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An American Tail (1986) Poster

Trivia

Jump to: Director Trademark (3)
Fievel was the name of Steven Spielberg's grandfather.
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The scene in which Fievel presses up against a window to look into a classroom filled with American "schoolmice" is based on a story Steven Spielberg remembered about his grandfather, who told him that Jews were only able to listen to school lessons through open windows while sitting outside in the snow.
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During production, director Don Bluth staged a demonstration of the difference between limited TV animation and the full animation used in the film. He had his staff stack up animation cels by his feet into two piles, one representing two minutes of limited animation, the other two minutes of full animation. The TV pile reached only to Bluth's shoelaces; the film pile went all the way up to eye level.
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In the third verse of "No Cats in America," an Irish mouse sings that a cat killed his true love and left nothing but her tail behind. Ironically, this mouse has no tail of his own.
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Warren Hays who played the voice of the Irish Singer Mouse on the boat later went on to work with the Pixar Film Company. He worked as the Systems Administrator and Systems Supporter of A Bug's Life (1998), the Information Systems Manager of Toy Story 2 (1999), the Information Systems Manager & Lead of Finding Nemo (2003), and Desktop and Infrastructure: Pixar Studio Team of Up (2009).
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The opening scene of the ship's arrival in America (at Castle Garden) is based on a photograph in Christian Weekly magazine from March 28, 1874. On the barge is written, Einwanderer Beforderung, which means "Immigrant Transfer" in German.
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Originally, the concept consisted of an all-animal world, like Disney's Robin Hood (1973), but Don Bluth suggested featuring an animal world existing as a hidden society from the human world, like Disney's The Rescuers (1977). After viewing the film, Steven Spielberg agreed.
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Steven Spielberg had some material cut that he felt was too much scary and intense for children, including a scene Don Bluth was developing revolving around the nightmarish wave monsters while the family was at sea.
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The character of Gussie Mausheimer - a wealthy German socialite with a speech impediment which causes her to use the W sound in place of her R's and L's - is voiced by Madeline Kahn. The character's heritage, accent and distinctive speech pattern are identical to Lili von Shtupp, Madeline Kahn's character in the classic Mel Brooks comedy Blazing Saddles (1974).
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In designing the look of the film and its characters, Don Bluth worked with Amblin Entertainment and the Sears marketing department (Sears had a major marketing push on the main character). He decided to make a stylistic shift from the more angular "modern style" of animation of the time to a style similar to Disney animation from the 1940s, where the characters have a more soft and cuddly feel. This proved successful, and at release many critics praised the "old fashioned style" of the film's look and feel. This was during a period when the market for nostalgia was particularly strong among baby boomers, who at this time were seeking products for their young children, and only three years before the beginning of the Disney Renaissance for the studio Bluth once worked for.
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Part of Dom DeLuise's characterization of "Tiger" is clearly inspired by Bert Lahr's as "The Cowardly Lion" in THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939)
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Fievel and Tony's relationship is similar to that of Oliver and the Artful Dodger in Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist" and Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn from Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer".
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Nehemiah Persoff was chosen to voice Papa Mousekewitz mostly because he had a similar role as Barbra Streisand's father in Yentl.
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The roars of the cats during the Cossacks raid are the same as those made by the farm cat, Dragon, in The Secret of NIMH (1982) which was also directed by Don Bluth
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Pat Musick, the voice of Tony Toponi, based his New York accent on a childhood friend of hers.
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Phillip Glasser was discovered by accident when Don Bluth and his crew overheard him auditioning for an Oscar Mayer commercial.
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Tony Toponi's last name is derived from "topo," the Italian word for mouse.
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Final film of Johnny Guarnieri.
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The dvd and bluray jacket front cover shows Fievel's sister Tanya as she appears in the sequel.
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John P. Finnegan won the role of Warren T. Rat by reciting excerpts of Hamlet in the voice of a Brooklyn taxi driver. This idea inspired the writers to make Warren a pretentious illiterate who continually misquoted Shakespeare.
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When Tony and Bridget emerge from the wreckage after the cat attack at the market, a bottle of "Pomeroy Hair Tonic", named after co-producer John Pomeroy, can be seen in the background.
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Tom Bähler was originally approached to write the film's songs, before the decision was made to hire Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.
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The frightening Neptune-like ocean specter that terrorizes Fievel during the storm at sea is clearly, at least partly, inspired by the demon Chernabog in Walt Disney's FANTASIA (1940).
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When Fievel is running away from the cats during the cossacks' raid, his hat falls from his head and stands at the entrance of a snow tunnel. Fievel retrieves it at the final moment, right before one of the cats gets there, in a moment reminiscent of producer Steven Spielberg 's Indiana Jones.
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Dom DeLuise had worked previously with Don Bluth in The Secret of NIMH (1982), and DeLuise even added material to the script at various points. During the song A Duo, he suggested they stop the music where the lyrics mention "back scratch" and have Fievel actually scratch Tiger's back.
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This was Universal Pictures' first animated feature film since Pinocchio in Outer Space (1965).
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Jerry Goldsmith, who had previously worked with Don Bluth on The Secret of NIMH (1982), was initially considered to compose the score, but withdrew due to previous commitments. In Goldsmith's place was James Horner, whom Bluth was already familiar with, as said composer's agent attempted to pressure Bluth into hiring Horner for "NIMH" despite being contractually obligated to use Goldsmith's score.
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Madeline Kahn (the voice of Gussie Mausheimer) and Christopher Plummer (the voice of Henri the pigeon) would go on to voice characters in Pixar films. Kahn voiced Gypsy the gypsy moth in A Bug's Life (1998) and Plummer voiced Charles Muntz, the villain in Up (2009). Also, Cathy Cavadini (the voice of Tanya in the sequel, An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991)) did additional voices in Finding Dory (2016) and Cars 3 (2017) (the former of which is directed by Andrew Stanton who also co-directed A Bug's Life (1998)) Also, John Cleese (the voice of Cat R. Waul) in Fievel Goes West) starred with Kahn's A Bug's Life female co-star, Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Planes (2013).
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When Gussie is making her speech at the rally, she stands on a can of "Dorse Hair Restorer", named for crew member Dorse A. Lanpher.
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CASTLE THUNDER: It is heard a few times in the film, it is first clap of thunder as the storm hits the boat, and a variation is heard again when Fievel first sees the fish on the flooded deck of the boat, and once more right before the wave monster rams right into the ship, knocking Fievel overboard.
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Tony Jay voices the larger of the three mice who own the factory.
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Erica Yohn's work as a Russian gypsy on a TV show attracted the attention of Don Bluth and John Pomeroy.
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The German voice of Digit is Wolfgang Ziffer. Fittingly, 'Ziffer' means 'digit' in German.
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Butch Hartman who would create the Nickelodeon show The fairly odd parents (2001) was an uncredited animation checker on the giant float scene, it was one of his first jobs in animation and one of the few he's done for theatrical releases.
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This is the first animated film to star Dom De Luise that takes place in New York. The second film would be Oliver and Company. Interestingly the two films take place 100 years apart. An American Tail took place in 1885 while Oliver and Company takes place between 1986 and 1988.
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Henri was originally to be voiced by Sid Caesar, and was conceived as scraggly and worn, but later Christopher Plummer was cast for the part and Henri was drawn with a more dignified look. Don Bluth felt Henri was an essential character to act as a voice for the statue "welcoming" Fievel to the new world.
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When Fievel first arrives in New York Henri the French pigeon tells him 'his statue' of Lady of Liberty is being built. Iconically the statue was a gift to America from France which explains why Heni said the tower was 'his'.
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The first theatrically released animated film to star Tony Jay, later he'd go onto voice Monsieur D'Arque in Beauty and The Beast (1991), Lickboot in Tom and Jerry: The Movie (1992), Reginald in All Dogs Go to Heaven II (1996), Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), reprise his role as Dr Lipschitz in the Rugrats Movie films, Dr Rosenthal in Recess: School's Out (2001), the narrator in Treasure Planet (2002), and reprise his role as Shere Khan in The Jungle Book 2 (2003).
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Director Trademark 

Don Bluth: [children] Fievel is separated from his parents throughout most of the film and there are also several orphans in New York.
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Don Bluth: [object] Fievel's hat.
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Don Bluth: [emigrating protagonist] The Mousekewitz family is forced to move to America from Russia.
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