An American Tail

An American Tail

Disney was not the only one making feature length animated movies as Don Bluth would gladly tell you. A Disney alum himself, Bluth directed An American Tail in 1986, a movie produced by Steven Spielberg’s company, Amblin Entertainment. The film told the touching story of a young immigrant mouse that comes to America to avoid the tyranny of cats everywhere and finds his new home more terrifying and more wonderful than he ever imagined.

Fievel Mousekewitz and his family are celebrating Hannukah back in Russia when war breaks out and the mice are left destitute. Papa packs them all–Mama, son Fievel, daughter Tanya and baby Yasha–onto a boat headed for New York to start a new life in the glorious land where there are no cats and “the streets are paved with cheese.”

In the confusion of disembarking, Fievel falls overboard and his family assumes he’s drowned. But the little mouse is alive and well, left to navigate the big city by himself. Fievel meets Warren T. Rat who despite his friendly reassurances sells Fievel to a sweatshop where other immigrant mice from all over Europe work night and day. He eventually escapes with the help of two friends, Tony and Bridget.

Meanwhile all the Mousekewitz family mourns the apparent death of their son, except for his sister Tanya, who believes Fievel is still alive. Papa and Mama have new problems to contend with because cats run the town and terrorize all the poor, immigrant mice.

Tony, Bridget and Fievel work on a plan to overthrow the tyranny of the cat gangs and discover in the process that Warren T. Rat is really a feline in disguise, victimizing thousands of mice with his exploitation. Fievel even makes friends with a cowardly cat named Tiger who had previously worked for Warren. After a massive fire, Fievel wakes up in an orphanage, pining for his family but Papa and the others are right next to him and celebrate the joyful reunion.

The little mouse’s story charmed audiences all over the world and became the highest grossing, non-Disney animated movie at the time. A number of veteran actors lent their voices, including Dom DeLuise, Christopher Plummer, Madeline Kahn and Hal Smith (“Otis” on The Andy Griffith Show), as well as Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram, who scored a #2 hit, two Grammy Awards and an Academy Award nomination for Best Song with their rendition of “Somewhere Out There” for the closing credits.

An American Tail spawned a well-received sequel five years later, called An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, as well as a television series and two direct-to-disc offerings. Fievel would also become the mascot for Spielberg’s animation studio, Amblimation, as well as a mascot for the international organization, UNICEF. Not bad for a rodent immigrant with humble beginnings, proving that America is truly the land of opportunity.

If you count An American Tail as one of the beloved animated films from your childhood, we’d love to hear all of your thoughts and memories in our comments section below.

One Response to “An American Tail”

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  1. Gina says:

    American Tail was good, but not good enough for me to buy a copy of the movie. I did; however, get the soundtrack to it and its sequel. The sequel was entertaining enough, but not as epic as the first. I thought about watching the direct-to-disc sequels, but never got the chance. I saw one episode of the TV series and liked it, but I did not pursue it further.
    I believe An American Tail was the first animated film to have a pop hit (“Somewhere Out There”) that was sung by different talent than in the actual movie. (And, for the record, I prefer Fievel and Tayna’s version to the pop version.)
    I was on a cruise ship once and saw a musical variety show. While “Somewhere Out There” played, a man and a woman danced suggestively. I didn’t like that, because the song was between a brother and sister, not lovers!

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