AFI Movie Club: AN AMERICAN TAIL – American Film Institute
An American Tail Film Still



AN AMERICAN TAIL, a heart-warming tale of a young immigrant mouse, lost in late-19th century New York City, was produced by AFI Life Achievement Award winner Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment.

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Watch AN AMERICAN TAIL producer Kathleen Kennedy talk about passion in filmmaking in this exclusive clip from the AFI Archive:

Trivia about Today’s Film

DID YOU KNOW? AN AMERICAN TAIL marked Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment’s first full-length animated feature. It went on to earn the highest box office gross of any non-Disney animated film for its time.

DID YOU KNOW? Steven Spielberg established a partnership with director/producer Don Bluth and producers Gary Goldman and John Pomeroy after seeing their film THE SECRET OF NIMH (1982). Spielberg was impressed by their capacity, as former Disney filmmakers, to recreate the style of early Disney pictures.

DID YOU KNOW? The character Fievel was named after Steven Spielberg’s grandfather, who immigrated to America from Russia. As a child, Spielberg listened to his elder’s stories about anti-Semitism and growing up in Russia.

DID YOU KNOW? Production began in December 1984 and lasted two years. At its completion, the film was comprised of more than one million drawings and 100,000 hand-painted cels in a palette that exceeded 600 colors.

DID YOU KNOW? Art Spiegelman, author of the graphic narrative MAUS, accused the filmmakers of appropriating his two-volume work about his father’s survival of the holocaust and his new life in New York City. Although Spiegelman’s characters are represented by Jewish mice and Nazi cats, the filmmakers of AN AMERICAN TAIL claimed no knowledge of MAUS while developing the story.

DID YOU KNOW? AN AMERICAN TAIL was honored with an Oscar® nomination for Best Original Song, for “Somewhere Out There.” At the time, the song by James Horner, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, performed by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram, received regular radio airplay and topped the charts. It won two Grammy Awards for Song of the Year and Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television.

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.

The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

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-AN AMERICAN TAIL depicts the experiences of immigrants who flee their homes in the hope of a better life, and safety from persecution. What inspires the Mousekewitz family to risk their lives to come to America, and what is their view of freedom? How do these characters reflect real-life immigrants’ hopes in coming to the U.S.?

-Fievel becomes separated from his family because of his innate curiosity, and this leads him on a long journey in search of reunification. What does AN AMERICAN TAIL imply about independence and the American dream? How is Fievel’s curiosity both a threat and an asset?

-What does the Cats Unfair-Mice Unite organization represent, and what are they fighting for? Do you see similarities between the unions that were forming in the U.S. around the time the story takes place? How does Fievel associate himself with the working class?

-Although AN AMERICAN TAIL is not entirely about Hanukkah, it has been hailed as a Jewish holiday film. Why do you think it has become celebrated as such? How does the movie share the Jewish experience with its audience, and why are there so few films about the Jewish holidays?

-The movie takes place at a time in which there was a “Great Wave” of immigrants leaving Europe for the U.S. in search of religious freedom and safety. Compare the story of the Mousekewitz family to the current rise of immigration into Europe—often in small rafts—across the Mediterranean Sea.

-What is represented by Fievel’s cap, and why is it important that he finds it in the end?

-Describe Fievel’s life as he washes ashore in New York City. What are some similarities and differences to the city today? How are new technologies and industrialism represented?

-How would you rate AN AMERICAN TAIL?


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