"FAIRY GODPARENTS!'" — Denzel Crocker
This is a good article.
Thumbelina is the main protagonist of the 1994 Don Bluth film of the same name. She is a tiny, thumb-sized girl who wants to marry Prince Cornelius who lives in the Vale of the Fairies.
Why Nobody Cares What She Thinks
Note: These pointers apply only to her character as depicted in Don Bluth's 1994 film adaptation.
- Right off the bat (not Bartok), her original book counterpart, as well as many other characters from Hans Christian Andersen's stories (with the notable exception of Gerda from The Snow Queen), isn't a well-written character to begin with for animated film standards, since most of his characters are basically weak and reactive characters where things happen to these characters instead of them doing something to drive their plot, which doesn't make an interesting or compelling character for the screen. But here in Don Bluth's film adaptation, she has been drastically flanderized to become a much worse character by making her a lot dumber, more passive, more immature, and more male-depending than her book counterpart, so much the point that it makes her seem like a caricature of her original book counterpart (in a BAD way), due to the various reasons as listed below.
- Her original book counterpart may have been a weak, whiny, and passive character, but not to this extent as how Don Bluth made her out to be. This is best exemplified when in the original Hans Christian Andersen book Thumbelina at least makes an attempt to survive on her own and protect herself from the elements when left alone in the wide open world. Don Bluth's version of the character on the other hand hardly does that.
- Her overall characterization gives both Caillou, Peppa Pig, Angelina Ballerina, Princess Elise, SpongeBob SquarePants and Bella Swan a run for their money.
- FIRST AND FOREMOST, her only defining character trait is being a ludicrously weak damsel-in-distress whom is nothing more than a useless crybaby. She is a very weak and whiny protagonist who is unable to stand up for herself.
- Worse, she cries way too frequently throughout the film to the point that it gets annoying after a while, even over stuff that isn't that big of a deal, such as when Berkeley Beetle calls her ugly and when she gets lost on the way home.
- Even the Disney Princesses created before and after her (e.g. Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine) do have scenes where they break down and cry, though at least they have valid reasons which are relatable to audiences and they still remained strong no matter what unlike Thumbelina, and not to this extent of oversaturation that it gets annoying.
- She easily gets demotivated whenever something goes wrong for her so she frequently whines and laments that "it's impossible" to the point where it gets old.
- She is way too much of a weak damsel in distress, even when compared to past heroines in other media created before her, including earlier damsels-in-distress characters created before her such as Ann Darrow, Willie Scott, Princess Peach, etc., so much to the point that it makes these past heroines much stronger in comparison, which is absolutely ridiculous and also unacceptable since most female characters created in the 1970s and beyond are strong female characters in any way, regardless whether it is physical or inner strength or both.
- Even the earliest Disney Princesses created before her such as Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora, despite their more reactive nature compared to the later Disney Princesses created after them since Ariel, are shown to have moments of inner strength and resilience which makes them strong female characters, such as how they managed to stay optimistic and courageous no matter how much bad luck and abuse they had to endure throughout their respective films. Thumbelina, on the other hand, has none of that AT ALL.
- Speaking of weak, not only does she have no inner strength whatsoever, but she is also a complete weakling on the physical side to ludicrous degrees as well, even for a person her size, such as how she easily passes out unconscious in the most minor moments of peril or danger, such as when Mama Toad kidnaps her when in her walnut bed and when she is saved from drowning in the river by some background fish and the jitterbugs when Jacquimo's attempts at saving her proved to be completely useless, hence making her unintentionally cataplexic.
- She gets little to no character development, nor does she have any purpose in life or personality outside of being with her love interest Prince Cornelius, hence making her a bland, flat character for the most part. Does that sound familiar?
- Despite that she is the main protagonist and gets a fair amount of screen time, she barely has any agency of her own nor does she have an active role in doing anything important throughout her film, hence making her more of a plot device than a character.
- It should also be noted by Don Bluth that he originally intended that Thumbelina to play a more proactive role in the story than in the final film where she is offered several options that she could think and choose what she wants from her life, but just about everyone else involved in the making of the film down-voted his idea.
- She is so dumb and super-naïve beyond belief, that she displays a lot of questionable moments of stupidity throughout the entire film to the point that it gets irritating and frustrating to watch. For example:
- Despite that Prince Cornelius (literally) breaks in into her room window and accidentally frightens her with his sword, for some reason she quickly forgives him when he apologizes, and after Prince Cornelius introduces herself, she figures it's okay to go on a bumblebee ride with this guy who, just broke into her room and waved a sword at her. And despite that Prince Cornelius accidentally lets her fall out of his arms literally as he's saying, "And I'll never let you fall." during the song sequence "Let Me Be Your Wings", she still falls in love with him very quickly, and once he proposes to her by the end of the film despite having spent with each other for only one night, she immediately agrees to marry him on a whim without any further second thoughts.
- Despite the earlier breaking and entering from Prince Cornelius, Thumbelina doesn't bother to close her room window at night, and consequently, she gets kidnapped by Mama Toad. Even Marina, another damsel-in-distress character from Bluth, was resilient enough with priorities and she at least takes advantage of preoccupancy to escape (albeit always backfiring). Thumbelina, however, doesn't even attempt, let alone fail, to get out of distress.
- She is so easily influenced and manipulated into almost everything by anyone, regardless of whether it is harmful to her general wellbeing or not, thinking that these people in question exactly have her best interests at heart every time. Like how Mama Toad manipulated her into either picking between marrying Prince Cornelius or having a career as a singer in the Toad family's Singers De Espana show and Ms. Fieldmouse manipulating her to marry Mr. Mole turned out to be very easy on these villains' parts after their respective villain songs. She is also even easily manipulated and deceived by Berkeley Beetle's sweet talk as well, even going so far as to do a favor for him by singing for him at the Beetle Ball, thinking that the beetle exactly has her best interests at heart when his later actions proved otherwise.
- Why does she happily dance to all the villain songs with a smile on her face with her enemies when they are the ones who force her to marry them against her will?
- After the musical number "On The Road" with the toads, why did she even thank Mama Toad once she becomes famous for her singing voice among the pond creatures despite the fact that Mama Toad was the one that kidnapped her earlier that night?
- After the musical number "Follow Your Heart" by Jacquimo, she then takes Jacquimo's advice of "following her heart" and "nothing is impossible" literally at face value without even knowing exactly what he meant with those words anyway for most of the film, even though that Jacquimo himself isn't really that bright to begin with, which ultimately resulted in her to make a lot of questionable decisions for the rest of the film, such as her mindlessly wandering around places to find her way home when left alone by Jacquimo the next day, which consequently caused her to fall into a pool of frozen pond water and therefore feeling cold as a result.
- Her butterfly dress falls off during "You're Beautiful Baby" and she is seen wearing her underwear, but keeps on dancing anyway.
- She is so clingy and dependent on almost anyone, to the point that she is blind to the fact that some people she's heavily dependent on are potential abusers. This is widely reflected in the scene following Prince Cornelius' presumed death, she, under persuasion from Ms. Fieldmouse via the villain song "Marry the Mole", decides to marry Mr. Mole in hopes that he could take care of her, despite the fact that she doesn't even love him at all, as well as the fact that Mr. Mole himself is heavily implied to be an evil serial killer who outright kills insects and other small living creatures for taxidermy purposes.
- She is incredibly slow to pick up even the most simplistic of information that is in front of her, such as when she notices an unconscious Jacquimo in Mr. Mole's lair and nurses him back to health, she fails to notice the thorn on his wing until Jacquimo wakes up from unconsciousness, despite that his injured wing is obviously shown right in front of the audiences' faces.
- Overall, most of the problems she had throughout her entire film could have been completely avoided if she were smart and proactive enough to get Jacquimo to immediately fly her home on his back right from the start instead of just blindly following Jacquimo's vague advice of "following her heart" and "nothing is impossible" and finding her way home all on her own in the wide-open world without even knowing what she's doing, hence sparing her from her unending misery of getting lost and getting captured by Berkeley Beetle, Ms. Fieldmouse and Mr. Mole and therefore reduces her chances of needlessly whining and crying non-stop throughout the entire film in the process.
- She feels like a rip-off of the various Disney Princesses created before her, specifically Snow White from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Ariel from The Little Mermaid at some parts (the latter character is also both voiced by Jodi Benson), except with none of everything that made both Snow White and Ariel such great, likable and memorable characters. In fact, if you take away both of Snow White's and Ariel's respective bits of intelligence, maturities, resilience, inner strengths, and resourcefulness, you are basically left with Thumbelina in a nutshell.
- Her love story with Prince Cornelius is quite rushed and cliché because they don't take their time to know each other and get married too soon; Thumbelina and Prince Cornelius meet for only one night and the latter spends the rest of the film looking for Thumbelina, after she gets kidnapped, but winds up in danger while trying to find her way home. The two meet again and get married at the end of the film, even though they've known each other for only one night.
- Throughout the film, she is very clingy and dependent on Prince Cornelius without logic or reasoning, hence making her male-dependent. Speaking of male-depending, she gives the bad message to girls that "you only need a man to have happiness", which is absolutely not true. Again, does that sound familiar?
- Because of this, she outright literally "marries the guy she does meet", which gives a bad message to kids since romantic relationships do not happen instantly and instead take time and therefore can't be rushed.
- Her chemistry with Prince Cornelius, for the most part, is incredibly bland for these reasons above.
- Despite the fact that she's supposed to be a teenager around the age of 16, she is extremely immature and never acts her age, since she is extremely clingy (especially to Jacquimo and Prince Cornelius) and cries a lot over things that aren't that big of a deal, to begin with.
- She is supposed to be 16, but she has the mentality of a toddler.
- To add salt to the wound, she is very easy to be emotionally broken down at the smallest of misfortunes, something which no teenage girl her age would be this emotionally fragile and vulnerable, like how Berkeley called her ugly and being left stranded alone out in the wide-open world even when nothing scary or frightening ever happens to her is enough to easily send her off crying and spiraling into a self-pity crisis! Not even Disney's Snow White was this emotionally vulnerable when she got stranded in the forest with intense fear all by herself.
- While this is understandable, given that she is actually less than a week old, it doesn't excuse the fact that she has little to no control over her life and is too dependent on others for the most basic things, such as relying too much on Jacquimo for finding her way home, despite that Jacquimo, who isn't any better, often gives completely vague advice to her such as "following her heart", and for some reason doesn't bother to fly her home on his back until near the end of the film.
- She gets a lot of up-skirt shots due to her skirt constantly going up and down from above her waist and therefore exposing her bare legs in the process many times, which is considered sexualization.
- She can be considered a Mary Sue in some way, as she immediately gains the romantic attention of all the guys (specifically Grundel, Berkeley, Mr. Mole, and even her love interest Cornelius) because of her physical beauty and beautiful singing voice, and has nothing else to her aside from these two aforementioned quirks.
- Overall, she is a misogynistic man's dream come true, since if you think about it throughout her film, she basically represents every single outdated traditional female stereotype ever written in the book and every misogynistic man's stereotypical expectations of what their ideal woman should be like in the worst possible way, even more so than any other female protagonist in any animated film ever, hence consequently making her a terrible role model for girls, regardless of the times.
- Only has her beautiful looks and nothing else to offer, so much to the point that she becomes a huge target of the male gaze? Check one.
- Exists only to look for companionship with a romantic partner (in her case, Prince Cornelius), so much that she'd practically die without him? Check two
- A ludicrously weak damsel-in-distress in constant need to be rescued, especially from her boyfriend? Check three.
- Brainlessly dumb? Check four.
- Being extremely submissive with zero agency or mind of her own whatsoever? Check five.
- Being very over-emotional, including the tendency to whine and cry a lot? Check six.
- Physical beauty matters so much to her that being called ugly by one person is enough to hurt her feelings? Check seven.
- Having zero independence whatsoever and is very clingy to others? Check eight.
- In short, she is so poorly written for a female protagonist to the point that at times she feels more like a stereotypical parody/caricature of a typical Disney Princess archetype heroine (in a BAD way) than an actual heroine in her own right to the point that it is incredibly hard for her to be taken seriously as a character.
- Since she gets miserable over getting lost far from home and being unable to be with her love interest Prince Cornelius throughout most of her film, this causes her film to get too dark and depressing for younger children, despite being rated G, mainly due to her constant sadness and misery going on non-stop throughout her film without even taking a break from it. Not helping is the fact that her constant whining and crying over her predicaments throughout the film make things even worse.
- On that topic, her film tries to make the audience feel sorry/sad for Thumbelina each time she whines and cries, but instead it makes you feel blatantly annoyed, irritated, aggravated, and/or horribly depressed depending on your view, mainly due to not only does she easily get upset over the smallest of misfortunes (see WSS #9), yet she is an easily-demotivated defeatist who barely even does anything in the film other than moping and whining and therefore her sadness continues to drag on for way too long throughout most of her film until near the ending.
- Most of her dialogue is incredibly stupid and laughable, such as her infamous "DOESN'T ANYBODY CARE WHAT I THINK?" line.
- The wedding dress she wears to marry Mr. Mole near the end looks very laughable.
- At the end of the film, she magically grows fairy wings and gets everything she wants. Not only does the film never explain how she got her fairy wings upon agreeing to marry Prince Cornelius, but has done nothing worthy to earn fairy wings when all she ever does is whine and mope around throughout the film, which conveys a bad message to kids: "If you only whine and mope around, you'll eventually get what you want", which not only makes her unintentionally come off as a whiny spoiled brat, yet she also influences young children, especially girls, to become mopey, whiny spoiled brats (similar to in vein of other spoiled brat characters in other media such as Caillou, Gus and to some extent, Bella Swan) in order to get what stupid thing they want.
- This is a case when she had the potential to have decent character development for how misery builds character, but for these reasons stated above, she just fell flat with providing said great morals.
- Because she is always constantly forced to marry various perverted male characters against her will throughout the film, combined with how her problems are made worse by her dumb but well-meaning bird sidekick Jacquimo, she can already be considered a huge punching bag in some way.
- It doesn't help that most of the male characters she was forced to marry against her will are adult animals, which makes them zoophiles and pedophiles (considering that Grundel Toad, Berkeley Beetle, and Mr. Mole are all older adult men in comparison to the 16-year-old teenage Thumbelina) and is also promotes bestiality (though to be fair, this is actually a problem which is carried over from the original source material).
- She is basically kidnapped and sexually assaulted by various perverted male characters throughout the film, such as Berkeley, who comes out of nowhere, caresses a nearby mushroom and then Thumbelina's face with his antennae and kisses her arm repetitively even though she says, "I wish you wouldn't do that " and "I'm not your toots" which is incredibly disturbing and creepy. But if that's not creepy enough, Berkeley Beetle makes her dress up like a butterfly and dance in this bug club packed full of an audience filled with scary-looking insects, and once she's accidentally stripped down to her underwear and is deemed ugly by the beetles onstage and the insect audience, Berkeley spanks her on the butt with his cane onstage while calling her ugly.
- Each time she gets into such bad luck and misfortunes, she always ends up actually crying, even though some of these aren't that big of a deal, not helping that Thumbelina herself is super-immature and is a huge crybaby who is so emotionally fragile and vulnerable (see WSS #9).
- She often finds herself randomly transported to various suspicious places by other villains (such as Mama Toad, Berkeley, and Ms. Fieldmouse) with her being completely unaware of it and not knowing where she is. And when this happens for the third time by Ms. Fieldmouse, Ms. Fieldmouse tells her off for not wanting to socialize with Mr. Mole just because Ms. Fieldmouse saved Thumbelina from the bitter cold despite the fact that she's clearly too heartbroken to do so upon finding out about Prince Cornelius' presumed death. And to add salt to the wound, Mr. Mole constantly berates and belittles Thumbelina's positive view of the sunlight when the latter first meets him, and as she walks along to his place, she had to face the horror of seeing a lot of dead bodies of insects being pinned on his wall since she does know the jitterbugs, who are insects, as her friends, which heavily implies that he is an evil serial killer who outright kills insects and other small living creatures for taxidermy purposes.
- Throughout the film, despite Jacquimo's best intentions at helping her out, he ends up making things even worse for her, with the worst offender of such being Jacquimo's failure to realize the reality of Prince Cornelius' presumed death despite Thumbelina's constant reminders due to his stupidity and delusion, hence unintentionally hurting Thumbelina's feelings and making her situation felt even worse than before.
- Later when she is about to marry Mr. Mole, she clearly looks unhappy about it. And once both Grundel and Berkeley find her in Mr. Mole's lair, all the villains start giving a chase at her, all because she abandons Mr. Mole at the altar since she doesn't love him.
- Overall throughout the film, with the notable exceptions of Hero the dog, the jitterbugs, and her love interest Prince Cornelius (and to some extent, even her own mother), not a single character in the entire film ever takes into consideration of her opinions, including the very idea of her being forced to marry people whom she doesn't love against her will, hence her infamous "DOESN'T ANYBODY CARE WHAT I THINK?" line. Even Jacquimo, who is supposed to be her best friend, is clearly guilty of failing to care about what she thinks, such as his failure to the reality of Prince Cornelius' presumed death despite Thumbelina's constant reminders as previously mentioned above.
- Her voice by Jodi Benson can be shrill and annoying at times, mainly due to her voice being incredibly whiny as well as being high-pitched to the point where she sounded like she is on helium, especially whenever she yells or screams.
- Although she was tolerable in the first 22 minutes of the film, she went downhill once Mama Toad kidnaps her while in her walnut bed when the film reaches the 22-minute mark for the reasons above.
- Despite her poor portrayal due to her being whiny and annoying, she is sweet and kind and does care about those around her.
- Despite her flanderization, at least her character is fairly accurate to her original book counterpart since Don Bluth managed to recapture the passive trifling nature of her original book counterpart pretty well, though her original book counterpart isn't really a well-written character, to begin with.
- Her design is cute, much like Don Bluth's next princess.
- Jodi Benson's performance as her isn't too bad.
- She has a beautiful singing voice.
- Despite crying way too much throughout the entire film, there's only one instance where Thumbelina has a valid reason to cry, and that's the scene where she finds out the news from Ms. Fieldmouse that her love interest Prince Cornelius is found stone-cold in the snow and presumed dead, which is relatable to audiences since losing a love interest to (presumed) death is incredibly heartbreaking in real life.
- Near the end of the film when she is forced to marry Mr. Mole, she finally stands up for herself to leave the mole at the altar because she doesn't love him, as well as to outright reject the lustful Grundel Toad who chased after her to her wedding, which are her only acts of agency throughout the entire film, meaning she does have some minor character development, though that isn't saying much.
- Despite her being extremely immature and whiny throughout her film, as well as her toddler-like mentality age, at least she doesn't stoop so low as to do things most spoiled bratty toddlers would do like throwing meltdowns.
- To be fair, she acts the way she is in the film because she was practically a newborn in most of the events of the film despite having the physical appearance of a teenager.
- Like mentioned before, she was tolerable in the first 22 minutes of the film.
- Don Bluth would eventually learn from his mistakes and therefore his next princess, Anastasia, thankfully avoided all these problems Thumbelina had as listed above.
- Thumbelina is the second Hans Christian Andersen heroine voiced by Jodi Benson, the other one being Ariel from Disney's The Little Mermaid (1989), who is a far better-written character than her. Coincidentally, both heroines do share several similarities, as both of them are also cute redhead teenage girls with childlike mindsets that want something more out of life than what their respective lives they were originally born with, except that Ariel is a likable and well-written character while Thumbelina is none of those things.
- In addition to Disney accepting the deal with 21st Century Fox (including 20th Century Fox, which owns current rights to the character's film as of 2002) as of March 20, 2019, Thumbelina is an unofficial Disney princess and is not part of the "Disney Princess" catalog, hence reuniting both Disney's Ariel and Don Bluth's Thumbelina under the same roof. Due to Anastasia being much more successful than Thumbelina, it's more likely that Anastasia will become part of the Disney Princess catalog than Thumbelina.
- When Thumbelina is told by her mother that it's time to go to bed "Bedtime, my dear. It's been a long day" at the 9-minute 20-second mark of the film, it heavily implies that the entire musical number "Thumbelina" takes place entirely in one day and said musical number occurs not too long after Thumbelina's birth from a flower, hence proving that Thumbelina herself indeed is practically a newborn by age in the entire events of her film despite her physical appearance.
- The scene where Thumbelina breaks down crying and moping on how she'll never find her way home mid-way in her film directly parallels a similar scene at the climax of An American Tail (1986) where Fievel Mousekewitz breaks down crying and moping on how he'll never find his family at Orphan Alley in a similar fashion, except that the context behind these similar crying scenes from both Don Bluth movies are different: Fievel did tried his best at finding his family throughout the entirety of the United States of America despite the immense dangers and only gave up to cry once the mean orphans bullied him when he got lost at Orphan Alley, while Thumbelina on the other hand barely even tried and therefore is very quick to give up to cry once something wrong happens to her, even when it isn't that big of a deal to begin with. Also, while it is understandable that Fievel would act like that since he's only a 7-year-old child, Thumbelina on the other hand act extremely immature despite being a teenager.
- Co-incidentally, both Fievel and Thumbelina's respective films have a similar premise of a childlike protagonist who gets lost in a big world and embark on a big journey to find their way home through various perils and a hostile world of crooks and monsters, and both of them even have French-accented bird sidekicks (Henri and Jacquimo respectively) that help guide them along their adventures. Except that Fievel is a likable and well-written Don Bluth protagonist while Thumbelina is none of those things.
- Angeline Ball served as the live-action reference model for Thumbelina, as she did for Goldie from Rock-A-Doodle (1991), another Don Bluth movie three years earlier.
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