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  • All Animation Is Disney: This is not helped by the fact that An American Tail and its sequels were regular showings on Disney Channel and Toon Disney, or the fantastic Award-Bait Song similar to the ones that Disney became so well-known for in subsequent years. The closest thing to it being Disney is that many of the animators once worked there. The film was even pitched to Disney, but they rejected the idea that a Jewish fable would make good box-office and dropped it; it ended up haunting them later.
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  • Animation Age Ghetto: Siskel & Ebert's complaint about the movie was that it was too dark and depressing for children to handle. They said much the same thing about every Don Bluth movie though. The box office money it made shows that kids and adults were watching it anyway.
  • Awesome Music:
    • "Somewhere Out There". Enough said.
    • James Horner's orchestration sets the tone of the film (and the first sequel; see below) quite nicely. In some places, it's hard to believe it was written for an animated film.
    • The Ethereal Choir that sings the words to "The New Colossus" when Fievel sees his first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty has been known to inspire chills.
  • Base-Breaking Character: Some love Fievel for being a charming and realistically-written little kid, while others see him as annoying and dumb.
  • Complete Monster: Warren T. Cat, the greedy leader of the Mott Street Maulers, holds the downtrodden mice of New York in a chokehold, forcing them to pay him off under the guise of "Warren T. Rat" while secretly having his cats pick off a mouse every once and a while to keep them terrified and under control. When Warren stumbles upon the innocent orphan Fievel Mousekewitz in his introductory scene, Warren manipulates him into his clutches and then tosses him to the hold of a cruel sweatshop for a quick fifty cents, sneering "you don't need a family anymore—you got a job!" When the mice finally stand up to Warren's manipulations, Warren simply decides to cut his losses and tries to burn them all alive with a sick laugh.
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  • Critical Dissonance: Got mixed reception when it was first released, with many critics believing that the plot and characterization wasn't very good. Despite this, it ended up making a lot of money at the box office and out-grossing every animated film ever up to that point.
  • Ear Worm:
    • THERE ARE NOOO CATS IN AMERICA AND THE STREETS ARE PAVED WITH CHEESE.
    • Soooome wheeere, oouut theeere...
    • A duo, a duo ...
    • Never say never, whatever you do! Never say never, my friend!
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Tiger, enough to where he plays a huge part in the sequel while being minor in the first film.
    • For a time, the Irish mouse who sings during "There Are No Cats In America," despite only having two lines and no name, had an entire subset of the fandom dedicated to him!
    • Bridget. Three guesses as to why.
  • First Installment Wins: Though there was a stretch during the nineties where Fievel Goes West was equally well-known, due to being a decent film with a simple genre hook, and also a spin-off series to keep it in kids' minds. Since then it's slipped back below the original in terms of popularity.
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  • Friendly Fandoms: Fans of this movie are generally on good terms with fans of The Great Mouse Detective even though they were Dueling Movies. The popular Olivia/Fievel Crossover Ship is probably a testament to that. Fans of this movie are also part of the greater Bluth fandom and generally get along with fans of other Bluth movies, too.
  • Genius Bonus:
    • When Tiger tearfully mentions that he lost his family, which consisted of 5 brothers, 10 sisters, and 3 fathers. A mother cat's litter can be fathered by more than one tomcat.
    • The Irish mouse specifically notes that the cat that killed his love was a calico. In other words, she was killed by a Black and Tan.
    • Warren's Shakespeare quote just before he sells Fievel to a sweatshop, "Oh pardon me thou bleeding piece of Earth, that I am meek and gentle with these butchers..." comes from Julius Caesar, specifically Antony's lament over Caesar's dead body after he was betrayed by Brutus. Meaning it was a clue that Warren was about to betray Fievel.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Universal Studios at least seems to be under this impression for the series as a whole, making a lot of merchandise and home video releases exclusively available in Europe and not America, in a weird inverted example of No Export for You. DVD releases of the short-lived spinoff series Fievel's American Tails, as well as an odd Playstation 2 video game adaptation of the first film, were only released in Europe. The first film did do extremely well overseas, so perhaps there is reasoning behind this.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Try to watch this movie the same way after watching Don Bluth being interviewed by Doug Walker, where he admits the film was heavily inspired by his rarely seeing his numerous siblings anymore, as well as how his marriage to his work, while he isn't ashamed of it, forced him to forego any kind of family of his own.
  • Iconic Character, Forgotten Title:
    • The movie is sometimes mistakenly called "Fievel" - that the sequel does have Fievel's name in the title likely doesn't help.
    • Interestingly, in most other countries Fievel's name is in the title. Take Germany's Feivel Der Mauswanderer (Fievel The Mouse Wanderer), Spain's Fievel Y El Nuevo Mundo or French's Fievel et le Nouveau Monde (Fievel And The New World), for instance.
  • Misaimed Marketing: Infamously, if unintentionally (one would hope), done by McDonald's. One of their special promotions tied into the film's winter release was a special offer involving Fievel... Christmas stockings and tree ornaments, despite Fievel being obviously Jewish. The Anti-Defamation League was not pleased.
  • Narm:
    • Fievel looking like he's having a seizure right before a huge tidal wave sweeps him out to sea.
    • Any time Fievel Screams Like a Little Girl. Which happens frequently, unfortunately.
    • All of Don Bluth's animation trademarks are present here. Most of all; Papa rarely ever closes his mouth.
  • Narm Charm: Fievel and Tanya singing "Somewhere Out There", with their little mouse voices cracking when they hit the high notes. To some it might be annoying, but to others, it's so cuuute! Some, however, find it annoying because it's so cute!
  • One-Scene Wonder: Moe. He's onscreen for less than a minute and has only two lines, but his appearance makes a pretty effective and memorable Jump Scare and he's regarded as one of the scariest characters in the whole movie.
  • The Problem with Licensed Games: In 2007, An American Tale actually got a video game tie-in developed by Data Design Interactive (a notorious shovelware developer). The game suffers from poor graphics, bad controls, music recycled from DDI's other appalling video games (such as Anubis II and Ninjabread Man, just to name a few), and the gameplay itself consists of generic and repetitive mini-games. It also wasn't released outside of europe, for better or worse.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song: "Somewhere Out There" is similar to "Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz.
  • Vindicated by History: The film received mixed reviews when it first came out, including a dreaded "Two Thumbs Down" from Siskel and Ebert. However, airings on TV and the love and respect of a generation who grew up with the film have elevated it to minor classic status, with many considering it one of the best (if not the overall best) films made by Don Bluth.
  • Viewer Gender Confusion: Tony has a female voice actress and is a rare male example of Furry Female Mane, so it's inevitable that there'd be a little gender confusion for some. Though them having such blatant Les Yay with Bridget would be pretty unheard of in an animated movie today, let alone in 1986.
  • The Woobie: Fievel. Your mileage probably won't vary much. The poor kid was knocked off the boat he and his family were on and was washed up on the shores of New York. He doesn't have the first clue about where his family could be, but he does what he can to find them. Along the way, he meets a cat disguised as a rat who sells him to a sweatshop and is later captured by him once he learns about his dirty secret. He encounters several dangers along the way, nearly getting killed on a couple of occasions. Not once during his journey does he see his family and is let down when he thinks that he found his family only to be proven otherwise. Near the end, he tearfully gives up on finding his family, believing that they don't care about him.
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