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Thumbelina Review

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In this novel by Hans Christian Anderson a miniature girl is born inside a flower but then kidnapped by a sparrow. A fairy prince who is having his own problems with rebelling against his conservative parents sets out to rescue her with the help of his bumble-bee.

★★★★

In the decades before a revitalised Disney hit the mark with animated output as varied, exciting and intelligent as Aladdin and The Lion King, the studio found itself in the creative trough that produced such duds as The Rescuers in the 70s.

Towards the end of this period, animators Bluth and Goldman left Disney to set up their own animation studio, where they produced such critically well-received efforts as the Secret Of NIMH and the Spielberg collaboration An American Tail. Subsequent Goldman/Bluth output has, however, failed to live up to that early promise, and this Hans Christian Anderson adaptation represents a new low for their axis.

It opens well enough, with beautifully rendered countryside backgrounds topped immediately by a series of amazing computer animated sequences flying through Paris streets. Yet as soon as Jacquimo the swallow lands and introduces the story of Thumbelina — the miniature girl born by magic from the centre of a flower — events rapidly get bogged down in the mawkish and patronising sentiment of ill-considered Barry Manilow songs extolling the virtues of waiting for the right man and following your heart to achieve your goal.

Thumbelina's love interest is the fairy Prince Cornelius who rebels against his parents by riding a bumble-bee rather than the official white butterfly, though otherwise behaves in predictably unexciting, storybook prince fashion. A few brief scenes involving a Mrs. Fieldmouse recall the quality character animation in NIMH, to which the whole misconceived affair is little more than a feeble epitaph, but overall this is shamefully pathetic.

Don Bluth's cartoons never seemed as fun as Disney and here's a perfect example. Thumbelina isn't cute, sophisticated or funny, it lacks any charisma at all, with Barry Manilow proving a poor Elton John substitute. Why Gary Oldman got involved remains a mystery.