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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 schtetl in the Russian Empire (modern-day Ukraine). 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 

Netting over $84 million worldwide, the film rapidly became the highest-grossing animated feature (by initial release) of all time, outstripping Disney's offering The Great Mouse Detective financially (a rare feat during a period in which American animated feature production was far lower than the present day) and establishing Don Bluth as an industry heavyweight and genuine competitor to the Mouse. The increased pressure on Disney's part to outcompete Bluth arguably accelerated the oncoming of the Disney Renaissance. Due to its success, the film saw a sequel five years later with Fievel Goes West, a pastiche of classic westerns in which the Mousekewitz family, still dirt poor and at the mercy of ever-more-sophisticated cats, flee New York for a Wild Western town. The debut production of Spielberg's Amblimation studio (albeit featuring no involvement from Bluth), the film, unusually for its period, was a full-budgeted theatrical release boasting comparably fluid animation to its predecessor (despite its conspicuously Lighter and Softer tone). A short-lived TV series set within the same Western town (Fievel's American Tails) aired the following year; both instalments featured a Role Reprise from Phillip Glasser as Fievel. Years later, two additional DTV sequels (The Treasure of Manhattan Island and Mystery of the Night Monster) were produced; both films play fast and loose with the established continuity, and had no involvement from either Bluth or Spielberg. While the series (mostly) retains a surprisingly consistent cast by the standards of most '90s animated franchises, Dom De Luise (Tiger) and Nehemiah Persoff (Papa Mousekewitz) are the sole actors to feature in all four films

This series provides examples of:

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  • Animal Jingoism: Done metaphorically, with the conflict between cats and mice standing in for the persecution of Jews by Cossacks and WASPs, playing off the historical use of vermin as Animal Motifs for Jews in antisemitic propaganda.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Award-Bait Song: "Somewhere Out There" in the first movie—particularly the duet between Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram. 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 aren't wearing any shoes.
  • Beast Fable: They're not just mice. They're Russo-Jewish immigrants, trying to escape oppression in their home country by achieving the idealistic of The American Dream: If you work hard enough, you can be rich and successful!
  • Big Applesauce: Most of the films are set in New York City. Fievel Goes West starts there, but transitions to way out west after the opening act.
  • 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, he seems to be the exception. 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." But besides him, cats are the enemies of mice, and portrayed as such.
    • The first movie sees cats regularly trying to eat the mice. A few of them are smart enough to engage in some Pragmatic Villainy to exploit the mice with the threat of being eaten over their heads, but just as many are brutish thugs who love torturing the mice and making them run in fear. The Mousekewitz family (along with many others) leave their home in Russia explicitly because of the promise that "there are no cats in America and the streets are paved with cheese", hoping to get away from the cats.
    • The second movie sees the Big Bad, Cat R. Waul, trying to do much the same as the cats from the first movie, but he's a little more pragmatic and deceitful about it. Besides reining in the more brutish members of his gang, Cat R. Waul is a Villain with Good Publicity, acting like he wants to share a world where cat and mouse coexist peacefully. In private, he wants to lure all the mice into a false sense of security and kill them all in a giant mousetrap for mouse burgers, all while making the mice do the work for him under the pretense of a better life.
  • 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 for both (the aforementioned Tiger, plus the villains of the third movie are mice).
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: The cat characters typically all wear shirts, tops, and coats, but no pants. The mice, meanwhile, are fully dressed.
  • 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 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: If you weren't paying attention, you might not even know that the Mousekewitz family is 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 is the one cat among many who likes mice as people, not as food. He manages to convince Fievel that he's not going to eat him, and the two bond over being outcasts. In the second movie, Tiger also saves Fievel's life, and helps put a stop to the Big Bad Cat R. Waul's plans against the rest of the cats.
  • 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: Fievel and Tanya are Russian Jews, yet they have neutral American accents, even in the first movie when they're immigrating from Russia to America.
  • 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: "Way Out West" from the second movie is a song sung by the mice about how much things will change for the better once they get out to their new lives.
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • Allegorical Character: The mice broadly represent various oppressed demographic (Jews, Sicilians, Irish, etc.) with the cats representing those in power (Cossacks, Mafia, and English), but there are also some more specific examples that represent different facets of the immigrant experience in America.
    • Warren T. Rat represents illicit businessmen who would watch for immigrants fresh off the boat (particularly those who didn't speak WASPs), and would lure them in with promises of work, only to end up selling them to labor shops.
    • Honest John represents politicians (particularly those who operated out of Tammany Hall) who would skim votes from new immigrants with pro-immigrant policies and stances.
    • Both Bridget and Mausheimer represent forms of Immigrant Patriotism, who after managing to achieve success, use their positions to advocate for immigrant rights and reform.
  • An Immigrant's Tale: This film is about the Mousekewitz family's immigration from their native Russia to New York City.
  • Anachronism Stew: Some, despite the movie taking place in 1885-86.
    • 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 (They couldn't have had them using the original salute, which was co-opted by the Nazis in the 1930's and '40's).
    • The phonograph was in its infancy at the time of the movie's setting, and wax cylinders were not commercially available until 1889. Also, "The Stars and Stripes Forever" is played by the phonograph, but the song wasn't published until 1897.
  • Art Shift: The Mouse of Minsk is noticeably rotoscoped. It gives an eerie and otherworldly feel to the scene that perfectly matches the tone of the moment.
  • Artistic License – History: When an immigration officer at Ellis Island asks one of them his surname, he replies with a long Slavic name, to which the officer replies, "Okay, Mr... Smith". Meanwhile, Tanya has her first name changed to "Tilly" by the mouse immigration officer. New immigrants have never had their names changed for them upon immigration to America. While name changes did occur after people immigrated, this was always done by the immigrants themselves voluntarily, and not until well after they had arrived.
  • 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, while the sun rises in the background, symbolizing the dawn after the Darkest Hour.
  • Award-Bait Song: "Somewhere Out There" is definitely one of the best-known examples, and probably the Trope Codifier—especially the Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram duet.
  • Bedsheet Ladder: Fievel uses this to escape a sweatshop, freeing the rest of the workers as well.
  • Big Damn Reunion: At the very end of the first movie, Fievel had given up on ever finding his family, thanks to a bunch of orphans who told Fievel that if they hadn't found him by now, then they must not be looking for him. The next morning, Fievel does manage to find them after all, and the Mousekewitz family is reunited.
  • Big Good: Gussie Mouseheimer, the rich mouse who 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.
  • Bookends: The film begins with Papa giving Fievel his hat as a Hanukkah present, with the hat being too big to fit him and Mama telling him he'll grow into it. The film ends with Papa giving it to him again after they're reunited and this time it fits him, signifying that he's grown from his experiences throughout the film.
  • Brats with Slingshots: Tony Toponi, when he shoots Warren's disguise off.
  • Break the Cutie: Fievel goes through a lot of trauma in the first film. He gets separated from his family as they flee the cats, nearly drowns in the Atlantic Ocean, gets abused by the cats of America when he manages to make it there, and has to release the Giant Mouse of Minsk while getting knocked out for it. The whole time, Fievel slowly gets less sure that he'll find his family in America, ultimately crossing the Despair Event Horizon when some kids on Orphan's Row tell Fievel that he's never going to find them again, because they're clearly not looking for him.
  • Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario: At the point where Fievel actually gives up his search for his family, they find him shortly thereafter.
  • 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 immigration 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 Gold: What the mice believe America must be like, described as a "City of Cheese". Unfortunately, once they get there, it's not what they imagined.
  • 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 for the mice, living under constant fear of cat attacks. 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. The cats fall, but it's onto a boat headed for Hong Kong, and they survive. Either way, they're no longer a threat.
  • 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.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • Believing that no one could have survived being thrown off of a ship in the middle of the sea, the Mousekewitz family doesn't look for Fievel after he falls overboard. The audience knows that Fievel is alive, but they don't.
    • For the climax of the movie, the mice just barely stop their Giant Mouse of Minsk from being released too early. However, they do this right before the cats show up. The moment the mice have got the Giant Mouse stopped, they get the call to release it. The audience knows that if they'd just let it go, things would have worked out just fine, but the mice don't know that.
  • 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¢.
  • Fast Tunnelling: Two of the Cossack cats start going after Fievel at the beginning, and they (and Fievel) rapidly dig under the snow while they're at it. The cats even emit a steam locomotive whistle sound as they do this.
  • 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.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When Fievel is escaping the cat's mouth, you can see a worm in an apple slice the instant he climbs.
  • 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: The mice immigrating to the United States believe that "there are no cats in America, and the streets are paved with cheese". But once they get there, not only are the working conditions even worse than back in Eastern Europe, but things don't look to improve any time soon.
  • 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!" Tanya is the only one of the Mousekewitzes that believes that Fievel is still alive after they're separated. Mama and Papa believe that there's no way Fievel could have survived.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Innocent Means Naïve: The innocent mice of Europe that are persecuted by cats strongly believe there are no cats in America, for some reason.
  • 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.
  • 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?"
  • Lineage Ladder: During the Hanukkah gifting, Papa Mousekewitz notes that the hat he wears once belonged to his father, and his father's father. With Fieval as the new hat owner, this effectively marks Papa as the third father to pass on the hat to his son in the family.
    Papa Mousekewitz: It's not just any hat. This hat once belonged to me, and my father, and his father's father. And now, Fievel, it's yours.
  • 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 the ship when the Mousekewitz family flees to America, and floats to New York in a bottle.
  • Love at First Sight: Tony and Bridget instantly falling in love.
  • 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, Fievel and the rest of his family come within centimeters of meeting back up again, but just miss each other every time. This is played for Dramatic Irony, as Fievel's whole goal is to find his family again. In several scenes, all he'd have to do is just tilt his head a certain direction, and he'd see his parents or his sister, but he doesn't. They only reunite right at the end of the movie, right after Fievel assumes that his family isn't coming to find him.
  • Mood Whiplash: "There are No Cats in America" has each character give the tragic story of what the cats did to them in their individual homelands, which is appropriately tragic and dramatic... but on each chorus, it instantly shifts to an upbeat tune about how the problems will all be gone once they get to America.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • No One Could Survive That!: Basically the reason Mama and Papa Mouskewitz don't bother to look for Fievel. Falling overboard into a stormy sea would most definitely mean certain death for anyone, especially a small child mouse like himself.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Papa and Mama have vaguely Eastern European accents, but their children Fievel and Tanya don't; they have neutral American accents instead.
  • 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" is an owl who lives in the Statue of Liberty telling Fievel that he can't give up looking for his family or stop fighting against the cats.
  • 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.
  • 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 sees the mice use a giant (well, to them, anyway) mechanical mouse to terrify the cats into leaving them alone. It's double subverted at the end of the movie when they actually try to use it. The subversion comes from them having to stop the release of the Giant Mouse before it's ready, and soon as they stop it, the mice now have to release it. When they do, it starts falling apart and making horrific mechanical noises. The double subversion comes in the fact that this terrifies the cats even further than the Giant Mouse if it had worked properly, and the cats book it as fast as they can.
  • Self-Soothing Song: "Somewhere Out There", which Tanya and Fievel sing separately but as a duet, with her still believing her little brother is alive somewhere, and him knowing his family is out there and he needs to find them.
  • 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 Fievel, allowing him to escape. A large, creepy-looking fish is also seen in the sewer.
  • 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.
    • The Statue of Liberty is a golden copper color. When the statue was first built, it really was that color slowly turning to the blue-green color it is today as a result of oxidation from weathering over subsequent decades.
  • 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 immigrants faced when moving from Russia to America in the late 19th century.
  • 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. The cats also reuse Dragon's monstrous growls.
  • Stock Sound Effects: The growls of the Cossack cats were lifted from Dragon in The Secret of NIMH, with one of them coming from the Balrog in 1978's The Lord of the Rings.
  • 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).
  • That's All, Folks!: Right before the credits, Fievel and Tanya wave to the audience and shout "Bye-bye!" as they fly away on Henri.
  • 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.
  • Villain Decay: An interesting mid-project case. When we first see the New Yorker cats, they are every bit as feral and terrifying as the Cossack cats in Russia. However when Fievel confronts them in Warren's lair, they are still menacing, but much more anthropomorphic and bumbling, and banter in human voices rather than monstrous grunts and roars they had before. This can be interpreted as Fievel's perspective of the cats being broadened, having only met them as invading menaces before, now he sees they are thinking and fallible creatures, and some like Tiger aren't even mean.
  • Virtuous Vegetarianism: The cat Tiger frees the mouse Fievel Mousekewicz from his cage, explaining that he's a vegetarian that never eats mice. Tiger is the only feline character in this film to avert the Cats Are Mean trope, actually becoming Fievel's best friend and confidante.
  • 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 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.
  • Worm in an Apple: As Fievel escapes from the cat's throat, he passes by a worm in an apple slice that is about to be digested.
  • "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.

Somewhere out there beneath the pale moonlight
Someone's thinking of me and loving me tonight
Somewhere out there someone's saying a prayer
That we'll find one another in that big somewhere out there.


Video Example(s):


Giant Mouse of Minsk

Drawing inspiration from the story Papa Mousekawitz told Fievel, the mice build a 'secwet weapon': a machine, based on the legendary Giant Mouse of Minsk, to frighten Warren T. and his gang of cats out of America.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheLegendOfChekhov

Media sources: