These are brief profiles on the directors, writers, artists and voice actors that made the An American Tail series possible.
Directed: An American Tail
Born: September 13, 1937
Other Works: The Secret of NIMH, All Dogs Go to Heaven, The Land Before Time, Anastasia
Bio: Don Bluth is a prolific animator who stirred up the industry in the 1980's thanks to the success of An American Tail and The Land Before Time, both movies which beat out his rival Disney and forced them to step up their game, ultimately leading animation as a whole into a renaissance. Bluth was formerly a Disney animator, working on such films as Robin Hood and The Rescuers, before quitting and forming his own animation unit with a mission to bring quality animation back, eventually producing The Secret of NIMH, a movie that still holds a very strong fan following and is considered one of the greatest animated movies of all time. His first independent effort however was the short Banjo the Woodpile Cat, which was created independently but before he quit Disney. An American Tail was his second full-length film, but contrary to some people's assumptions, Bluth had nothing to do with the three sequels, nor the sequels of any of his movies save for Bartok the Magnificent. Unfortunately his animation unit lost momentum after All Dogs Go To Heaven with a sting of box-office duds in the 90's, with the exception of 1997's hit Anastasia. Today he instead teaches animation. His films tend to be very heartfelt and emotional, and his philosophy is that children can handle seeing the main character go through terrific strife and hardship as long as there is a happy ending, and that formula definitely showed through in An American Tail.
Born: December 18, 1946
Other Works: Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jaws, E.T., Tiny Toon Adventures, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, etc.
Bio: If you don't know who Steven Spielberg is by now, you've been living under a rock since the 70's. Steven Spielberg is a world-famous director and producer, and has helped create some of the most acclaimed and remembered films of the past 40 years. He first hit it big in the 1970's with Jaws, and his momentum from that carried him into the 80's with hits like E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark and Back to the Future. In relation to An American Tail, Spielberg became interested in dabbling in animation because he had always been a fan, and after seeing The Secret of NIMH and being impressed by it, he contacted Don Bluth to create An American Tail. During the production he had to learn how different producing animation was from producing live action, stating in an interview, ""Before this, I had been a bottomless pit of appreciation for animated films, without knowing what went into making them. At this point, I'm enlightened, but still can't believe it's so complicated." But, with the combined efforts of Spielberg and Bluth, An American Tail became a hit. He and Bluth would strike gold again with The Land Before Time, a movie that would break An American Tail's box-office record. Afterward, Bluth and Spielberg parted ways, due to creative differences which haven't been made public (to this editor's knowledge). Neither of them would quite reach the same level of success when it came to animated movies after parting ways though. Spielberg then formed Amblimation, an animation branch of his production company Amblin, and their first animation project was An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. Don Bluth was busy with Rock-a-Doodle at the time, and one can presume FGW's lighter tone is because of Bluth's absence. Amblimation would go on to create We're Back: A Dinosaur Story and Balto, as well as classic television animation such as Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs, before shutting down. Spielberg is now behind much of Dreamworks' animated output when it comes to the field of animation, and of course, he had quite a number of very successful live action films after An American Tail too, far too many to list.
A fun little trivia fact: Fievel is named after Steven Spielberg's grandfather.
Born: May 29, 1955
Other Works: Child's Play (series), Once Upon a Forest, The Pagemaster, Cats Don't Dance, Hocus Pocus
Bio: So, what kind of guy creates a series of beloved children's animated classics...and a series of slasher films involving a demonic doll? Apparently, David Kirschner did just that. For all of the credit Don Bluth and Steven Spielberg get for An American Tail, the story itself was essentially all his idea. He created the characters we know and love in the series, and wrote the overall plot. An American Tail was his first big hit, and he also produced the sequel, Fievel Goes West. He played a role in Fievel's American Tails as a consultant, though he had far less input than he did for the movies (as is obvious). His second film after An American Tail, in a somewhat bizarre and unexpected twist, was Child's Play, which started an entire series of horror movies starring the killer doll, Chucky. He later became chairman of Hanna-Barbera, producing much of their output from the late 80's through the 90's, including the films Once Upon a Forest and The Pagemaster. He would later produce the under-rated cult classic animated film Cats Don't Dance before rejoining Don Bluth to create Titan A.E. Sadly, all of his animated films after the An American Tail series became under-rated and obscure, though most of them really are very good movies. But, we owe An American Tail and it's subsequent installments all to him, without him it could never have happened.
Born: October 4, 1978
Also Appears In: A Troll in Central Park, Bebe's Kids, Hang Time (TV Series), Poolhall Junkies
Bio: Phillip Glasser was the little boy who gave Fievel his voice. Glasser's parents got him into acting early, and Don Bluth discovered him when overhearing the child auditioning for an Oscar-Meyer commercial. Landing the part of Fievel was his big break, though voicing Fievel must not have been an easy task for the then-seven year old; Fievel's screams and his crying had to be done through method acting, they couldn't be faked. However, the rest of the cast was very supportive of him. In interviews he's stated that he enjoyed voicing Fievel much better in the more light-hearted sequel Fievel Goes West. He also had a very nice singing voice as can be heard on the Fievel and Friends musical album. By the time Fievel's American Tails was being produced it is somewhat apparent to whoever listens to Fievel's voice that Phillip was beginning to outgrow the role of Fievel, unfortunately, and he was replaced with another young voice actor for the direct-to-video sequels. Glasser would land other odd roles throughout his childhood and teenage years, voicing on A Troll in Central Park, Bebe's Kids, The Secret of NIMH II and an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures, also landing minor live action roles on Full House, Boy Meets World and Sabrina the Teenage Witch among others, and was a regular on the show Hang Time. These days, the now 30-something Phillip Glasser has taken to producing movies, such as Kickin' it Old School, Endure and Sedona. But to a lot of us, he'll always be the one who gave Fievel Mousekewitz his adorable, as well as believable and authentic, voice.
Voiced: Tiger, in every installment of the AAT series.
Born: August 1, 1933
Died: May 4, 2009
Also Appears In: The Secret of NIMH, All Dogs Go to Heaven, Oliver and Company, Blazing Saddles, A Troll in Central Park
Bio: Dom DeLuise was a widely known actor and comedian, both in live-action and animation. He first got into acting in the 1960's and by the 70's he became a favorite of Mel Brooks, appearing in many of his movies during the decade. He even had his own television show at one point, and he guest-starred on many others, becoming quite the celebrity. He first dabbled in voice acting in The Secret of NIMH voicing Jeremy the Crow, and would return for many of Don Bluth's later films. This of course included An American Tail, in which he provided the voice of Tiger, the only friendly cat Fievel meets. Dom DeLuise would return to voice Tiger in every single sequel and in Fievel's American Tails. Without Dom voicing Tiger, it just wouldn't be Tiger. Dom was similarly committed to returning to voice his other characters, voicing Jeremy in The Secret of NIMH II and voicing Itchy in the sequels to All Dogs Go to Heaven. Also a lover of food, he was an accomplished chef and published cookbooks. Tragically, in 2009 he died of kidney failure and cancer, succumbing to a series of health problems. His legacy will perhaps live on best through the characters he voiced and the childhoods he impacted. Nobody else could ever play them like he could.
Born: November 1, 1956
Also Appears In: Thumbelina, The Pebble and the Penguin, Extreme Ghostbusters, The Tick, The Smurfs
Bio: Pat Musick is an incredibly talented voice actress. I mean, who wasn't surprised when they discovered that Tony Toponi was voiced by a woman? She was able to make Tony a very charismatic and convincing character, just with her voice; and she's one of the things that made the direct-to-video sequels even worth watching. When coming up with the voice for Tony, she said she based him on a childhood friend of hers, and we can guess based on the fact that she came back to voice him in the 3rd and 4th movies that he must have been a favorite of hers to voice. She certainly sounded like she was having fun. Besides voicing Tony, she has a quite prolific resume when it comes to voice acting, and is able to voice a variety of characters. She's also the mother of Mae Whitman, an actress who does both live action and voicing roles, notably giving Tinkerbell the only voice she's ever had, at least in Disney productions.
Of the very few resources I've found online involving her, this here was the most interesting, which includes a five-track demo of her voice work (you'll hear a little bit of Tony singing "Who Will" on the Character track).
Born: August 2, 1919
Also Appears In: On the Waterfront, Al Capone, The Twilight Zone, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Yentl
Bio: Nehemiah Persoff was born in Palestine in 1919, moving to America in 1929. Having been active since 1948 he has quite the resume, appearing in dozens of classic films and television programs, including a role in the award-winning On the Waterfront, as a taxi driver while Marlon Brando delivered his famous "I could have been a contender" line. He was chiefly a live-action actor until his failing health forced him to take it easy, and in 1986 he took up the role of Papa Mousekewitz, dabbling in voice acting instead. He was originally chosen to voice Papa because of a similar fatherly role he played in the film Yentl. He's always added a very authentic, fatherly touch to the character; being Jewish himself probably helps as well, being able to get the accent down quite well. He returned to voice Papa Mousekewitz in all four films. Now in his nineties, these days he has taken up painting as a hobby and is retired from acting.
Born: January 8, 1952
Died: February 23, 2002
Also Appears In: Jem, Fatal Beauty
Bio: Cathianne Blore gave us the lilting Irish voice of Bridget. An American Tail was her first film role, followed by a live action role in the film Fatal Beauty in which she played herself (pictured above). She then provided a voice on the 1980's cartoon Jem, leaving her impact on the lifelong fans of that cartoon as the voice of Aja. Sadly, her career (and later her life) was cut short. She died of liver failure in 2002 at the age of 50, though she'd been having severe health problems for years beforehand. This might provide one explanation for why Bridget was cut from the series in later sequels. Despite this tragedy, she's left the fans of Jem and An American Tail alike with wonderful memories. Her voice will live on through Bridget, who's comforting words to Fievel just before he sings "Somewhere Out There", that his family is "alright, and out there somewhere", strike a cord in us all.
Born: August 18, 1926
Died: July 29, 2012
Also Appears In: Columbo, Mars Attacks, Vegas Vacation, Matlock, JFK, Little Miss Marker
Bio: John P. Finnegan gave us the sleazy Brooklyn accent of Warren T. Rat. He earned the role of the character after doing his impression of a Brooklyn taxi driver trying and failing to quote Shakespeare; Spielberg and Bluth liked it so much that they decided that Warren would misquote Shakespeare as well. It's been his only voice-acting role to date. Otherwise Finnegan tends to star in TV police dramas, plus a few odd film roles here and there. He's been in acting since the 70's. The other part he's well known for is his part in the long-running police drama, Columbo.
Born: September 29, 1942
Died: December 3, 1999
Also Appears In: Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, History Of the World: Part 1, Oh Madeline, A Bug's Life
Bio: Best known for her live action comedic roles, Madeline Kahn was quite a big celebrity in her day. Her career blossomed in the 1970's while starring in many of Mel Brooks' films, these performances are what she's best known for today. In the 1980's she even had her very own sit-com, though it was short lived. In particular, her performance as Lily von Schtupp in Blazing Saddles has been cited as one of the greatest movie performances of all time. It was this performance, speaking in an 'Elmer Fudd' lisp, that she carried on into her voice acting role as Gussie Mausheimer in An American Tail, one of her few voice acting roles. Bluth in fact hired her hoping that she would reprise Lily von Schtupp. It worked well, one of the funniest lines in the movie is still her yell of "Wewease ze secwet weapon!!" She would continue acting up until just before her death. Tragically, she died of cancer at the age of 57. She'll be remembered for years to come because of her famous roles in the films of Mel Brooks, but she's left her mark on the An American Tail series as well.
Voiced: Mama Mousekewitz in every movie but the 4th one.
Born: October 1930
Also Appears In: Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, The Godfather II, State of Grace, Beverly Hills 90210
Bio: Erica Yohn has been the voice of Mama Mousekewitz in most of the movies (save the final one, for unknown reasons), and has lent her accent to create a very convincing if not strict Jewish-Russian housewife. She often plays a gypsy in her live action roles, such as in her comedic role as Madame Ruby in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (pictured above). She was a recurring character on Beverly Hills, 90210 as well. It seems Bluth made a perfect choice in casting her as the role, her chemistry with Nehemiah Persoff makes both their performances convincing.
Born: April 21, 1961
Also Appears In: The Powerpuff Girls, Kidd Video, Jem, Happy Feet, Ben 10
Bio: Cathy Cavadini is a very well known voice actress, best known for her role as Blossom on the Powerpuff Girls. But before the Powerpuff Girls, she voiced Tanya in An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. She did a great job making Tanya a believable and well-rounded character with whom we could relate, even if Tanya would go on to be portrayed quite differently in later sequels. But she didn't just voice Tanya, she sang as Tanya too, and her performance of "Dreams to Dream" (which is best appreciated on the actual soundtrack and I highly recommend it), even tends to be more well-liked than Linda Ronstadt's rendition. Tanya's voice was enough to tame the heart of the mouse-hungry Cat R. Waul, and the hearts of most of the audience as well. Cavadini's performance of Tanya is truly one of the best performances in the entire series. Cavadini returned to voice Tanya in Fievel's American Tails as well, and also voiced Yasha Mousekewitz.
Born: October 27, 1939
Also Appears In: Monty Python's Flying Circus, Fawlty Towers, Time Bandits, A Fish Called Wanda
Bio: John Cleese is a legendary British comedian, most famous for his performance on Monty Python's Flying Circus, a British sketch comedy show, and the movies it spawned. His career took off in the 1960's with Monty Python, which ran until 1974. He would reunite with the cast for the Monty Python movies (Monty Python and the Holy Grail among others) and he co-wrote the sitcom Fawlty Towers with his wife. His first voice acting role was as Cat R. Waul in An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, and he gives a very spirited performance, making the villain both well-spoken and sinister, very much stealing the show. Since then he's taken up a few more voicing roles, in the Charolette's Web remake and the Shrek sequels, and he continues to appear in live action roles as well, such as The World Is Not Enough, two of the Harry Potter movies, and The Pink Panther 2 just to name a few. He continues to act to this day and will always be known as one of the best British comedians.
Born: December 28, 1987
Also Appears In: The Land Before Time V-IX, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Heroes, A Nightmare on Elm Street
Bio: Thomas Dekker started acting at an early age. He was the one chosen to take over the role of Fievel Mousekewitz in the direct-to-video sequel, because Phillip Glasser was too old (ironically, Dekker hadn't even been born yet when the first An American Tail came out). By this time he already had some experience, playing Little Foot in some of the later Land Before Time sequels. His performance as Fievel was well done, even voicing Fievel during songs as Phillip Glasser had done. He won a Young Artist Award for best voice-over performance in The Mystery of the Night Monster. He's since moved on to chiefly live action roles, starring as John Connor in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and landing a role in the 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. He's also a musician, and has already released an album. He certainly seems to have a promising career blossoming before him.