Western Animation: An American Tail aka: Fievels American Tails
A collaboration between Don Bluth and Steven Spielberg, An American Tail starts off on Hanukkah in 1885, opening in a Russian schtetl. The camera pans past the house belonging to the human Moskowitz family to reveal a tiny duplicate house inhabited by the Mousekewitz family. They are Jewish-Russian mice who are forced to escape persecution after their village is destroyed in a pogromby Cossack cats.Believing in the American dream they head to New York City by boat because "there are no cats in America, and the streets are paved with cheese." The hero, a little mouse named Fievel, is washed overboard in a storm, and his search for his family, who believe he is dead and therefore aren't looking for him, forms the bulk of the film. Once arriving in America, all mice immediately discover that there are indeed cats in America. They begin living in a typical late 19th century immigrant manner: working in a sweatshop, living in horrible conditions, being extorted by gangs and living in constant fear of being eaten.note Okay, that last one is specific to immigrant mice, but you get the picture.Such is the plot of the most popular animated film of the 1980s that doesn't involve a singing crab. It was a surprise hit at the box office in 1986, and it became the highest grossing animated film of all time, much to Disney's sheer horror. It would keep this title until the debut of the nextDon Bluth film, The Land Before Time. One important thing to come of all this was that the film displayed that animation could still be profitable at a time when the industry was in a slump, and caused Disney to step up its game in face of the competition. So in a way, this very film triggered a chain reaction that brought about The Renaissance Age of Animation.Tellingly, more people remember the song "Somewhere Out There" than, say, the immigrant struggle aspect.Almost as well known is the Lighter and SofterContested Sequel, Fievel Goes West, in which the Mousekewitz family, still dirt poor and at the mercy of ever-more-sophisticated cats, flee New York for the Wild West (made without Bluth's involvement, but with Spielberg still on board), but largely forgotten is the short-lived TV series in the same setting, and two additional DTV sequels (The Treasure of Manhattan Island and Mystery of the Night Monster) that played fast and loose with the established continuity, and had no involvement from the original creators. Have we mentioned that Don Bluth films tend to suffer from this sort of thing?note Let's just be glad the number of movies made never reached double digits.
Are We There Yet?: Fievel asks this on the boat ride to America in the first movie, and on the train ride out west in Fievel Goes West.
Armed With Canon: Fievel Goes West, the Lighter and Softer first sequel which Don Bluth wasn't involved with, seemed to take a few shots at the first movie (such as Tanya getting tomatoes thrown at her for singing "Somewhere Out There", and New York turning out to be a Crapsack World), and in general carried itself as if Lighter and Softer equaled better. Then the third movie came along, with yet another different team of writers. Fievel wasn't out west anymore, but in New York, and the writers decided to throw in a Wham Line about Fievel having a dream where he moved out west, implying that the second movie is now Canon Discontinuity. They then proceeded to erase the Love Interest of Tony Toponi from the first film and pair him with their new character (which didn't even work in-story).
Award Bait Song: "Somewhere Out There" in the first movie. They tried to do it again in the sequels, "Dreams to Dream" from Fievel Goes West being the only other remotely successful attempt, as it also received a Linda Ronstadt cover.
The Big Rotten Apple: The films aren't afraid to show New York's dark side, reflecting 'Gilded Age' New York. The first film shows a dirty New York run by cat gangs and filled with homeless orphans, Fievel Goes West portrays it as dirty, polluted, noisy and dangerous, and The Treasure of Manhattan even highlights Police Brutality, sweatshops and racism.
To be fair, at least some of the cats do human-like evil things to the mice such as terrorizing them into paying a protection racket or selling them to sweatshop labor factories rather then eating them.
Don Bluth said once in an interview that "We knew that if we were going to say "all cats are bad," we wanted to have at least one "good" one...and that's Tiger."
Crowd Song: Three: "There Are No Cats in America", from the first movie, "Way Out West" from the second, and "We Live in Manhattan" from the third.
Depending on the Artist: The art style varied greatly in the sequels. The only two movies in the series with nearly the same animation style are the direct-to-video sequels (there are only subtle differences between the two since the third film was a co-production with Tokyo Movie Shinsha (now known as TMS Entertainment) while the fourth one was shipped off to by Tama Productions). Even then, Tanya still somehow managed to look completely different in both movies (she's the character who goes through the most extreme design changes from movie to movie).
Expressive Ears: Fievel's ears seem to move around the most, going down when he's sad and up when he's alert or listening for his Papa. At least when his hat doesn't get in the way.
Flintstone Theming: The mice in the series all have names that are puns on mice or cheese. Mousekewitz, for example, is based on the real Russian-Jewish surname Moskowitz (seen at the start of the first movie).
Good Animals, Evil Animals: Mice are good, cats are generally evil; with a few exceptions on either side (the villains of the third movie are mice, and the first movie had the bullying orphans).
Hair Decorations: In the first movie and for the rest of the series. Especially in the first movie for Tanya, who without her babushka looks like she could be Fievel's twin sister. Bridget provides a rare example of this trope being played on a older (teen-aged?) character. And later in the series Yasha sports a large pink bow.
Humanoid Female Animal: Bridget is the best example in the first movie (even having flesh-colored, very human-looking hands), the sequels do it more though. Female characters tend to have much smaller hands and feet in the series.
Image Song: The "Fievel and Friends" album is made up of these. Released around when Fievel Goes West came out, it's sung by characters from the movies, of which only Fievel is being voiced by his real voice actor.
Informed Judaism: Fievel's Jewishness is barely touched upon really. If you weren't paying attention you might not even know that they are celebrating Hanukkah at the beginning of the first movie, or notice the Yiddish text on the briefly-seen memorial the family has for Fievel when they think he's dead. And their Jewish heritage is all but buried in the sequels.
That may just sadly be a case of Truth in Television, as emigrating in those days more often caused families to forget their old culture.
On the plus side, Papa is the mouse equivalent of Tevye.
The Kids Are American: Mama and Papa have Russian accents, while Fievel and Tanya don't. This might be more believable if they didn't already have the American accents before moving to America.
Limited Wardrobe: Applies to most of the characters. Fievel's always got his red sweatshirt, blue pants and iconic hat. Granted, he turns it inside out and it becomes a cowboy hat (somehow) in Fievel Goes West and he wears a yellow neckerchief. Averted entirely with Tanya.
Mouse World: A world which even has its own equivalent of human legends; the "Giant Mouse of Minsk" is an obvious allusion to the Golem of Prague.
Panty Shot: Tanya has a tendency to show off her white bloomers - though arguably in an innocent manner (except in her saloon getup in Fievel Goes West, where they seem to serve as a G-rated substitute for the more revealing garments worn by real-life saloon girls).
Most of the overseas translations weren't able to incorporate this trope, but the German version, Feivel Der Mauswanderer, pulled it off (the word for emigrant is "auswanderer", so add an 'm' and it becomes a cute mouse pun).
Punny Name: The villains Warren T. Rat (warranty) and Cat R. Waul (caterwaul). The fourth film had Reed Daley (read daily), a newspaper editor.
Species Surname: Though they get creative with it. Mousekewitz, Toponi, etc.
Spell My Name with an S: Fievel's name is listed as 'Feivel' in the beginning credits of the first movie, which is the correct yiddish spelling. The spelling was changed to 'Fievel' to avoid confusing American audiences who might otherwise pronounce it as 'Fay-vel', but in other countries where the movie was released the 'Feivel' spelling was left intact.
An episode of Fievel's American Tails in which Fievel's Aunt Sophie comes to visit gives Papa the name Bernard. That's if you count anything from the TV series as canon, because it even contradicts Fievel Goes West at times...
Weirdness Censor: Not once do the humans ever find it odd that they're surrounded by clothed mice and cats. No one notices the Giant Mouse of Minsk either. This continues in all other sequels and adaptations, stretched to even more ridiculous heights in all three sequels.
An American Tail
Absurdly-Spacious Sewer: Complete with the hideout of the Mott Street Maulers (containing a piano, tables, and other odd things that don't belong in a sewer), a big room with discarded bird cages, and a weird...bug-eating..reptile...thing...
Aluminum Christmas Trees: The Statue of Liberty's golden yellow color in the film wasn't just artistic license; when the statue was first built it really was that color. It slowly rusted to its current green color over subsequent decades.
Anachronism Stew: A group of children are shown reciting the Pledge of Allegiance which wouldn't be invented until 1892, and they add 'Under God', which wouldn't be added until 1951. And they have their hands over their hearts (due to Unfortunate Implications they couldn't have had them using the original salute, which was the original form of the Nazi salute). "The Stars and Stripes Forever" is played in the phonograph even if the song wasn't published until 1897. The majority of the movie takes place in 1886-ish.
Cat Stereotype: Tiger (orange) is the one good cat. In the first sequel his love interest is light grey.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Yasha Mousekewitz, the baby who inexplicably disappears midway through the movie. (She comes back in the sequels however.) One could say that she's being watched by a nanny at the time of the climax in the original film.
Contrived Coincidence: Fievel gets washed overboard in a raging storm in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Instead of drowning, he somehow ends up inside a floating glass bottle, which somehow ends up washing ashore right onto Ellis Island, which coincidentally is near New York, where Fievel's family was headed. Luck and the ocean currents were definitely on little Fievel's side, apparently.
Crapsack World: Russia and New York are essentially portrayed as this. New York gets worse in the sequel.
Cue the Rain: As Fievel, all alone, curls up in Orphan Alley to cry, it starts to rain.
Cut Song: Fievel was supposed to have another song in the sweatshop.
Digital Destruction: The DVD release was horribly tampered with, as is discussed on this forum. Background music and sound effects were changed or added, new voice-overs were inserted, and the orphans who bully Fievel near the end have different voices (though at least the added/alternate dialogue was from the original recording sessions, even for the orphans - if you look at the lip sync of the animation, you can see that their mouth movements match the voices on the DVD version. It still doesn't excuse it, though).
Dreadful Musician: Warren T. Rat plays a very cringe-worthy rendition of "Beautiful Dreamer" on his violin during the sewer scene. He claims it's because "his nose keeps getting in the way". Granted, this may be justified as he is wearing a fake rat nose.
Early-Bird Cameo: Tony gets one when Fievel is first sold into a sweatshop, and later as the sweatshop employees are in bed one of the orphans who shows up much later in the movie can be seen.
Expy: Though there somewhat in all the films, especially strong here. Honest John, for example, is one for the Tammany Hall politicians of that era.
Failed a Spot Check: Fievel and his family keep missing each other when they're nearby. Perhaps the most frustrating time is when Fievel is at the podium at a rally that all the mice in New York are at, and his sister Tanya can't see him because someone's hat is in the way.
Fantastic Racism: The mice represent the disenfranchised races of the world, and the cats represent their oppressors. In Fievel's Russian hometown, the cats are antisemitic Cossack raiders. In Sicily, they're gangsters. And in Ireland, they're the British.
From Bad to Worse: The mice from various countries, fleeing oppression in their homelands at the hands of cats, in the belief that in America prosperity is plentiful and cats are scarce. Needless to say, their troubles don't end upon reaching the docks.
Gratuitous French: Henry the pigeon, who builts and lives in the Statue of Liberty. When you take into account that the statue is a gift to the United States from the people of France, it makes sense.
Gravity Is A Harsh Seamstress: After being hurled out a window by a frightened lady, Fievel falls through a sock hanging on a clothesline that had a hole at the end, and then grabs onto a hanging head scarf, using it to parachute the rest of the way down.
Kick the Dog: We know Warren is evil after he sells Fievel into a sweatshop for 50 cents.
Kids Are Cruel: The kids Fievel meets in Orphan Alley convince Fievel that he'll never find his family, and then shove him into a puddle and throw hay at him so he can make a bed.
Kill It with Fire: Warren's solution to dealing with the mice after he's exposed as a cat. He sets the museum on fire.
Living Statue: Apparently the Statue of Liberty is one. It winks at Fievel at the end.
Long Bus Trip: Or in Warren's case, a long ship trip, as he's shipped off to Hong Kong and never returns in the sequels. He realized that Hong Kong would have millions of mice waiting for them, so they were okay with being sent there.
Long Song, Short Scene: For some reason the jazzy background orchestration for Warren's first scene is completely absent from the soundtrack, and thus is impossible to find anywhere.
Lost at Sea: Fievel gets washed overboard, and floats to New York in a bottle.
Male Frontal Nudity: During the two scenes in which Fievel is bathing. You don't see anything. Though we're treated to an extended shot of Fievel's bare little behind as he bends over to look into a storm drain with his pants falling down.
Novelization: Yes, there was a novelization. There were a few noticeable plot changes (Fievel is in the sweatshop for much longer, Fievel and Tony search for Fievel's parents a while before he meets Bridget, and other things that never made it into the movie.) Excerpts from the novelization were given away at McDonald's.
The One Who Wears Shoes: Bridget in the first movie (though in a continuity error, she is barefoot in a couple scenes). Tanya also dons a pair of slippers in a few scenes of the sequel.
Shrine to the Fallen: Fievel's parents make a shrine to him in their new home because they think he's dead.
The Scottish Trope: For some reason the mice think the cats are more likely to come after them if they say the word 'cat' too loud.
Sequel Hook: So blatant it was used in the trailer for its sequel Fievel Goes West; when Fievel points to the horizon and asks if he can go see more of America, his pigeon friend Henri answers "Someday, you will!"
Shout Out: The attack on the mouse village in Russia and a couple of background phrases overheard at Ellis Island are shout outs to Fiddler on the Roof.
The Sicilian mouse's backstory (his mother was killed while pleading for leniency from the local mob boss) is pretty much the same as the prologue of The Godfather Part II.
To Shakespeare: Warren T. Rat is fond of incorrectly quoting Shakespeare. His accountant Digit seems to know the quotes better than he does.
Shown Their Work: The Mousekewitz family is processed through the mouse version of Castle Garden, Ellis Island's lesser known nineteenth century predecessor.
Signature Item Clue: Bridget and Tony are looking for Fievel, who got lost during the fire at the pier. Papa Mousekewitz, who had given up his son for dead, refuses to believe that it's the same Fievel Mousekewitz, until he is presented with the hat Papa gave Fievel earlier in the film.
Sleazy Politician: "Honest" John. His sleaziness mainly consists of assigning "ghost votes" to deceased mice (votes which naturally automatically go to him), making sure his name is attached to the effort to exile the cats terrorizing New York when without Fievel and Gussie Mausheimer it would have never happened, and being drunk all the time.
Stock Footage: Some of the cats are reused bits of Dragon from The Secret Of NIMH, and they all appear to owe quite a bit to his terrifying "cats as seen by mice" design. Additionally, there are moments where both the Cossack Cats and the Maulers who raid the market are the same animated cats with wardrobe changes.
Street Urchin: There are quite a few in New York, and Fievel nearly becomes one himself.
Take My Hand: Papa tries to grab Fievel's hand after he slips onto the deck of the ship. Sadly, Fievel's sleeve rips and he ends up washed overboard.
Unusually Uninteresting Sight: All over the movie. The woman who screams at Fievel when he gets stuck in her phonograph player is more scared that he's a mouse, taking no notice that he's dressed in baggy pants, a big sweater and a poofy hat, and he's bipedal. Happens quite a bit in the sequels too, for example, at Cat R. Waul's saloon.
Then there's the two humans at the park who walk right past the rather loud mouse rally taking place.
Vague Age:Tony doesn't seem that much older than Fievel, yet he is married in the first sequel. It may have all been a dream, anyway.
Watching Troy Burn: At the beginning, the village of Shostka, Russia suffers a pogrom at the hands of Russian Cossacks, and their pet cats. They set fire to most of the buildings, and after the Mousekewitz family survives the attack, they watch from a distance as their village goes up in flames. Thus, they decide to go to America.
Done within Fievel Goes West itself at the beginning where Fievel shoots a bunch of cats and gets a badge from Wylie Burp. A Dream Within a Dream if you think about it.
Some people see Fievel's dreaming in the third movie as foreshadowing.
Alternate Universe: Because of the continuity errors Fievel's American Tails seems to take place in one.
Animation Bump: Say what you will about Fievel Goes West, but you have to admit that the animation was of amazing quality, even at the time it was released—it was even better than most of the Disney films out at the time.
Ascended Extra: A few of the extras from Fievel Goes West went on to become recurring characters in Fievel's American Tails.
Ax-Crazy: Chula doesn't have the ax, but his personality fits the bill.
Chula: The inky-dinky spider, caught a mouse in its web. The inky-dinky spider bit off the mouse's head!
Babies Ever After: Tony and Bridget's Fievel Goes West cameos where they're seen with a baby.
Be Yourself: It's what both Fievel and Tanya learn by the end of Fievel Goes West, and it's shown that they've learned it more through action than words; i.e. Tanya washing her make-up off and Fievel turning his hat right-side-in so it's blue again and not a cowboy hat. Tiger goes back to acting like a cat once he saved the day.
BFG: Relatively, a human revolver operated by cats. More so in the hands of a mouse kid like Fievel.
But He Sounds Handsome: When controlling the mouse puppet, Cat R. Waul gets so into praising himself he gets distracted and forgets to control the puppet for a second.
By the Lights of Their Eyes: In Fievel Goes West when Fievel is chased into a hole by a hawk, we see only his eyes, and the eyes of an angry scorpion.
The Cameo: Tony and Bridget can be seen very briefly in a few scenes in Fievel Goes West. The most noticeable examples are during the early cat attack sequence, and when the mice arrive in Green River and move in. They can also be seen in the crowd in the sewer, and in the audience sitting in the giant mousetrap, but in those scenes they are extremely Off Model and thus can't really be distinguished without using freeze-frame.
Honest John, too. Look for him in "Way Out West."
Cassandra Truth: No one will listen to Fievel about Cat R. Waul's evil plans, except for Wylie Burp.
Cousin Oliver: Yasha Mousekewitz is somewhat elevated to this in Fievel Goes West and the series Fievel's American Tails, despite having been in the first movie (she inexplicably disappears halfway through). In all the other movies she's mostly not much more than a prop.
Desert Skull: In Fievel Goes West, Tiger runs into a buffalo skeleton that seems to come to life when he's not looking. Turns out it's being manipulated by native mice, who then capture Tiger.
Distracted by My Own Sexy: Cat R. Waul gets a little too caught up in praising himself, almost forgetting that he's supposed to be talking through his mouse puppet (which goes limp as he searches for adjectives).
Early-Bird Cameo: Cat R. Waul shows up for a brief few seconds in the day dream Fievel has at the beginning of the movie.
Family-Friendly Firearms: Fievel Goes West is a mixed example. While there are some revolvers, those only get aimed at inanimate objects or aimed so badly they don't come close to hitting anyone. When the cats (and one dog) have their shoot-out, it's with slingshots that use bullet and ricochet sound effects.
Fantastic Racism: Played with on Fievel's American Tails, where Cat R. Waul seems to adopt this attitude towards mice in general, frequently referin to them as "furballs", like a slur.
Miss Kitty: You put a mouse on that stage and your saloon's gonna be as empty as Death Valley on a cold day in June when the snow don't fall.
Cat R. Waul:What.
Freeze-Frame Bonus: Just as Cat R. Waul is picking Tanya up in his paws while she sings "Dreams to Dream", one of the animators snuck in a lewd drawing for a single frame, where she has her mouth open.
Cats and gentle mice, lend me your ears. It is my distinguished pleasure to invite all of you... to share our dinner... Triumph! To share our triumph! Today we herald in a momentous, new feast... ival. Feastival... Festival. To mark this brilliant and illustrious snack... Occasion!
Getting Crap Past the Radar: When Tiger is reunited with Miss Kitty at the end of the film, he kisses her and both tumble to the ground, out of sight of the screen. This is followed by Miss Kitty saying, "Oooo, Tiger!" As Wiley looks on, he smirks and says, "I never taught him that one."
The conductor's Ironic Echo, "Next stop: mouth, throat, stomach, intestine, and- you guessed it- Green River."
Injun Country: Played somewhat offensively straight in Fievel Goes West.
Ironic Nursery Tune: "The itsy-bitsy spiiiiiiiiiider caught a mouse in his web...the itsy-bitsy spiiiiiiiiiiiiiiider BIT OFF THE MOUSE'S HEAD!"
Just The Way You Are: This is the moral of Tanya Mousekewitz's subplot in Fievel Goes West. She gets a makeover so she can sing at Waul's saloon, but after discovering Waul is actually evil and tried to kill every mouse in Green River, she remembers what her friend Miss Kitty told her, that the real woman is what's underneath the mask, and she washes her make-up off.
Also, in a related play on this trope, Fievel realizes he can be a hero just the way he is.
Lighter and Softer: This probably had something to do with Bluth not being present. It leads to a few instances of Angst? What Angst? as mentioned above. Milage varies on whether this was good or bad, depending on how much one liked the first film.
Limited Animation: Fievel's American Tails, which is animated even worse than the later direct-to-video sequels.
Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Cat R. Waul, voiced by the extremely English John Cleese, tries to fake a Texas accent when operating his mouse marionette, but despite the liberal use of "y'all" it's... less than convincing.
Plucky Comic Relief: Tiger in Fievel Goes West. Tony Toponi takes over the job in the other sequels.
Popcorn On The Cob: During the scene in which the Native Americans are worshiping Tiger and feeding him, an ear of corn is raised over the fire, then turned into a bunch of popcorn which Tiger promptly catches in his mouth.
Put on a Bus: Cat R. Waul is defeated by being put on a train, much like how Warren was shipped off to Hong Kong. Almost all the villains in the An American Tail series are always defeated non-lethally. The exception being the spy and the corrupt police chief in the third movie, who are implied to have drowned.
Miss Kitty is put on a bus for much of Fievel's American Tails, which perhaps aided Tiger's Flanderization into a dopey bum who has nothing better to do but play with Fievel.
Reality Subtext: During the production of Fievel Goes West, Steven Spielberg had just finished a nasty divorce with Amy Irving, voice actress of Miss Kitty. What does the film introduce Miss Kitty doing? Breaking up with Tiger.
Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony: In Fievel Goes West, the opening ceremony for Cat R. Waul's saloon is a trap: cutting the ribbon would have triggered a giant mousetrap on the stands where the mice were sitting.
Rule of Funny: Tiger dancing to "Putting on the Ritz" with a skeleton for a few seconds, Tiger turning into a poodle at the mention of a dog, Tiger deflating like a balloon and falling off a cliff to a long farting sound...Fievel Goes West had way more moments like these than the first movie. Most if not all had to do with Tiger.
Sequel Goes Foreign: It follows this (though technically still in the same country there's a world of difference between New York and Green River).
Also, many of the storefronts and signs in (the human-sized) Green River have the names of crew members on them, including both of the film's directors and several of the artists responsible for the background layouts. In addition, right before Fievel dispatches the villains, you can see a nameplate on the rear of the giant mousetrap (facing upside-down) which reads "Made in Acton, London" — which was the location of the animation studio where the film was produced.
Another one involves a mouse mentioning various destinations (one while boarding, the other before narrowly escaping being eaten by Cat R. Waul) while closing each phrase with "...and Green River", likely an homage to Mel Blanc's famous Jack Benny ShowCatchphrase of a train leaving for "...Anaheim, Azuza, and Cuc-amonga".
Stock Footage: Some celebrating mice at the end of Fievel Goes West are actually reused mice from "There Are No Cats in America" from the first movie.
Too Dumb to Live: How could the entire population of mice build an enormous fully functioning mouse trap and not have any single hint of suspicion?
Plus, how could they not notice that the cats in Green River are the same ones who attacked them in New York? (Also add on how they fell for the obvious puppet ploy early in the film, including Car R. Waul even forgetting to control it whilst favourably describing himself.)
Toon Physics: What Fievel's hat apparently runs on in this film, what with turning into a cowboy hat when pulled inside-out.
Too Smart for Strangers: The Fievel's American Tails episode "A Case of the Hiccups" utterly averts this trope. When a strange doctor named Travis T. Hippocrates comes to town offering free candy, Fievel's mother allows Fievel to become the doctor's assistant, and pass out free candy to everyone in town which gives mice hiccups so he can sell them a placebo "cure". After Fievel figures out what the candy is doing he tries to back out of his "partnership", but the doctor kidnaps Fievel and traps him in a jar. Fridge Horror ensues if you consider how the real life, non G-Rated-version of this scenario would likely play out.
Training Montage: Tiger, the Cowardly Lion of the series, has a montage while training to be a dog so he can help Wiley Burp and Fievel take on Cat R. Waul. The montage includes Tiger doing push-ups, walking through tires, beating up a Cat R. Waul dummy, and fetching a bone.
Translation Convention: Averted with the Mousican chief. When he speaks to Tiger he's heard using his native tongue but there are not even subtitles. Makes you wonder what's he just saying...
Train Escape: Tiger escapes a pack of dogs by hopping on the back of a train in Fievel Goes West. That whole scene is very Looney Tunes in spirit.
Underside Ride: In Fievel Goes West, there's a train car for mice beneath the real train cars.
Vague Age: Figuring out how old Fievel and Tanya are can be very confusing. Tanya, for example, suddenly looks much older than Fievel in Fievel Goes West, while in the first movie, she looked around the same age as Fievel. And if we are to believe it's been a few years since the first movie, why is Yasha still a baby?
While Fievel and Tanya are still kids, Tony and Bridget are already married and with child.
Vocal Evolution: Fievel's voice was changing as his voice actor Phillip Glasser got older.
How about Jon Lovitz as Chula? Throughout Fievel Goes West, he seems to keep changing the type of voice he's trying to use.
"The Case of the Hiccups": where Papa sends Fievel to bed, his arm fills the screen and the scene fades to the school.
"That's What Friends Are For": near the beginning where Fievel and Tiger are chasing Chula, Both Fievel and Chula's mouths fill the screen then Tiger's stomach.
"Bell The Cats": one close to the beginning where Tiger is being chased by a dog; done with his purple shirt. And another close to the end where the all the cats were being chased by dogs; one of the dog's ears fill the screen.
Wasn't That Fun?: Fievel chimes in "Let's go on that ride again!" after he and his family have a terrifying trip down a sewer waterfall in a discarded tuna can.
Wicked Cultured: Cat R. Waul wears a top hat with a cane (though in the proper time period), speaks with a British accent, and adores high-class songs, making Tanya his own personal diva◊.
Young Gun: Fievel daydreams about being a Young Gun at the beginning of Fievel Goes West, complete with his hero Wylie Burp telling him to 'get out while he still can', and Fievel blatantly disobeying him and shooting out a gang of villainous cats.
The Direct-to-Video Sequels
Abhorrent Admirer: In The Treasure Of Manhattan Island as they reach the native village, Scuttlebutt becomes the target of an amorous, huge female mouse. Later said mouse finds out that he's a bad guy and promptly kick his ass.
Animation Bump: The third movie, which was done by TMS, has surprisingly better animation than you'd think for a direct-to-video production. The same can't be said for Mystery of the Night Monster (handled by Tama Productions).
Anywhere but Their Lips: Cholena makes it pretty clear that she doesn't share Tony's attraction to her, but by the end of the movie she cuts him some slack and gives him a kiss on the cheek.
Art Shift: Inverted somewhat, as they went back to Don Bluth's character designs in the third movie, but with a few differences, as the designs look like something in the vain of Animaniacs. The fourth movie mostly kept the same designs, but with less shading and movement from the characters. If you prefer the animation of Don Bluth or Amblimation though, you may not like it much. They're still both miles ahead of the animation in Fievel's American Tails (handled by Wang Film Productions and Saerom), luckily.
Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Nellie Brie and Reed Daley end the 4th movie this way after having been at odds throughout the entire movie. This comes much to Tanya's dismay, who spent the movie crushing on Reed.
Death Course: In The Treasure of Manhattan Island, Fievel and his friends pass through a Death Course while exploring underground caverns on their way to the hideout of an underground tribe of Native American mice. Later on in the film some corrupt policemen are tricked into going through the death course themselves. There are noticibly fewer of them after they come out the other side.
Deranged Animation: Fievel's nightmare at the beginning of Mystery of the Night Monster includes being chased through a Disney Acid Sequence by a demonic cat with a mousetrap at the end of it's tongue.
Dirty Cop: Chief McBrusque and his force in the third movie.
Discontinuity Nod: Given the fact that they said Fievel Goes West was a dream in the third movie, Tiger hissing at the angry mob of mice and then accidently yelling "Woof! Woof!", correcting himself by going "Oops, wrong species!" is almost insulting, as it could also be interpreted as a Take That.
Disney Death: Fievel has one in The Treasure of Manhattan Island.
Disney Villain Death: In The Treasure of Manhattan Island, Scuttlebutt and Chief McBrusque actually die, by falling into a deep underground chasm and being drowned by a flood of water.
Dream Sequence: Done a lot in The Mystery of the Night Monster when Fievel keeps having nightmares.
Duet Bonding: Fievel and Cholena do this while singing "Anywhere in Your Dreams".
Edible Ammunition: The underground Native Americans fend of the NYPD with nothing but berries and seeds. The police aren't depicted carrying guns, which helps.
Extra! Extra! Read All About It!: Tony Toponi becomes a paperboy in An American Tail: The Mystery of the Night Monster, though he really wants to be a reporter and when he becomes discouraged and his rant begins to show it. * in a flat monotone voice* "Hey, get your paper here, whoop-dee-do paper here..." When someone passes him by he yells "Fine! So stay ignorant!"
Fail O'Suckyname: Scuttlebutt, in the third movie. You'd be a bad guy too if that were your name.
Gory Discretion Shot: In The Treasure of Manhattan Island, as the police are savagely beating down a protester with their clubs, we only see their shadows.
Hot Scoop: Nellie Brie in The Mystery of the Night Monster.
Injun Country: Done in The Treasure of Manhattan Island, but with respect.
In The Local Tongue: Cholena gives Tony (who'd been hitting on her) the nickname "Poolaook", which he is later disappointed to find out means "turkey".
Karma Houdini: Those villains from The Treasure of Manhattan Island. They don't even get Put on a Bus like most An American Tail villains do. Though their lackeys Scuttlebutt and McBrusque avert this and become the only An American Tail villains to be Killed Off for Real.
Minion Maracas: Madame Mousey does this to Fievel after he calls her a rat.
Mistaken For Afterlife: In The Treasure of Manhattan Island, Fievel and Tony fall into a deep tunnel when the ground caves in beneath them, and Tony thinks they're dead because he sees a tunnel of light ahead of him (the hole they fell through).
Old-Timey Bathing Suit: The Mousekewitz's along with Tony wear these at the beach at the end of The Mystery of the Night Monster.
Pep Talk Song: "Get the Facts", sung by Nellie Brie to help Fievel get over his fears.
Police Brutality: In quite a daring move for a G-rated direct to video movie, The Treasure of Manhattan Island features a police force who savagely beat down protesting factory workers with their clubs, are being paid under the table by corrupt factory owners, and deliberately start a race riot. You know, for kids!
Retcon: In The Treasure of Manhatten Island, Fievel dreamed the entirety of Fievel Goes West.
Stay in the Kitchen: Addressed directly in The Treasure of Manhattan Island. Mama and Papa agree to let Fievel go on the treasure-hunting expedition, but when Tanya wants to go they flat-out refuse. Tanya then complains that her brother always gets to go on adventures while she's stuck at home doing laundry.
Team Hand Stack: Done at the end of the song "Who Will?" by Fievel, Nellie and Tony. Tiger joins in, but has to use his finger because he's so much bigger.
Unfamiliar Ceiling: Tony wonders if he's dead after he and Fievel awaken staring up at the pit they fell through, after narrowly avoiding being run over by a subway train and falling into an underground cave.
Villain Song: Both direct to video sequels did this. Pity the first two movies didn't actually.
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: Cited nearly word for word by Fievel in The Treasure of Manhattan Island when he persuades an Indian Chief to let her daughter live among the Europeans for a time and see if they've changed their ways. Things later go horribly wrong.
What Happened to the Mouse?: A very literal example. Tony appears in the DTV sequels and in the third film, The Treasure Of Manhattan Island, he has a Love Interest in the shape of Cholena. But wait... where is Bridget? She was his girlfriend in the first film and Fievel Goes West actually featured a cameo of the two, as a newly married couple, with a child no less.
Might be an example of what they did in The Wrath of Khan, since Madlyn Rhue had no doubt passed on by that point, and they didn't want to recast her. Bridget's voice actress Cathianne Blore was battling a life-threatening illness at the time, and died a couple years after The Treasure Of Manhattan Island was made.
White Man's Burden: Played straight in The Treasure Of Manhattan Island, when Fievel becomes disillusioned and severely guilt-tripped upon learning what the Europeans had done to the Native Americans, and he takes it upon himself to demonstrate that the European mice aren't so bad...which really doesn't work.