Real-life married couple Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy star as Frank and Faye Riley, the owners of a small diner in a dilapidated building that also houses their apartment in the slums of Manhattan. The rest of the tenants of the building are being paid off to evacuate ASAP, so that greedy land developers can take over and demolish the building in order to erect some high-rise corporate edifices. Those that refuse are being threatened with injury “or worse” by some local thugs that are also on the corporate payroll to scare the bejesus out of the remaining tenants. Without anyone to turn to, a desperate plea may have saved the day, as a couple of miniature flying saucers arrive, consuming metal materials and then fixing up damaged parts of the building. The saucers befriend the remaining tenants, although the thugs and land developers are determined to put an end to this new development even if it costs lives in the process. Steven Spielberg produced this quaint sci-fi fairy tale.
Marvel joined with Sunbow to deliver the first of four animated feature films based on Hasbro toys in the 1980s with 1986’s MY LITTLE PONY: THE MOVIE, which took the popular toy line of dolls resembling ponies and other animals (plus a few humans) and pitted them against three dastardly witches who can’t stand their rampant pleasantness. Danny DeVito, Cloris Leachman, Madeline Kahn, Rhea Perlman and Tony Randall do their best to bring this colorful musical adventure to life. Critically and commercially tanking at the box office at the time, it’s about time we look this gift horse in the mouth and see what we find with this retrospective review!
The Disney Renaissance kicked off with this smash hit animated feature that brought the studio back in a major way, THE LITTLE MERMAID! Featuring great vocal talent, quality animation, and a killer score and soundtrack, it delighted a generation, and will delight many more, with its story of Ariel, a teenage mermaid who dreams of love with a hunky sailor prince, Eric, only made possible through a bad deal with a sea witch named Ursula.
Don Bluth collaborates with executive producer Steven Spielberg again, this time also joining forces with George Lucas for THE LAND BEFORE TIME, the film that would kick off a series of ten additional straight-to-video animated features for kids. Dinosaurs were all the rage, and Bluth and co. rode the wave to box office success with this feature about a young dinosaur that must find his way to the Great Valley, with the help of a variety of adorably cute dino friends.
Don Bluth’s second feature film as director sees him joining forces with producer Steven Spielberg for AN AMERICAN TAIL, which details the immigrant experience for many of American ancestors in their long journey to the land of freedom and opportunity. Drawing from anecdotal material from Spielberg’s own grandfather’s stories, this heartwarming animated feature would go on to earn the most money up to that point at the box office for a film on its first run. The first of several animated adventures featuring hero Fievel Mousekewitz.
Don Bluth’s first big screen effort under his own name after splitting from Disney, along with several other Disney animators and artists, in order to try to return to the kind of groundbreaking style and commitments to storytelling that their former company had been skimping out on during the 1960s and 1970s. THE SECRET OF NIMH adapts Robert C. O’Brien’s 1972 book, “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH”, and makes an interesting animated allegory for the experience these artists went through on their quest for independence and destiny.