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Western Animation / An American Tail

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"Qu'est-ce que c'est?note  A little immigrant. Now they are coming by bottle."

A collaboration between Don Bluth and Steven Spielberg (and the latter's first animated production), 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 pogrom by 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 


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 next Don Bluth film, The Land Before Time. The popularity of both these films continued in Bluth's efforts in his previous film to reinvigorate classical animation into the public consciousness at a time when the industry was in a slump, convincing Disney to step up its game in face of the competition, making this film one of the biggest contributions to 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 Softer Contested 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 (Fievel's American Tails), 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 .


This series provides examples of:

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  • Animal Jingoism: Cats vs mice; though it's used as a metaphor.
  • 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).
  • Art Evolution: Art devolution is present in the sequels, as lower budgets made the animation stiffer and the backgrounds much plainer. This is especially evident in the TV show.
  • The Artful Dodger: Tony Toponi, a streetwise orphan mouse.
  • 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.
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animal: Most of the mouse characters.
    • Warren too till near the climax where he's only in his night gown.
  • Beast Fable: They're not just mice. They're Russo-Jewish immigrants.
  • Big Applesauce: Most of the films is set in New York City.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Fievel, most notably in the first 5 minutes of the first movie.
  • 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.
  • A Boy, a Girl, and a Baby Family: The Mousekewitz's.
  • Buffoonish Tomcat: Tiger being seen as an not-so-bright Fat Comic Relief in the sequel and is the poster boy for this trope.
  • Carnivore Confusion: Of the "Predators Are Mean" and "they could become vegan if they really wanted" varieties.
    • 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.
  • Cats Are Mean: As stated elsewhere, Don Bluth is probably a dog person. Although Tiger is a nice guy.
  • 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 animated by Tokyo Movie Shinsha, while the fourth one was animated 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).
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: The cat characters.
  • Heroic Russian Émigré: Fievel Mousekewitz and his family are the protagonist Jewish-Russian migrants who come to America to escape cat cossacks and find a better living.
  • 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.
    • They live under a house in a Jewish district of Shostka (Russian empire, now in Ukraine). Cossacks (and their Cossack cats) raid the village for a pogrom.
    • 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.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Almost all of the friends Fievel makes in the movies are much older than he is.
  • Intrepid Reporter: In The Mystery of the Night Monster, we see Nellie Brie investigating the movie's conflict before Fievel gets involved and using disguises to infiltrate restricted areas.
  • 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.
  • Knight of Cerebus: The cats can flip between this and Laughably Evil at will, but when the cats decide to be a threat, they hit somewhere around pants-crappingly terrifying (particularly the Russian sequence in the first movie). Justified, as they're natural predators of mice and are way, way bigger.
  • 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.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Tiger
  • Nice Mice: All the mice are good guys just trying to get a break. Cats and rats, not so much.
  • No Song for the Wicked: The first two movies have no Villain Song, though the DTV sequels have them.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: See Fake Russian in the Trivia tab.
  • 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).
  • Pun-Based Title: "Tale". "Tail". Get it?
    • 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, and Nelly Brie (a cheese pun on real life Intrepid Reporter Nelly Bly).
  • Sapient Eat Sapient: Nearly every animal is shown to be wholly sapient, but that doesn't stop the food chain. Nearly every plot point is based in someone trying not to get eaten by someone else.
  • Scavenged Punk: As expected with such a large Mouse World, this trope is in full force with many scavenged materials coming from humans.
  • "Setting Off" Song: "Never Say Never" and "Way Out West."
  • Space Jews: Well, Mouse Jews. And Mouse Italians and Mouse Irish. And French Pigeons. Persecuted by Cat Cossacks.
  • 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.
  • Stock Animal Diet: Mice eating cheese, cats eating mice.
  • Unnamed Parent: Fievel's parents are known only as "Mama" and "Papa".
    • 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...
  • Vile Villain, Laughable Lackey: Par the course for just about every villain in the movies. Though in the case of Cat R. Waul's lackey Chula he only became laughable in the TV series, being Ax-Crazy in the film.
  • 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...
    • This is 1885 we're talking about. Sewers in New York were that big because they needed to be large enough for maintenance people to move around down there.
    • Also justified in that the characters are mice and cats so everything is bigger than what a human would experience.
  • Accidental Kiss: Tony accidentally kisses Bridget as they stare at each other thanks to an accidental push by Fievel.
  • Actor Allusion: Madeline Kahn plays Gussie Mouseheimer with the same Elmuh Fudd Syndwome she used for Lilly von Schtupp in Blazing Saddles.
  • Adult Fear: While they focus on Fievel, a kid being separated from his family just SCREAMS this trope.
  • Alcohol Hic: Honest John.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: The Statue of Liberty's golden copper color in the film wasn't just artistic license; when the statue was first built it really was that color. It slowly oxidized to its current green color over subsequent decades.
  • An Immigrant's Tail
  • 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.
  • Artistic License – Biology: A mild one, but the Irish mouse sings this during "There Are No Cats In America: "A calico, he caught us by surprise!" Nearly every calico cat is female, so calico males are actually very rare. Then again, the calico he encountered may have been one of those rare male calicos.
  • Art Shift: The Mouse of Minsk is noticeably rotoscoped. It gives an otherworldly feel to the scene that perfectly matches the tone of the moment.
  • Aside Glance: Honest John gives one of these when Gussie Mouseheimer complains that the cats don't distinguish between rich mice and poor mice.
  • Ass in a Lion Skin: Warren T. Rat (actually a cat himself) dresses as a rat to fool the mice into buying into his protection racket against the cats.
  • Avian Flute: After the confrontation with Warren T. Cat and his gang and a subsequent fire, Fievel finds himself at an orphanage where he begins to lose hope that he'll ever find his family. As the scene shifts from a dark, rainy night to morning, a light piccolo begins playing as a flock of small birds flies in and begins splashing around in the puddles left from the night before.
  • Award-Bait Song: "Somewhere Out There" is definitely one of the best-known examples, and probably the Trope Codifier.
  • Bedsheet Ladder: Fievel uses this to escape a sweatshop, freeing the rest of the workers as well.
  • Beneath the Earth: The Mott Street Maulers' hideout.
  • Big Damn Reunion: Probably one of the most famous examples in animated films.
  • Big Good: Gussie Mouseheimer, the rich mouse who wawees, er, rallies the mice of New York City to stand up to the cats.
  • Big Shadow, Little Creature: Done while Fievel is aimlessly wandering through the city. Fievel's shadow takes up a whole wall.
  • Birdcaged: Warren's gang puts Fievel in a bird cage when they capture him, but Tiger lets him out.
  • Blatant Lies: after Fievel escapes from Warren's gang just before the climax, the other cats demand that Tiger tell them how he got away; Tiger says that Fievel overpowered him.
  • Brats with Slingshots: Tony Toponi, when he shoots Warren's disguise off.
  • Break the Cutie
  • Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario: At the point where Fievel actually gives up his search for his family.
  • Cat Stereotype: Tiger (orange) is the one good cat. In the first sequel his love interest is light grey.
  • Central Theme: The film is an allegory on the idealistic expectations vs harsh reality of immigrations for the Russians heading towards America.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Early in the film, when the Mouskewitzes first arrive at Ellis Island believing Fievel drowned at sea and is gone for good, Tanya's name is changed to "Tilly". At first it seems the only apparent reason for this was to educate kids about how immigration worked at the time. But later, when she hears Tony and Bridget calling "Philly!", this is how she realizes they're calling for Fievel.
    • In the opening Hanukkah scene, Papa tells Fievel and Tanya the story of "the giant mouse of Minsk," who was "so big he frightened all the cats." Fievel's memory of that story inspires the giant mouse-shaped "secret weapon" used to drive away the cats in the film's climax.
  • 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.
  • City of Cheese: What the mice believe America must be like. Unfortunately, once they get there, Reality Ensues.
  • Container Cling: Fievel escapes the Cossack cats by clinging to the lid of a teapot. He narrowly avoids detection when a cat looks under the lid, but he moves to the other side just in time.
  • 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.
  • Costumes Change Your Size: This is the only reasonable explanation for how Warren T. Rat was able to disguise himself as a rat when he's actually a cat.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover of the DVD release features Tanya as she appears in the sequel Fievel Goes West. Probably because she's prettier to look at.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Disney Acid Sequence: "We're a Duo", Fievel and Tiger's ode to The Power of Friendship, vaguely resembles one of the music videos from Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall" album.
  • Disney Villain Death: Well, sort of.
  • Distant Duet: "Somewhere Out There" is probably the Trope Codifier for this too.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Tony, the instant he catches a glimpse of Bridget.
  • 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.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: It really doesn't get any sadder than THIS: Fievel doesn't get his happy ending until he all but gives up on life.
    • Applies to all the mice. They only get peace when they take the initiative to actually drive the cats away. Using a giant mouse engine.
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: One of the few times a human even notices the mice is when Fievel gets stuck in a woman's phonograph player, and she shrieks and throws things at him.
  • Elmuh Fudd Syndwome: Gussie "Wewease da Secwet Weapon" Mausheimer. Voiced by Madeline Kahn who recycled the voice from the character she played in Blazing Saddles.
  • 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, especially Boss Tweed.
  • 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 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. In America itself, they represent all the huddled masses who came to America to find a better life but were taken advantage of by the locals as represented by Warren T. Rat, who starts off his on-screen villainy by selling Fievel to a sweat shop for 25¢.
  • Fatal Fireworks: At the end when the mice drive off the cats, the Giant Mouse of Minsk they build includes batteries of fireworks rockets that they fire at the fleeing cats to give them just that much more motivation to leave.
  • Fat Bastard: Moe, the sweatshop owner, as well as Roc, one of the orphan bullies
  • Fell Asleep Crying: Fievel cries himself to sleep after giving up on finding his lost family and taking up residence in a dark, rainy alley.
  • Friendship Song: "A Duo" is this for the film. It's a duet between Fievel and Tiger about how they'd make good friends because they have a lot in common.
  • 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.
  • Gigantic Moon: During "Somewhere Out There", Fievel is watching the moon rise over the horizon, dwarfing the New York skyline.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Warren T., the main villain, smokes a cigar. So does Honest John.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: On the more wealthy female characters.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The mice manage to stop the Giant Mouse of Minsk robot from being released early... only to have to release it immediately after it stops.
  • Grass Is Greener: In America!
  • Gratuitous French: Henri the pigeon, who builds 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.
  • Gray Rain of Depression: When Fievel cries during the scene when he's at Orphan Alley.
  • Gut Feeling: "I just have this feeling - like Fievel's alive!"
  • Hate Sink: The fact that the three orphan bullies, mock Fievel, briefly convince him to give up looking for his family, make him throw a tantrum and lose hope, push him into a mud puddle, throw straw at him so he can make a bed, move him to tears, and them getting away scot-free, makes it easy to despise them with a fiery passion.
  • He Knows Too Much: When Fievel learns that Warren T. is really a cat in disguise and the leader of the cats terrorizing New York, he immediately finds himself pursued by the gang.
    Warren T.: Gentlemen, the cat's out of the bag! GET ME THAT MOUSE!
  • Heartwarming Orphan: Though Fievel is not an orphan he plays the part well enough. Bridget and Tony are also this, to some extent.
  • Herbivores Are Friendly: Tiger, a Vegetarian Carnivore, is the only nice cat in the film. He befriends Fievel after confessing that his favorite food is broccoli.
  • Hidden Disdain Reveal: When Tiger gets fired by Warren for letting Fievel go, he says to him "I never liked you! And besides, your music stinks!"
  • Hope Spot: Fievel has these several times throughout the movie, only to have his hopes of finding his family dashed to pieces again and again.
    • A special mention to each time Fievel hears a violin, believing it's his papa playing, only to discover it isn't the case... Well, until the very end.
  • Humongous Mecha: The Giant Mouse Of Minsk is only about the size of a motorcycle, but that's still pretty damn big when you're a mouse or cat.
    • That's somewhat debatable, even in comparison to the mice and the cats it looked to be about seven to eight feet tall at the very least.
  • Impossible Shadow Puppets: Papa is somehow able to pull off a convincing Giant Mouse of Minsk with his hands at the beginning of the film.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Applies to the sheer amount of cat attacks Fievel's been able to walk away from unharmed.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Tiger bears a resemblance to his voice actor, Dom De Luise.
  • Karma Houdini: The Cossack Cats and the three Orphan Alley bullies all receive no comeuppance for their foul actions.
  • Kick the Dog: We know Warren is evil after he sells Fievel into a sweatshop for 50 cents.
  • Kids Are Cruel: The three 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.
  • Landmark Sale: Near the Castle Garden immigration center in New York, a salesman is selling the Brooklyn Bridge.
  • Leave the Camera Running: Towards the end of the scene at the sweatshop with shots of the seamstresses just after Moe yells at the mice to get to work.
  • The Legend of Chekhov: "Did I ever tell you the story of the Giant Mouse of Minsk?"
  • Living Statue: Apparently the Statue of Liberty is alive. 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.
  • Love at First Sight: Tony and Bridget instantly falling in love.
  • 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.
  • Manly Tears: Papa sheds them when he thinks Fievel is dead.
  • Melancholy Moon: During "Somewhere Out There".
  • Melancholy Musical Number: "Somewhere Out There", sung by Fievel and Tonya after Fievel is separated from his family.
  • Missed Him by That Much: Over, and over, and over. The movie even provides the page picture.
  • Mood Whiplash: Just the song "There are No Cats in America", in which each character gives the tragic story of what the cats did to them in their individual homelands...but... but there are nooo cats in America!
  • Mouth Cam
  • Mysterious Middle Initial: Warren T. Rat, and in the sequel, Cat R. Waul (John Cleese). Though the middle initials in both names are there to create a pun.
    • Most viewers probably assumed that the "T" stood for "the."
    • Perhaps a pun on the word "warranty" that he is definitely a rat. Ha, irony!
  • Nice Hat: Fievel is given one for Hanukkah at the beginning. Because it's his only link to his family, many an Indy Hat Roll ensues. One of the first causes him to be swept off the ship.
    • Funny thing is, the hat seems to vanish and reappear on occasion. It's a pretty important object to have so many continuity errors.
  • No Cartoon Fish: The herring and "sewer shark" are drawn photo-realistically — but then again so are the humans.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Honest John is a pretty blatant parody of "Boss" Tweed.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: See Fake Russian in the Trivia tab.
  • 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.) Also this adaptation keeps the scrapped Framing Device where Fievel tells the story to his great-grandchildren in the present day. Excerpts from the novelization were given away at McDonald's.
  • Ode to Family: "Somewhere Out There" was originally a song about siblings missing each other, but the Breakaway Pop Hit version warped it into a romance song.
  • Oh, Crap!: The entire Maulers gang gets an epic one when the Giant Mouse of Minsk busts through the museum door and starts rapid-firing fireworks at them.
  • Oktoberfest: When the Mousekewitz family are boarding a ship for America, a band is playing traditional Bavarian-style polka music in the background. Except they are sailing from Hamburg, which is in northern Germany.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. The Italian/Sicilian mouse in the "No Cats in America" segment mentions having a brother named Tony, but there's no indication that this is the same Tony that Fievel meets in New York.
  • 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.
  • Parental Bonus: Warren T. Rat quotes Shakespeare (albeit in hilarious Malaproper fashion).
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Come on, you weren't really fooled by Warren's fake nose, were you?
  • Parasol of Prettiness: Bridget has one when Tony first meets her.
  • Pep-Talk Song: "Never Say Never"
  • Police Are Useless: Policemouse: "We've got to do something about those cats." Honest John: "Besides paying Warren T. Rat for no protection."
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Gussie Mouseheimer and Honest John avert Not Now, Kiddo by hearing out, and then implementing, Fievel's plan for the Giant Mouse of Minsk.
  • Regional Riff: The Oriental Riff, when Hong Kong is mentioned. Both Times.
  • The Reveal: "You're not a rat, you're a CAT!"
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Fievel and Tanya. This is a Bluth film, after all.
  • Rotoscoping: This was used to animate all of the humans appearing in the film, as well as the Giant Mouse of Minsk, while the mouse characters were drawn from scratch. It's actually used in many areas, including a basket elevator and Fievel's birdcage prison.
  • Sad-Times Montage
  • Say My Name: Papa screaming out "FIIIIIEEEVEEEELLLL!!" at a couple different points, Fievel also shouts "Papa!!!" numerous times.
  • Scarecrow Solution: The Giant Mouse of Minsk
  • 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!"
  • Sewer Gator: Used proportionally with a regular lizard. It eats the cockroaches attacking Feivel, allowing him to escape.
  • 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.
    • The Giant Mouse of Minsk story is strongly reminiscent of the Golem of Prague story from Jewish folklore.
    • The original script, when the Mousekewitzes arrive at Ellis Island, one of the mice preceeding them in the checkin line is a woman with a bundled baby with round ears named Mickey. It was probably dropped to avoid legal trouble from Disney.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • The Mousekewitz family is processed through the mouse version of Castle Garden, Ellis Island's lesser known nineteenth century predecessor.
    • Also, they set sail from Hamburg, which was the departure point for more than four million immigrants from 1830 to 1914.
  • 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. Played with elsewhere in the movie, as he plays a crucial role in the project by making sure the Giant Mouse of Minsk is not deployed prematurely, and gives Fievel full credit for it.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: The film is an aggressive yet heartfelt movie about the expectations vs reality of the immagrants moving from Russia to America.
  • Small, Annoying Creature: Digit
  • Snooping Little Kid: Fievel was being a Snooping Little Kid when he snuck into the secret hideout of the cats and found out Warren T. Rat was really a cat in disguise.
  • 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.
  • Tap on the Head: Accidental. When Fievel burns through the rope restraining the Giant Mouse of Minsk, the whiplash from the recoil sends him hurtling head-first into a metal vine-eye, knocking him unconscious. When he comes to a few minutes later, he is surrounded by flames and in crippling pain (if him cradling his head is anything to go by).
  • Token Romance: Tony and Bridget
  • Translation Convention: The signs above the Moskowitz and Mousekewitz homes are written in English, when logically they should be written in Russian. But then the pun wouldn't be recognizable to English speakers.
  • 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.
  • Vot Ocksent??: Gussie Mausheimer from An American Tail has Elmuh Fudd Syndwome, and pronounces the word "rally" as "wowie". After Honest John asks what a "wowie" is and she explains it to him, he figures out that she meant "rally". She replies irritably "Zats vhat I said! A wowie!"
  • 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.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Baby Yasha's existence is inconsistent.
    • The bullying orphans are not there when Fievel is reunited with his family. It's not clear if they moved elsewhere or got scared off by Tiger's approach.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?:Most of the cats are bullies, but Tiger is noticeably cute and looks like the Cowardly Lion and the cats who explicitly try to eat the protagonists are drawn as big, violent monsters. Digit the cockroach is just a pest and is kind of Ugly Cute but the sewer roaches who menace Fievel are rendered as realistic Big Creepy-Crawlies.
    • Goes West has Fievel menaced by a non-cute scorpion and hawk.
  • Wicked Cultured: Warren tries to come off as this by playing the violin and quoting Shakespeare. He's not very good at either of those things, though.
  • Who Will Bell the Cat?: Everyone at the rally wants the cats gone, but no one (save Fievel) has any idea how.
  • "You!" Exclamation: Warren says this when he notices Fievel spying on him through his mirror.
  • Your Size May Vary:
    • Taken to the extreme with Warren T. Rat, who at one point is dwarfed by the fat rat at the sweatshop, and later is shown the same size as the rest of the cats in his gang. (But not by that much if you look carefully.)
    • Done on purpose in Fievel and Tiger's song, to show their friendship as equals.


Video Example(s):


Tiger with Wylie Burp

Wylie Burp tries teaching Tiger on how to be a dog in order to defeat Cat R. Waul and his gang, this showcases Tiger's buffoonery being the comic-relief and provides the page image.

How well does it match the trope?

4 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / BuffoonishTomcat

Media sources:

Main / BuffoonishTomcat