Like the novel it was based on, the film starts with David's birth in Blunderstone, England in 1820. His great-aunt Betsey takes great offence to his being born a boy and storms out, but David's mother and their faithful servant Peggotty dote on him. David (nicknamed "Davey") grows up happy, but his mother is frail and feels they need someone to take care of them. So she marries the wealthy but blackhearted cheese merchant, Edward Murdstone who wastes no time sending Davey to work as a slave in his cheese factory. Now, it's up to Davey to escape Murdstone and his dim-witted partner Grimby and save not just his mother but the other orphans that have been taken by Murdstone. Oh yeah, and there's a giant vulture mixed in there somewhere too.
As you can probably tell, "loose adaptation" doesn't quite do it justice.
It was made for and first broadcast on NBC during the holiday season and is now available on DVD from Good Times Entertainment.
The film provides examples of the following tropes:
- Abhorrent Admirer: Grimby is one for Peggotty.
- Accessory-Wearing Cartoon Animal: An odd example: the characters all wear full outfits of clothes but losing them and going half-dressed doesn't seem to be a big deal. A lot of the orphans only have hats or scarves and Davey even spends most of the movie without his pants.
- Action Girl: Aunt Betsey proves to be one in the climax when she leads an army of police to arrest Murdstone.
- Adaptation Name Change: In the novel, Grimby's name is Grinby.
- Adaptation Personality Change: Clara Copperfield in the novel is more akin to a manchild. In the 1993 movie, however, her childish qualities are toned down and her only childish trait that remains is the Fatal Flaw of her being too trusting in others.
- Adaptational Villainy: Thanks in part to adapting out a lot of the story, Murdstone takes a bigger stage in being a villain, taking all the 90's cartoon movie villain traits like murdering the parents and getting a final battle.
- Adapted Out: Tons, since the novel is such a doorstopper and a lot of it wouldn't be considered suitable for young children. Peggotty's family is gone, Dora, Steerforth's entire plotline, Murdstone's sister, etc.
- Animated Adaptation: Of the "in name only" kind.
- Animated Musical
- Anthropomorphic Animal Adaptation
- Bad Boss: Murdstone kidnaps orphans to work in his cheese factory and then treats them as actual slaves.
- Black Widow: Murdstone is a rare male example: he marries Clara for her money then refuses to let her see a doctor til it's too late to treat her Incurable Cough of Death.
- Bumbling Dad: The Duke of Wickfield is Agnes'.
- Cats Are Mean: Averted for David and his mother. Played straight for Murdstone.
- Disappeared Dad: Mr. Copperfield dies before Davey is born.
- Disney Acid Sequence: The songs "Imagination" and the reprise of "Is There Anyone?" are both set to bizarre visuals that come out of nowhere.
- Does Not Like Men: Aunt Betsey. She even has a song about it. She gets better later and even seems to be developing an interest in Agnes' father.
- The Dreaded: The Cheese Monster is this to Murdstone's workers.
- Fat and Skinny: Grimby and Murdstone.
- Fat Bastard: Grimby is overweight and the second worst villain in the movie.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Agnes has blonde ringlets and is a very good person.
- Horrible Judge of Character: Clara, who ignores her son's warnings that she shouldn't marry Murdstone.
- Incurable Cough of Death: What kills Clara.
- Killed Off for Real: Clara dies halfway through the movie.
- Lean and Mean: The main villain is a very skinny guy.
- Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: The Cheese Monster betrays Murdstone after she overhears he's going to cook her as a meal for his guards.
- No OSHA Compliance: Murdstone's factory is a death trap even by Victorian standards. Justified since he's too much of a greedy creep to bother with safety measures.
- Villain Song: "Welcome To My Warehouse" sung by Murdstone (and Grimby).
- Wicked Stepmother: Murdstone is an evil stepfather.
- World of Funny Animals: An example. There are no humans and even the few non-anthropomorphisized animals talk.
- You Dirty Rat!: Grimby is a rat who's a villainous Dirty Coward.
- In fact, all of Murdstone's security Mooks are rats.