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Western Animation / Thumbelina (1994)

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Don Bluth's adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale Thumbelina, released in 1994.

It sticks to the basic story of the original fairly closely. A woman pines for a child and, magically, she is gifted with a daughter no bigger than her thumb. Thumbelina, as she is aptly named, is a happy person but wishes she could find someone else her size. Her wish comes true when she meets the prince of the fairies, Cornelius, and they quickly fall in love. But that night, she's snatched away by a toad who wants Thumbelina to join her performance troupe and marry her son.

She escapes with the help of a friendly swallow named Jaquimo, but now she has the impossible task of getting home. Meanwhile, both Cornelius and the jaded toad Grundel are determined to find her.

Compare with Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny, which had its own... unique take on Thumbelina.

Thumbelina provides examples of:

  • Accessory-Wearing Cartoon Animal:
    • Jacquimo wears only a hat, gloves, and boots, though his breast feathers are designed to look like a harlequin's shirt.
    • The bull at the farm wears shoes.
    • In fact, a large number of the animals wear accessories, when they aren't completely dressed. The fish in the stream have hats and scarves, the goose on the farm has a hat and shawl, the chickens have pompadours.
  • Actionized Adaptation: Instead of Thumbelina running away with the swallow on the day of the wedding, we see the ceremony. Thumbelina refuses to marry Mr. Mole, Grundel and Berkeley confront her, and she stands up to them as well. Cornelius arrives to fight Grundel while Mr. Mole and the weddinggoers chase down Thumbelina, who only escapes them by causing an avalanche with Mr. Mole's treasure.
  • Adaptational Nationality: Well, maybe. The original tale explicitly took place in Denmark, but the movie begins with an extended flyover of Paris, complete with Jacquimo welcoming viewers to the city, before the proper story begins being told from a book.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Several aspects of the story are fleshed out or expanded compared to the source material. Thumbelina meeting the fairy prince is now one of the first plot beats rather than the very last, and every one-off character in the original tale — Thumbelina's mother, the swallow, the toad, and the beetle — had his or her role expanded significantly for the film.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication:
    • In Andersen's original tale, the reason Thumbelina turned out to be so small is because her mother specifically asked the witch for a tiny little child. In the movie, no such explanation is offered and her choice of words never clarified.
    • The original story also chronicles how much of a survivalist Thumbelina became in order to survive in the wilderness after being kidnapped from her home. The film never explains how she managed to sustain herself in the months between the start of autumn when the story begins and when she's taken in by Mrs. Fieldmouse in December.
    • How Thumbelina receives her wings is another example. In the original tale, she was given a pair that had been shed by an insect, whereas in the film, she receives some via magic as an unexplained side effect of accepting Cornelius's proposal.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: The fact that Thumbelina meets the swallow earlier in the movie can make viewers wonder why he didn't just give her a ride home in the first place.
  • Agony of the Feet: During the "On the Road" number, Mrs. Toad uses this method to get Thumbelina to join the singing: by stepping on her foot!
    Mrs. Toad: Now, I make her sing!
    Thumbelina: Ahh-a-ahhhh!
    Mrs. Toad: Bueno! Muy Bueno, you got it!
  • Ambiguously Evil: While the mole is a man of wealth and prefers the dark, when traveling through his tunnel, there's an entire chamber surrounded by pinned insects, and since bugs are sentient in this story, it means he makes a habit of making taxidermies of any bug that comes into his cavern. Nobody, except Beetle brings this up as a flaw.
  • Analogy Backfire: Jacquimo's opening monologue has him describe The Power of Love and its capacity to overcome impossibility, a perfectly fine moral... but he ends up citing Samson and Delilah and Romeo and Juliet as examples, evidently unaware that love caused problems in those stories, which ended more than a little poorly (for the record, later in the film, Ms. Fieldmouse correctly cites how Romeo and Juliet's love led to them dying, so Jacquimo's bad analogy is intentional).
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: Mrs. Toad plans to marry Thumbelina off to her son, Grundel, before she escapes. Later, she's taken in by Mrs. Fieldmouse, who plans a similar engagement to her neighbor, Mr. Mole.
  • Animal Talk: Most of the animal characters demonstrate this, the only exceptions being Hero the dog and Cornelius's bumblebee, both of whom fall under The Unintelligible.
  • Big Damn Reunion: After spending a majority of the film searching for each other, Thumbelina and Cornelius finally reunite in the end when she finds her way to the Vale of the Fairies.
  • Big, Thin, Short Trio: Mrs. Toad's sons Mozo, Gringo, and Grundel, respectively.
  • Bishie Sparkle: Any scene with Cornelius or the other fairies; it's somewhat justified in that their wings are really sparkly.
  • Born as an Adult: When Thumbelina is born out of a flower, she is at least a teenager.
  • Break the Cutie: Happens to poor Thumbelina, who starts out fairly idealistic but then gets beaten down after being kidnapped and taken advantage of several times throughout the film.
  • Carnivore Confusion: Jacquimo interrupts a sentient fox hunting a sentient rabbit while searching for the Vale of the Fairies. Everyone involved treats the situation strangely matter-of-factly.
  • Character Development: Thumbelina spends much of the film letting people walk all over her or passively going along with their plans in the naive belief they'll help her out after, only to be disappointed at almost every turn. When she's pushed into what would likely be a miserable marriage with the mole, however, Thumbelina puts her foot down and stands up for what she wants for the first time. The toad who interrupts the ceremony a few moments later gets the same treatment, and Thumbelina leaves them both to squabble over her while she goes home.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Ms. Field Mouse is a bit... off her rocker. If you wear a pincushion as a dress while singing about Romeo and Juliet's death, you are a Cuckoolander. Being voiced by Carol Channing does not help.
  • Dark Reprise: The tune of "Let Me Be Your Wings" is used for a short reprise called "Once There Was The Sun". It keeps the magical, upbeat tune and has sunny visuals, but it's about Thumbelina lamenting both the harsh winter and Cornelius' apparent death.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Grundel attempting a Taking You with Me by dragging Cornelius off of a cliff doesn't end up accomplishing a whole lot, thanks to the fact that Cornelius has wings.
  • Disney Death: Cornelius gets this twice. First he gets knocked into a frozen pond while out searching for Thumbelina, only to later be thawed out by the Jitterbugs. Then, during a scuffle with Grundel, the two take a tumble into a pit while Thumbelina makes her escape. Just like before, he gets better.
  • Disney Villain Death: Averted with Grundel. He's last seen tumbling into a pit during a scuffle with Cornelius, but the credits show he survived and evidentally got together with a female toad.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: When Cornelius and Thumbelina exchange tokens, Cornelius gives Thumbelina a ring, which he places on the third finger of her left hand, where the engagement ring is traditionally placed. Even though he never actually makes a marriage proposal until several months later, its evocation of betrothal is made far from subtle by Thumbelina's statement "I think I'm gonna marry him" and a later scene when she looks at the ring as she walks down the aisle to marry Mr. Mole and is reminded of her love for Cornelius, which she cites as a reason for refusing to go through with marrying the mole. It's additionally brilliant for those who know that back when the story takes place, betrothal to a third party was considered a legitimate impediment to marriage between a man and a woman.
  • Down on the Farm: Where Thumbelina initially lives with her mother.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Thumbelina and Cornelius really get put through the wringer.
  • Expy: Jacquimo is basically a dreamier version of Henri from An American Tail. French birds in Don Bluth films who sing a bouncy number early on about never giving up? Yeah.
  • Flight of Romance: Thumbelina and Cornelius riding Buzzbee around the valley, set to the duet "Let Me Be Your Wings" as they fall in love.
  • Four-Legged Insect: All of the insects except for the Cornelius's pet bumblebee, who coincidentally is also the only one who can't talk.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: Thumbelina and Cornelius fall in love after a single night of spending time together. Incidentally a step up from the original fairy tale, where Thumbelina only meets the fairy prince at the end of the story and agrees to marry him right on the spot.
  • Fully-Clothed Nudity: When Thumbelina loses her beetle costume, she's still clothed underneath, but she acts embarrassed and tries to cover herself when the beetles laugh at her.
  • Growing Wings: Thumbelina when she accepts Cornelius's proposal, meaning her wish came true.
  • Harmless Freezing: Prince Cornelius doesn't die nor suffers any effect from having been frozen for quite some time after being thawed. Must be fairy biology.
  • He's a Friend: Thumbelina's first real interaction with Cornelius has both of them convince her protective dog of this after he sneaks into her room one night.
  • Humans Are Ugly: The opinion of the bugs at the club after Thumbelina's bug costume falls off.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: The movie's full title is Hans Christian Andersen's Thumbelina.
  • The Ingenue: Thumbelina, to the point that she cannot defend herself in any way until the end of the movie.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Mrs. Toad was modeled after her voice actress, the guitarist and singer Charo. Jarringly so. Thumbelina herself also has a degree of resemblance to Jodi Benson.
  • Interspecies Romance: Various characters try to force Thumbelina into one of these, one to a toad and the other to a mole, and by the end of the movie, she gets together with the fairy prince.
  • Karma Houdini: Mrs. Toad, apart from losing out on the money she planned to make off of Thumbelina's singing, receives no comeuppance for kidnapping her from her home at the start of the film.
  • Kidnapped While Sleeping: Mrs. Toad kidnaps Thumbelina while she is sleeping. She is aware though, as Thumbelina manages to wake with a start the moment Mrs. Toad slams her walnut shut.
  • Knows a Guy Who Knows a Guy: How Jacquimo finally discerns the location of the Vale of the Fairies.
    Jaquimo: I talked to the rabbit, who talked to the fox, who talked to the deer, who know for sure!
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: If Cornelius and Thumbelina hadn't shown off their Award-Bait Song to the toad family, Mrs. Toad wouldn't have kidnapped her. Also Thumbelina singing in front of Grundel during the song, and turning toward him on the line "Heaven is where you are" even though she's really singing to Cornelius, causes the toad to fall for her.
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: Mrs. Toad sports a pair.
    • So do some of the female insects at the Beetle Ball.
  • Painting the Frost on Windows: The fairies are responsible for changing the seasons.
  • Pep-Talk Song:
    • "Follow Your Heart", as Jaquimo is encouraging Thumbelina to not give up on herself and make her way home.
    • "Marry the Mole" is a strange pseudo-example. While Miss Field Mouse thinks she's giving Thumbelina good advice and encouragement, she's also telling her to marry someone for their money and that love is over-rated.
  • Pop-Star Composer: This is Barry Manilow's first project with Don Bluth. He not only wrote the songs, but he also wrote the film score along with William Ross.
  • Random Events Plot: Owing to the tale it's based on.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Prince Cornelius covers a surprising distance (considering his size), nearly dies in a frozen lake, and fights a large irate frog to save Thumbelina.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Inverted. While Prince Cornelius is the outgoing, adventurous Energetic Guy, Thumbelina is the reserved and practical Savvy Girl.
  • Shout-Out: Mr. Beetle's first name is Berkeley, though the ballroom sequence isn't a Busby Berkeley Number.
  • Songs of Solace: "Soon" is sung by Thumbelina to comfort herself because she's lonely. Her mother later sings it to comfort herself over her missing daughter.
  • Species Surname: Mrs. Toad, Mr. Beetle, Miss Field Mouse, and Mr. Mole.
  • Spexico: Los Sapos Guapos say they come from Spain. Yet the song has snippets of samba (Brazil), conga (Cuba), tango (Argentina), and mentions Mexican foods. Mrs. Toad may be parodying Charo, but her hairstyle looks more like that of Marie Antoinette (from France). And the Toad boys are dressed like Harlequins (from Italy). Spain is spelled as both Espana and Espagna. And though the troupe is called Los Sapos Guapos (The Handsome Toads), they seem more like frogs at times and Mrs. Toad says "ranitas" (frogs) once as well.
  • Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: In an equal-opportunity instance of this trope, almost every animal sports some kind of clothing or hairstyle that marks him or her as male or female.
  • Triumphant Reprise: "Let Me Be Your Wings" returns near the end, as Thumbelina attempts to revive the Vale of the Fairies, and she is joined by the revived Cornelius singing the final line. The song is sung again in a more celebratory manner during the wedding scene at the very end, showing Thumbelina has finally earned her wings and she and Cornelius have earned their Happily Ever After..
  • Villain Song: Depending on who you consider to be the villains and who are just mean, we have "On the Road", "Yer Beautiful Baby", and "Marry the Mole".
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Averted. Unlike in the original tale, where Thumbelina never thought to return home after being kidnapped, finding her way home again and reuniting with her worried mother are what's motivating her most throughout the story, and in the ending, we're shown her mother attending her wedding to Cornelius.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: It comes from the original story. Thumbelina is courted, over the course of the story, by a toad, a beetle, and a mole. She finally marries the cute fairy prince. And it's also played with (again, has roots in Andersen): the Beetle intentionally disguises Thumbelina for the Beetle Ball because, to bugs, she is ugly. When the disguise falls apart, he lets their opinion of her change his and kicks her out.
  • You Have Waited Long Enough: Miss Field Mouse pressures Thumbelina into marrying Mr. Mole when she has only just been notified of her true love's apparent death.

"And always follow your heart..."


Video Example(s):


You Will Be My Wings

Upon discovering that Cornelius is alive, Thumbelina finally gets the wedding she had always dreamed of.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / EarnYourHappyEnding

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