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In the fantastical Discworld's resident Wretched Hive, Ankh-Morpork, the Disc's first tourist, the naive Twoflower, finds himself the target of much attention and confusion on arrival. Soon hooking up with cowardly "wizzard" Rincewind, the two embark on a comedy of errors which leads them on one adventure after another (such as introducing the concept of insurance to a greedy public, falling afoul of the upwardly mobile Trymon of Unseen University, encountering imaginary dragons and octogenarian barbarians, and accidentally saving the world), merrily skewering fantasy cliches along the way.
The movie focuses more on Unseen University in The Colour of Magic part than the original book, as well as having Vetinari's character more resemble his later interpretations.
- Accidental Unfortunate Gesture: Twoflower preforms one in the bar. Thankfully the possibility of a large payment makes Broadman just corrects him so he knows the V-sign with the middle and index fingers should be made with the palm facing the recipient.
- Actor Allusion: The way Twoflower says "PO-TAY-TOES" can only be this.
- Adaptation Expansion:
- Trymon's role in the story was expanded significantly. While Trymon makes a few half-hearted attempts to bump off Weatherwax in the book and simply reaped the benefits of deaths he didn't actually cause, in the film he takes a far more active role in bumping off his superiors.
- We get to see quite a bit more of the Librarian, pre-monkeyfication. He was already quite orang-utan-like even before being transformed.
- Arthurian Legend: The magical sword that Rincewind picks up mentions being cast into a lake and being in an anvil.
- Bloodless Carnage
- The Cameo: Terry Pratchett makes an appearance as an Astrozoologist and has the last line in the movie.
- Correspondence Course: Used to cover up a plot hole left from the book-to-film adaptation.
- Foreshadowing: Horace makes quite a few references to monkeying around and going ape while he still has vocal chords suitable for the job.
- Funny Background Event: Lots. Especially if the Luggage is in the background of a shot.
- Gender Flip: Several, most notably several male dragonriders from the book were removed and their roles given to Liessa, turning her into a Composite Character.
- The Grim Reaper: Death, of course.
- Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist: Twoflower.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Samwise Gamgee is Twoflower
- Frank 'N' Furter is Trimon!
- Hey, It's That Voice!: Jeremy Irons' voice as Lord Vetinari is very recogniseable as Scar.
- And Christopher Freaking Lee Is The Voice Of DEATH!
- Klingon Promotion: Trymon gets to the top this way (Dead Man's Pointy Shoes, as it's called in the story).
- The Other Darrin: Death is played by Christopher Lee, as opposed to Ian Richardson in Hogfather.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: The Patrician has been switched to Havelock Vetinari, magnificent/Manipulative Bastard of later Discworld books, rather than the obese hedonist originally depicted in the first book.
- Death is also closer to the sympathetic Death from the later books than the Jerkass Death from the earlier ones.
- Race Lift: Agatean tourist Twoflower is played by Sean Astin, though to be fair the Agatean empire was not established as a Chinese/Japanese counterpart country until Interesting Times and Word of God is Twoflower was meant as a parody of American/British tourists. However, when he speaks Agatean to Rincewind he still has a strong Chinese/Japanese accent.
- Scenery Porn: The on-location footage is quite gorgeous.
- Shown Their Work: The Librarian gets referred to by name, a name that didn't appear in the books, but was mentioned in The Discworld Companion.
- Title Drop: Both The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic in their respective episodes.
- Translation Convention: Taken a step further than in the book where it was taken as read that Rincewind was talking Betrobbi when talking to Twoflower. They actually talk in what the viewer is expected to assume is Betrobbi for a short while, complete with subtitles, until Twoflower admits that he took a correspondence course in Morporkian. From that point on you can assume that all conversation is being conducted in Morporkian.