Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Tom Thumb [1958]

UK live-action/Animated Movie (1958). MGM/Galaxy. Pr George Pal. Dir Pal. Spfx Tom Howard. Anim Wah Chang, Gene Warren. Screenplay Ladislas Fodor. Based on the tale by the Grimm Brothers. Starring Jessie Matthews (Jonathan's wife Anna), Bernard Miles (Honest Jonathan), Peter Sellers (Anthony), Russ Tamblyn (Tom Thumb), Terry-Thomas (Ivan), June Thorburn (Queen of the Forest), Alan Young (Woody). Voice actors Stan Freberg, Dal McKennon. 98 mins. Colour.

A Grimms' Fairytale – with several others admixed, plus strong flavourings of Collodi's Pinocchio – rendered as a children's musical comedy/adventure might not seem a recipe for commercial or aesthetic success, yet this is one of the most famous children's movies ever made ... or perhaps notorious, because many children were terrified by it. For the driving force of TT is the impotence of the very small, an impotence all too familiar to children: for example, a famous scene in which Tom Thumb struggles to avoid being crushed under hundreds of chaotically dancing feet at a fair must strike a chord in most infant hearts.

What marks TT out is Pal's sense of spectacle, apparent even in this very localized, unambitious tale. The prolific spfx (with much use of animation, almost exclusively stop-motion) are startling, and blend almost seamlessly into the live-action; each time one is led to accept the impossible, a new and even more lavish effect extends the range of one's credulity. The movie is far from flawless; for example, Tom's US brashness jars amid an almost exclusively English cast – though it may have been intended to impart a Trickster spin to his characterization. Yet good performances from all back up the spfx. A nice Recursive touch is that one of the books in Tom's nursery is a collected Grimms' Fairy Tales.

Alan Young, here the youthful romantic support, was later to become one of Disney's most significant voice actors, notably as Scrooge McDuck. Dallas (here listed as "Dal") McKennon was another Disney stalwart, his many voice roles for the studio including Owl in Sleeping Beauty (1959). [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.