Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
American Tail, An

US/Irish Animated Movie (1986). Universal/Steven Spielberg/Amblin. Pr Don Bluth, Gary Goldman, John Pomeroy. Exec pr Kathleen Kennedy, David Kirschner, Frank Marshall, Spielberg. Dir Bluth. Spfx dir anim Dorse A Lanpher. Screenplay Judy Freudberg, Tony Geiss. Based on story by Kirschner. Voice actors Cathianne Blore (Bridget), Betsy Cathcart (Tanya Mousekewitz singing), Dom DeLuise (Tiger), John Finneggan (Warren T Rat), Phillip Glasser (Feivel/Fievel Mousekewitz), Amy Green (Tanya Mousekewitz), Madeline Kahn (Gussie Mausheimer), Pat Musick (Tony Toponi), Christopher Plummer (Henri), Neil Ross (Honest John), Will Ryan (Digit). 80 mins. Colour.

In 1885 the Mousekewitz family, being Jewish mice, flee Russia for the USA, because "there are no cats in America, and the streets are paved with cheese"; this Fairytale is compared with the legend of the Giant Mouse of Minsk, who terrified all the cats there. A storm at sea separates young Fievel from his parents and sister; by the time they are reunited they, along with countless other mice plus the friendly cat Tiger, must thwart Warren T Rat, a cat disguised as a rat, who plots to enslave all immigrant mice; eventually Fievel succeeds through drawing upon the Legend of the Giant Mouse of Minsk. The Allegory with the plight of 19th-century Europeans fleeing to the USA, and of their exploitation there, is bitterly worked out: AAT, in its Satire of capitalist exploitation, is for the most part a very disillusioned-seeming movie.

This was Bluth's second animated feature after he had led a walkout from Disney in 1979 (the credits are littered with ex-Disney artists) and is his masterpiece. The animators play interesting Trompe-L'oeil games with Perception (the storm-waves at sea are seen by Fievel as water-Monsters or -Devils) and Surrealism (notably in several of the sung set-pieces). However, the allegory trips itself up in places: the "cats", of course, were not all driven out of the USA; and the prevailing ethic within the immigrant mouse community, that mousehood is more important than national origin, suggests the very racism the moviemakers were trying so hard to negate. Yet with AAT Bluth put commercial animation back on centre stage as a legitimate vehicle of serious moviemaking. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.