Thumbelina (1994 film)

Last updated
Theatrical release poster by John Alvin.
Directed by
Screenplay byDon Bluth
Based on Thumbelina
by Hans Christian Andersen
Produced by
Edited byFiona Trayler
Music by
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
  • March 30, 1994 (1994-03-30)(United States)
Running time
86 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$28 million [1]
Box office$17 million

Thumbelina (also known as Hans Christian Andersen's Thumbelina) is a 1994 American independent [2] animated musical fantasy film directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, based on the story of the same name by Hans Christian Andersen. The film stars the voices of Jodi Benson, Gary Imhoff and John Hurt, with supporting roles from Gino Conforti, Charo, Gilbert Gottfried, Carol Channing and Joe Lynch. [3]


The film, produced by Don Bluth Ireland Ltd. and distributed by Warner Bros. under its Family Entertainment imprint, was released in theaters on March 30, 1994. The film was a box-office bomb, grossing only $17 million from a $28 million budget, and received mixed to negative reviews from critics. [4] [5]


A lonely widow longing for a child of her own is given a barley seed by a friendly witch. The planted seed grows into a flower, and a tiny girl emerges from inside, no bigger than the old woman's thumb. The old woman names the tiny girl Thumbelina and raises her as her own. Although Thumbelina loves her mother, she craves companionship from someone her own size. One night, the fairy prince Cornelius stumbles upon Thumbelina after hearing her singing. He is the first person whom she has ever met who is roughly her own size. The two take a ride on Cornelius' bumblebee and fall in love. During this ride, Mrs. Toad and her son Grundel are enchanted by the singing. That night, Mrs. Toad kidnaps Thumbelina, desiring her to join the troupe and marry Grundel as her husband. Thumbelina is rescued by Jacquimo, a swallow. Meanwhile, Cornelius learns of her being kidnapped, and returns to his kingdom, the Vale of the Fairies, to ask his parents to try holding back the winter as long as they can, but they can only hold it for a day.

Grundel learns that Thumbelina escaped and ventures out to find her. While trying to get home, Thumbelina meets Berkeley Beetle, who promises to show her the way home if she sings at his Beetle Ball. She reluctantly complies, but her bug disguise falls off during the concert, and she is denounced as "ugly" as well as being publicly humiliated in front of the audience. Berkeley rejects her without helping her. She is next found by Jacquimo, who promises to find Cornelius. Berkeley is confronted by Grundel and suggests that Grundel kidnap Cornelius and use him as a meal to lure Thumbelina. Grundel coerces Berkeley into partnership by removing his wings.

Upon the arrival of winter, Jacquimo injures his wing and loses consciousness from the freezing, while Cornelius falls into a pond by wind and gets frozen. Berkeley finds Cornelius and takes him to Grundel. Thumbelina is forced to take refuge in an old shoe, where she is discovered by Miss Fieldmouse and granted shelter in her underground house. After relaying Cornelius' fate to her, Miss Fieldmouse introduces her to her neighbor Mr. Mole, who becomes infatuated with her and desires to marry her. Devastated by the apparent loss of Cornelius, Thumbelina gives in to hopelessness and accepts Mr. Mole's proposal. Jacquimo revives and, before Thumbelina can get a chance to explain to him what happened to Cornelius, resolves to find him before the wedding.

Berkeley tells Grundel of Thumbelina's wedding. When they leave Cornelius behind, a trio of friendly insect children find and thaw Cornelius back to normal. At the wedding, Thumbelina finds herself unable to marry Mr. Mole after remembering Cornelius' promise to always love her. Grundel and Berkeley arrive to stop them, and a chase scene ensues. Cornelius also arrives and engages Grundel in a fight, which culminates with the two falling into a hole. Thumbelina escapes on a pile of Mr. Mole's treasure, causing it to fall at Mr. Mole and the wedding guests. Jacquimo finds the Vale of the Fairies and takes Thumbelina there. She and Cornelius reunite, and she magically grows her own pair of wings upon accepting his proposal and kissing him. With her mother and the fairy court in attendance, the two marry and depart on Cornelius' bumblebee.

The credits images reveal that Berkeley's wings regrew, and he resumed his pop career; Grundel has survived the fall with a broken leg and finally married a female toad to his mom's delight, and Mr. Mole married Miss Fieldmouse.

Voice cast


Barry Manilow agreed to compose the songs for three Don Bluth pictures. Thumbelina was the first, followed by The Pebble and the Penguin , and the third, a retelling of the story of Rapunzel, in which Manilow would also have a voice role, was canceled. The film's soundtrack was released for a limited time and has since gone out of print. "Marry the Mole" won the first and sole Razzie for Worst Original Song.

Production and release

Thumbelina was in production from February 1991 to May 1993 at Don Bluth Ireland Ltd. (formerly known as Sullivan Bluth Studios at that time) in Dublin, Ireland, even though principal recording and animation would not begin until early 1992. [6] The film was completed with funds from filmmaker John Boorman and Hong Kong-based Media Assets after Don Bluth Entertainment filed for bankruptcy. [7]

It was originally scheduled to be distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in North America and J&M Entertainment overseas, and was also originally slated for a Thanksgiving 1993 release in the United States. However, by the time it was completed, both companies dropped the arrangement due to concerns about the bankruptcy of Bluth's studio. During Sullivan Bluth's bankruptcy proceedings, the court trustee presented the film to Disney's film distribution unit, Buena Vista Pictures Distribution. The trustee ultimately declined Disney's offer to distribute the film as they were also trying to find a new owner for the studio. [8]

Warner Bros. [lower-alpha 1] bought the distribution rights on March 15, 1993, and Thumbelina was released on March 30, 1994. [9] [5] When released, it was preceded by the Animaniacs short, I'm Mad .


Box office

The film was a commercial failure, grossing $11.4 million at the US and Canadian box office. [10] In 24 markets internationally it grossed $5.2 million [11] for a worldwide total of at least $16.6 million against a budget of $28 million.

Critical reception

Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 38% approval rating based on 13 reviews, with an average score of 5.2 out of 10. [12]

James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film 3 out of 4 and wrote: "Thumbelina is close to, but not quite at, the level of The Little Mermaid , the weakest of Disney's recent entries". [13] Roger Ebert gave the film two stars out of four, concluding his review: "It is difficult to imagine anyone over the age of 12 finding much to enjoy in Thumbelina". [14]

It won a Golden Raspberry Award in the category of "Worst Original Song" given to "Marry the Mole", sung by Carol Channing. [15] It was also the only animated film to win a stand-alone Razzie until 2017's The Emoji Movie , which won the awards for Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screen Combo, and Worst Screenplay at the 38th Golden Raspberry Awards.

The film reportedly received higher scores during test screenings, where Warner Bros. replaced their logo with that of Walt Disney Pictures. [16]

Home media

Warner Home Video released Thumbelina on VHS and LaserDisc on July 26, 1994, in the United States and Canada and internationally throughout the 1990s. The film was re-released on VHS in the United Kingdom on March 20, 1995. Warner Home Video released the film on DVD on September 21, 1999. [17]

Thumbelina was re-released on VHS and DVD by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment on February 19, 2002 and on Blu-ray on March 6, 2012.

The film was available to view on Disney+ when it launched on November 12, 2019, [18] following Disney's acquisition of 21st Century Fox earlier that year. [19] The film was removed on July 1, 2020, but it remained available to view in other countries. [20] The film returned to the service on October 22, 2021, but has since been removed again. It was also available to view on Disney+ via the international brand Star when Star was launched on October 27, 2021 in Japan. [21]

See also

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  1. In 2002, Warner Bros. sold the copyright of the film to 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.