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An American Tail

Promotional poster for An American Tail
Directed by Don Bluth
Produced by Don Bluth
Gary Goldman
John Pomeroy
(producer)George Lucas
Steven Spielberg (executive producer)
Written by Judy Freudberg
Tony Geiss
Starring Phillip Glasser
Dom DeLuise
Nehemiah Persoff
Erica Yohn
Music by James Horner
Studio Amblin Entertainment
Sullivan Bluth Studios
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) November 21, 1986
Running time 80 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Gross revenue $84,542,002
Followed by An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991)

An American Tail is a 1986 animated film produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, and directed by Don Bluth, originally released in movie theatres on November 21, 1986. It was the first animated film produced by Universal Pictures.



Shostka, Russia, 1885:

After an army of cruel cats destroys their village, the Mousekewitzes—a Russian-Jewish family of mice—decide to immigrate to America, where all mice know there are no cats.

During the trip, little Fievel Mousekewitz gets separated from Papa and washes overboard in a storm. The Mouskewitzes arrive sadly in America believing they've lost their son.

Fievel, however, floats to America in a bottle, and after a pep talk from a French pigeon named Henri, embarks on a quest to find his family. He is waylaid by conman Warren T. Rat, who gains his trust and then sells him to a sweatshop. Fievel escapes with Tony, a street-smart Italian mouse, and they join up with Bridget, an Irish mouse trying to rouse her fellow mice to stand up to cats. When a gang of cats called the Mott Street Maulers attacks a mouse marketplace, Fievel realizes there are indeed cats in America.

Bridget takes Fievel and Tony to see Honest John, a politician who knows all the voting mice in New York City. But as the Mousekewitzes have not yet registered to vote, he can't help Fievel find them. Meanwhile, Fievel's sister Tanya tells her gloomy parents she has a feeling that Fievel is still alive somewhere out there.

Led by the rich and powerful Gussie Mausheimer, the mice hold a rally to decide what to do about the cats. Warren T. Rat is extorting them all for protection he never provides. But no one has any idea what to do about it.

Until Fievel whispers a plan to Gussie.

The mice take over an abandoned building on Chelsea Pier and begin constructing their plan. On the day of launch, Fievel gets lost and stumbles upon Warren T.'s lair. He discovers that the rat is actually a cat in disguise and the leader of the Maulers. They capture Fievel, but a goofy, soft-hearted orange cat named Tiger takes a liking to Fievel and sets him free.

Fievel races back to the pier with the cats in pursuit, and Gussie orders the mice to release the secret weapon. A huge mechanical mouse, inspired by the bedtime tales Papa told to Fievel of the Giant Mouse of Minsk, chases the cats down the pier and into the water. A tramp steamer bound for Hong Kong picks up the cats and carries them away.

During the battle, Fievel is once again separated from those he loves, and falls into despair. But his friends and family team up for a final effort to find him, and Papa's violin playing leads Fievel back into the arms of his family. The journey ends with Henri taking everyone to see his newly completed project—the Statue of Liberty. The Mouskewitzes' new life in America begins.


Fievel Mousekewitz and Henri the pigeon, shortly after Fievel arrives in New York City.
  • Phillip Glasser as Fievel Mousekewitz, the protagonist of the film. While "Fievel" is the generally accepted spelling of his name, the opening credits spell him as "Feivel" which is technically the correct Yiddish transliteration[1][2] of the name (see also Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz and Feivel Gruberger) since Yiddish evolved from a medieval form of German and its rules for transliteration are therefore based on German orthography (the ending credits spell his name as "Fievel"). However, many English-speaking writers have come to adopt the spelling Fievel (with reversed i and first e) especially for this character; it was this spelling which was used on the film's poster, in promotional materials and tie-in merchandise, and in the title of the sequel An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. Fievel was named after Spielberg's maternal grandfather, Philip Posner, whose Yiddish name was Feivel. The scene in which Fievel presses up against a window to look into a classroom filled with American "schoolmice" is based on a story 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.[3] Fievel's last name is a play on the Jewish-Russian last name "Moskowitz", the name of the human occupants of the house Fievel's family is living under in the beginning of the film.
  • Amy Green as Tanya Mousekewitz (singing voice provided by Betsy Cathcart), Fievel's older sister. Optimistic, cheerful and obedient, she continued to believe that her brother was alive after Fievel was washed off the ill-fated SS Austria en route to America. She was given an American name 'Tillie' at the immigration point at Castle Garden on Ellis Island.
  • John P. Finnegan as Warren T. Rat, the main Antagonist of the film's story, Warren T. is really a cat in rat's clothing and the leader of the Mott Street Maulers, a gang of cats who terrorize the mice of New York City. He is accompanied nearly all the time by his accountant Digit, a small British cockroach. Warren is based on the famous anti-immigrant Nativist, Bill Poole aka "Bill the Butcher."
  • Nehemiah Persoff as Papa Mousekewitz, the head of the Mousekewitz family who plays the violin and tells stories to his children. Too overcome with grief and believing his son to be dead after being separated during the sinking of the SS Austria, he stubbornly refuses to search for Fievel after the family lands in America.
  • Erica Yohn as Mama Mousekewitz, Fievel's mother. She appears the stricter of the Mousekewitz parents, and has a fear of flying.
  • Pat Musick as Tony Toponi, a streetwise young mouse of Italian descent and with a 'tough New Yorker' attitude. Tony meets Fievel during their slavery at the sweatshop. He takes a liking to Fievel, and gives him an American name "Philly." After they escape the sweatshop, he becomes Fievel's friend and guide to the town.
  • Dom DeLuise as Tiger, a very large, cowardly, long-haired orange cat who also happens to be vegetarian. Tiger was a member of Warren T. Rat's 'Mott Street Maulers' cat-gang until he met and befriended Fievel, whom he helped to escape.
  • Christopher Plummer as Henri, a pigeon of French descent, who is in New York while building the Statue of Liberty. He is the first to meet Fievel upon entering America. He nurses Fievel back to health, and tells him that he should never give up in his search for his family (via the song 'Never Say Never'), a message which Fievel takes to heart.
  • Cathianne Blore as Bridget, an Irish activist and Tony's girlfriend.
  • Neil Ross as Honest John, a local Irish-born politician who knows every voting mouse in New York who presides over a wake for an Irish Catholic mouse done in by cats at his headquarters. A constant drunkard who takes advantage of every voter's concern to increase his political prestige. He represents the stereotype of the 19th century Tammany Hall politician. .
  • Madeline Kahn as Gussie Mausheimer, a German-born considered to be the richest in New York, who rallies the mice into fighting back against the cats.
  • Will Ryan as Digit, Warren T.'s British cockroach accountant who has a fondness for counting money, but is plagued by frequent electrical charges in his antennae whenever he gets nervous or excited.
  • Hal Smith as Moe, a fat rat who runs the sweatshop Fievel is sold to by Warren T.


While all of the animal characters were animated from scratch, the human characters were animated using the rotoscoping technique, in which sequences were shot in live action and then traced onto animation cels. This provides a realistic look for human characters, and distinguishes the cartoonish animal characters from the more realistically-animated humans. Rotoscoping is frequently employed in Don Bluth films, including The Secret of NIMH and Anastasia.


The musical score for the film was composed by James Horner. The song "Somewhere Out There", composed by Horner and written by Barry Mann, won a Grammy Award. One scene incorporates the John Phillip Sousa march Stars and Stripes Forever.



At the time of its release, An American Tail became the highest grossing non-Disney produced animated feature, drawing over $47 million USD. It was also one of the first animated films to outdraw a Disney film, beating out The Great Mouse Detective (also released in 1986 but four months earlier) by over $22 million USD. It would later be outgrossed by the next Bluth film, 1988's The Land Before Time, which marginally outperformed Oliver and Company. The record would quickly be shattered with the release of The Little Mermaid three years later.

Home media

The film was released on VHS in the same year by CIC Video, with a Spanish dubbed version separately released on VHS as Un cuento americano (An American Tale, dropping the pun inherent in the English title), and is now available on a DVD that contains the main English track, as well as dubbing for French and Spanish.


The film was a box office success, marking the first Universal animation movies success in theaters. The film has grossed up to $47 million in the United States and $84 million worldwide. The movie currently has a "B" rating at Box Office Mojo. After years of its score on Rotten Tomatoes going back and forth between "fresh" and "rotten", it has managed to settle above the line at 63%. Its score among the website "community" is more secure at 84%.[4]

Sequels and spinoffs

The film was followed by its theatrical sequel An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991), the television series Fievel's American Tails, and two direct-to-video sequels: An American Tail: The Treasure of Manhattan Island and An American Tail: The Mystery of the Night Monster, none of which Don Bluth had any involvement with.

Fievel later served as the mascot for Steven Spielberg's Amblimation animation studio, appearing in its production logo. Also, as reported on the official An American Tail website, Fievel has become the mascot for UNICEF as well. There is also a Fievel-themed playground at Universal Studios Florida, featuring a large water slide and many over-sized objects such as books, glasses, cowboy boots, and more. It is the only such playground at any of NBC Universal's theme parks.

Suspected plagiarism

Art Spiegelman suspected Spielberg of plagiarism due to the fact the Jews are depicted as mice in An American Tail just as in Spiegelman's earlier Maus, a metaphor Spiegelman had adopted from Nazi propaganda. Instead of pursuing copyright litigation, Spiegelman opted to beat the movie's release date by convincing his publishers to split Maus into two volumes and publish the first before he even finished the second.[5]


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

An American Tail is a 1986 animated film produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, and directed by Don Bluth, originally released in movie theatres on November 21, 1986.



  • I'm your guard, Tiger. Don't make any sudden moves, 'cause I'm crafty and I'm quick. I've got the instincts of a cat. What am I saying? I am a cat!
  • You lost your family? Oh, dear. That's terrible. I lost my family, too. Years ago, I mean. [Starts sobbing] Eight brothers. Ten sisters! Three fathers!
  • Listen... I like mice-- [Fievel cries] Oh, no. Not like that! You see, I don't eat red meat at all. I'm a vegetarian. Oh, a little fish now and then, but what I really like is a nice piece of... shh... broccoli.

Tony Toponi

  • Stick with me, kid. [Fievel holds on tightly to Tony's arm] Hey, hey, hey! What, are we engaged or something?

Warren T. Rat

  • Heh heh, trust me, kid. Trust me.
  • Don't worry, gentlemen. There are plenty of mice in Hong Kong.
  • Hey, I wonder how you say "trust me" in Chinese.

Tanya Mousekewitz

  • Papa, why'd they change my name to Tilly?

Papa Mousekewitz

  • Fievel, this is the last time I take you to America.


  • This is America! We have free speech! We can say "cat" here! Cat, cat, cat, and double-cat!

Gussie Mausheimer

[Heavy German accent, cannot say "R" - spelling is intentional to show the sounds she makes]

  • Today was the woist day evewr. Those cats are killing eveweone. They don't even know the diffewences between wich and poow. The wetches!
  • Money isn't evewething. I know because I have money, and I have evewething. But what awe they worth without fweedom?
  • We have a plan. E Pluweibus Unum.
  • Wewease the secwet weapon!

Honest John

  • [At the wake of Mickey O'Hare - he is rather intoxicated] Poor lad. So young. He never had a chance to vote. Well, he'll vote from now on. I'll see to that. [Shakily writes Mickey's name on a notebook under "Ghost Votes"]


  • Qu'est-ce que c'est? A little immigrant. Now they are coming by bottle.


Mama Mousekewitz: Fievel! Tanya! Stop that twirling, twirling! I mean it!
Papa Mousekewitz: But Mama, it's Hannukah.
Mama Mousekewitz: For you, every night is Hannukah.

Papa Mousekewitz: For Tanya, a new babushka. Happy Hannukah.
Tanya Mousekewitz: Oh, Papa, thank you.
Mama Mousekewitz: You have only one parent?
Tanya Mousekewitz: Thank you, Mama.

[Warren T. Rat playing the violin]
Warren T. Rat: Rats! This nose, this nose keeps getting in the way.
Digit: You could stop playing.
Warren T. Rat: That's funny. I've never known a cockroach with good taste, but I've known plenty that taste - heh, heh - good.
Digit: [nervously] Heh-eheh. Play, play, play!

Henri: Where is your mama, your papa, huh?
Fievel Mousekewitz: I don't know. They were on a boat to America.
Henri: Then you are in luck, my little immigrant. This is America.
Fievel Mousekewitz: America. But I thought it was bigger.
Henri: Oh, it is bigger. All of that is also America.

Henri: I know, my little immigrant. You want to find your family. And you will.
Fievel Mousekewitz: But how? They're so far away, and it's so big. I'll never find them anyway.
Henri: J'me excuse pardonnez, but did you say never? So young, and you've already lost hope! This is America, the place to find hope. If you give up now, you will never find your family. So never say never.

Henri: Now, are you ready to go find your family?
Fievel Mousekewitz: Yes!
Henri: Chantal! Take my little friend to Immigration. You will find your family there. Everyone goes through Immigration. I would take you there myself, but then I would never finish my statue.
Fievel Mousekewitz: Henri, you said never.
Henri: Oh, so I did!

Fievel Mousekewitz: I'm looking for my family.
Warren T. Rat: Hey, you've come to the right fella, kid. I know exactly where they are. Follow me.
Fievel Mousekewitz: But Henri said I would find them here.
Warren T. Rat: Have it your way, kid. But remember what Shakespeare said, and I quote: "Opportunity knocks but... uh, but...”
Digit: Psst! Once.
Warren T. Rat: "... but-but once. Taken at the tide, t'will lead to fortune. If denied, t'will never return."
Fievel Mousekewitz: Do you really know where my family is?
Warren T. Rat: Heh heh, trust me, kid. Trust me.

Papa Mousekewitz: Ah, so, Mr. Curious, you've discovered the herring.
Fievel Mousekewitz: Herring? I thought they were fish.
Papa Mousekewitz: But Fievel, herring are fish.
Fievel Mousekewitz: Really, Papa?
Papa Mousekewitz: Oh, yes. In the ocean, there are many kinds of fish, and herring is one of them.
Fievel Mousekewitz: All kinds?
Papa Mousekewitz: Yes. Tiny fishes, not so tiny fishes, fishes as big as this boat.
Fievel Mousekewitz: Wow! Let's go up and see the fish.

Tiger: I like butterflies with big, golden wings, and blue and green tips.
Fievel Mousekewitz: Me too!
Tiger: Yeah? I like Swiss cheese ice cream.
Fievel Mousekewitz: Me too! Me too!
Tiger: You too-too? Hmmmmm. Wait a minute. What's your favorite book?
Fievel Mousekewitz: Hmm, the Brothers Karamousov.
Tiger: [laughing] The Brothers...I don't believe it!

Fievel Mousekewitz: Look, Papa! Smoke! Is the boat on fire?
Papa Mousekewitz: No! Keep walking!

Digit: Would you please put out that filthy thing? I'm suffocating down here!
Warren T. Rat: You don't like it? Hey, you know you're not the only cockoroach in New York City. There are millions of roaches who give their left feet to work for Warren T. Rat.
Digit: Good! Fire me! I'm fed up with that filthy smoke in this pocket! I've seen kitchen shelves cleaner than this place! Look at my suit!

Warren T. Rat: Tiger, how did he get away?!
Tiger: [half-heartedly protesting] He overpowered me.
Warren T Rat: You're fired!
Tiger: Good, I'm glad. I never liked you. And besides, your music stinks!

Papa Mousekewitz: In America, there are mouse holes in every wall.
Mama Mousekewitz: Who says?
Papa, Tanya, and Fievel: Everyone!
Papa Mousekewitz:In America, there are bread crumbs on every floor.
Mama Mousekewitz: You're talking nonsense!
Papa Mousekewitz: In America, you can say anything you want, but most important - and this I know for a fact - in America, there are no cats.

Gussie Mausheimer: [heavy accent] We must have a wawwy.
Honest John: A wawwy? What's a wawwy?
Gussie Mausheimer: [heavy accent] You know, a wawge gathewing of mice for a weason.
Honest John: Oh, a rally!
Gussie Mausheimer: [heavy accent] That's what I said, a wawwy.

Warren T. Rat: Just throw down that kid!
Tony Toponi: Oh, yeah? [knocks off Warren's fake nose with his slingshot] Bullseye!
[The crowd murmurs.]
Warren T. Rat: Disregard the nose. What's in a nose? A nose by any other name would smell as sweet...
[Tony knocks off Warren's fake ears.]
Crowd: Great whiskers! He's a cat! [other voices] Hey! A cat! A cat! Cat!
Warren T. Rat: Hey, hey, hey! Wait a minute. Who are you gonna believe? Me or your own eyes?

Warren T. Rat: If music be the food of love, play on, McDuff, play on.
Digit: [miserably] I don't know which is worse, the music or the Shakespeare?

Tiger: [playing cards] I got it! I got it! I got it! Rummy!
Cat: Tiger, for the hundredth time, we're playing poker.

[Fievel sees Warren's true form from behind the mirror]
Fievel Mousekewitz: Warren T.!
Warren T. Rat: [sees Fievel] You!
Fievel Mousekewitz: You're not a rat, you're a cat!
Warren T. Rat: How'd you get in here? Come here, you little...
[Warren grabs Fievel, but Fievel bites him, pushes the mirror on him, and runs off]:
Warren T. Rat: Gentlemen, cat's out of the bag. [throws the mirror off him and to the ground] Get me that mouse!

Tony Toponi: Tony Toponi's the name. Put her there erh-
Fievel Mousekewitz: Fievel. Fievel Mousekewitz.
Tony Toponi: Fievel? Ooh, that name's got to go! I know...Philly!
Fievel Mousekewitz: [giggles] Philly?
Tony Toponi: Yeah, fits you perfect.

Orphan #1: Hey, what's your story?
Fievel Mousekewitz: I'm looking for my family.
Orphan #2: Hey, fellas! He's looking for his family.
Orphan #1, Orphan #3: [mockingly] He's looking for his family!
Orphan #3: I stopped that a long time ago.
Orphan #2: At least you know who they are.
Orphan #1: Why are you looking for them? They should be looking...
Orphan #1, Orphan #2, Orphan #3: ...for you!
Orphan #3: They don't care. Forget 'em.
Fievel Mousekewitz: [angry] You're right! They don't care, and if they did, they would have found me! Well, if they don't care, I don't care! I hope I never see them again!
Orphan #2: Yeah! Forget 'em! You're one of us now!
Orphan #1: Here. Make yourself a bed.
[They toss hay over Fievel.]
Orphan #1: Ha-ha-ha! Pitiful.
Fievel Mousekewitz: [crying] I'll never find them anyway. Never. Never. Never. This is my home now.

Mouse Cop: We've got to do something about them cats.
Honest John: Besides paying Warren T. Rat for no protection.

Mama Mousekewitz: Oh, my little boy, back from the dead. America, what a place.
Papa Mousekewitz: My Fievel. I thought I would never see you again.
Fievel Mousekewitz: Never say never, Papa.
Papa Mousekewitz: Oh, I nearly forgot. Here, Fievel, your hat.
[The hat drops as before, but this time, Fievel strains, and moves the hat up with his ears.]
Mama Mousekewitz: The hat, it fits!
Papa Mousekewitz: My son! Now, you are a mouse.


  • Meet Fievel. In his search to find his family, he discovered America.


  • Phillip Glasser ... Fievel Mousekewitz (voice)
  • Dom DeLuise ... Tiger (voice)
  • Nehemiah Persoff ... Papa Mousekewitz (voice)
  • Erica Yohn ... Mama Mousekewitz (voice)
  • Amy Green ... Tanya Mousekewitz (voice)
  • John Finnegan ... Warren T. Rat (voice)
  • Pat Musick ... Tony Toponi (voice)
  • Cathianne Blore ... Bridget (voice)
  • Neil Ross ... Honest John (voice)
  • Madeline Kahn ... Gussie Mausheimer (voice)
  • Will Ryan ... Digit (voice)
  • Christopher Plummer ... Henri (voice)
  • Hal Smith ... Moe (voice)

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