Thumbelina is a not-so-proud winner of a Razzie award, taking home the gold for “Worst Original Song.” That’s “Marry the Mole,” wherein an otherwise sedate, kind field mouse goes on a condescending tirade where young women learn they shouldn’t marry for love, but for money. It’s angry, spiteful, and mean spirited, crossing that unspecified animated song line. That mouse isn’t even the villain.
The usually tremendously talented Don Bluth co-helms this 1994 animated fare, one of the weaker of Bluth’s output. He’s at his best in the slightly off and mildly deranged, which here is a frog voiced by Charo with both of her, uh, “features.” This manic miniature world is maintained by bugs and fairies, only dipping into the surreal during a bizarre musical number wherein a group of insects find Thumbelina’s appearance revolting.
Fox’s animated push in the early ’90s was clearly riding on the coattails of the Disney Renaissance, going so far as to cast Gilbert Gottfried in a post-Aladdin state. In their rush to capitalize, their features slumped. Animation was strictly B-quality, far from their eventual Bluth pairings, Anastasia or underrated Titan A.E.. Lessons learned here were clearly applied later in the decade.
With financial goals to be met and stock holders to satisfy, Thumbelina feels scattered, or maybe lost. Characters are introduced with no fanfare, Thumbelina rushed from song to song, and thus to meet bit parts. Ideals and messages are clumped together, one moment playing up the ugly angle, the next dropping it to discuss what love is. Songs, with influence from Barry Manilow, come across as hardened traditionalist, just without the spark of imagination that would otherwise spring them to life.
So ingrained in the appeal of Disney features, Thumbelina even dives into the realm of computer generated animation. Three years out from Beauty and the Beast, and the few backgrounds still couldn’t compare to that majesty. Maybe it’s not inherently fair to make a string of comparisons, but if the producers were so determined (going so far as to display a Disney logo during screenings), they also can take a hit on the way out.
Fox issues what appears to be a relatively recent scan for the film’s HD debut, although not one with much in the way of restorative work. Thumbelina is burdened with heavy dirt, nearly every frame showing some sort of mild imperfection on the source. During the opening flyby with Jacquimo, it appears as if there’s a dead pixel on the TV, a white speck near the lower left hard to ignore.
Saturation carries a light increase over previous releases, primaries bolstered to vividly accentuate both background and primary animation. This is done with a deft touch, not overdone or saturated to remove the intent of the material. When the final celebration scenes burst with an array of rainbows, it’s stunning.
The cost for the boost comes in the form of compression, visible against those brighter hues. It brings out mosquito noise and mars some of the fine lines. Certainly, the larger the screen, the easier the artifacts will be to spot, although that goes without saying. With the grain structure left to its own devices, the encode struggles to keep up. There’s nothing wrong with leaving the film structure alone, so long as the codec is allowed to pace itself.
Backgrounds, with errant compression or not, still showcase their intricate definition. Paint strokes and other hand furnished textures are visible, as are the tiniest lines within the animation. Bolstered by the available resolution, each scene is given a new lease on life, even with the qualms above. Cliché as it is, Thumbelina has never looked better, although it could still find improvement.
Despite being labeled a 5.1 mix, Thumbelina exists in a stereo world. The limited bleed into the surrounds during musical numbers hardly creates the sense of envelopment, while action scenes are decidedly non-active. The fronts offer any separation that could be found, mildly sprucing up an aging source. Leaving it be is the proper decision.
Dialogue is notably distressed, fading with a scratchy, imprecise layer of fidelity. It’s audible from the opening moments. Degradation has not been kind. Songs fare better, rich and full bodied, even reaching into the LFE channel. Vocals are belted out with little audible aging, peaking on the highs without straining.
Two trailers are the sole bonus features.
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