|An American Tail|
Promotional Poster for An American Tail
|Directed by||Don Bluth|
Steven Spielberg (executive producer)
John P. Finnegan
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Release date(s)||November 21, 1986|
|Running time||80 minutes|
|Followed by||An American Tail: Fievel Goes West|
An American Tail is an animated film produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, and directed by Don Bluth, originally released in theatres on November 21, 1986. It was the first full-length animated film released by Universal Pictures.
In 1885 Shostka, Russia, the Mousekewitzes—a Russian-Jewish family of mice—are forced to emigrate to the United States, after an army of Cossacks and their cats destroy their village as part of anti-Jewish pogroms. During the trip overseas, the family's young son, Fievel, gets separated from the others and washes overboard in a storm. Thinking that Fievel has drowned, the others arrive in New York City.
Fievel, however, floats to America in a bottle and, after a pep talk from a French pigeon named Henri, embarks on a quest to find his family. He is waylaid by conman Warren T. Rat, who gains his trust and then sells him to a sweatshop. He escapes with Tony, a street-smart Italian mouse, and they join up with Bridget, an Irish mouse trying to rouse her fellow mice to stand up to cats. When a gang of cats called the Mott Street Maulers attacks a mouse marketplace, the immigrant mice learn that the tales of a cat-free country are not true.
Bridget takes Fievel and Tony to see Honest John, a drunk and reliable politician who knows all the voting mice in New York City. But, as the Mousekewitzes have not yet registered to vote, he can not help Fievel find them. Meanwhile, Fievel's sister, Tanya, tells her gloomy parents she has a feeling that Fievel is still alive, but her parents insist that the feeling eventually go away.
Led by the rich and powerful Gussie Mausheimer, the mice hold a rally to decide what to do about the cats. Warren T. Rat is extorting them all for protection that he never provides. No one has any idea what to do about it, until Fievel whispers a plan to Gussie.
The mice take over an abandoned building on Chelsea Pier and begin constructing their plan. On the day of launch, Fievel gets lost and stumbles upon Warren T.'s lair. He discovers that he is actually a cat in disguise, and the leader of the Maulers. They capture and imprison Fievel, but a goofy, soft-hearted cat named Tiger befriends and releases him.
Fievel races back to the pier with the cats chasing after him when Gussie orders the mice to release the secret weapon. A huge mechanical mouse, inspired by the bedtime tales Papa told to Fievel of the "Giant Mouse of Minsk", chases the cats down the pier and into the water. A tramp steamer bound for Hong Kong picks them up and carries them away.
During the battle, Fievel is once again separated from his family and falls into despair when a group of orphans tell him that he should have given up years earlier. Papa Mouskewitz overhears Bridget and Tony calling out to Fievel, but is sure that there may be another "Fievel" somewhere, until Mama finds their son's hat. They team up for a final effort to find him and, in the end, the sound of Papa's violin leads Fievel back into the arms of his family. The journey ends with Henri taking everyone to see his newly completed project— the Statue of Liberty, and the Mouskewitzes' new life in America begins.
| Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about|
the entire movie.
Note: These character descriptions are based on this film only, and do not contain information from later films in the series. The actors/actresses who voiced the characters are shown in parentheses.
Fievel Mousekewitz (Phillip Glasser) Edit
The story's central character, Fievel is modelled on a curious, hyperactive and seemingly fearless boy. However, throughout most of the film, while separated from his family Fievel becomes as a very scared and lost child in a strange land, given hope and encouragement by the friends (Henri the Pigeon, Toni, Bridget and Tiger the vegetarian cat) he meets on his search. Toni and some of the other American mice call him 'Filly'.
Fievel is always drawn with an oversized red jumper and blue hat somewhat too big for his head (it fits at the end of the film). The hat is an heirloom of sorts, having been passed from father to son for three generations (Fievel is the fourth to wear it). Except for a brief period near the story's end, Fievel never loses the hat through all his adventures and scrapes.
He has two sisters, Tanya and Yasha.
Tanya Mousekewitz (Amy Green)Edit
Fievel's elder sister, she is drawn in a traditional Russian peasant girl's dress, including a red head kerchief (incorrectly called a 'babushka' in the film) given to her on Hannukah at the beginning of the film. She is optimistic, cheerful and obedient. After Fievel was washed off the boat to America she continued to believe that her brother was alive, a hope fulfilled when the Fievel was found at the end. She was given an American name 'Tillie' at the immigration point at Castle Garden on Ellis Island.
Tanya has two siblings, Fievel and Yasha.
Note: An American Tail's official web site states that she is younger than Fievel, however she acts and sounds older than him throughout this film, and her behaviour towards Fievel appears more consistent with that of an elder sibling.
Note: Tanya was voiced by Betsy Cathcart for the song 'Somewhere Out There'.
Papa Mousekewitz (Nehemiah Persoff)Edit
The head of the Mousekewitz family, Papa plays the violin and tells stories to his children. Too overcome with grief and believing his son to be dead after being lost at sea, he stubbornly refuses to search for Fievel after the family land in America. He tries to convince Tanya of that fact, however things change when he eventually meets Toni and Bridget, who show himFievel's hat.
Two of his stories were realised later during Fievel's adventures, notably the Giant Mouse of Minsk, which was built as a giant mouse machine, the mice's secret weapon to drive the cats out of New York.
By his account during the sail to America, Papa's father was a cat victim.
Mama Mousekewitz (Erica Yohn)Edit
Fievel's mother. She appears the stricter of the Mousekewitz parents, and has a fear of flying. Mama, like most of the mice in the film, has a deep and open fear of cats.
Toni Toponi (Pat Musick)Edit
A streetwise young mouse of Italian descent and with a 'tough New Yorker' attitude, Toni meets Fievel during their slavery at the sweatshop. He takes a liking to Fievel, and gives him an American name 'Filly'. After they escape the sweatshop, he becomes Fievel's friend and guide to the town.
While helping Fievel find his family he meets and falls in love with Bridget, a pretty Irish activist.
Tiger (Dom DeLuise)Edit
A very large, long-haired orange cat who also happens to be vegetarian, Tiger was a member of Warren T. Rat's 'Mott Street Maulers' cat-gang until he met and befriended Fievel, whom he helped to escape. He is the only cat in the story to have given mice a non-hungry smile.
Warren T. Rat (John Finnegan)Edit
The main villain of the film's story, Warren T. is really a cat in rat's clothing and the leader of the Mott Street Maulers, a gang of cats who terrorise the mice of New York City. He pretends to the mice to be a rat liasing with the gang, receiving protection money for a 'warranty' on their safety.
Warren T. plays the violin and quotes Shakespeare, both very badly.
Henri (Christopher Plummer)Edit
Henri is a pigeon of French descent, who is in New York while building the Statue of Liberty. He is the first to meet Fievel upon entering America. He nurses Fievel back to health, and tells him that he should never give up in his search for his family, a message which Fievel takes to heart.
- Bridget (Cathianne Blore) - An Irish activist and Toni's girlfriend.
- Honest John (Neil Ross) - A local politician who knows every voting mouse in New York.
- Gussie Mausheimer (Madeline Kahn) - New York's richest mouse, who rallies the mice into fighting back against the cats.
- Digit (Will Ryan) - Warren T.'s cockroach accountant.
Fievel was voiced by Phillip Glasser, who later did voicework for A Troll in Central Park. The voices of Mama and Papa are Erica Yohn and Nehemiah Persoff, who had no other roles in animation. Dom DeLuise, who also voiced Don Bluth's The Secret of NIMH, All Dogs Go to Heaven, and A Troll in Central Park, was the voice of Tiger, a fat but friendly vegetarian cat that Fievel befriends (who presumably represents the less prejudiced of American citizens). In the simultaneously-released Spanish version of the film, Fievel was voiced by Laura Bustamante.
Note that while all of the animal characters were animated from scratch, the human characters are portrayed using the rotoscoping technique, in which sequences were shot in live action and then traced onto animation cels. This provides a realistic look for human characters, and distinguishes the cartoonish animal characters from the more realistically-animated humans. Rotoscoping is frequently employed in Don Bluth films, including The Secret of NIMH and Anastasia.
The film was released on VHS in the same year by CIC Video and is now available on a DVD that contains the main English track, as well as dubbing for French and Spanish.
The movie became the highest grossing non-Disney produced animated feature in first release in history at the time, drawing over $47 million USD. It was one of the first animated films to outdraw a Disney film, beating out The Great Mouse Detective by over $22 million USD. It would later be bested by the next Bluth film, 1988's The Land Before Time, creating the impression that Don Bluth had wrested the animated movie genre away from Warner Bros. Animation.
Sequels and TV SeriesEdit
The film was followed by its theatrical sequel An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, the television series Fievel's American Tails, and one direct-to-video sequel An American Tail: The Treasure of Manhattan Island none of which Don Bluth had any involvement with. Most viewers consider the first film to be the best in the series.
Fievel later served as the mascot for Steven Spielberg's Amblimation animation studio, appearing in its production logo.
Fievel has his own playground at Universal Studios Florida, featuring a large water slide and many over-sized objects such as books, glasses, cowboy boots, and more.
The soundtrack includes a Grammy-winning Hans Zimmer song, "Somewhere Out There", whose lyrics describe, as in the film's story, the bond between two siblings and their optimistic hope in being able to see one another again after being separated. Besides being sung by the actors, a professionally sung version was also recorded for the closing credits.
Soundtrack album track listingEdit
- "Main Title" (orchestral)
- "The Cossack Cats" (orchestral)
- "There Are No Cats In America" (song)
- "The Storm" (orchestral)
- "Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor" (orchestral)
- "Never Say Never" (song)
- "The Market Place" (orchestral)
- "Somewhere Out There" (song)
- "Somewhere Out There" (performed by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram)
- "Releasing the Secret Weapon" (orchestral)
- "A Duo" (song)
- "The Great Fire" (orchestral)
- "Reunited" (orchestral)
- "Flying Away and End Credits" (orchestral)
- The Official American Tail Site
- An American Tail at the Internet Movie Database
- Don Markstein's Toonopedia
- Detailed Info on An American Tail (contains spoilers)
Video games: Dragon's Lair (1983) • Space Ace (1984) • Dragon's Lair II: Time Warp (1991)
Animated films: The Small One (1978) • Banjo the Woodpile Cat (1979) • The Secret of NIMH (1982) • An American Tail (1986) • The Land Before Time (1988) • All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989) • Rock-A-Doodle (1991) • Thumbelina (1994) • A Troll in Central Park (1994) • The Pebble and the Penguin (1995) • Anastasia (1997) • Bartok the Magnificent (1999) • Titan A.E. (2000)
Related articles: Sullivan Bluth Studios • Fox Animation Studios