To celebrate the Fourth of July, I present AN AMERICAN TAIL: FIEVEL GOES WEST. What’s more American than FIEVEL GOES WEST?! As stated in BROOKLYN NINE-NINE, Fievel’s journey parallels the story of America. In AN AMERICAN TAIL (1986), the patron saint of childhood movies Don Bluth, painted a tragic and ultimately uplifting portrait of an emigrant Jewish-Russian family coming to America/the “New World” to seek greener pastures and greater opportunities. In its sequel, directors Simon Wells and Phil Nibbelink (WE’RE BACK!, y’all) detail the arduous journey of families moving westward, again tantalized by the versatile and propagandistic American Dream. You don’t need Admiral Ackbar to tell you that IT’S A TRAP, and Fievel, Papa, Mama, Tanya fall right into it.
Essentially, the Mousekewitz family have fallen on hard times in the big city, fighting for scraps and struggling to find work. So naturally they fall under the spell of a painfully obvious puppet, telling all the mice of opportunity in the West. Fievel’s ecstatic, because like every other kid, has fantasized about being a cowboy in the Wild West, and idolizes Wylie Burp, a drunken amalgamation of every famous cowboy ever. Little do they and Tiger (the all-timer Dom DeLuise as a mix between the Cowardly Lion and Barf from SPACEBALLS) know the mice are unwittingly traveling west to become dinner for Cat R. Waul (John Cleese, ladies and gentlemen) and his drooling feline henchman, an elaborate plan for “mouse burgers.” Why doesn’t Cat R. Waul and company just eat the mice when he has them all in one place listening to the creepy marionette’s spiel about the west? Well, because there’d be no movie, and it’d make too much sense.
It’d also rob us of seeing the old and drunk sheriff of Green River, the formerly great Wylie Burp. He’s voiced by Jimmy Stewart in his final and 17th most indelible role. There’s no doubt that J-J-Ja-Jimmy Stewart is one of the greatest treasures of America, and he’s no less wonderful and magical as a drunk dog sheriff, a testament to him, Amblimation and this classic film. Considering he made a name for himself in Western’s, it’s fitting for this final heroic and redemptive tale to be his swansong. Is there a better or more poignant last line for Stewart to utter than “If you ride yonder, head up, eyes steady, heart open, I think one day you’ll find that you’re the hero you’ve been looking for.” Feels. One man’s sunset is another man’s dawn.
Tiger follows his mice friends west, because why not? Miss Kitty (Amy Irving, the tramp above) dumped his ass because she’s looking for “a cat that’s more like a dog.” This is hilarious on all kinds of levels. When cat lovers describe their cat as being like a dog (like that’s a big deal and worth celebrating), I always want to yell at them: GET A DOG if you want something to act like a dog. We all know that dogs rule and cats drool. But it’s even weirder when a cat is the one saying it. Even cats don’t like themselves, or perhaps Miss Kitty just wants inter-species sex, and who can blame that minx for wanting to see what else is out there.
Along the way, Fievel gets separated from his family AGAIN, because he’s on a mission to break Mama and Papa’s hearts into a million pieces. Seriously, I have no idea why they haven’t died of sorrow. It’s a testament to the Mousekewitz’s perseverance and faith, emblematic of the American emigrant. It’s heartbreaking to see Fievel on his own AGAIN, his family mourning his loss AGAIN, and Tiger also lost in the unforgiving dry desert.
Tiger also gets some of the most bizarre facial expressions ever depicted in film:
Dollop on a racist depiction of “mouse Indians” who worship Fievel, a very impressive/convenient tumbleweed that takes Fievel to Green River in incredibly quick fashion, and a very disturbing sexualized version of Tanya, a mouse who’s probably the equivalent of like 10-11 in the sea of massive adult cats, and you have FIEVEL GOES WEST. Plus, the whole cats need to be dogs to be successful thing comes full circle, when Wylie Burp makes Tiger his deputy, in order to save the mice of Green River from Cat R. Waul, T.R. Chula (Jon Lovitz, represent), Frenchy and company. It’s the stuff film historians will be talking about for….forever.
Before I forget, here’s Tanya KILLING IT, with “Dreams to Dream”:
It’s no “Somewhere Out There,” but it’ll do.
The weirdest moment of the film has to be when a human woman grabs a cat, yells “Pussy!” and then puts the cat between her boobs. WHAT?!
Because a Disney movie from our childhood wouldn’t be complete without drinking, let’s get to the rules:
1. Drink for every Tanya song. Double it if the song saves Fievel’s life.
2. Sip whenever Fievel gets separated from his family, or Tiger.
3. Whenever Wylie Burp burps, drink.
4. Drink every time anyone tells Tiger he has to be more like a dog. This is the terrifying result of that transformation:
5. Take a drink for every tumbleweed!
6. Hell, drink for every Western cliche.
7. Drink for every different species of animal. You might think that just means cat, dog, mouse. You’d be wrong. Pay careful attention to the fateful cross-country tumbleweed scene. Bonus: Drink for cat/dog racism.
8. Whenever Fievel’s hat goes over his eyes, or he adjusts it, or it changes from western hat to emigrant hat, drink.
9. Drink whenever Wylie’s Sheriff badge glints in the sunlight or is adjusted.
10. Take a swill for every cat or dog or mouse pun/joke, ie. “..Look at what the cat dragged in…”
11. Whenever Fievel or Wylie Burp or someone blows their gun after they fire, because that’s what cowboys do in the west.
Expert Edition: Drink whenever Cat R. Waul or any of the other cats almost eat a mouse.