Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tuesday animation: Thumbelina

So, before there was DreamWorks, there was another animation company that used to compete with Disney films, and that was Don Bluth Entertainment.  Don Bluth films resembled Disney films so much that still today, people mistake them for being Disney films.  The film randomly selected for today, Don Bluth's Thumbelina, is no exception.  It's got that Disney vibe and tone, but it is definitely a style different from real Disney films.

This film came out when I was exactly the right age to enjoy the film.  I was six-years-old and loved princesses, especially animated ones that sing and go on magical adventures.  Thumbelina was, therefore, a favorite movie of mine.  I remember having a poster for the movie in the room that my sister and I used to share.  As an adult, I understand that it is not really that great, but the nostalgia factor alone makes me still love the movie today.  I think many girls my age probably feel the same way.

(Screencaps from DisneyScreencaps.com.)

Overview: Thumbelina is an animated musical film directed by Don Bluth and released by Warner Bros. Family Entertainment in 1994.  It was not well-received, flopped at the box office, and even won a Razzie for Worst Original Song.

Art: It's commonly mistaken for a Disney film, but it certainly not Disney quality animation.  It's fluid and colorful with good lip movements and angles.  Shading is decent.  There are also some nice scenes and backgrounds.  However, the CG effects really stick out and detract from the look of the film.  The style looks Disney-ish, but the inconsistency in how the characters look is kind of jarring.  I would never describe Thumbelina as gorgeous, but she is pretty and cute for the most part, but sometimes, she is actually quite ugly.  Same thing with her fairy prince, Cornelius, but he suffers even more.  I rarely find him to be attractive.  The other non-human characters look pretty cartoony which contrasts strangely with the realism of Thumbelina's and Cornelius's looks.  The style overall isn't really impressive.  There are no scenes that take my breath away.  It's eye-catching enough for a children's film, but on an artistic level, it's pretty lacking.

I like the stained glass window.

I like the details here.

Pretty colors!
Sound: Good quality, clear and crisp as expected for a modern movie.  I enjoyed all of the voice acting, especially Carol Channing as Ms. Fieldmouse, Gilbert Gottfried as Berkeley Beetle, Charo as Mrs. Toad, and Jodi Benson as Thumbelina.  What's interesting about Jodi is that she has a great voice, but it's not distinctive, so I never felt like I was really listening to Ariel from the Little Mermaid (perhaps her most famous role).  Is that a good thing?  I'm not sure, but she is good, very cute, sweet, and innocent.  Gottfried always makes me laugh with his obnoxious voice.  The acting was okay overall.  Not great, but for an animated children's movie, it's fine.  The music is probably what I remember most.  Barry Manilow wrote the songs, and while one of them isn't so good ("Marry the Mole"), the rest are lovely and enjoyable.  "Let Me Be Your Wings" can bring tears to my eyes if I listen to it in the right mood.  None of the songs are spectacular, though.  This could certainly never be adapted into a Broadway musical.

Story: The story is based on the original fairytale about a young girl no bigger than a human thumb.  After meeting a fairy prince, she is kidnapped and subsequently goes on an adventure to return home and reunite with her prince.  I couldn't really say what the moral is.  It's just a cute little story about a tiny girl in a big world.  The characters aren't bad or annoying, but they aren't very interesting either, not even the title character.  Thumbelina is unbelievably naive, though, believing everything she is told and willing to go along with almost anything.  When kidnapped by the toads, she actually agrees to perform with them.  Upon meeting the Beetle, she agrees to go with him to the Beetle Ball and believes that she is ugly when he tells her so even though he was just raving about her beauty.  When taken in by Ms. Fieldmouse, she agrees to marry Mr. Mole.  In that sense, I guess the film can get a little annoying, but at the same time, it just shows that Thumbelina simply hasn't been alive for very long and literally has no idea what she is doing.  Did she learn anything in the end?  To be honest, it's difficult to tell for sure, but it does seem like she grows up at least a little.  The story is cute, sweet, and innocent overall, but not much else.  It has so little depth that it actually ends up being kind of silly.

I really like this outfit!

Thumbelina and Cornelius both kind of look ugly in this picture.
Personal appeal: I love this film, but that's probably because I saw it for the first time at the perfect age.  Seeing this film makes me happy, and I never get bored of it.  When it comes to nostalgia, this film know how to create it.  It's got that prefect blend of princesses, fairies, music, and innocence that can make a movie nostalgia for a little girl.  I recognize that it's a weak film with bland characters and silly plot points, but that doesn't stop me from enjoying the film whenever I watch it.

I couldn't recommend this film to anyone other than animation buffs and little girls, but I would say to anyone that does decide to watch it to not judge it too harshly. Just take it for what it is, a cute children's film with little depth but a fair amount of heart.  Overall, I give this film two peridots out of five.


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