For a film aimed at kids, An American Tail is surprisingly full of historical references, human prejudices and the pain and suffering of those less fortunate. Released in 1986 it was produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Don Bluth, the well known animator who outside of the efforts of the Walt Disney company is probably the most successful name in traditional animation alive today.
The film tells the story of young Jewish mouse Fievel Mousekewitz, whose family have fled their home town after it was invaded by Cossack soliders during the Serbo-Bulgarian war in 1885, which leaves them easy prey for the cats in the area. They board a ship headed for America, which at that time was seen as a place of great hope to the poor people of Eastern Europe and Russia. The mice wrongly believe that America is free of cats, and that the streets are paved with cheese, which isn’t far from what humans in a similar predicament thought at the time – just substitute cheese for gold and your probably a bit closer.
All seems good until the ship is approaching America, when a storm causes Fievel to be separated from the rest of his family. Fievel finally arrives in New York City lost and confused, and is taken in by a rat named Warren, who says he will help him out. Warren’s help is anything but, and Fievel ends up working in a sweatshop. Eventually, accompanied by his new friends Tony and Bridget he manages to escape, but things aren’t much better with his new found freedom.