Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Year 9, Day 46 - 2/15/17 - Movie #2,546

BEFORE: From a dystopian future fascist story to an animated fairy-tale romance - it seems I'm all over the place thematically, I know.  But this film allows John Hurt to carry over from "1984" - he provides the voice of the Mole character tonight - and this film links to a Debbie Reynolds film tomorrow, which allows me to start the 2nd half of my February chain, featuring classic films with not only Debbie, but also Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Fred Astaire, in that order.  I promise this chain will start to make some more sense tomorrow.

I had this film positioned next to a few other fairy-tale based films, some animated and some live-action, but this film just refused to link to any of them, because it has such an eclectic cast.  It's got the same lead voice actress as "The Little Mermaid", so that was probably my best chance to link to it thematically as well, but that chance came and went.  When I saw Kenneth Mars pop up earlier this year in 2 films I had another shot, but dropping a fairy-tale film in the middle of a political chain felt like too much of an interruption.  Fairy-tale films are mostly about love and romance, right?  So this can totally be part of the Valentine's Day chain, and I'll deal with the other fantasy/fairy-tale films later on. 

I was almost on the same page as TCM, they've got a couple films about fairies and mermaids, but that's on Friday.  Here's their "31 Days of Oscar" schedule for tomorrow, 2/16:
6:30 AM Madame Curie (1943)
8:45 AM Madame X (1929)
10:30 AM The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
12:15 PM Magnificent Obsession (1954)
2:15 PM The Magnificent Yankee (1950)
3:45 PM A Majority of One (1961)
6:15 PM The Maltese Falcon (1941)
8:00 PM The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
10:15 PM The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
12:30 AM McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971)
3:00 AM Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
5:00 AM Merrily We Live (1938)

Since I hit with Warren Beatty three times already this year, I'm going to record "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" - I can probably pair it on a DVD with "The Outlaw Josey Wales", coming up on Sunday.  If I count that one, I'm good for 5 of these films, including "The Magnificent Ambersons", "The Maltese Falcon", "The Man Who Knew too Much" and "Meet Me in St. Louis".  I almost hit for 50% today, and another 5 out of 12 brings me up to 68 seen out of 176. 

THE PLOT: A tiny girl meets a fairy prince who saves her from the creatures of the woods.

AFTER: I kind of don't know what to think about animator Don Bluth - I mean, he's directed some popular films, like "Anastasia", "An American Tail" and "The Land Before Time".  Those were the hits, but his resume is studded with just as many misses - "The Pebble and the Penguin", "A Troll in Central Park" and "Rock-a-Doodle", for example.  And every time I read about him, I find out that he had some dispute with this studio or that distributor, or he quit some film halfway through, and that makes him sound like a difficult person to work with, plus his studios were always shutting down due to bankruptcy or some studio pulling their financing.

The most popular things he ever animated weren't even movies, they were the console video-games "Dragon's Lair" and "Space Ace", which represented a unique interaction between animation and gamers, where the gamers controlled the animation (or was it the other way around?) and anyone with a roll of quarters and about a week to spare could eventually get to the end of the games, if they could memorize all of the moves.

But somewhere between "All Dogs Go to Heaven" and "Anastasia", Bluth animated "Thumbelina", based on Hans Christian Andersen's story of a girl who's very small, and that's about the only notable thing about her.  Well, she was grown from a flower seed, but it's not really clear how that's possible - and like her adult female counterparts of the time, she longed for a fairy prince to come and rescue her from the drudgery of her life.  After all, do you realize how hard it is to work on a farm when you're only a few inches tall?

I suppose her singing voice also helps her stand out - that's what gets her noticed when the fairy prince does ride by on his bumblebee.  His parents, the fairy king and queen, are responsible for turning the season to winter - but I'm not sure what role the prince plays in all of that.  Despite falling in love with the prince, Thumbelina gets kidnapped by a female toad that runs a traveling show, so that she can marry one of her toad sons.  Despite her constant complaining that she needs to return home, she sure seems like she would rather go out on tour with the toads, so there feels like there's some inconsistency there.

Meanwhile, Cornelius, the prince, gets frozen in ice, which keeps him from searching for Thumbelina, who escapes from the toads and then gets drafted by Mr. Beetle to sings at the Beetle Ball (it seems every forest creature wants something from her...) and Jacquimo the swallow isn't much help, because he'll say things like "Come on, I'll help you get home!" but then fly up above the treetops to get a better view, and then not return.  How frustrating.

And when Thumbelina takes refuge from the winter in the home of Mrs. Fieldmouse, she's further waylaid when the mouse brings her to see Mr. Mole, so that she can become the Mole's wife.  Can she find her way back to her home, can the prince get unfrozen and find her, and will the toad find someone else to marry her son?  Well, it's a fairy tale, so what do you think?

Also starring the voices of Jodi Benson (last heard in "The Little Mermaid"), Gary Imhoff, Gino Conforti (last seen in "Angels & Demons"), Kenneth Mars (last seen in "Night Moves"), June Foray (last heard in "Mulan"), Charo (last seen in "Moon Over Parador"), Barbara Cook, Will Ryan (last heard in "The Pebble and the Penguin"), Gilbert Gottfried (last seen in "A Million Ways to Die in the West"), Carol Channing, Joe Lynch, Danny Mann, Loren Lester, Tony Jay.

RATING: 4 out of 10 jitterbugs

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