Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Random 90's Animation - "An American Tail 2: Fievel Goes West!" (1991)

Today we begin what I shall be referring to in full as the Strange Animated Films from the 1990's Made By Random Studios Marathon.  I needed to watch some good -or at least decent- animation after My Summer of Sequels, so I filled my Netflix queue with all the 90's animation I can find.  It seems as though shortly after the Bronze Age of Disney animation got into full swing, every studio suddenly wanted their own animated features to release, and the situation got even crazier when "The Lion King" owned the box office like no other animated feature before it.

The films I'll be reviewing will be kind of, duh, random.  And yes, we will creep into the early 2000's for a couple of them.  But they are all interesting and strange in some way or other and worth revisiting and discussing... I hope...  Sadly, a number of intriguing films were not available through Netflix, but then again, I am a little pressed for time (I am doing this for-fun project concurrently with -and I might as well spill the beans- a sudden influx of commissions I need to finish).  Finally, before you cry, "But what about 'Ferngully'/'Pagemaster'/etc.?!?", try searching Nessie's

It looks like we're getting the most tedious and aggravating films out of the way quickly.  (You may notice a lack of "Space Jam" in the above list.  This is due to the fact that I have nerd-raged enough about it as both a Looney Tunes fan and basketball enthusiast in the past.  And, more importantly, I can already tell without even having seen it that "We're Back" will provide me with more than enough nerd rage-worthiness for one movie marathon.) On that note, with our first film, I will be washing off the stink of all those terrible ill-conceived shameless cash-grabs of sequels with... a terrible ill-conceived shameless cash-grab of a sequel!  It's "An American Tail 2: Fievel Goes West".  Oh joy.

For those of you who were mad at me for not doing any Don Bluth sequels during My Summer of Sequels, (a) chill the eff out, I said I was only doing Disney sequels right from the beginning; (b) I really hope you're happy now, since this is the only one I'll be even acknowledging.  Now, to be fair, it was not surprising that Universal's newly-formed Amblimation unit would wish to make a sequel to "An American Tail" for it's very first foray into animated features.  After all, it was up until a certain point the highest-grossing animated film of all time.  What is surprising is everything else about "An American Tail 2: Fievel Goes West", starting with the fact that it's title is so inane, I just have to refer to it in full through the whole review.

A bit of poking around the Internet reveals that there are a surprising number of otherwise reasonable adults who have nostalgia for "An American Tail 2: Fievel Goes West", and there are a few who even prefer it over the original "An American Tail".  These people are objectively wrong and they should feel bad.  (I strongly suggest you watch it again as an adult before you argue with me here.)  As I said during Don Bluth Month, I was never a big fan of "An American Tail", but I have since grown to appreciate it's darkness and it's willingness to stick with that weird, dark tone and frankly strange overall premise.  And of course it also has that lovely James Horner music and gorgeous Don Bluth character and effects animation.

"An American Tail 2: Fievel Goes West" has got none of this.  Well, that's not entirely accurate.  James Horner is still around to contribute his themes from the first movie and to resurrect a song deleted from the first film.  Speaking of the songs, all you really need to know about "An American Tail 2: Fievel Goes West" is that yes, we do get to hear a character sing "Somewhere Out There" again.

And the song is quickly interrupted by people jeering and complaining and throwing fruit until the character gives up singing it.  This is immediately followed by Poppa making a long and astonishing speech that completely undermines the whole conceit of the original film.  And this happens:

After seeing this gag, I started to imagine that everything happening in the film had to be the result of Fievel innocently stumbling onto a cache of the 19'th Century equivalent of powerful hallucinogenics.  Oh, and as for the hopeful-signature song from this film, the aforementioned "new" song, it... well, it deserves better than the slightly creeptastic scene it's sung in here.

Don Bluth (I could only imagine him drinking heavily during the entirety of "An American Tail 2: Fievel Goes West") and Steven Spielberg parted ways some time after "The Land Before Time".  So Bluth is not at all involved in this film.  And although he was supposedly the head of Amblimation, Spielberg apparently was only involved to personally direct James Stewart.  (Oh yeah, Jimmy Stewart's very last IMDB film credit ever = "An American Tail 2: Fievel Goes West".  God's honest truth.  *Sigh...*)  I say this because the thing that struck me about "An American Tail 2: Fievel Goes West" is that what you see onscreen constantly throughout the film are all the very worst impulses of the people behind the original "An American Tail".  Not only that, but it's louder, sillier, and throws the characters in a new situation that does not really suit them at all ("Fievel in Space" would have only been a little more ridiculous, given that this is already a movie where a character living in 1890's New York City idolizes Western icons that weren't popular on the east coast until well into the 1920's).

"An American Tail 2: Fievel Goes West" also feels an awful lot like a television cartoon.  It has a TV series plot and TV series pacing; hell, it's only about 75 minutes long but you feel every second of it.  "An American Tail 2: Fievel Goes West" in fact was followed by a Saturday morning series that, from the looks of it, is now largely forgotten and perhaps deservedly so. 

One thing I'm not entirely sure I've gotten across effectively is just how deeply bizarre "An American Tail 2: Fievel Goes West" is, especially as a sequel, but really just as a thing that exists and that was released on -again, honest truth- the very same weekend as "Beauty and the Beast".  There's a spider character who *pukes* webs at people.  There's a highly uncomfortable scene where Tiger the cat is worshiped as a god by old-timey "Injun" stereotype desert critters.  There's another highly uncomfortable scene where the lead antagonist is squished against the gigantic breasts of a woman who constantly screeches "Oh, pussy!  My PUSSY!!!"  This last gag was apparently so funny and edgy and mature to the filmmakers that they had to repeat it near the end.

Like I said, the whole thing has to have been a hallucination.  Along with the aforementioned terrible Saturday morning series, Universal also produced two direct-to-video sequels long after the fact which both sport headache-inducing subtitles and a total disregard for the fact that these characters were ever out West at all, so my theory is as good as confirmed as far as I care.

Next up, another early 90's film that is weird as f***, but for very different reasons.


Sketch of the Day!

Apropos of nothing, here are some live studies of a female Mallard.

8.11.12 - Sketchbook Page

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