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An American Tail
Album Cover Art
Composed, Conducted, and Co-Produced by:

Orchestrated by:
Greig McRitchie

Songs Co-Composed by:
Barry Mann

Performed by:
The London Symphony Orchestra

Co-Produced by:
Peter Asher

Lyrics by:
Cynthia Weil
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MCA Records
(November 21st, 1986)
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Regular U.S. release, valued at under $10 for more than two decades.
The song "Somewhere Out There" won a Grammy Award. That song was also nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. Horner's score was nominated for a Grammy Award as well.
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Availability | Awards | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... if you seek the strong children's score that launched James Horner's fruitful production in the genre and gained him his first widespread awards consideration.

Avoid it... if you are consistently bothered by Horner's references to Eastern European classical music and other sources of inspiration, despite the fact that they are effectively appropriate here.
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WRITTEN 8/26/09
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iTunes (5.99)

An American Tail: (James Horner/Barry Mann) Luckily for most children, Steven Spielberg's obsession with creative retellings of Jewish hardship from an age past is irrelevant as long as the pictures are pretty, the music cute, and the story glossed over with lovable animals. Such was the case with 1986's An American Tail, basically a story of Jewish persecution by the Czar of Russia and subsequent freedom in the United States dressed up in the form of a harmless animation production. In 1885, a family of mice have to escape death when the human house above them is burned by the Russian government for reasons not explained; as they set out across the ocean to America, young Fievel (named after Spielberg's grandfather, no less) is accidentally tossed overboard in a storm, spending the rest of the story making a living in New York and searching for his family (which is not far away). Eluding cats and forming friendships with dubious animal kingdom characters, Fievel is eventually reunited with his family and all is well. He then heads out West with his adventuresome sister, but that's the topic of the sequel film in 1991. The historical representations in An American Tail did not escape critics and, although "Sesame Street" writers Tony Geiss and Judy Freudberg and director Don Bluth effectively captured audiences with their translation of the events into a form a child could sit through, the film came under fire for depicting too much hardship and political metaphors in the genre. Regardless of your tolerance for Spielberg's incessant messages of Jewish persecution, An American Tail is a strong film that used all the talents of Bluth's former Disney production team to create compelling visuals for the time. Joining that crew for the first time (and eventually becoming a regular part of it) was composer James Horner. Although Jerry Goldsmith had provided Bluth's first film (The Secret of N.I.M.H., another rat tale, of course) with an impressive orchestral score, Horner was coming into his own by 1986, and An American Tail would bring the composer his first Academy Award nomination (along with Aliens the same year) and Grammy Award win.

Horner's music for Bluth films over this fruitful period was often very similar, performed consistently by the London Symphony Orchestra to pull classical references into a melting pot of ideas that Horner could rotate through almost indiscriminately between pictures. Most of the sources of inspiration for Horner when writing An American Tail are, not surprisingly, Russian; whereas the composer sometimes relied upon the work of Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky in situations that didn't make much sense, at least the sound fits comfortably here. Perhaps also not a surprise for most will be a reliance on Maurice Jarre's Dr. Zhivago in a similarly Russian tone and Nino Rota in a general European sense. The symphonic ensemble is joined by accordion and cimbalom to emphasize New York's multi-cultural atmosphere (and, more specifically, characters like the French-rendered pigeon). An abundance of lightly tapping metallic percussion is also well utilized to give audiences that expected dose of magical wonder. Horner's classically-informed thematic constructs of a melodramatic and romantic variety in the middle of the 1980's all eventually matured in 1988's The Land Before Time, the composer's most comprehensive and impressive capitulation of these ideas. This especially applies to An American Tail, which features one major theme and a general tone that will please any enthusiast of the later Bluth film's score. The action material and another theme in An American Tail are easily precursors to more developed incarnations in Willow, also a 1988 endeavor. Although Horner would eventually team with lyricist Will Jennings for his subsequent efforts, some listeners consider his work with songwriter Barry Mann and lyricist Cynthia Weil for An American Tail to be superior. Indeed, it's hard to argue with the success of the songs in this film, the "Somewhere Out There" duet alone popular enough to attract a Grammy Award. The quality of the other songs in An American Tail isn't at the same level, however. They're effective narrative expositions (with lots of the necessary personality), but not as memorable in a supporting position as Alan Menken's later efforts for Disney.

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Average: 3.87 Stars
***** 199 5 Stars
**** 117 4 Stars
*** 76 3 Stars
** 52 2 Stars
* 26 1 Stars
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FVSR Reviews An American Tail
Brendan Cochran - April 19, 2016, at 9:10 a.m.
1 comment  (367 views)
This Soundtrack Causes Spiritual And Moral Degeneration   Expand >>
The Sowers of Seed - September 14, 2009, at 3:14 p.m.
3 comments  (2488 views)
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Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
Total Time: 49:44
• 1. Main Title (5:07)
• 2. The Cossack Cats (2:15)
• 3. There Are No Cats in America* - performed by Nehemiah Persoff, John Guarnieri, and Warren Hays (3:00)
• 4. The Storm (3:59)
• 5. Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor (2:44)
• 6. Never Say Never* - performed by Christopher Plummer and Phillip Glasser (2:25)
• 7. The Market Place (3:02)
• 8. Somewhere Out There* - performed by Phillip Glasser and Betsy Cathcart (2:40)
• 9. Somewhere Out There* - performed by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram (3:59)
• 10. Releasing the Secret Weapon (3:38)
• 11. A Duo* - performed by Dom de Luise and Phillip Glasser (2:38)
• 12. The Great Fire (2:54)
• 13. Reunited (4:44)
• 14. Flying Away and End Credits (5:59)
* co-written by Barry Mann, with lyrics by Cynthia Weil

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The insert includes no extra information about the score or film.
Copyright © 2009-2019, Filmtracks Publications. All rights reserved.
The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from An American Tail are Copyright © 1986, MCA Records and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 8/26/09 (and not updated significantly since).
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