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Was An American Tail Jewish enough?

By Dany Roth & Jordan Zakarin
an american tail

In 1986, Don Bluth released his classic animated film An American Tail. It might seem odd that Bluth, a devout Mormon, would take on the story of Fievel Mousekewitz and his family of Jewish mice on the run from Cossack cats. But then, An American Tail was also produced by Steven Spielberg, who would go on to not only embrace his own Jewish heritage but also direct Schindler's List.

An interesting fact about An American Tail is that, upon its release, some critics felt that it didn't do enough to tell a Jewish immigrant story. And if you haven't watched the movie recently, it's worth noting that, yes, other than the fact that the story begins with a Hanukkah celebration and involves the Mousekewitzes leaving Russia to escape anti-Jewish pogroms, An American Tail speaks to a more general immigrant experience. The film prominently features both Irish and Italian mice in addition to Fievel's Russian family.

SYFY WIRE's features editor and co-host of The Fandom Files, Jordan Zakarin, brought both An American Tail and its sequel, An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, to the Every Day Animation podcast so we could discuss this very question: With three decades of hindsight, was An American Tail Jewish enough? And, if not, what else should Bluth's team have done to bring that specific experience to the screen?

Obviously, we also talk about mice, cowboy hats, bad dads, cultural assimilation, "Somewhere Out There," and all of the other oddities that make An American Tail what it is.

And if you're watching along with us and want to prepare for tomorrow, The Rap Critic, Daren Jackson, is bringing us the first-ever animated film based on a black comedian's stand-up and the first to star an almost all-black cast: Bebe's Kids. This is a movie that, in the world of reviews, has often gotten a raw deal, but we're here to correct that. So get ready to call the next episode of Every Day Animation #JusticeForBebesKids. We'll meet you here to talk about why tomorrow. See you then!