I once saw this film when I was a small child. I don't know how old, and I barely remembered anything of it, but for some reason, something was causing this full-length, animated movie to stick in the back of my mind for years as I was growing up. I realized that until I fulfilled this desire to see this film again, some part of me would be at unrest. Now, a good 15 years later and a young adult with more money and quite a different mind, I was finally able to purchase a used, rental copy.
I wasn't sure at first how I would react. Would I consider this film childish now? Made in 1977, would it show its age considerably?
I would hate to give away too much of the film, as I firmly believe it must be seen to be understood. The story is simple; a toy mouse and his 'child' embark on a quest to become 'self-winding'. In other words, a journey from childhood to adulthood, from being a robot doing what we are told without question, to becoming an individual with the capability to carry out our own passions and desires. Along their twisted and unsure way to self-fulfillment, they meet a fortune-telling frog, a windup elephant, a muskrat, and other friends, while avoiding the antagonist, the despicable Manny the Rat.
This probably sounds terrible about right here, but I can assure you that the film is likely nothing that you are thinking it is. This is not a Disney usical, nor does it try to be something that it isn't. It is a story about love, inspiration, and the following and actualization of one's dreams. It is a story about cruelty, defeat, and cowardice. Most of all, it is a story about human life, and the sacrifices we make in the journey to discover our purpose, our place in the world.
This film is never cheap, never purposely cute, and never insults the viewer. The animation is not overdone, and attention is paid to detail in all the right places. The settings are wonderful and really add to the story and the situation the main characters are in. The music sets just the right mood at the right times.
I may have enjoyed this film as a child, and I'm not sure what kept it on the back burner through the years at all, but I can definitely say as an adult now the film moved me more than it ever could have as a child. I was literally in tears after the final scene, staring at the credits in silent applause. I had finally found why I couldn't forget about this film, and that is simply because it was excellent and very touching.
Disney may have the special effects, the storybook plots, and the musical majesty. However, when examining a film at deeper than surface level, Disney in all its camaraderie can't touch this powerful and effective film that tells a story about the human condition and how simply unfair life can be.
4 Stars. Probably one of the least acclaimed (and most deserving) animated films I have ever had the pleasure of viewing.
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