Don Bluth was part of the Disney Animation division who helped conceive and create the likes of some of their later classics The Rescuers and Pete's Dragon. After leaving the studio, he began to focus on more of his own projects, amongst these being the revolutionary arcade video game Dragon's Lair. In recent times, he has been trying to put together an updated version through Kickstarter, according to online reports.
Bluth's 1987 release, An American Tail, proudly presented as Steven Spielberg's first ever foray into animation (via Amblin Entertainment), is released on Blu-Ray in a brand-new Special Edition, in this June 2017 30th Anniversary release by Fabulous Films. On it's original release theatrically, it was then the highest-grossing non-Disney Animation film of all time.
In the UK, we had to wait about nine months from the US premiere in November 1986 until its Summer 1987 release. In the interim (particularly if you frequented the then-ABC cinema chain) you would have seen the promo video for “Somewhere Out There”, the Oscar-nominated song performed by LInda Ronstadt and James Ingram, which was composed by the late James Horner with Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann (who composed the likes of “You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling”).
The film chronicles the journey to America of a Russian Family, the Mousekowitzes, including young Fievel, who inevitably gets separated from them and begins a series of misadventures around 'Ye Old New York', encountering all sorts of feline and mouse-based foes in a Dickensian-style world and finding himself in the process.
Overall, An American Tail’s mix of musical numbers and action would match some of the more recent Disney offerings like Frozen and classics like Aladdin and Beauty And The Beast. Bluth certainly retains most of the trademark visual style and references from his Disney days. It remains to this day a commendable piece. However, it will be more of interest to the older generation, kids of the 1980s, who will definitely be enthusiastic enough to introduce their children to the film, which also yielded a sequel, Fievel Goes West.
It encapsulates classic Spielberg-ian elements of lost children, alienation and finding your way home, as well as having some excellent voice talents on show with the likes of Christopher Plummer, alongside the late comedians Madeleine Khan and Dom DeLuise. At a mere eighty minutes long, it is short and sweet, with sentiment not too far away from the proceedings.
It remains to this day the best of Bluth's output, with later offerings like All Dogs Go To Heaven and Thumbelina not quite hitting the heights. The success of the film also led to Spielberg forming Amblin-ation, which in turn was the start-off point for DreamWorks later animation division (Shrek, Puss In Boots, et al.).
The film also had a nice post-script in 2000 via UNICEF, when Fievel was announced as the charity's 'spokes-mouse', reflecting 'the adventures and triumphs of all cultures and their children', according to the official press release for the film.
In conclusion, An American Tail is morally wholesome entertainment that has a place in animation history. It's harmless, inoffensive and morally clued-in. The animation is also impeccable, and one of the last cel-based animations of it's kind, which is enhanced by the Blu-Ray remastering.
(Interesting bit of trivia: The film's characters were created by David M. Kirschner, who produced the Chucky horror franchise - a contrast if ever there was one).
AN AMERICAN TAIL (1986) / CERT: U / DIRECTOR: DON BLUTH / SCREENPLAY: JUDY FREUDBERG, TONY GEISS / STARRING: PHILLIP GLASSER, AMY GREEN, JOHN P. FINNEGAN, CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW