Monday, October 25, 2010

Thumbelina (1994)

Title: Thumbelina
Year: 1994
Rated: G
Run Time: 1 hour, 26 minutes

StarringJodi Benson as Thumbelina
Gino Conforti as Jacquimo
Gary Imhoff as Prince Cornelius
Charo as Mama Toad
Joe Lynch as Grendel
Gilbert Gottfried as Mr. Beetle
Carol Channing as Mrs. Fieldmouse
John Hurt as Mr. Mole

Plot: A tiny, thumb-sized girl is pursued by a toad, a beetle, and a mole as she tries to find her way back home and to her fairy prince.
Based on: “Thumbelina" by Hans Christian Anderson
Setting: France

Tagline: Follow your heart and nothing is impossible.

Andrew's First Viewing: August 28th, 2010, courtesy of Movie Lovers in Bozeman; bits and pieces prior to this
Jordyn's First Viewing: In theatres sometime in the spring of 1994. (Oh. Yeah.)

Jordyn's Comments
Okay, I won't beat around the bush, Don Bluth's Thumbelina is one of my favorite movies of all time. I already wrote a review for it on my blog, Popped Density, so forgive my lazy ass as I plagiarize myself.

You might assume that I will blame my love for this movie on nostalgia. Surely, growing up with a bad movie is like a Get Out of Jail Free card when someone demands your reasoning for liking it. I did see this movie in theaters and loved it. Being a six year old girl, I loved all things princess and fairy and with the love songs and the magic, glavin! But after that initial first viewing, the home video was not purchased or rented or even watched at a friend's house. No, I didn't seen Thumbelina again until it was on Toon Disney in the summer of 2002. Nostalgia and curiosity got the better of me so I watched it. And I fell in love.

2002...yeah, that would make me about fourteen. Fourteen. An age when I should have been going on dates and getting felt up during the latest Josh Hartnett movie. But, oh no, not me. I spent my evenings doing my homework while this crap played in the background...every damn night. (I alternated between this and Some Kind of Wonderful). At fourteen, my pessimistic side had yet to materialize so an external conflict romance written and produced for dullard children satisfied the unsexualized side of my romantic whims.

Thumbelina is based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale by the same name. It is fleshed out a bit...Disneyfied (ahem, I mean, Bluthanized), if you will. It begins with a French swallow named Jaciquimo telling us a story of impossible romance with an impossible beginning. A lonely single woman longs for a child. She is given a magical seed by a good witch, which she plants. It grows into a flower and once it blooms, a tiny girl emerges. She is given the moniker Thumbelina, as she is, you know, no bigger than a thumb. (One wonders if she was in a different scale if her name would be Toesita or Weinerella (tee-hee)).

Weiner-ELLA, she's a funny little squirt.
However, Thumbelina is dissatisfied with her size. Like all animated heroines, she longs for true love. But how can she find it if she's the only little person in the world? Thumbelina's only outlet is fiction, where fairies (who happen to be the right size) exist. But if this is a world where young, fully clothed, post pubertal miniature girls can grow from flowers, there has to be fairies, right?

As Thumbelina is singing to herself, Cornelius, the fairy prince, manages to fly by on his pet bumblebee and become entranced by her beautiful singing voice. It's basically love at first sight for both of them. There must be a lack of fairy chicks. After some mild flirtation (and an almost kiss) Cornelius takes her on a magical "A Whole New World"-esque journey across the French countryside. He serenades her with the best song in the movie, "Let Me Be Your Wings", while flying her over a glistening, mirror like pond and a huge pumpkin and through the glittering midnight sky.

And now I'm in a diabetic coma.
So after the romancing, Cornelius hears his parents summoning him, but he promises to return to Thumbelina in the morning after he breaks the news about his new, non-fairy girlfriend. He promises to not forget her and leaves...but not before failing at two more almost kisses. (That's right, two! How can you fail three times in seven minutes?)

So since our heroine has found her one true love in the first act, there has to be some conflict to keep them separated for 60 more minutes. This comes in the form of Mama Toad, the amphibious version of Charo. After hearing Thumbelina's gorgeous singing voice, Mama Toad's son, Grendel, has fallen in love with her. Mama Toad tries to convince Thumbelina to join the family singing group and to marry her son. Although Thumbelina is tempted by fame, she wants to return to her mother and Cornelius. The toads abandon her on a lily pad, meaning to return and force her to marry Grendel.

Mexicans in sixteenth century France? Sure, why not?
Cornelius fulfills his promise and returns for his lady fair. He discovers her kidnapping and goes on a quest to find her. Back on the lily pad, Thumbelina meets Jacquimo, a romance obsessed swallow. He promises to find Cornelius's home, the Vale of the Fairies while Thumbelina continues on foot to her house. Jacquimo is convinced that "following your heart" is the quickest way home. Not flying. No, it's definitely not flying.

Both Cornelius and Grendel are on the hunt for Thumbelina, but she continues to walk at a glacial the wrong direction. She is commandeered by Mr. Beetle who, through forest gossip, heard about her voice and convinces her to sing at the Beetle Ball. However, her Elizabethan butterfly costume is removed and she is revealed to be an ugmo because she lacks feelers and wings.

Our heroine's confidence is shattered. Not to mention that she is lost in the middle of the woods as autumn turns to winter. But Jacquimo arrives and teaches an important lesson: if the man you love thinks you're beautiful, then no one else's opinion matters. But if he doesn't, you're fucked. Again, Captain Useless doesn't fly Thumbelina to her home, or steer her in the right direction. He keeps searching for the Vale of the Fairies. Winter comes rather quickly. (Wasn't it only yesterday the fairies were golding the leaves?) Thumbelina finds shelter in an old shoe while Cornelius ends up frozen in a pond and presumed dead.

Thumbelina is discovered by Mrs. Fieldmouse who brings her into her underground home and informs her of Cornelius's death. Thumbelina is distraught but owes a debt to Mrs. Fieldmouse and accompanies her on visit to Mr. Mole. While visiting him, Thumbelina discovers Jacquimo in his tunnel, unconscious and with a thorn in his wing. Despite her opposing cheeriness, Mr. Mole also has the hots for her and bribes Mrs. Fieldmouse to convince Thumbelina to marry him...which she does. Through song!

M is for Money, O-L-E!!!
Later that night, Thumbelina sneaks into the tunnel and visits Jacquimo's corpse. But unfortunately for us, he's not dead and lectures her for giving up hope and settling for Mr. Mole. Thumbelina wants no more of his optimism, even though he flies off to look for the Vale of Fairies without letting her escape. Meanwhile a group of bugs find Cornelius and thaw him out on Thumbelina's wedding day. On the way down the aisle, she has visions of Cornelius singing the second reprise of "Let Me Be Your Wings" and cannot go through with it.

At that moment, Grendel storms in to capture Thumbelina. As does Cornelius to rescue her. And the beetle is also there. But in the confusion, Thumbelina manages to escape without seeing Cornelius. She climbs out of the underground lair just as Jacquimo comes to inform her he's found the Vale of the Fairies. She gets on his back (FINALLY) and flies with him. Jacquimo convinces her to sing and she awakens the Vale of the Fairies to spring. Even though she refused to marry someone she didn't love, Thumbelina's optimism is gone and knows Cornelius will not rise from the dead. However, he returns just in time to finish their duet. They kiss and Thumbelina is transformed into a fairy (sure, why the fuck not?) and they live happily ever after.

Fade to black, show the names, play that happy song.
Let the defense begin. First of all, I love the music. The songs and score were written by Barry Manilow...which sounds like the punchline to a joke. I know that this type of music isn't everyone's cup of tea, but my favorite band is the Carpenters so...That and it's blatantly ripping off the Disney style. Despite my opinions, Mrs. Fieldmouse's song "Marry the Mole" won the Razzie for worst original song. Personally, I think the worst song is "The Beetle Ball" but whatever. I truly think "Let Me Be Your Wings" is one of the most beautiful songs ever written and I don't mind it's four reprises. Not. One. Bit.

Although it's beaten into your head that "you're sure to do impossible things if you follow your heart" this is not the theme. The theme is true love is irreplaceable and trying to replace it is futile. Let me explain. So up until she meets her prince, Thumbelina thinks there is no one else her size...which translates to "I'm going to die old and single just like my mother." When Cornelius shows up she finds in him the only person she could ever love. After she learns of his "death", she states "he was the only one--" and then is cut off by Mrs. Fieldmouse. She probably would have finished with "my size". But "the only one my size" translates to "the only one who could make my life complete." The size issue is just a physical embodiment of this point. You're true love might as well be the only one "your size". Marrying someone the "wrong size" (or of a different species like in this movie) is wrong.

That's another theme in Thumbelina. Don't settle. It may be practical for Thumbelina to marry a rich old mole if it's impossible for her to ever go back to her home. It's a dog eat dog world out there, and she can't rely on the good graces of woodland creatures forever. But she knows that marrying for money will never make her happy, only love will. That's why it's better to stay miserable and alone rather than replace the irreplaceable.

Perhaps I'm stretching it a bit. But I doubt you can find these themes in Bluth's other movies. Compared to the other ones, I feel that Thumbelina is the least of a mind screw. It's very faithful to it's source material despite a few changes. In the original, Thumbelina doesn't meet the unnamed fairy prince until the very end when she is dropped off by the swallow, who she first meets in the mole's cave. I suppose a better version without glaring plot holes (I'll let Andrew cover that) could be made, but this is pretty damn good. Easily the best Bluth movie. There, I said it.

Andrew's Comments:
And so with this entry, I’ve passed the opening reigns to Jordyn, and now I get to experience the feeling of having most of my major points already covered. Joy and rapture. Anyway, onto today’s entry: Don Bluth’s adaptation of the oft-loved (though completely missed by me in childhood) Thumbelina. This movie is a pretty earnest attempt to mimic the success of Disney renaissance movies such as The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast (“cash-in” is a phrase I’ve never agreed with; it brings to mind someone pulling a lever, and the product is delivered immediately in a ready state, similar to the titular heroine of today’s movie). Something was lost in translation, however, and this movie is simply not very good. Not worthy of ire to the extent of Rock-A-Doodle (which, it has been established, I have a personal vendetta against), but certainly something I would avoid watching on my own time.

Being that Jordyn and I have two rather different opinions on this movie, let’s start with what we agree on: “The Beetle Ball” is indeed a much worse song than “Marry The Mole.” “Marry The Mole” is indeed ri-doggone-diculous in its exceptional lyricism (“His breath may be alarming / but he’s charming, for a troll / dearie, *woodblock* marry the mole!”), it’s sung by Carol Channing, who can at least sell the bloody thing. “The Beetle Ball,” by contrast, is Gilbert Godfrey rapping. Let me repeat that for effect: Gilbert Godfrey rapping. And yes, it is as good as it sounds. This one wins by default.

It's a fact.

I also rather appreciate the thematic analysis that Jordyn provided earlier, which suggests that the movie isn’t quite as vapid as it looks (and sounds, and acts, etc). “Don’t sell yourself short” (bahaha) is a road not necessarily taken by many movies these days, and it’s a pretty worthy message to be sending to kids. That said, I’m not a fan of the actual execution, but Thumbelina’s heart certainly is in the right place.

I think this, ultimately, is why this film narrowly avoids a poison-pen ass-whupping from me. It tries so incredibly hard to please, and adheres to so many of the established fairy tale movie conventions, and is so convinced that its story and characters are worthwhile that I just can’t bring myself to hate on it as much as I could. Sure, I can definitely pick some nits and laugh at its expense (“Ha ha! They think this is good character development! What a riot!”), but castigating it for being what it is is something that I cannot do in good conscience.
That said, let’s pick those nits! My biggest pet peeve (though, again, it ultimately redeems the movie) is the overall tone. It reminds me of a parody of these sorts of movies, of Shrek were it less self-aware. More specifically, though, it reminds me of the beginning of the “Mickey and the Beanstalk” portion of Fun and Fancy Free (which I happen to think is absolutely hilarious), where everyone is bouncing and singing and being jolly because everything is SO DAMN HAPPY. Here is one movie where the patented DB flouncing wasn’t such an issue for me; I often imagined the voice actors flouncing around in the booth while recording their characters’ lines.
Speaking of the characters, this movie certainly has a lot of them—toads and beetles and horseflies and field vermin abound in this film, but not many of them made an impact on me. My favorite character may have had the least to do: Mr. Mole, who slinks around in his fabulously wealthy estate, acting like a smaller, ruffled-collar Eeyore. Mr. Mole, however, is voiced by John Hurt (yes, that John Hurt), whose wonderfully full-of-character voice suggests much more depth to Mr. Mole than the movie ever gives him space for.
And the music… oy, the music. As we have mentioned, Thumbelina’s score and original songs were composed by Barry Manilow, who is sadly not on “Copa Cabana” form in this project. Many of the songs sound like parodies of Broadway By Way Of Disney songs, especially the opening number, where the farm animals bob their heads, stomp their feet, and sing their hearts out to ThumbelinAAAAAAA! The only good song (and I use the term loosely) is “Let Me Be Your Wings;” the movie also seems aware of its quality compared to the others, and reprises it no less than four times (seriously, take a shot every time there’s a musical number with “da da daaaa, da daaaa” in it). The score is pleasant enough, I suppose, but it too wants nothing more than to remind us what a great song “Wings” is.
I also find the relationship between Thumbelina and Cornelius to be a bit hokey. They’re immediately smitten with each other upon making eye contact, a sort of “We’ll be married in the morning!” situation, but not tongue in cheek. Also, because there’s no learning curve with their romantic feelings, the movie has to work overtime to keep them apart, and as a result, we never really learn much about Cornelius (perhaps it’s for the best, though—guy’s more vapid than she is).
This guy swashes surprisingly few buckles.
A few more things and we’re done. I was going to dedicate an entire paragraph to how much Jacquimo annoys the PISS out of me, but I was getting too worked up, and decided his character flaws and pants-on-head-ridiculousness was pretty self-evident (what is it with Don Bluth and effeminate, singing pigeons anyways?). Speaking of Jacquimo, I’ve laid-off discussing the plot, because picking apart the story for a movie like this is a sure way to make a smug asshole out of one’s self, but seriously, couldn’t most of this movie been avoided if Thumbelina just got on J-Crew’s back and flies home like she does later in the film? Lastly, why the hell does Thumbelina get wings at the end? Perhaps it’s implied that she was a fairy the whole time, and that her wings just hadn’t come yet? Maybe someone just needed to throw the deus ex machina lever.
This movie is bad. However, it’s not the kind of bad that deserves a painful fate of wailing and gnashing of teeth, for it’s the kind of bad that can be good, if you squint hard enough. As evidenced by my colleague above, this movie has brought joy to many Girls the world over, and I can’t begrudge the movie's sincerity in reaching out to tell its story, no matter how garbled it turned out. That said, please don’t make me watch the damn thing again.

"Follow Your Heart" (Intro) - Gino Conforti (Jacquimo)
"Thumbelina" - Chorus
"Soon" - Jodi Benson (Thumbelina)
"Let Me Your Wings" - Gary Imhoff (Prince Cornelius) and Jodi Benson
"On the Road" - Charo (Mama Toad), Jodi Benson, and Chorus
"Follow Your Heart" - Gino Conforti and Chorus
"Yer Beautiful, Baby" - Randy Chrenshaw (Mr. Beetle)
"Soon" (Reprise) - Barbara Cook (Thumbelina's Mother)
"Sun" ("Let Me Be Your Wings" Reprise I) - Jodi Benson
"Marry the Mole" - Carol Channing (Mrs. Fieldmouse)
"Let Me Be Your Wings" (Reprise II) - Gary Imhoff
"Let Me Be Your Wings" (Reprise III) -  Jodi Benson
"Let Me Be Your Wings" (End Credits) - Barry Manilow and Debra Byrd

Monday, October 4, 2010

Rock-a-Doodle (1991)

Title: Rock-a-Doodle
Year: 1991
Rated: G
Run Time: 1 hour, 17 minutes

Glen Campbell as Chanticleer
Tobey Scott Ganger as Edmond
Phil Harris as Narrator/Patou
Christopher Plummer as Grand Duke
Sandy Duncan as Peepers
Will Ryan as Stuey
Charles Nelson Reilly as Hunch
Ellen Greene as Goldie
Sorell Brook as Pinky

Plot: When a rooster is revealed to not be the one in charge of making the sun rise, he goes to the city and becomes a famous rock star.

Based on: Original screenplay.
Setting: An American farm...sometime in the 50's (judging by the telephone).

The rousing, rollicking adventure of the world's first rockin' rooster!

Andrew's First Viewing: Early 90's daycare
Jordyn's First Viewing: Early 90's, somehow, someway.

Andrew's Comments

As we come to the midway point in our Don Bluth retrospective, we reach the beginning and end of several paradigms: this is the last movie I grew up watching (after this, I enter the realm of Oh, This Is What I Missed), and the first Bluth film of the 90’s. It’s also the first in a rather long line of what are considered to be Bluth’s bad films, a trend that won’t let up until considerably later in the decade.

Now let me preface this entry by saying that just because I grew up around this movie doesn’t mean that I have nostalgia for it. No sir. This is one of those films that I was subjected to ad nauseum while in day care because the lady taking care of us couldn’t be bothered to get new tapes. I actually think I have anti-nostalgia for it, a curious sensation of being irrationally angered whenever anything that looks like a kitten in a Davy Crockett outfit wanders into view (see the sound that makes you punch infants for a similar idea).

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Rock-A-Doodle is Don Bluth’s fifth movie, and the story of a rooster called Chanticleer (French for “rooster,” though not the most obvious name for a country-western protagonist voiced by Glen Campbell). Chanticleer’s job is to crow and wake the sun, but one day, Chanticleer is driven to distraction by a fight and the sun rises without him. Naturally, everyone thinks he’s a fraud and laughs him off the farm. What they didn’t know is that the sun went back to bed after checking on the fight, and now the sun won’t rise until they find Chanticleer or they punish the mosquito.

And if you ever come back, we'll kill ya!
The movie then totally Tarantino’s us by revealing that this whole setup is actually a bedtime story being read to an insufferable snot rag named Edmund, who the movie will spend the next 75 minutes trying to convince us is cute. Edmund’s mother is called away to help deal with the torrential rain plaguing their farm when he gets a bright idea: the rain will stop if he can find Chanticleer! He goes to the window and calls for Chanticleer, not realizing that a) Chanticleer is a storybook character and b) he’s probably not near enough to hear Edmund calling him anyway, what with being evicted and all.

No matter. The Grand Duke of Owls (Christopher Plummer, in what is surely not the brightest moment of his career) turns up to inform the (live action) Edmund that the (animated) Chanticleer will never return, and then turns Edmund into a (animated) kitten under the pretense of wanting to eat him. Just then (boy, this write-up is taking a while to get off the ground), a dog named Patou jumps in and acts as a diversion, giving Edmund time to drive the owl away with a flashlight (wuss).

Beware of those hearts, stars, and rainbows, clover and balloons...
The rest of the movie is spent looking for Chanticleer in “The City” while the animals back on the farm do their best to not get eaten. The story is kinda strange, and though I don’t think it’s as bad as it could be, I did think it was a bit redundant to have Patou act as the narrator throughout the movie (“She was falling in love for real,” he says right before another character and Chanticleer sing a love ballad together).

There were a few odd points for me, though. I’ve always been hung up on the sun not coming up for a while, and people flat-out not noticing. Does it stay night the entire duration Chanticleer’s gone, or is it just overcast the whole time? Where are the farm characters in relation to Edmund’s mom and brothers? Even without looking into it this far, the film has a few odd narrative choices, such as the aforementioned redundant narrator, and not one but two iron helps us play moments.

Where the movie starts going tits-up for me is with the introduction of Edmund. As I not-so-subtly hinted at above, I ABSOLUTELY DESPISE THIS CHARACTER. I loathe his woe-is-me-I’m-too-little attitude, cringe at the way his face is animated, and, above all, HATE THE SOUND OF HIS VOICE. Remember in the last entry how Jordyn made the distinction between sweetly annoying and annoyingly sweet? This kid’s just annoying; he does just about everything wrong that Judith Barsil did right in crafting a sympathetic child character.

You’d think with an unlikable protagonist, the movie would throw us some slack in the way of interesting supporting characters. You’d be dead wrong. Here is a movie that, among other things, has the dubious honor of having TWO Jar Jar’s. The first is Snipes, a magpie voiced by Eddie Deezen (whom you may have heard as Mandark from “Dexter’s Laboratory”), a character who is loud, obnoxious, and contributes nothing to the story. Literally, nothing. He doesn’t have a pivotal moment where his annoyingness results in a positive moment for our heroes (even Jar Jar destroyed some battle droids on accident), and is basically dead, detestable weight throughout the whole movie.

The second is the Charles Nelson Riley-voiced Hunch, who by now is two-for-two on annoying villain sidekicks. Maybe CNR didn’t think that Killer from All Dogs was obnoxious enough, because Punch is one of those hyper-incompetent minions who can’t help but make large, loud, exaggerated movements before being arbitrarily maimed. He also has the “funny” character tick where he constantly is mumbling words that end in “-ation” under his breath. Charming.

Many of the other characters fall flat as well. Peepers, a bespectacled, lisping mouse is the stereotypical “smart” character, but she doesn’t contribute much besides acting smug and calling Edmund a “ ‘fraidy cat” (there’s also some weird, inter-species sexual tension between the two, which Jordyn may or may not get into). Patou, who is voiced by The Jungle Book’s Phil Harris, is probably the best of the bunch, but he’s given a running gag about how he can’t tie his shoes that sort of gets in the way of his character. And the less said about Goldie and her pseudo-Lina Lamont persona, the better.

Thrown on this bunch of woeful character-excuses is an absolute s@$#-storm of awful songs. You know those parodies of animated musicals where people sing tunelessly about very banal and mundane things? That’s this movie. In particular, I was miffed by the Bouncer’s Song (which lasted all of 15 seconds and consisted primarily of the word “bounce”) and Twittley Dee (which is also about eight bars long and tuneless). With the exception of two Chanticleer songs (and your mileage may vary depending on your affection for country western and Elvis), the music is uniformly terrible.

An Oscar bait song if there ever was one.
Not all is awful, though. The movie looks pretty good; it’s clear that Bluth had gotten a handle on his style by this time, and everything looks reasonably clean and well-drawn. Even the water effects, which usually irk me in these movies, look about as good as they can, and there are some fancy tricks throughout, like a bit with reflections on a window. In particular, there’s a tornado at the very end of the movie that’s fairly impressive, and the live action/animation transition that happens at the beginning is kinda neat.

Maybe he hasn't lost his animation touch yet.
In all, this movie is technically sound on many levels, but is spoiled by bad writing, awful characters, and terrible songs. Plus, it just gets me riled up. Good animated movies are pretty transcendent of age, but bad ones just get under your skin in ways I can’t adequately describe. I’m sure there are worse movies in the canon (from everything I’ve heard about Troll, anyway), but I think this is the movie that just pisses me off the most.

Jordyn's Comments
All right! Half way through! Unlike the four previous films in our little self-imposed journey, this one was actually a part of my childhood. (I know, I know. Let’s break out the Santana champ.) I don’t have specific memories of actually watching the blessed thing, but my cousin Raymond and I would sing “Rock-a-Doooo-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOODLE!!!” into running electric fans whenever possible. (Try it. It sounds awesome.)

So through this family bonding I had fond, nostalgic memories associated with this film and I was actually looking forward to watching the damn thing. Nonetheless, even my low level of nostalgia could not change the fact that this movie is, indeed, shit. Like so many other wayward souls, I actually thought this movie would be enjoyable just because it was once upon a time.

Andrew (just because he went first…but not for much longer, bitch!) pretty much covered the basics of Rock-a-Doodle’s all encompassing awfulness and now I am here to nitpick. So, I’ll start with what I know best: sub-par, tacked on romantic plotlines.

As you know, Chanticleer, the manliest cock this side of the road (heh, cock) is dejected by all his friends on the farm for not making the sun rise, and then takes his talents elsewhere and become the animal kingdom’s Elvis. Chanticleer finds it lonely at the top and wants someone to love him tender at night. He bitches to Pinky, his manager, who comes up with a plan.

Enter Goldie, one of the worst love interests to ever grace celluloid, animated or otherwise. She is one of Pinky’s chorus girls, seethingly jealous of Chanticleer’s fame. Pinky somehow bribes her to pretend to fall in love with the King and keep him “happy” and away from Edmund. She performs an impromptu duet with him and then IN THE VERY NEXT SCENE, the two end up “kissin’ and cooin’” on a giant couch swing. And as Patou narrates to us, “Goldie was only supposed to pretend fall in love with Chanticleer, but she was falling in love with him for real.”

Drink your f%$@ing milk!!
I know this movie is already full of conflict what with the sun not rising, and the Great Flood coming, and the Grand Duke twirling is moustache, and Edmund and the gang relentlessly searching for Chanticleer, and Chanticleer’s self loathing and doubt, but would it be too much to ask for an actual romantic plotline? Could we maybe show Goldie falling for Chanticleer? Could we see her struggle maybe? Why does she do it too, other than him being handsome, famous, talented, and richer than God?

I really hate Goldie. Just as Chanticleer is a caricature of Elvis, Goldie is one of Marilyn Monroe: sexy, soft spoken, ditzy, and gold digging. But at least Marilyn brought some heart and humor to her characters. Goldie is just plain irritating. She represents everything that is wrong with “sexy animated heroines”. As extreme as Jessica Rabbit is, at least we can admire her for liking a goofy ass bunny instead of a super hunk with shoulders wider than a goal post. There's that whole "opposites attract" thing going on there. But the Chanticleer-Goldie romance is too easy, like all of Bluth's romances.

However, there is a brief little moment where he's pissed at her for keeping the fact that Edmund and et al are trying to find him. But through the gratuitous chase scene this is forgotten and the two end up living happily ever after on the farm. (What happened to your career, Goldie??)

Oh God, does this movie have faults but for my own sanity, I must not write about them. Andrew covered it anyway and I won’t doubly bitch. Instead I will lodge my complaints in list form.

1. The similarity of Fievel and Edmund’s floppy hats and dopey sleeves.

2. This wildly inappropriate flying phallus. (It’s even pink for Christ’s sakes!)

3. Any time Snipes eats.

4. Any time Patou narrates.

5. Or fusses with his shoe laces.

It's not all bad though. Personally, I enjoy those "Iron Helps Us Play" moments when a character is completely downtrodden and they hear snippets of previously recited dialogue to perk them up and get the job done. This movie has two which might be over kill to some, but then again the movie has two heroes, both dealing with a lack of confidence. Sometimes the only way to gain strength is repeat the positive (and sometimes negative) things others have said.

"After all...tomorrow is another day!"
The quality drop in Bluth’s films is definitely apparent by now. Even his fans can recognize this. I wanted to say something in my All Dogs Go to Heaven review simply because we went from super smart lab rats to Jewish emigrating mice to orphaned dinosaurs to zombie dogs. One of these things is not like the other in tone. But I figured this argument was best saved for Rock-a-Doodle since it’s the biggest mindfuck (so far).

It feels like Don Bluth was off his rocker a bit by now. Disney had kicked his ass at the box office in the All Dogs Go to Heaven vs. The Little Mermaid box office death match. Once he had seen The Rescuers Down Under in all its CAPS glory and heard that the next animated feature was an adaptation of "Beauty and the Beast", I can only assume he said “What the fuck?” and threw in the towel.

They're coming to take him away...
"Sun Do Shine" - Glen Campbell (Chanticleer)
"We Hate the Sun" - Christopher Plummer (Grand Duke)
"Come Back to You" - Glen Campbell
"Rock-A-Doodle" - Glen Campbell
"Bouncers' Theme Song" - Chorus
"Tweedle Te Dee" - Christopher Plummer
"Treasure Hunting Fever" - Glen Campbell
"Sink or Swim" - Ellen Greene (Goldie)
"Kiss n' Coo" - Glen Campbell and Ellen Greene
"Back to the Country" - Glen Campbell
"The Owls' Picnic" - Christoper Plummer
"Tyin' Your Shoes" - Phil Harris (Patou)

P.S. One final note: Rock-a-Doodle was released on DVD back in the early 2000's but has since gone out of print. Even the VHS Andrew and I rented from the video store was bootleg with a Xeroxed label taped on. It's ironic how this awful film is in such high demand and that a used DVD version on Amazon goes for $30. I guess Nostalgia is a crazy bitch goddess. Fear not, dear readers, for the whole thing is viewable on Youtube!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Land Before Time (1988)

Title: The Land Before Time
Year: 1988
Rated: G
Run Time: 1 hour, 9 minutes

Gabriel Damon as Littlefoot
Candace Hutson as Cera
Judith Barsi as Ducky
Will Ryan as Petrie
Helen Shaver as Littlefoot's Mother
Pat Hingle as The Narrator/Rooter

Plot: Five orphan dinosaurs travel the ruins of their world, while grieving the loss of their families and banding together to face the odds of survival.
Based on: Unofficially the "Rite of Spring" segment of Fantasia...and Bambi. (According to Jordyn). But officially, an original screenplay.
Setting: 65 million years a galaxy far, far away...

Tagline: A new adventure is born.

Andrew's First Viewing: Early 90's.
Jordyn's First Viewing: Technically: Early 90's at daycare. Then...Drunk: February 2010 on VHS. Sober: August 27, 2010 on DVD.

Andrew's Comments
And welcome back to Bluthanized! You may have noticed our extended leave of absence (or, judging by our number of followers, maybe you didn’t…) and are fervently demanding an explanation. All I can say to that is, “It’s a good story, but this isn’t that sort of blog.”

Anyways, what movie are we on now? Right, The Land Before Time. Jordyn and I actually attempted to do a write-up on this one several months ago, but we made the mistake of watching it right after our Heavy Metal drinking game (we took a shot whenever a new set of breasts showed up; we were pretty tanked), and we never made it through. But I digress.

Sure to souse you up!
So yeah, back to Land. This one was HEAVY on my rotation list as a kid; I think I still have the VHS somewhere at my parents’ house, complete with dog-eared cover and cheesy early-90’s commercial for Pizza Hut. Of all of Don Bluth’s movies, I feel that this is the one that has aged best for me. Yes, Ducky and Petrie can be a bit grating, and Cera is still a total douche, but as far as tone, story, and animation, this one still holds up pretty well for me.

Universal truth: boys like dinosaurs.
The Land Before Time takes place during the twilight years of the dinosaurs, right when the climate is starting to change, and edible plant-life is becoming increasingly more difficult to find. The plot concerns Little Foot (an apatosaurus), Cera (a triceratops), Ducky (a duck-billed dinosaur), Petrie (a pterodactyl; see what they’re doing with the names so far?), and Spike (a stegosaurus) making their way to The Great Valley, a mythical Zion-esque land stuffed to the gills with green food (“tree stars”), clean water, and absolutely no carnivores whatsoever (the streets are also filled with cheese, no doubt).

What makes this movie still work for me is its tonal balancing. Unlike NIMH and Tail, this movie manages to successfully walk the line between comedy and peril without straying too far into either territory; the thrilling parts never get too overbearing and the silly stuff never gets too Jeremy Crow-esque. The movie’s pacing also feels pretty good for the most part; apart from the section in between Littlefoot’s birth and the Sharptooth attack, the film goes along at a steady clip, moving from plot point to plot point and occasionally taking a break for character interaction.

A bit too much interaction sometimes...
One thing I can say about The Land Before Time that I hadn’t noticed before is how little actual movie there is. Remember that plot from two paragraphs ago? Doesn’t fully kick in until about halfway through. This movie is short; notwithstanding Dumbo (which is a scant five minutes longer than this one), this is one of the briefest full-length animated features I think I’ve seen. It takes the movie almost half of its 69-minute running time before everyone is finally together and traveling (even then, there’s still some padding).

Yet the movie does feel about as long as it needs to be, neither too long or too short (a bit off-balance, perhaps, but 69 minutes still is about right). Wikipedia tells me that 10 minutes of Sharptooth-kid-harassment footage were shaved off of the movie because Steven Spielberg and George Lucas deemed them too intense for small children, and while it would have been interesting to watch Bluth’s full creative vision of this story, I’m not sure if the movie would have played out better with the footage reinserted. There’s already a healthy dose of action here compared to the moments of levity (including two especially climactic scenes near the beginning and end of the movie), and the last thing this movie needs is the same problem that dragged down An American Tail.

Another thing I noticed during my rewatching is how over-eager the movie is to spell itself out. I certainly don’t mind the intro and closing narration segments (especially since the narrator himself is so pleasant to listen to), but the guy just chips in periodically in places that, even for kids, should be pretty self-explanatory. There’s a scene later in the film when Cera leaves the party because she had deliberately taken off down the wrong path and had to be rescued. She’s walking away, looking dejected and hurt, with a tear in her eye, and the narrator pipes up to inform us that she “was too proud to admit that she’d gone the wrong way.” What?! When did this movie all of a sudden turn into "Caillou"?! Moments like this happen throughout the entire picture.

The voicework in The Land Before Time is pretty solid. The all-child portion of the cast manages to avoid the cutsieness trap of Bluth’s previous films, ie, they’re not pants-on-head annoying (here that, Mrs. Brisby’s kids?!); even the characters that play up the cuteness still seem at least partially sincere about it, which helps soften the blow (though Petrie is still this movie’s Jar Jar). The rest of the cast does a good job helping support the action, with Helen Shaver giving a soothing, placid performance as Littlefoot’s mother, and Frank Welker (aka, every animal noise you’ve ever heard in any animated feature EVER) gnashing his teeth and roaring Godzilla-style as the Sharptooth.

The music is… well it’s… you know, after 17+ years of watching and rewatching this movie, I don’t think I could even tell you what it sounds like. I’m seriously drawing a blank on any melodies or themes; whenever I try, I keep coming back with the “Rite of Spring” parts from Fantasia. What is appealing on this movie’s soundtrack, though, is the Diana Ross song that plays over the credits, “If We Hold On Together.” It sounds exactly like a late-80’s adult contemporary ballad, but it’s rather pleasant, and lacking the awful keyboard from the ballad versions of “A Whole New World” and “Beauty And The Beast.”

By now, I’ve done my share of ranting about my distaste for some of Don Bluth’s stylistic flairs in his animation (if I haven’t yet, wait till we get to Rock-A-Doodle…), and I’m pleased to say that this movie is very conservative with them. There is pleasantly little flouncing that goes on in this movie (Bluth often tends to animate characters as though they’re in some sort of floaty, low-gravity environment), and lots of the effects animations that generally drives me nuts from his movies (sparks, smoke clouds, and foamy, sloppy-looking waves) are absent from this one.

The Bluth legacy issue that DOES appear in this movie, however, is arbitrary color-change. I think I understand how this works in principle; if you’re going to have your characters in different light, color them similar to how the background is lit. That said, there are several time throughout the picture where Ducky or Spike would, without warning or context, switch from green to tan to basically every color in the Gears Of War spectrum. Perhaps I’m spoiled by my CAPS-assisted lighting and shadows of the 90’s, but seriously, drink every time a character randomly changes color in the same scene and tell me how drunk you are by the end of this movie.

Um, why the @#%* is Ducky yellow?
On the whole, though, I think I enjoy The Land Before Time the most out of the Bluth canon (though we still have seven movies to go, four of which I haven’t seen yet). It looks good, the story is reasonably entertaining, and it’s lacking many of the cringe-worthy moments that turn me away from the last two movies we’ve done. We’ll see how this whole thing goes now that my alleged favorite is done.

Jordyn's Comments
Let me preface with this sexist statement: I am a girl who likes princesses and doesn't like dinosaurs. I didn't have older brothers to force me to watch The Land Before Time. In my house, I watched whatever child-friendly tripe I damn well pleased. My only exposure to Don Bluth's dinosaur flick was at my daycare where I had little to no control over what we watched, so that's where I first saw it. I was pretty vocal about what movies I liked and if I had really, really liked TLBT, I would have asked my mom to rent it for me. But, like I said, I like princesses, not dinosaurs, so this was not a childhood staple of mine.

One movie I did watch a lot was Fantasia, which I didn't particularly care for (still don't) and part of that has to do with the twenty minute "Rite of Spring" segment which shows the rise and fall of the dinosaurs. It was boring. Excuse me, is boring. The opening scenes of TLBT are far too reminiscent of "Rite of Spring". Deliberately so, because according to Andrew, producer Steven Spielberg wanted to make a Serious Movie about dinosaurs that made their journey sans dialogue, sans humor, and sans conscious viewers, apparently. But somewhere along the way, the characters were named and given voices and "personalities".

So since ripping off Fantasia didn't work out, the writers moved on to Bambi. Our main protagonist, a "long-neck" (gotta get that terminology right!) named Littlefoot is born to his single mother. He frolics around and is admired by bystanders. His mother teaches him about the food shortage and explains that everyone is migrating to the Great Valley, where the streets are paved with chee-eese, no doubt. But before they set out, Littlefoot's mom is killed by the "sharp-tooth" and is orphaned.

Do you think it was deliberate?
The scene is WAY TOO SIMILAR to Bambi. The dialogue is practically identical. Seriously. If you have the luxury of owning both these films, I urge you to play them back to back and see for yourself. I was half expecting to see someone jump out and say "Your mother can't be with you anymore." That doesn't quite happen, but Rooter (also the narrator) pops in and offers some sage advice on the circle of life. (TLBT was made before The Lion King, so this one is Disney's bad).

Also separated from her family is the "three-horn" bitch, Cera. Seriously, what the hell is her problem? She's like an over compensating doucher who insults everyone around him in order to prove how small his dick isn't. But she's a chick! And a child! Was this a deliberate decision to throw a spoke in the gender stereotype wheel? To have a female character embody such overtly masculine traits? Or did the producers go "Oh shit! We want girls to like our movie! Make the triceratops--" (Get it? TriCERAtops?) "--a girl!"

Whether it was deliberate or not, female asshole protagonists are pretty rare. Especially in children's programming. (Helga from "Hey Arnold!" is the only other one that comes to mind). But unlike Helga, Cera lacks an excuse for her behavior. She has a pretty good relationship with her parents, it seems, so why the need to swing her metaphorical dick around?

Granted, some people are just assholes and maybe Cera is one of them. Assholes need friends, too. And if you really think about it, you are probably friends with an asshole in spite of their assholism. But, it's an oddity when said asshole is female in a group of fictional co-ed companions.

There's one in every group.
Speaking of companions, along with Littlefoot and Cera, there is Ducky a "big-mouth". She is pretty much androgynous. Kind of like Blanky from The Brave Little Toaster. In fact, the only inclination of Ducky's femininity is that her voice actor is a little girl. Then there's nerdy Petrie, the "flyer" too afraid to fly. And to round out the group, there's Spike, the silent, gluttonous "spike-tail". Each is picked up along the way on the journey to the Great Valley.

I'll take this time to mention that this film in 69 minutes long. That's it. An hour and nine minutes. And it's approximately 30 minutes before the five main characters are introduced. The movie is literally half over. This brings me to my main issue with The Land Before Time: it's too short and nothing happens. With a road movie, the possibilities of events and one shot characters are endless, but this movie completely ignores that. It's even counter intuitive since the film is padded with superflous scenes of baby dinosaurs fighting over a cherry and a minute long flashback at the end (a.k.a. reused footage).

It's perfectly acceptable for a movie to be more character driven than plot driven, but TLBT is pretty much lacking in character development. Cera is the most interesting character by default because of her nastiness and prejudice against all the other species of dinosaurs, as per the teachings of her father. ("Three-horns do not play with long-necks!") And, through her little adventure, she discovers teamwork is important and she overcomes her bigotry.

A child psychologist's dream.
The Land Before Time teaches a lesson about working together with those who are different from you to complete a shared goal and that prejudice and segregation are based in ignorance and are perpetuated by our parents. An important and useful lesson, indeed. But isn't there a more interesting way of showing that?

With this movie, I've discovered the most bothersome aspect of Don Bluth's animation style is the changing of character scale. The characters' sizes in comparison to each other change like Alice with her magic mushrooms. I've never noticed this problem in other animated movies, only Bluth's.

As you can tell, I don't really like The Land Before Time. It was boring and there was nothing about it to particularly entertain me. The viewing experience reminded me of when I first watched The Secret of NIMH, with me being bored through most of it. Again, that could hearken back to my utter boredom with dinosaurs. This is definitely the manliest of the Bluth flicks. Of course, girls are perfectly capable of liking dinosaurs (Laura Dern in Jurassic Park, for example) otherwise, The Land Before Time franchise wouldn't have twelve sequels and a TV series to its name. I'm just saying, if I had a dick, then I probably would have liked this movie. Alas, I do not on both counts.

"If We Hold On Together" - Diana Ross

Saturday, August 28, 2010

We're Not Dead!!!

As of right this second, Andrew and I (Jordyn) are preparing to watch two more films in the Don Bluth canon. Last night, we succeeded in viewing The Land Before Time entirely sober, while following up with All Dogs Go to Heaven. Someday, in the not-so-distant future, we will publish a few more posts when I get internet in my apartment!

So, my dear readers, continuation of Bluthanized will be coming to a computer near you. Just remember, patience is a virtue. But we'll give you this to tie you over.

Your welcome.

An American Tail (1986)

Title: An American Tail
Year: 1986
Rated: G
Run Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Phillip Glasser as Fievel Mousekewitz

Nehemiah Persoff as Papa Mousekewitz
Amy Green as Tanya Mousekewitz
Dom DeLuise as Tiger
Christopher Plummer as Henri
John Finnegan as Warren T. Rat
Erica Yohn as Mama Mousekewitz
Pat Musick as Tony Toponi
Cathianne Blore as Bridget

While emigrating to the United States, a young Russian mouse gets separated from his family and must relocate them while trying to survive in a new country.
Based on: Apparently an original story.
Setting: Shotska, Russia/Hamburg, Germany/New York City, 1885

Meet Fievel. In his search to find his family, he discovered America.

Andrew's First Viewing: Some time in 1993.
Jordyn's First Viewing: Some time in the mid 90's at my daycare.

Andrew's Comments
I remember this movie. I remember watching it all the time when I was a kid. Specifically, I remember watching the sequel, Fievel Goes West, more. I also remember enjoying that one more. But since this is a retrospective on the works of Don Bluth (and Bluth didn't do West), I will be covering this one instead. If it seems like I'm putting this on the B-team, it's partially because, well, An American Tail always WAS on my B-team; I watched it many times as a kid (and enjoyed it), but never to the extent to which I enjoyed the sequel. Part of it has to do with the cleaner animation in the sequel (which was, I think, done with the aid of computers, à la the CAPS system), but the sequel also enjoyed the simpler plot and more likable characters compared to Tail.

These aren't the droids you're looking for. Move along.

I talk of Tail having a more complicated plot than West. Oh does it ever. There are so many points visited and so many missed encounters with his family and so many throwaway characters introduced that, I won't lie, it was all I could do to follow this movie when I was younger. All I knew is that Fievel gets lost on his boatride to America ("There are breadcrumbs on every floor!") and tried to find his family.

I've always enjoyed the animation on this one more than in other Bluth projects, mainly because it seems a little cleaner than in some of his others. There is a lot less flailing, and the characters seem to have control over their mouths this time around. Bluth also seems to use better colors in Tail, and there are some really cool lighting effects too, such as during the opening sequence.

My one gripe with the character designs is the cats. They do NOT look like cats. They look like doggone WOLVERINES. And they roar like friggin' Mufasa from The Lion King. Maybe Bluth is making them seem tougher than they are because cats are the enemies of mice, but it makes no sense why these things would be kept as pets, and less sense why they all of a sudden turn into gambling, incompetent jokers in the second half of the movie.

Seriously, what
is that thing?

One thing I appreciated this time around that I missed as a kid was all of the historical stuff that it was paralleling. The movie takes place in 1885 when there was a ton of immigration to America, and that's basically a movie of what this movie is about: a Jewish experience of immigrating to America (which makes sense, considering the movie was produced by Stephen Spielberg, the most famous Jew in Hollywood).

What is surprising to me is the specificity of events, like how the movie starts out with the family celebrating Hannukah (a fact that was lost on me as a kid) and how it's quickly followed by a Russian pogrom (for those who were asleep in history class, pogroms were state-sponsored Jew-killings). The family also goes through Ellis Island, and there are small children mice who are put to work in sweatshops.

There's a pretty defined split between the characters that are memorable and the ones that aren't. For every main player that has stuck with me, like Papa, Tiger, and Warren T. Ratt, there are secondary characters that I totally spaced, like Bridget, Honest John (which sounds like they figured any minor character name that was good enough for Disney was good enough for them), and Henri, the pigeon who seems suspiciously like another flamboyant, singing pigeon in Thumbelina.

I kinda sorta remember her, but she really doesn't have much to do in this movie.

The voice talent pretty average, too. Tanya's is good (a non-annoying, but very youthful, character; a refreshing change of pace from the kids in the last movie), Papa's is great (the guy is absolutely huge with his character, and his filmography is pretty impressive too), Tiger is a large improvement over Dom DeLuise's previous role in The Secret of NIMH, but the rest is, by and large, pretty annoying. Tony's Bronx tough-guy accent and personality is obnoxious, Bridget's brogue isn't very convincing (I didn't even know she had one until I rewatched it), and Fievel is one of those "aw, isn't he cute because he's inept and little" kids that I find exceptionally aggravating.

The songs are also pretty "eh;" the only one that I really appreciated was "Somewhere Out There," and the in-movie production of it is GOSH-AWFUL. "Never Say Never" and "We're A Duo" are not so bad (perfectly serviceable, but nothing to write home about, though judging by what little I've seen of Thumbelina, I might have to not be so picky...), but "There Are No Cats in America" has literally haunted me for years, and that chorus is just as annoying as ever. I must say, though, that the verses are much better executed than I remember; the first two verses definitely peter out at the very end, despite their strong beginnings, but I really dug the Irish Catholic tenor mouse in the third verse. Of course, that was before the stupid chorus came back in and spoiled the effect.

Do yourself a favor and check out Linda Ronstadt's (much better) version instead of this one. Unless you really like listening to little kids trying to force a note.

And for all of the events and random crap that happens during this movie (an believe me, this movie is jam-PACKED with characters to meet and plot points to check off), the major conflict is a total anti-climax: the mice build a giant murderous-looking mouse to frighten off the cats so that they can take the slow boat to China. The cats aren't even a problem (the American cats, anyways) until like halfway through the movie. Why this is treated like a huge plot point is beyond me.

Overall, though, I found it fairly entertaining, but I think nostalgia carried me a good portion of the way. The historical parallels were fun to make now that I'm all grow'd up, the score is pretty good, the animation is a step-up from The Secret of NIMH, and the overall story is pretty heartwarming (the basic story of a boy finding his family is a good one, and the resolution for that story is a satisfying one) but for the most part, it just isn't terribly itch-scratching on an I'm-Watching-This-For-The-Whole-Of-Its-Parts-level. Most of the non-family-finding storylines are superfluous, the songs aren't very memorable (at least, in the right sort of way), and the I'm not sure it has the age boundary-crossing appeal of some of the best in animation.

That said, I would still recommend An American Tail to those who haven't seen it. Fievel is an icon for kids like me who grew up in the 90's, and the overall experience is one worth having, especially to those who are interested in Ellis Island.

Jordyn's Comments
Okay…An American Tail. This is the one I remember everyone LOVING. This is the one I remember being the cream of the crop, the crème de la crème, the best of the best, the crème of the best. I, like with all these movies, was rather quite impartial to it as a child. I liked Fievel Goes West a whole lot more. A whole hell of a lot more. I couldn’t exactly remember why until a few nights ago when Andrew and I sat down to watch the first movie centering on Fievel and the Mousekewitz clan.

First off, Fievel is about four years old mentally, whereas in the sequel, he’s probably about eight or so. I don’t hate children, mind you, but my tolerance of them as of late is as thin as butter scraped across too much bread. :-) So, I don’t mind Tanya, she’s okay. But fucking Fievel, man! Oooh, his hat is too big and he has Dopey sleeves and a high pitched, horrendously off key singing voice, I’m supposed to love him, right? Right!?

In movies/TV/books, I usually hate the character that everyone is supposed to find funny/cute…other examples include Gurgi from The Black Cauldron, B.E.N. from Treasure Planet, Stitch from Lilo and Stitch...some Don Bluth examples include Jeremy from The Secret of NIMH, Bartok from Anastasia and EVERYONE in A Troll in Central Park. Oh, and let’s not forget Jar Jar Binks.

Oh, I get it! He's supposed to be adorable!

All right, so I know they differ from Fievel, because he is the main character and those others are sidekicks…and all of these little shits have irritating speech impediments and fuck things up for the hero(es) on numerous occasions. But doesn’t this kind of apply to Fievel? Let’s think about it….

Okay, so we start in Shostka, Russia in 1885 during Hanukkah when Papa Mousekewitz gives little Fievel his grandfather’s…(uh, great grandfather’s?) hat. It’s too damn big for him and he obviously lacks the maturity to own such a treasure, but it’s Hanukkah, so what the hell? Then there’s some kind of uprising where all the Jew mice (or maybe just mice mice) get chased by Cossack cats (which look more like wolverines) and the family decides to head to America, because everyone knows…THERE ARE NO CATS IN AMERICA AND THE STREETS ARE PAVED WITH CHEE-EESE!

So the Mousekewitzes travel from Shostka to Hamburg, Germany to hitch a ride to the states. (Which is a long fucking trip). During a storm in which Poseidon is bitch slapping the shit out of the ship, stupid little Fievel wants to see some fish, so he PURPOSELY tosses his hat up the stairs to chase after it. This causes a chain of events that separates Fievel from his family and propels us into the plot of the movie.

1,200 miles.

Okay. I get it. We need a goddamn conflict, and having a simpering, baby mouse in a foreign country is pretty good. But why, why, couldn’t his hat just fly off his damn head? It’s a storm! It’s entirely plausible! But now I can’t respect or pity this stupid rodent. He did it to himself. It’s his own damn fault.

So, then the plot is underway and Fievel goes on his own little odyssey meeting a myriad of characters, including Henri, the pigeon who single-handedly built the statue of Liberty. He is suspiciously similar to Jacquimo, a character we will soon meet in 1994’s Thumbelina. I’ll wait until that blog to get into that, but I must say, Don Bluth sure loves his homosexual French avian friends.

What you see here is a total waste of having Captain Von Trapp in your movie.

Fievel meets some people and some shit happens with cats, because it turns out, there ARE cats in America. I don’t want to get into all that, because frankly, I found it boring. In fact, what really gets my blood boiling about this movie (other than Fievel fucking himself over) is that poor excuse for a romance this movie has.

On his little adventure, Fievel meets Tony Toponi, a character which must be an inspiration for Newsies. He is wise cracking, street smart, and decidedly Bronxian. Within 1 minute and 18 seconds, (No, I am not fucking kidding you. I went back and timed it), he sees an Irish girl mouse (who, just in case you were confused about her heritage, has red hair, a green dress, and a brogue), becomes infatuated with her, gets her to reciprocate, and they kiss. ALL IN 1 MINUTE AND 18 SECONDS.


What is this? The love at first sight Olympics? At least save the first kiss for the end! What’s wrong with a little sexual tension? What’s wrong with making them work for it a little bit? Fuck! If I didn’t know that Anastasia was coming, I would claim that Don Bluth has the worst understanding of fictional romance of anyone. EVER. Plus, there’s also the fact that Tony looks to be about 12 or 13 and Bridget is 15 or 16. Ick!

Moving on…dear God, please! How about the songs? I liked the songs. “Never Say Never” is still stuck in my head, although it’s also quite suspiciously similar to a certain gay song sung by a certain gay bird in another Don Bluth movie. I liked “There Are No Cats in America” too, replete with its pre-90’s, pre-politically correct ethnic stereotypes. It’s cheery! Yay! And, after my years of listening to soft rock stations, how could I not love the Oscar nominated “Somewhere Out There”? I do. Very much. But the Linda Ronstadt version, because that little kid version might be “sweetly cute” but it makes my ears bleed.

As for animation, you know I’m not picky. Maybe it was our Netflix viewing streamed from Andrew’s Xbox, but it looked less detailed than NIMH. And there was some weird scale issues. Tiger looked HUGE compared to the other cats. And the villain, Warren T. Rat, who poses as a rat, but is really a cat…what the hell? That must be the smallest fucking cat ever. The song sequence of “A Duo” was a pretty big mind screw.

Um, yeah, what's even going on in this clip?

Overall, I enjoyed most of An American Tail. It was quicker paced than NIMH. I liked how “historically accurate” it was. I put historically accurate in quotes, because it seems more like the myth of immigration in America than fact. They stuck in some stuff like the changing of hard-to-pronounce names to simple ones at Ellis Island. There’s also some comparison of Warren T. Rat to Bill the Bucher, but obviously, it’s still kid friendly. Don Bluth and Steven Spielberg do a good job of putting some adult themes into a kids’ movie with out making it too complex or like a history lesson.

But again, this movie suffers from trying to find its tone. It’s supposed to be a family friendly flick, but it’s far too immature in some places for adults, and not mature enough in others to keep me from rolling my eyes. It is really hard to please everyone, but some how, Disney and Pixar manage(d) just fine, and I can’t fathom why Don Bluth struggles so much.

"There Are No Cats in America" - Nehemiah Persoff, Johnny Guarnieri, and Warren Hays
"Never Say Never" - Christopher Plummer (Henri) and Phillip Glasser (Fievel)
"Somewhere Out There" - Phillip Glasser and Betsy Cathcart (Tanya)
"A Duo" - Dom DeLuise (Tiger) and Phillip Glasser
"Somewhere Out There" (End Credits) - Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram