This a really contested sequel. It seems all animation fans love one more…
Since many enjoy one or two based on nostalgia I want to start by saying I have no nostalgia for either film. I first saw two, while fifteen and one while sixteen. My only nostalgia for the An American Tail franchise is three episodes of Fievel’s American Tails and may trailers. When I was thirteen I became a huge animation fan with Don Bluth as my favorite animator. An American Tail is probably his second most well-known film and I really wanted to see it. I looked for it for years in thrift stores and online. I found the sequel and I thought it was a poor film. I finally found the first one on a website that only allowed me to watch fifteen minutes a day and I still loved it. I later got the movie and it remains a favorite that I watch every February, while “Fievel Goes West” barely gets watched. Despite being in my opinion the inferior film it may very well have qualities superior to the original, but they just do not work for me. The first one is Don Bluth, but the second one is more like a Disney film.
There is the history argument of how ground breaking each film was and without a doubt the first film easily wins here. Before “An American Tail” animation was in the dark ages. Very little care went into them and very few made money. The producer of both films, Steven Spielberg, was having recent troubles, and “An American Tail” ended both problems. It brought Spielberg back on top and started the renaissance age of animation. “Fievel Goes West” was the first film made by Amblination. Only three were made, but the remnants helped form Dreamworks. Of course Amblination was made from the remnants of Bluth leaving Spielberg, which would mean the original is almost as responsible for Dreamworks as the sequel.
The opening to one makes the crucial credits mistake of misspelling Fievel as “Feivel.” Still, it has a much better score in the beginning. It gives really nice animation. It then begins the action by both describing the American dream and showing the horrors the Mouskowitz are trying to escape. The beginning of II is more about just showing the West. The main theme is the same as “Bartok, the Magnificent” that there is a hero in you. I really do not see that developed. In one I very much see the theme that despite its flaws America offers the potential to change your life.
Both films offer an early battle and here II is superior with the music. They use a modified version of the main theme that goes wonderful with an action scene. One has a mood breaking train sound effect, but one still has the better opening action scene.
is much more intimidating than
Granted, the difference is not by much. One mostly has a better scene due to a much bigger sense of fear and a better Fievel.
Fievel was redesigned and it really hurt the second one.
In II he was made to appear less vulnerable and older. Since the first one shows Fievel being very heroic it is reasonable to think he would be like that later. The problem is he gets himself into trouble more often in the second one and is far less successful in being a hero, which hurt the moral of the hero inside you. Even worse is Philip Glasser’s changing voice could not imitate its previous great performance. In the first one he comes off as heroic and capable of getting out of trouble. In II he comes off as an action survivor thanks to others saving him. From one he is one of my favorite protagonists, but it did not carry over.
One reason for Fievel’s decreased role is the film was disneyfied. Don Bluth puts the main focus on the hero. Disney puts the main focus on the villain and side characters. It comes down to opinion and type of story which one is better, but I almost always prefer focusing on a wonderful protagonist. II is more of a Disney film than a Bluth film (Bluth did not direct it), which I am sure is a major reason for the broken base. Tiger is way more of the main hero than Feivel here. Dom DeLuise gives the best performance of the sequel. The problem is his lines are really bad filler mostly. The chases he gets in get really old before they even begin. At least he offers some good jokes and scenes. Wiley Burp is a horrible name. It sounds like something a Junior high student will make up. His whole fandom is based on being voiced by Jimmy Stewart and nothing else. Shouldn’t he have had a planned replacement already? Tanya gets a bigger role, which seems to be furry fan service. Mama and Papa are so much dumber, less caring, and less funny i the sequel. Mama went from a dead pan snarker to the miserable stereotypical mother. Papa was an optimistic but grief stricken dad to a straw optimist. In the first one I loved or really enjoyed every side character and they all had completely different roles. In II I liked Tiger and found everyone else to be bland.
With their increased focus on the villain II should have an advantage there. On paper Cat R. Waul is better than Warren T. Rat. He is smarter, has a more complex plan, he has a better voice actor, better actor gave a great performance, he has a more menacing sidekick. His sidekick, the tarantula is actually a better villain. On screen Warre is better. He is far more threatening. With Cat R. Waul I doubt he would hurt a fly, mostly because he prefers to not kill anyone personally. Warren is also more interested in money than killing, but he always comes off as more murderous and optimistic about future success. He also has a much better plan.
Cat R. Waul wants to use mice for their labor. The way to do that is to clean the big machines or something. Instead they are shown struggling with a job that a cat solves in literally three seconds. I was actually fine with the mouse burgers plot since badly worded plans happen, but it is still a minor problem. Warren I better at making a believable plan and being a more relatable villain, the oppressive upper class who only want to make money. Cat R. Waul is still the third best part of II.
The best part of II s its climax. It is fun and even Miss Kitty works in it. I liked the slingshots. Fievel also finally got to do something notably important. Still the climax in one is leaps and bounds better. The part with the Great Mouse of Minsk is wonderfully animated.
The songs in An American Tail are my favorite in any musical. Each one is better than the last, and they add to the story and characters. “No Cats n America” further ads to why the mice are so scared of cats by focusing on the sadness (earlier scenes focused on the horror). “Never Say Never” (besides being ripped off by Justin Bieber) is very important to letting the characters get over a sad time and doing the same with the audience. It also stays in the head and ads hope later. Why is “Somewhere out There” so great? It does not try to sound pretty, but true. The characters do not change their voices. Besides that it is wonderfully written and fits untrained singers. “We’re a Duo” is just wonderful. It really helps with the symbolic message of the cats being the oppressive upper-class to the mice’s immigrants showing how both are needed. Also to help is by then it is so great to see Fievel finally find a friend who does not get distracted from helping him (Tony was mostly useful later). The final ingredient was Tiger. He was instantly likable. It is also made even better by the sequel, which is to Fievel Goes West‘s credit.
I never understood the love of “Dreams to Dreams.” Of the flagship songs from all four movies it is the worst. It sounds like it was made not sell rather than add to a story that sells, like Disney films typically make. Her ice is way too focused on sounding pretty rather than getting emotion out. Miss Kitty’s song is something I always want to fast-forward through. “At Least ay out West” is a really good song, but overly loud for my tastes even for a crowd song.
I see why some people love the second one. It offers several things to like for Disney fans and nothing is notably bad to distract from it. It still cannot compete with the first film. The first films a wonderful protagonist, my favorite songs from a musical, wonderful animation, a threatening villain, and a wonderful moral both literally and symbolically.