My opinion right after watching the film
My opinion right after watching the film is that it was a borefest, and I don’t really feel like it was an actual movie. It just seemed like it was weak plot convenience and device after plot convenience and device taking place without any characterization, any depth, or any fluidity. It wasn’t a horrible viewing experience, or a pain to watch, but I felt hollow the entire time.
The film started production in February 1991, but most of the recording and animation did not start until early 1992. Around this time, Don Bluth Entertainment filed bankruptcy, so they had to get the funds for this film from John Boorman, and Hong-Kong based Media Assets. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer were supposed to distribute it in North America, and J&M Entertainment to do it overseas, with a Thanksgiving 1993 release, but both companies pulled out of it after the bankruptcy. Warnee Brothers picked it up for distribution in 1993.
The film starts with some bird named Jacquimo (Gino Conforti) singing for some reason a widowed woman (Barbara Cook) who wanted a child, so she went to a witch, who gave her a seed to plant, and Thumbelina (Jodi Benson) came from it. Instead of showing Thumbelina’s upbringing, her bond with her mother, or….. any sort of character development, we rush to her wanting romance. It is also ironic to say rushed, since there is so much padding, but not much characterization or plots take place. And how old is Thumbelina? There is no thought of time or storytelling purposes. She could be a day old, or 20 years old, but it’s all ignored.
We have some creature that is half-frog and half-human Mrs. Toad (Charo) kidnap her, so she can be a art of some dancing entourage to make money, and to marry her son Grundel (Joe Lynch). The annoying bird comes to save her from the frogs, only for the lilypad she is on to get influenced by the tide. They land with a bunch of his friends, who decide to watch out for her, after he is instructed of where Cornelius lives. This movie goes into song way too many times, and none of the songs hold any weight regarding the plot, or further characterization. Berkeley Beetle (Gilbert Gottfried) scares off the bugs, and takes Thumbelina to sing in his beetle show, coercing her to do so first. This filler takes place, and while performing, her bug disguise comes off, and she is tossed away after being declared ugly.
Anyways, Thumbelina is saddened about being called ugly, is cheered up by Jacquimbo, who tells her that he will bring the prince to her, before flying off again. Cornelius ended up falling in the frozen lake, and something happened to Jacquimbo’s wing, so she is taken to Miss. Fieldmouse (Carol Channing)’s home to sing a horrible song about how Cornelius is DEAD, DEAD, DEAD. Fieldmouse is also trying to convince Thumbelina to marry her rich neighbor Mr. Mole (John Hurt), since that is all Thumbelina is useful for, and reduced to. She is about to marry Mr. Mole, but remembers her Cornelius and rejects him (and all of the others who kidnapped her in this film). Cornelius returns to Thumbelina somehow in a manner that I don’t care to remember, and they get married.
What characters? Seriously? Our “main character” Thumbelina was a plot device to develop a cheap romance, and a rushed sense of existence. Developing a romance arc is fine, but you need strong characters, meaningful conversations in order for a romance to develop. We never saw her grow into herself before the romance was developed, she did not learn anything, and didn’t have trials and tribulations for her to focus on as a character. Cornelius is a half-dimensional love interest who is as transparent and shallow as his fairy wings, and don’t even get me started on the others. Jacquimbo is completely useless and irritating the entire way through, and the others are non-factors.
I will say that the animation is better than it was in Rock-A-Doodle, and some of the other films, though it’s clear that there was a smaller budget. Otherwise, it is the typical Bluth animation style with the character and setting designs, though I love how vibrant the colours are.
The music is…….. bad. I should clarify that the songs are really bad, but the score in itself is relatively fine. Either way, there is a generic vibe with the music overall, and it doesn’t help that it is mixed with bad and pointless songs that just serve as painful filler.
Reception at Release
When the film was released on March 30th, 1994, it grossed $11.4 million in domestically, wityh a $28 million budget, meaning that the studio had another flop on their hands. Critically, it was panned from the few people who took the time to review it, since people just found it weak, and too kiddy. Not only that, but it won a Razzie for the Worst Song called “Marry the Mole”.
My recollection of the reception today is that while it has a small cult following, a lot of people still really dislike this film…… the people who actually took the care to watch this movie.
16/40 = 40%
One thought on “Don Bluth/20th Century Fox/Blue Sky review: Thumbelina”
Yeah, you’re pretty much right!