An American Tail

An American Tail ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Director: Don Bluth. Erica YohnNehemiah PersoffAmy Green, Christopher Plummer

I don’t think I had seen it since the 80s when it was first released. At the time it wasn’t well received as it seemed to go back to old style animation of the 40s instead of trying to push the boundaries forward. It was also a fairly downbeat and dark tale, which lacked the a lot of the humour cartoons were trying to inject at the time (famously Roger Ebert called it “the most depressing children’s movies of all time”) as it seemed to arch back to the mood of Dickens (though transported in America), serving more asa parable for the Holocaust, the Jews persecuted di Russia, and the many stories of immigrants to America. Some of those stories were told to Spielberg (the instigator and producer of this) from his grandfather and a lot of them ended up in this film. All this was clearly a response not just to Disney’s more and more childish and straight forward adaptations of the past few years, but mainly to the cheap techniques from the 70s and early 80s which made Disney animation less magic than it had ever been. Producer and director Don Bluth was actually a key animator on several of those films and often criticise them for looking more and more like TV cartoons. Here the animation, though fairly conventional in terms of camera movements, is beautifully realised, with each single frame painstakingly and lovingly hand-drawn, while the pastel backgrounds have a warm and painterly feel to them in stark contrast to what was being offered at the time.Back in 1986 when this was first released “An American Tail” was the biggest box office of any non-Disney animated feature (It even topped Disney’s The great Mouse detective from the same year) and to a degree its pure existence (and some of the subsequent Bluth’s productions) is credited to be one of the reasons for Disney finally deciding to up their game during what was going to be their golden era (which started with the little Mermaid). In a way the film was a also precursor of what Disney would become with those big Hollywood-style musical pieces (here “There will be no cats in America” is staged and sounds like future Disney hits like “Under the sea” or “Be our Guests”), but also some more care and attention given to the animation, something which had not been seen in a while. It may not be an instant classic nor one of those to revisit over and over again, but it’s certainly an interesting one which deserves to be re-discovered and gain its place in film history. I’ve not seen any of its sequels (one released to the cinema and 2 straight to video) not its TV series (with 13 episodes). Has anyone?

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