I’ve read some pretty thorough reviews of this movie, to the point where I questioned whether to review it myself. But I started watching it, and hoo boy. First of all, I have to say, the animation is technically superior to Tom Thumb Meets Thumbelina, but this is still one weird-looking and ugly movie.
The voiceover explains how a man from a circus discovered a kingdom of tiny people, and stole two small children. This seems badly thought out. I’m not sure how you would take care of a baby that small. I guess people raise baby bats and things like that. But how come he never went back? It’s too profitable to forget about. I need more information, movie.
Years later, Thumbelina’s now a young woman. She’s grown up in this guy’s circus and we see her prepare for and perform a show in which she does acrobatics alongside a trained monkey and mouse. I’m questioning how everyone seated in the audience can really have a good view of a mouse and a six-inch-tall girl performing from that distance. (I think the ringmaster mentions that she’s six inches tall, which is not exactly thumb- or mouse-sized, but we’ll also see later scenes where she is definitely finger-sized, i.e. no more than three inches tall. Continuity is not this movie’s strong suit. In the first scene, Thumbelina switches from nightgown to day clothes to a different nightgown.)
A note: this movie is set in modern times. The show features a King Kong pastiche complete with skyscraper and plane. Anyway, it’s a fairly good success. Thumbelina returns to her dollhouse and we get a pretty good song from her. Not because of the lyrics, though. “My heart breaks into two or maybe three”?? It does remind me of the song in Don Bluth’s Thumbelina. It’s about wanting to find love and ends with her at a window.
Now, at last, we meet Tom, who is fixing a car. He lives with an old man named Ben and three extremely ugly dogs. The two talk about the night he found Tom, and the conversation soon turns sad, as Ben sends Tom out into the world to find his own path. “I’m old and dying. LEAVE. And find love, okay, but leave.” What about the dogs, though? Is he going to send them off on quests of self-discovery too?
Meanwhile, the ringmaster nails Thumbelina’s dollhouse shut and leaves it in the dark under a blanket, on the animal cart. And, 15 minutes into the movie, the animals start talking. I think this is something that should have been introduced earlier. Thumbelina might too, as she seems surprised. Did she know that animals could talk?
Anyway, she KICKS DOWN THE DOOR – you go, girl – and manages to rappel, jump and bounce to freedom. We soon see her seated by a stream, where she briefly encounters a horribly badly drawn frog.
Little does she know that she’s almost right next to Tom Thumb. (Tom’s carrying a compass. He has a compass? There are miniature compasses that will fit in a backpack that size?!)
The next day, Thumbelina keeps strolling along, only to be interrupted by some beetles who follow her and keep insulting her. She boats off in what looks like a sardine tin. Meanwhile, some moles tunneling along at high speed notice her. Tom hears her humming and follows the noise, but he’s knocked off his feet by the moles. Twice.
The two moles return to the Mole King’s kingdom. Why do moles find a human girl beautiful? Anyway, they do, and tell him she would make the perfect bride. I actually have a hard time finding this guy threatening, but he is set up as a terrifying villain with a Hulk-level temper. Part of it is that he’s blind, and actually everyone has gotten sick of him to the point that his entire kingdom now consists of him and just two servants. Strangely, the minions are dead-set on convincing him that he’s still a powerful ruler with many courtiers. One mole switches into a maid costume, but I don’t know why. He literally just ran to the other side of the room and put on a costume in full view. There is no point to the costumes other than an unfunny joke. A minute later, they’re shaking hands with imaginary people and talking to thin air, and the king’s completely fooled.
Oh, and his throne is a shoe.
Elsewhere, Thumbelina and Tom happen to sit on opposite sides of the same tree. Hearing the moles approach, they bump into each other and immediately RUN AWAY. What—but—that’s why they were out looking around! They were looking for others like them! Why would they scream and run away from each other? Tom apparently is thinking the same thing, and turns around to go get her. However, Thumbelina glares at him, and then tackles him. Though her head’s really huge in a couple of these shots, she looks like she’s about to slug him. But she cheers up when she hears he’s also looking for little people. That’s the same thing she’s doing! Then why did you run away and then attack him?!
They’re soon chatting happily with each other about their pasts. They agree to team up, only to then be interrupted by the bugs, who have brought their mother. She thinks Tom’s cute but they make fun of Thumbelina’s name. Tom laughs too OH THANKS TOM
And we learn that our two main characters, who have been bonding after finally finding someone else like them, haven’t even learned each other’s names yet!! They argue over whose name is sillier, she insults his height, he calls her rude, and where is this going? Why are they fighting? The mother bug tells Tom, “I don’t think there’s magic in this relationship.” OH SURE
This is so stupid. Thumbelina has her back turned. Tom’s struggling and grunting as they’re hold their hands over his mouth, but she just assumes he doesn’t like her. She doesn’t even look back before storming off! Tom gets free, runs after her, and tells her she’s his friend. It’s like watching small children interact.
Then he turns the other way as he asks her to come with him. On cue, the moles grab her. And he assumes she just wasn’t interested in hanging out! THESE PEOPLE. The Mole King is smitten with Thumbelina and starts planning their wedding on the spot. Thumbelina refuses because “there’s someone else” YEAH SOMEONE YOU DON’T GET ALONG WITH HALF THE TIME
Tom returns to the bugs, who are bringing him food when they throw in Thumbelina’s shoe that fell off when she was kidnapped. He recognizes it immediately because who else wears Size -60 shoes? He finds the moles’ hole right away and knows what’s going on. Why? He hasn’t even met the moles. For all he knows Thumbelina’s shoe just happened to fall off. But then a huge shadow comes over all of them, they scream, oh dear
As the Mole shows Thumbelina around, she looks in one of the holes and sees a blue bird tied up, so she goes in that one. YOU DON’T KNOW THAT BIRD THUMBELINA STRANGER DANGER STRANGER DANGER
Thumbelina’s untying her when they overhear the moles planning to make “sparrow quiche.” (Aren’t sparrows normally brown?)
Thumbelina jumps on the sparrow’s back and they get out, somehow, through a back way we didn’t see before. The sparrow, Albertine, reveals that she can’t fly, having been imprisoned since chickhood. Those moles are really devoted to their quiche recipe. They’re probably using cheese passed down from their grandparents.
The mole minions pursue them through the tunnels, until they jump up and land in a birds’ nest. The moles, meanwhile, are scared off by a warthog. I didn’t take this seriously when I first read a review. But it is real. There is actually a scene with a warthog. Are warthogs indigenous to this area? Is it just a wild boar? I don’t know. But this is a real scene.
Thumbelina gets all coy about Tom and wants to go back and find him right away. She’s certainly changed her tune. But they’re interrupted when Thumbelina is also abducted by a giant shadow. Cut to her in an odd-looking laboratory filled with sad-looking caged mice. Her bottle is set right next to Tom’s and the bugs’, where they can look over the desk of a creepy little kid who’s preparing cotton balls with ether to kill his specimens. Thumbelina manages to break free and knock the kid out with his own ether. As they escape, she stops to free the mice.
Outside, she and Tom join the procession of mice, who are … suddenly … carrying … food. Huh. The mice thank them and take them along to their village, where they’re greeted by others. These others don’t seem particularly surprised to see them, but do seem to know exactly what happened even though I didn’t see anyone explain the story.
Okay, I want to step back for a moment and look at that weird little kid.
But anyway. Just for fun: compare the circus mouse to the wild mice.
Don’t do drugs, kids.
The mice declare a celebration, and one takes Thumbelina off to get dressed up. Which means basically, “Come into my parlor and I’ll do your hair exactly like mine! MUAHAAHA I mean how’s the weather.”
(Incidentally, the annoying boy-crazy bugs are present, and decide to focus their efforts on the mice. What is it with these beetles? They’ll be extinct soon!)
Out by a waterfall (a standard romantic backdrop), Tom and Thumbelina sing a song. They’re trying hard to make “cha cha cha” romantic but it’s not working. My dad watched one minute of this and declared it worse than the Ice Cream Bunny’s Thumbelina.
With the song over, they’re about to kiss, when the moles (who’ve been spying on them the whole time) grab Tom and somehow tie him up in about .5 seconds. They work fast. The Mole King arrives and demands a dance with Thumbelina, prompting me to ask how well he can actually see, as he’s not crashing into everything whenever he moves. However, he does fall right back down the molehol with Thumbelina. The angry mice converge, prompting the mole minions to drop Tom and flee. Tom and the others begin to plan a rescue mission.
Meanwhile, the Mole King tells Thumbelina that Tom is his prisoner and threatens to hurt him, so she agrees to th marriage. As Tom and friends approach, Thumbelina gets a scene I’ve been wondering about for a while. Namely, she asks the moles why they stay and help the Mole King. Apparently they’re scared of him and don’t have anywhere else to go. This does seem reminiscent of real-life bus, but it still seems odd to me. They get nothing out of this relationship. And so far we haven’t really seen him display any power at all. He’s just been kind of bumbling.
Time for the wedding. But now Tom arrives! “Thumbelina loves me! I think.” Well, that’s stirring.
Thumbelina gives the Mole King a monocle to prove that he only has two minions. Realizing that he’s been tricked, he grows furious, and a chase/fight song begins. Tom briefly wields a needle as a sword, which is a nice nod to the original character, but I have to ask: where did he get that? You don’t normally find needles just lying around. Anyway, he smashes the King’s monocle and the King is now extremely angry and starts hulk-rage-screaming and clawing his way through the dirt, but he also seems to be … quoting Shakespeare? And there are more animation errors with the mole minions.
Our heroes jump off a cliff and are caught by Albertine, while the now-incoherently screaming King tunnels straight out through the side of the cliff and falls to his presumed death. The minions immediately begin fighting over his crown.
Albertini hasn’t learned to land, so they keep flying back through the waterfall, through a cave, and into a strange valley. The bird casually notices a village of little people and decides to crash there. The village is pretty strange; in contrast to the modern world we’ve seen so far, it’s like a step back in time to fairy-tale era, with kings, queens, and a tiny castle in the background. And this is where the movie hits a bizarre skip and goes from quirky modern retelling, to old-fashioned cliche fairytale style. It’s hard to tell what to make of it.
Thumbelina’s locket has been appearing and disappearing through this whole scene via continuity error. Spotting it, the villagers welcome her as the long-lost Princess Maia. Apparently they know long-lost royal family jewelry by sight.
Her parents, the king and queen, arrive to greet her. They immediately introduce Prince Pointy Chin. “OUR LONG LOST DAUGHTER, RETURNED AT LAST! Now, marry this stranger.” The guy seems smarmy but not actually that bad. (As an interesting note: he had a cameo earlier! Watch carefully during Thumbelina’s first song.)
Naturally Thumbelina’s not interested in marrying him, so her parents reveal that this prince is actually a backup (THIS POOR GUY). The lost prince she was supposed to marry was named Horace. Aaaand it’s Tom! How convenient!
Okay, hold up. The parents arranged a backup betrothal because the original betrothed was missing. But Horace and Maia disappeared on the same night. What?! Their daughter was missing, so their move was to work out a backup betrothal, just in case she came back?
“And so, young Chin, when you come of age, you will wed the princess, or rather you won’t because she’s missing and probably dead.”
Poor Chin. But … wait. Did Horace’s parents pick out some other girl as a replacement wife for him, too? And how are there two princes in this town in addition to the royal family of Thumbelina? Maybe they’re just noblemen – but how big is this community of tiny people, that they have a royal family plus two princes?
All the mice and bugs arrive. How did they get there so fast?!? They had to fly! Through a waterfall! And over a valley! I … huh?
And so the movie ends with our happy couple, just married, riding in a carriage procession. Prince Chin has to ride with the annoying bugs. The End.
And Tom never saw the man who raised him again.
So, a few thoughts.
Tom and Thumbelina’s relationship feels shoved in. They’re the main characters so they fall in love. That’s it. Their attachment grows choppily, without much continuity, but at the same time, the moles immediately assume he’s a romantic rival. There was one thread in their relationship that seemed particularly weird to me – namely, his fear that if they actually find more people like them, she’ll find someone she likes better. The running gag of Tom’s short stature seems to play into this. Essentially, he’s got an inferiority complex. Some character development would have been nice, but we don’t get it. Instead, Prince Chin is a quick way to settle Tom’s fears and resolve the romantic plot. Even faced with a suitable, handsome (?), tall husband, the kind of guy she dreams about (as seen in her first song), Thumbelina still chooses Tom because he’s the one she’s come to truly love. Again, with more expansion it could have worked. The lack of development is partly because even though Tom’s name comes first in the title, he’s only the deuteragonist.
Thumbelina is our real main character. The story starts out with her and she’s probably the best-developed character here, with the most clearly-shown arc. She’s the one with the “I Want” song and at the end, it’s her parents we meet. This is her movie.
Overall, it feels like a rewritten version of the Andersen story – in contrast to Tom Thumb Meets Thumbelina, which seemed more descended from Tom Thumb’s story.
The Adventures of Tom Thumb and Thumbelina begins with a tiny girl out of place in a big world. She makes her way into the wilderness, but still doesn’t fit in (and this turning point features a scene on the water, where she interacts with a frog/toad). She encounters bugs who mock her and call her ugly. She meets her proper mate, a tiny man/fairy prince just her size. A mole tries to force her to marry him. She saves a trapped bird who flies her to safety. Mice take her in as one of their own. At the end, she discovers a society of tiny people and her true home, becomes Princess Maia, and marries her proper mate.
The events are shuffled and altered so that Thumbelina’s much more proactive and has more power. For instance, she chooses to go out into the wild, and her royal status isn’t tied to her marriage. She’s a princess in her own right.
Overall, an interesting watch. It’s given me a surprising amount to think about. But I don’t know that I’d really recommend it, unless you’re bored (or doing research).
Researching folktales and fairies, with a focus on common tale types.