It had been a long time since I'd seen 'Thumbelina.' In my article about the best Don Bluth movies not yet on Blu-ray I listed 'Thumbelina' saying, "…it's a well done animated feature that features some of Bluth's patented, beautiful animation." I'm not afraid to admit being wrong. I hadn't seen 'Thumbelina' in quite some time, and now, after revisiting it, I can say that this definitely isn't Bluth's best work as a director or an animator.
I'm still not opposed to all of Bluth's works being released in high definition since the man is one of the nation's premiere animation geniuses who somehow found a way to survive outside of the strangle hold that Disney had on the feature-length animated features. 'Thumbelina' has a very different look though. It's far more cartoony than any of Bluth's other features. The animation here is no longer realistic and gritty like it was in 'The Secret of NIMH.' Here we have overly garish animal and insect cartoon characters with big sappy eyes and cringe-worthy, floppy hats. Everything about the look of 'Thumbelina' feels off compared to what we usually have expected from Bluth. Like he was pandering too much towards trying to make an exaggeratedly cutesy version of the old fairy tale.
Thumbelina is born from a flower after her mother wishes that she could have a child. She stands a few inches tall and dreams of one day meeting a fairy prince that will sweep her off her feet. Like so many animated heroines she sings and dances, wondering when her prince will come. Finally, Prince Cornelius arrives on the back of a bumblebee after he hears Thumbelina's sweet voice carried by the wind.
He isn't the only one attracted by her voice though. A group of traveling frog performers is also interested in Thumbelina for their act. In the night she's kidnapped by a buxom frog (don't ask me why a frog would need such large breasts, or any breasts for that matter) named Mrs. Toad. From there Thumbelina stumbles through the wilderness from character to character all the while searching for her prince.
The problem is, none of the characters here are really all that pleasing or even interesting. The songs aren't either. I don't remember them being so generic, but I guess that's what happens when you have Barry Manilow writing them. To top it all off we have to hear a number performed by the nauseating voice of Gilbert Gottfried. If you thought he was annoying as the Aflac duck, just imagine him singing an entire song. It gives me the willies just thinking about it.
Maybe some time ago, I thought that 'Thumbelina' was an alright movie, but it really doesn't age nearly as well as some of Bluth's other classics. It doesn't hold a candle to 'Secret of NIMH' or 'American Tail'. It almost seems like a Bluth knock-off.
Like I said, I'm not afraid to admit I was wrong in the article I wrote a few months back. I simply didn't remember 'Thumbelina' being this mediocre. Out of all the Bluth films, it's probably his most forgettable picture.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a 20th Century Fox release. It comes in a flimsy eco-friendly Blu-ray keepcase. The movie has been pressed onto a 50GB Blu-ray Disc and is coded for Region A use.
A little while ago MGM released a couple of Bluth titles. 'All Dogs Go to Heaven' had an especially problematic video presentation to the point where it was so noisy some scenes were almost unwatchable. 'Thumbelina' isn't that bad, but it's far from perfect.
The opening credit sequence is full of noise. It pops up in flecks and specks all over the place. There's a few times, up at the top of the frame, you'll notice a hair or some other obstruction which seems stuck on the film for a few frames. Then magically it's gone. After the opening credits things improve quite dramatically. Colors are more vibrant, lines are much clearer and the noise is reduced considerably.
As the movie continues you'll notice semi-frequent noise popping up. Keep in mind that the immaculate storage and care that Disney uses on their classics simply wasn't used here. Color flickers at times. There are some lines and minor scratches that you can see throughout the movie, but oddly enough those seem at home in a Bluth movie. His animation has always celebrated a grittier look.
Honestly, after the first minute or two, the movie looks decent. It isn't a crystal clear transfer by any means, but I think fans will be much more willing to accept a transfer like this rather than a transfer like 'All Dogs Go to Heaven.'
The big upgrade here over the MGM Bluth releases is that Fox has provided a surround sound track rather than a simple 2.0 mix. Here you get a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that is able to produce a much friendlier environment for the viewer.
The songs, as grating as they may seem, are given ample room to breathe as Thumbelina's voice echoes through the channels. Ambient sound is pretty light, but there are some voices and other woodland happenings that find their way into the rear speakers. Much of the movie is centered up front though, with fairly clear dialogue. The sub-woofer is also light, but some LFE is used during the more tense parts of the movie. It's just nice that Fox saw fit to give us a surround track here. It should be more than enough to please fans.
It's nice to see Bluth's work getting the high definition treatment, but it's kind of a bummer that we may never see a pristine transfer from one of his films. 'Thumbelina' isn't his best work, I admit. It may be a fun movie for kids, but parents might have a hard time sitting through it. Still, any Bluth work is worth a look in my opinion.