big to be a butterfly!

(she giggles) Escape from

what exactly, Corporal?

(looking at his Corporal

epaulettes... teasing

him)


CORPORAL

(very serious)

War. Escape war... life as a

soldier, a human... my

indoctrination...I Want to...start

again

(he holds his finger up

near his eye to study

this brave, colourful

butterfly - she is

cartoon-like in

appearance)


BUTTERFLY

(her big eyes staring

deeply into his fire-lit

lenses)

You need a... a shell! To hide and

find yourself.

(she stops to think)

A tortoise!... No!...A Turtle!


CORPORAL

Of course, of course!

(Realisation strikes him.

He loves this freeing

conversation)

A Turtle...A flying Turtle!


BUTTERFLY

Then be a flying Turtle! Corporal


CORPORAL

Yes. But how Butterfly? How?


BUTTERFLY

You must believe and...


CORPORAL

And?


BUTTERFLY

And be prepared...


CORPORAL

Prepared? Prepared for what?


BUTTERFLY

(the butterfly lets go his

finger and flies into the

fire)

To fly through the FIRE EEEEEE


SOUND

The butterfly’s voice echoes and fades into the crackling of

flames


CUT TO:

(The silhouetted outline

of her winged body lights

up like a fire resistant

metal alloy. And then

explodes. Gunpowder. Up

in a puff of smoke. Her

residual particles fall -

glitter dust to the fire)


CORPORAL

(Frowning. Whispering

loudly, in desperation)

No! No! Oh!

(He scrambles across the

ground to the fire

throwing dirt and stones

eventually killing the

flames. Only smoke and

white ash remain)

Butterfly. Butterfly! Why did you

do that? Butterfly!?

(he pries the hot white

ash apart with a stick)


CUT TO:

The sound of boots treading over earth


SMASH CUT TO:

The camouflaged face of his Sergeant approaches the fire

SERGEANT

Corporal Pugh!

(Urgent, angry whisper)

What the... what is going on!?


CORPORAL

(he thinks quickly,

anything)

Serg; I saw something Serg. I had

to put the fire out


SERGEANT

(kneels in cautious

observation)

What? Where?


CORPORAL

12 o’clock Serg


SERGEANT

(he looks ahead.

Recognition. He sighs and

shakes his head)

Well done Corporal

(he looks ahead and then

in resignation back at

the Corporal )

...That was me, you ass!

(he looks down at the

smoking, extinguished

fire)

Now I’m going to freeze my ass the

rest of the night! Go on get out of

here...your four hours are up. Get

some sleep. If I leave you here any

longer you’ll be so jittery you’ll

shoot one of us!


CORPORAL

(deeply apologetic)

So sorry Serg! Thank you Serg


SERGEANT

(a slight, forgiving

smile)

Get out of here!


CUT TO:


The Corporal climbs into his sleeping bag. The sky is white

with stars. His eyes are wide with recollection of what just

happened.


CORPORAL

(to himself)

Be prepared. Prepared to fly

through the fire. Fly through the

fire. The fire, the fire, fire,

fire...ire.

(he exhales, slowly. He

begins to dream)


SOUND


CHAKA KHAN SONG: THROUGH THE FIRE (BACKGROUND MUSIC)


CUT TO:

A make-do, bush-cleared, volleyball court. Tribal and

Caucasian soldiers in military Fatigues (shirtless,

camouflage trousers and military boots) mingle around two

wooden poles and a high volleyball net that divides a

rectangular reddish-brown dirt ‘court’.


SOLDIER 1

Who's playing who?… Musingarabwi!?

Which side?


MUSINGARABWI

Zimbabwe!

(Raucous laughter)


SOLDIER 2

Whoa! Hey man! Zimbabwe v Rhodesia.

2nd test!


(More laughter)

CUT TO:

A volleyball is thrown into the air by a Caucasian hand


CUT TO:

A black hand smashes the volley ball back over a net


SMASH CUT TO:

EXT. POST MATCH CASUAL DRINKS - A MIXED GATHERING OF

CAUCASIAN AND RHODESIA AFRICA RIFLE SOLDIERS. TWO GROUPS

SOCIALISING - SEGREGATED BY RACE


CUT TO:


RHODESIA AFRICA RIFLE SOLDIER

An African soldier walks up to the Corporal and hands him a

cold coke. The Corporal thanks the soldier and accepts the

bottle of coke. He is surprised by the black soldier’s

gesture.


CUT TO:

The Rhodesian Africa Rifle(RAR) soldier walks away.


CUT TO:

A barrel chested, tall Aryan Corporal with thinning blond

hair over a large sun-tanned skull engages the red-headed

equally athletic, Corporal


MELONIC

(smug Afrikaner face)

Ooaa, Doc’s popular! Drinks on the

kaffirs. What favours you doing the

kaffirs eh Boetie?

(Laughs and looks towards

his fellow NCO’s for

reaction)


OTHER NCO’S

More general laughter.


CUT TO:


MELONIC.

A sun-dried, shrivelled piece of cartilage (an African ear)

hung by nylon cord around his tanned neck. The cartilage

necklace rests on his sweat-soaked, barrel chest. In ink,

across his chest, the tattoo

‘To the Victor Belong the Spoils’


CUT TO:

In the distance a tribal man runs, desperate to escape, but

nowhere to hide in the arid lowveld


SLASH

Melonic raises his FN rifle against his shoulder and cheek.

His rifle sights fixed on the runaway. He does not bat an

eye. No words. Calmly he squeezes the trigger.


SOUND

A single shot


CUT TO

In the distance the tribal man falls, lifeless


CUT TO:

INTERIOR. A MEDICAL ROOM - NIGHT TIME.

A bare ceiling light illuminates the white walls of a small

medical office.


CUT TO

The Corporal converses with a black RAR soldier, a machine

gunner in his early twenties. His skin black, shiny, an

equatorial black. His smile genuine, white as snow.


CUT TO:

Next to the RAR soldier his army issue, belted, machine gun.


CUT TO:

A baboon spider (an African Tarantula) appears behind the

black soldier on the white wall of the office. The Corporal

points to the spider. The soldier reaches out with a closed

fist and crushes the life out of the hairy insect. They both

recognise the symbolism of the large lifeless spider as it

slithers down the wall


CUT TO:


RIFLEMAN

I can’t take ‘this’ war anymore Corp...


FADE TO BLACK.


FADE IN:

A TYPEWRITER


SOUND

Typing


CUT TO:

A Government of Rhodesia seal. Below in ribbon typed ink on

white Croxley, a definitive Southern African stationery

brand, a death warrant is issued


SOUND


GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL

(Reading a death sentence

in a coarse Rhodesian

farmer accent, not unlike

the old Dutch Afrikaner

dialect)

December 23, 1978.


GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL (CONT'D)

By order of the Rhodesian

Government, ex-rifleman Gently

Mathuthu of the Rhodesia Africa

Rifles is found guilty of murdering

three non-commissioned officers

(namely the Rhodesian

volley ball team)

On a second count ex-Rifleman

Mathuthu is found guilty of an act

of Treason against the Rhodesian

Government. He is hereby sentenced

to be hung by the neck until

pronounced dead.


CUT TO:


EXT. MIDDAY - AFRICAN SUNSHINE - A BARBED WIRE PRISON CAMP


CUT TO:

45 degree sunshine, two men stand either side of a barbed

wire fence called ‘fate’. One Caucasian, the other Condemned.


CUT TO:

The Corporal passes a water bottle and chocolate through the

fence. The condemned man courteously accepts his last

‘supper’


SMASH CUT TO:


EXT. BARBED WIRE PRISON CAMP - DAWN'S SOFT ORANGE LIGHT


In the distance a small, helpless, silhouetted figure hangs

by the neck from a wire fence.


CUT TO:

The inexplicable, expression of death.


SMASH CUT TO:

A lifeless Tarantula spider slithers down a white wall


SMASH CUT TO:

The Baboon spider suddenly comes to life and springs on to

the face of the Corporal. Its hairy legs and body almost

cover his mouth nose and eyes!


SMASH CUT TO:

The corporal jack knifes upright, entangled in his sleeping bag. He is sweating, fighting to be

free of his sleeping bag, desperately swiping his face to

remove the nightmare of the Tarantula spider from his face. Was it a nightmare? He climbs out of his sleeping bag turns it inside out to make sure there is no tarantula around. Nothing...


DISSOLVE TO:


EXT. NIGHT

Dim outlines of sleeping soldiers lying in their sleeping

bags SOUND ASLEEP in the darkness


CUT TO:

The Corporal looks around and in the distance he sees the

Sergeant. Serg; has got the fire started again...


CUT TO:


EXT. DIRT FARM ROAD - DAWN - STORM CLOUDS ABOVE THREATEN

An open army Vehicle speeds along a dusty farm road.


CUT TO:

Camouflaged dark faces. Tired soldiers sit on bolted down

wooden benches bouncing up and down to the rhythm and

geography of the dirt road. Thunder claps and lighting bolts

above them.


CUT TO:


CORPORAL

(thinking aloud to

himself)

Be prepared. Prepared to fly

through the fire...

(Relieved to be on his way

back to base camp, he

looks up at the ominous

storm clouds...exhales and

relaxes)


SOUND

BBBOOM!


SLASH

The front right side of a military vehicle lifts abruptly as

the right wheel disintegrates. Black tyre rubber and dirt

explode into flames


SMASH CUT TO:

Thunder and lighting. Heavy rains begin to fall and douse the

flames of a fire


FADE OUT.


FADE IN:


EXT. SKY - STORM CLOUDS


SOUND

Sheets of rain falling through storm clouds


CUT TO:

The Corporal's facial expressions in slow motion - tense to

total relaxation. He appears in and out of dark and light

storm clouds. He is soaked, flying. Free!


SMASH CUT TO:

Strong winds blow heavy rain across the face of the Corporal

His hair and skull are drenched, saturated by sheets of

rainwater. Water droplets strike his features to the point

where he becomes unrecognizable.


DISSOLVE TO:

A human skull’s metamorphoses to the harder scute mosaic of a

turtle shell - a hard patterned exterior that deflects the

barrage of rain water.


CUT TO:

The weather alleviates. A turtle’s golden tufted head

protrudes fully from it’s shell. Goggled and in full flight,

a flying Turtle cartoon character.


SOUND

JOHNNY NASH SONG: I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW


CUT TO:

The Turtle picks up speed gaining in altitude. The higher he

flies the better the weather, the louder the music...


SMASH CUT TO:

The bigger his Turtle smile … he flips upside down to

smile - Turtle’s smiles are upside down - their beak

curves downwards.


CUT TO:

Sunshine and blue sky. The Turtle floats across an endless

backdrop of blue sky. His golden tufts are swept back over

the green crown of his amphibian skull. For a moment he drops

out of view, leaving nothing but blue sky.


DISTANT UNIDENTIFIED VOICEOVERS

Where's Corporal Pugh?


Serg! 

(respectfully)

No idea Serg


What do you mean no idea?


Serg... He vanished!


Voices fade to silence.


Re-enter the Turtle. Gently bouncing up and down in a gentle

turbulent pocket of air thousands of miles above the ground.

He drifts across acres of blue sky and soft white clouds


COMPLETION OF THE PRODUCTION CREDITS


FADE OUT JONNY

NASH, ‘I CAN SEE

CLEARLY’,  SONG


To request a Final Draft, pdf file of the first chapter or entire script

Turtles Can Fly (the trilogy)

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