Warner Bros. attempts to capture some of the magic of recent Disney cartoon features with this animated musical adaptation of the classic children's tale. Though beautifully designed and expertly animated, THUMBELINA offers little of Disney's wit, character development, or memorable
In a storybook 18th-century Paris, Jacquimo (Gino Conforti), a bluebird, narrates the tale of Thumbelina. A lonely woman (Barbara Cook) waters a barleycorn plant, and when a tiny adolescent girl (Jodi Benson) emerges, she names her Thumbelina and resolves to raise her as a daughter. Thumbelina,
frustrated by being so tiny in a world designed for much bigger creatures, sings about the equally diminutive fairy prince and longs for him to take her away.
Hearing her song, the prince, Cornelius (Gary Imhoff), flies into her room and takes her for a ride over the countryside, where they meet the "jitterbugs," a community of friendly insects. He also takes her to a showboat, where Ma Toad (Charo) and her three sons perform. Squiring Thumbelina
home, he promises to return for her the next day. Later that night, however, Ma Toad abducts the girl. The toads try to entice Thumbelina into a life of show business, but she rejects the proposal of Grundel (Joe Lynch), one of the toad sons, and is stranded on a lily pad. Jacquimo rescues
Thumbelina and offers to search for the Vale of Fairies and locate the prince.
When Cornelius learns that the toads have taken Thumbelina, he asks his parents to delay the winter frost until he finds her, but they can give him only one extra day. Trying to find her way home through the woods, Thumbelina encounters the garrulous Mr. Beetle (Gilbert Gottfried), who offers
her a job singing at his night club, the Beetle Ballroom; however, she's jeered off the stage by the insect crowd and fired.
Grundel sets out to find Thumbelina. He locates Mr. Beetle, who suggests they kidnap the prince and wait for Thumbelina to come to his aid. Winter arrives, and Cornelius falls into a frozen pond; Mr. Beetle finds the prince and takes him, frozen in a block of ice, to Grundel. Meanwhile,
Thumbelina is taken in by Miss Fieldmouse (Carol Channing), who tells her that the prince has frozen to death. She takes the grief-stricken girl to visit the acquisitive Mr. Mole (John Hurt), who arranges to marry Thumbelina. Mr. Beetle, hearing of the match, warns the toad. The two of them head
for the mole's underground dwelling, leaving behind the frozen prince, who is thawed out by the jitterbugs.
At the wedding ceremony, Thumbelina comes to her senses and flees to the surface just as Grundel and Mr. Beetle arrive. The prince appears, just missing Thumbelina, and duels with the toad. Above ground, Jacquimo arrives to tell Thumbelina that he's found the Vale of Fairies. He flies Thumbelina
to a barren weed patch and implores her to sing. The beauty of her song lures the fairies, including the prince. As Jacquimo asserts, "Of course, they lived happily ever after."
With such accomplished, original animated features as AN AMERICAN TAIL (1986) and THE LAND BEFORE TIME (1988) to his credit, former Disney animator Don Bluth has staked a claim as Disney's only real American rival in feature-length animation. THUMBELINA, however, compares unfavorably to recent
Disney efforts, lacking their feisty, winsome heroines, cleverly adapted fairy tale elements, and amusingly eccentric supporting characters. Moreover, while Disney has been able to exploit the talents of Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and similarly accomplished songsmiths, Bluth is saddled with Barry
Manilow, whose insipid songs and lackluster arrangements stop the film in its tracks.
As in ALADDIN (1992), the classic story is made more commercial via the inclusion of contemporary elements, notably the nightclub setting of the Beetle Ballroom and the Vegas-style insect chorus that accompanies one of Thumbelina's songs. Unfortunately, THUMBELINA has little of the genuine humor
or divertingly frenetic delivery of ALADDIN. While its time-tested story line, abrasive characters, and eye-catching animation may appeal to children, the film offers little to hold the interest of parents.
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