KIDS ON FILM : 'Thumbelina':...

Lynn Smith is a staff writer for The Times' View section

I didn't even have to ask which kids liked this movie.

I heard them singing along with Thumbelina in the theater. I saw them bouncing up and down and clapping in their chairs. I ran into them afterward, twirling and flapping their arms.

Peggy Rafferty said she knew her daughter Debbie, 3, liked the movie when she had to take a restroom break but ran there and back, nearly knocking people over, so she wouldn't miss too much.

"It's everything she loves, the pretty dresses, the beautiful voice."

Perhaps this Don Bluth version of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale is not a classic in its own right, but it's not for lack of using nearly every element of recent animated blockbusters "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Aladdin."

There is the innocent soprano with an animal guide, in this case Jacquimo, a swallow in musketeer costume. There are the oddball animal characters--especially a humorous family of singing toads, "Los Sapos Guapos," led by the voice of Charo, and Miss Fieldmouse, the voice of Carol Channing, who advises Thumbelina, "Love won't put porridge in your bowl, Dearie; marry the mole."

There are sweetly sung show tunes, written by Barry Manilow, as well as cleverly animated changes of season.

As in the classics, there are also a few tense moments before the heroine and the prince live happily ever after. Some parents thought some of those moments might have frightened their children. The prince, for instance, becomes trapped in a block of ice until the Jitterbugs thaw him out. The toad is a fairly ugly aggressor, as is a mustachioed beetle. But these setbacks and enemies are mild compared to some other animated children's features. Here, no one dies. There are no evil witches, no scary typhoons.

"It was sad," said Christian Lazenby, 6, referring to the scene in which Jacquimo had a thorn in his wing. But what he remembered most was "when they marry at the end."

Ananda Mallory, 3, said she liked "the part where the prince was alive."

Chris Lawson, 6, also liked the ending most when Thumbelina "got her wings" and became a fairy princess.

But for 7-year-old Eric Schultz, there just wasn't enough traditional action. He much preferred the preceding animated short, "Animaniacs." Of the main event, he said, "I didn't especially care for it. There were some parts that were OK, but most of it was, a little, you know, off course for me."

What he really objected to was the plot.

"I mean, a girl that was taken away and goes through all these adventurous things, that's not that good a plot.

"I would change the plot to a handsome prince coming, and she gets rescued by him, and he has to go through all these obstacles and everything, and at the end, they just, you know, get married."

OK, so it's not "Aladdin." But, hey, it's all right. And most of the little ones seemed captivated by its twist on the classic fairy tale: There's someone for everyone, even if you're two inches tall.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World