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An American Tail: Fievel Goes West facts for kids

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An American Tail: Fievel Goes West
American tail fievel goes west.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
  • Phil Nibbelink
  • Simon Wells
Produced by
Screenplay by Flint Dille
Story by Charles Swenson
Music by James Horner
Editing by Nick Fletcher
Studio Amblimation
Universal Pictures
Amblin Entertainment
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) November 17, 1991 (1991-11-17) (Kennedy Center)
November 22, 1991 (1991-11-22) (United States)
Running time 74 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $16.5 million
Money made $40.8 million

An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (also known as An American Tail II: Fievel Goes West or An American Tail II) is a 1991 American animated comedy Western film directed by Phil Nibbelink and Simon Wells with producer Steven Spielberg for his Amblimation animation studio and released by Universal Pictures. A sequel to An American Tail (1986), the film follows the story of the Mousekewitzes, a family of Jewish-Ukrainian mice who emigrate to the Wild West. In it, Fievel is separated from his family as the train approaches the American Old West; the film chronicles him and Sheriff Wylie Burp teaching Tiger how to act like a dog. Fievel Goes West was the first production for the short-lived Amblimation, a studio Spielberg set up to keep the animators of Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) working.

While the animation medium was transitioning to computers in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Spielberg wanted almost all of the animation of Fievel Goes West to be hand-drawn, describing animation as "an arts-and-crafts business". He also wanted the animation to have a "live-action" feel. While the first film was directed by Don Bluth, direction was handled by Phil Nibbelink and Simon Wells in their directorial debut for the sequel. Phillip Glasser, Dom DeLuise, Nehemiah Persoff, and Erica Yohn reprise their roles from the first film for Fievel Goes West. Tanya's original voice actor, Amy Green, was replaced by Cathy Cavadini, and new characters were voiced by John Cleese, Amy Irving, Jon Lovitz, and James Stewart in his final film role. James Horner returned as a composer and wrote the film's song "Dreams to Dream", which garnered a Golden Globe nomination.

Premiering at the Kennedy Center on November 17, 1991, An American Tail: Fievel Goes West began its American theatrical run on November 22. This was the same day Walt Disney Pictures' Beauty and the Beast (1991) was distributed, making it the third time in history two animated films were released on one date instead of two separate ones after The Land Before Time, Oliver & Company, The Little Mermaid, and All Dogs Go to Heaven. Fievel Goes West was promoted with a wide array of tie-ins and started in the top ten at the box office. The film performed modestly at the box office, grossing $22 million domestically. Some film journalists and executives attributed this to having to compete with the Disney film. It received mixed critical reviews upon its release, with criticism pointed towards the story and fast pace, although the animation, humor, musical score, and voice acting received praise.

However, Fievel Goes West fared better when it came to home video sales, quickly reaching the top of the video charts when released on tape in March 1992; at the time, the film held the record for shortest theater-to-home-video transfer and it has since gained a large cult following. In addition to garnering more home media releases, TV airings, and video game adaptations later on, the film has made numerous 2010s retrospective best-of lists from online publications, especially best Netflix-available Western films. Fievel Goes West was followed by a short-lived CBS series named Fievel's American Tails and two direct-to-video sequels and prequels: An American Tail: The Treasure of Manhattan Island (1998) and An American Tail: The Mystery of the Night Monster (1999).


In 1890, five years after immigrating to the United States, the impoverished Mousekewitz family discovers that conditions are not as ideal as they had hoped, as they find themselves still struggling against the attacks of mouse-hungry cats. Fievel spends his days thinking about the Wild West dog-sheriff Wylie Burp, while his older sister, Tanya, dreams of becoming a singer. Meanwhile, Tiger's girlfriend, Miss Kitty, leaves him to find a new life out west, remarking that perhaps she is looking for "a cat that's more like a dog".

Shortly after, the mouse community falls under another attack by the cats—-this time led by an aristocratic cat named Cat R. Waul—-forcing the mice, including Fievel's family, to flee into the sewers. There, they come across a mouse in a cowboy outfit, who is fact a mouse marionette controlled by Cat R. Waul, who entices the mice into moving yet again to a better life out west. Tiger chases the train, trying to catch up with his friends, but is thrown off course by a pack of angry dogs. While on the train, Fievel wanders into the livestock car, where he overhears the cats revealing their plot to turn them into "mouse burgers". After being discovered, he tries to escape and warn everyone. However, Fievel is thrown from the train by Cat R. Waul's hench-spider, T.R. Chula, leaving him stranded in the middle of the desert. His family is devastated once again over his loss and arrive in Green River, Utah with heavy hearts.

Upon arrival at Green River, Chula blocks up the water tower, drying up the river. Cat R. Waul approaches the mice and proposes to build a new saloon together, although intending to trick the mice into doing the bulk of the work and then eat them afterwards. Meanwhile, Fievel is wandering aimlessly through the desert, as is Tiger, who has found his way out west as well, and they pass each other. However, they each figure that the other is a mirage and continue on their separate ways. Tiger is captured by mouse Indians and hailed as a god. Fievel is picked up by a hawk, dropped over the mouse Indian village and reunites with Tiger. Tiger chooses to stay in while Fievel catches a passing tumbleweed, which takes him to Green River. As soon as he makes his arrival, he quickly reunites with his family but fails to convince them of Cat R. Waul's plans to kill them. He later stumbles into the saloon where he overhears the cats' plan yet again before he is discovered once more by Cat R. Waul. However, before Cat R. Waul can eat Fievel to keep his plan from becoming undone, he hears Tanya singing and is enchanted by her voice.

He sends Tanya to Miss Kitty, who is now a saloon-girl cat, and she reveals that she came at Cat R. Waul's request. He tells Miss Kitty to put her on stage. With a little encouragement from Miss Kitty, she pulls off a performance for the cats. Meanwhile, Fievel is chased by Chula and briefly taken prisoner, but flees.

While walking out of town, Fievel stops to talk with an elderly bloodhound sleeping outside the jail, discovering that he is actually Wylie Burp. Fievel convinces him to help and train Tiger as a lawman and as a dog. Tiger is reluctant at first, but relents at the suggestion that a new persona might win back Miss Kitty. They go back to Green River to fight the cats, who attempt to kill the mice at sunset during the opening of Cat R. Waul's saloon using a concealed giant mouse trap. Tiger, Wylie and Fievel intervene and battle the cats, during which Miss Kitty and Tanya discover the trap. Tanya rushes to the mice and, using her singing (and knowing that Cat R. Waul will not allow the trap to be triggered if she is there), alerts them to the trap and warns them to flee. Seeing this, Cat R. Waul unveils a giant revolver, which he fires at the fleeing mice as a makeshift cannon, until Wylie catapults Fievel to the gun, which the mouse quickly intercepts from and attempts to use against Cat R. Waul. When Chula threatens to kill Miss Kitty in an attempt to force Fievel to back down, however, an incensed Tiger rescues her and uses Chula's web as a lasso with him trapped on it to hurtle Cat R. Waul and his men out of town by having them piled on part of the trap, which the heroes use as a catapult. The cats fly into the air and land into a mailbag, which a passing train picks up and leaves.

Enamored by his new personality, Miss Kitty and Tiger are reunited. Tanya becomes a famous singer and the water tower flows with 9,000 gallons of water again, making Green River bloom with thousands of flowers. Fievel finds Wylie away from the party who hands him his sheriff badge. Fievel is unsure about taking it, but realizes that his journey is not over.


Later years

In the late 2010s, An American Tail: Fievel Goes West was recognized on publication lists of best Netflix-available westerns, ranking in the top ten of lists by Paste and The Daily Dot. It was also number 24 on GameSpot's "25 Best '90s Movies On Netflix", appeared on Wonderwall's list of best animated sequels, and landed on a Cosmopolitan list of "50 Movies You Definitely Watched in the '90s and Forgot About". Including it on a list of "19 Classic Movies That Prove 1991 Was Truly The Best Year For Film", Bustle described the film as "a fun, action-adventure comedy that gave Fievel's sister Tanya some much-needed screen time." Both Fievel Goes West and the first American Tail were tied for the number-five spot of a list of best non-Disney films from My Web Times: "Political and historical, these feature some fab songs and fun voice-over work from the likes of Jimmy Stewart (in his last role), John Cleese, Madeline Kahn and Dom DeLuise." In her book Steven Spielberg: A Life in Films (Jewish Lives), Molly Haskell wrote that both An American Tail and its sequel Fievel Goes West were oddly more "personal" for Spielberg than Schindler's List (1993), "the film that certified the director's rebirth as a Jew, and his much-vaunted evolution into a newfound 'maturity.'"

In a 2017 /Film feature about Amblimation, Dalin Rowell highlighted the "cinematic" scale of its animation and opined that it "should be remembered for its creativity and willingness to be a bit more bold and daring than its predecessor." A 2016 review from Greg Jameson of Entertainment Focus opined it "has less universal appeal than the original, because the themes aren't as rooted in human experience so it packs less of an emotional punch." However, he nonetheless called it a fun film and praised its animation and voice acting.

The Jimmy Stewart Museum, a museum dedicated to Stewart, has presented Fievel Goes West four times: on September 6, 2015, January 9, 2016, March 11, 2017, and July 8, 2017. On April 28, 2018, Fievel Goes West was screened at the Autry Museum of the American West, a Los Angeles museum of the history of the American West.

Comedy television series such as 30 Rock, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Rick and Morty have referenced Fievel Goes West.

Sequels and spin-offs

Between January to February 1992, Marvel Comics ran a three-issue series based on Fievel Goes West, written by D.G. Chichester with art by George Wildman.

On September 12, 1992, the TV series Fievel's American Tails premiered on CBS; it is a follow-up of Fievel Goes West and features actors such as Glasser, Cavadini and DeLuise reprising their roles. In 2020, NBCUniversal regained rights to the series and is set to stream on Peacock, over two decades after being abandoned since the release of the DTV films in the late 1990s.

Two direct-to-video sequels were produced after the series: An American Tail: The Treasure of Manhattan Island, released in 1998, and An American Tail: The Mystery of the Night Monster, released in 1999. A piece of dialogue from Fievel in the former appears to retcon Fievel Goes West as a dream the character had, but many fans would prefer to see both direct-to-video films as prequels that take place before Fievel Goes West, with the dialogue being taken as foreshadowing.

Fievel later served as the mascot for Steven Spielberg's Amblimation animation studio, appearing in its production logo. There is also a Fievel-themed playground at Universal Studios Florida, featuring a large water slide and many oversized objects such as books, glasses, cowboy boots, and more. It is the only such playground at any of NBC Universal's theme parks.

An LCD game based on the film was created by Tiger Electronics in 1991.

A computer game based on the film was created in 1993.

A Super Nintendo Entertainment System video game of the same name was released in 1994; it was heavily praised by video game critics for its presentation, although its simple gameplay garnered divided opinions. A Game Boy Advance video game based on the film called An American Tail: Fievel's Gold Rush was released by Conspiracy Entertainment in January 2002 to mixed reviews.


 Professional ratings
Source Rating
Entertainment Weekly
Film Tracks

The soundtrack was composed by James Horner and includes "Dreams to Dream", which was nominated for a Golden Globe award and a contender by the Academy Award voters for a Best Original Song nomination, although didn't receive one. An Entertainment Weekly review compared the score to the soundtracks of Gunsmoke and Oklahoma! (1955) as well as the works of Aaron Copland.

On July 19, 1991, the Los Angeles Daily News announced Anita Baker would sing "Dreams to Dream", but this did not happen. Although Linda Ronstadt originally sang the song, she rejected allowing her voice on it after recording finished; Celine Dion was replaced, and she recorded her vocals while working on her second English-language album. However, Ronstadt then asked for her vocals to be on the track, and the executives thought Dion did not have enough star power. While this resulted in the re-insertion of Ronstadt's voice, Horner's experience with recording the song with Dion led her to singing on a later Horner-composed song, "My Heart Will Go On". In the United States, Ronstadt's version of "Dreams to Dream" reached number 13 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart and number eight on Cashbox's Looking Ahead chart. It also reached 69 on RPM's Canadian singles chart and 18 on the magazine's Adult Contemporary chart.

The film also features an arrangement of "Rawhide" in its score.

Track listing

  1. "Dreams to Dream (Finale Version)" – Linda Ronstadt; music & lyrics by James Horner and Will Jennings; produced by David Foster
  2. "American Tail Overture (Main Title)"
  3. "Cat Rumble"
  4. "Headin' Out West"
  5. "Way Out West"; music & lyrics by James Horner and Will Jennings
  6. "Green River/Trek Through the Desert"
  7. "Dreams to Dream (Tanya's Version)" – Cathy Cavadini; music & lyrics by James Horner and Will Jennings
  8. "Building a New Town"
  9. "Sacred Mountain"
  10. "Reminiscing"
  11. "The Girl You Left Behind" – Cathy Cavadini; music & lyrics by James Horner and Will Jennings
  12. "In Training"# "The Shoot-Out"
  13. "A New Land/The Future"

(* a close parody of Aaron Copland's "Hoe-Down" theme, adapting the film's leitmotifs)

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