Friday, September 17, 2010

Talk About a Good First Date: A Look at "Let Me Be Your Wings" from Don Bluth's Thumbelina

I'm a little ashamed to admit this, but I LOVED Don Bluth's Thumbelina when I was little. I've seen it so many times. Too many times probably. I was six when it came out and I made my mother take me to see it in the theater. Then I watched the VHS tape over and over and over until I had every song memorized and a good deal of the dialogue as well. Unfortunately, Don Bluth's Thumbelina is not a good movie. It's a bit cringe-worthy as a matter of fact. Based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale about a tiny girl (literally no bigger than a thumb) on her own in the wide world after she's kidnapped by an evil toad, it's a pretty blatant Disney knockoff, complete with Jodi Benson (the voice of Ariel in The Little Mermaid) as our heroine. Plus they bastardized the hell out of Andersen's story. Andersen's Thumbelina can be interpreted as a feminist narrative. The title character is refreshingly assertive, saving herself on several occasions through quick-thinking and compassion. She's determined to hang on to her independence until she meets the man who is right for her, turning down the son of the aforementioned toad and a misanthropic mole along the way. She doesn't meet the prince until the end of the story and when she does, SHE initiates the relationship. This movie turns her into a simpering idiot who meets the prince five minutes in and can think of NOTHING else from then on. He becomes her motivation for everything, which isn't the case in Andersen's story. Not to mention the fact that the movie has her meet her swallow friend much earlier in the story and yet she doesn't think to ask him to FLY HER HOME MAKING FOR A GIGANTIC UNNECESSARY PLOTHOLE.

Having said that, there is one part of the movie that I still love. One part that made me buy it on DVD (before I knew the scene was on YouTube). The love song, "Let Me Be Your Wings." Written by Barry Manilow, it's one of my favorite movie love songs ever. I know every word and listen to it often. It's been called a poor man's "A Whole New World" and maybe it is, but I don't think so. The animation is gorgeous and I've always loved Prince Cornelius's voice (provided by Gary Imhoff). Not the character himself (though you can see shades of Dimitri from Anastasia in the design) but the voice still makes my heart go pitter-pat. He and Jodi Benson sound lovely together.

Not to mention the reprise at the end gives me happy chills. See what I mean about shame.

I didn't love the song when I was little, but when I was little, I thought Thumbelina should have married the mole. Really. I thought his house was cool and he had John Hurt's could I resist? It wasn't until I was in my teens that I watched the movie in a fit of nostalgia and swooned during "Let Me Be Your Wings." I mean come on, does anything sound more romantic than dancing on Saturn's rings? I think not.

P.S. Speaking of John Hurt, a few weeks ago, at a wine and cheese reception, I let it slip that I have The Elephant Man on tape and watched it repeatedly in high school. When a horrified fellow guest asked me "Why?" I started stuttering something about how it was a good movie and blah blah blah. Nope, it is a good movie but I watched it repeatedly because I am in love with John Hurt's voice. I have been for years and as a result, I will watch (or rather listen to) him in anything. But do I love it as much as Prince Cornelius's? Another question for another day.

Let Me Be Your Wings

Let Me Be Your Wings Reprise (Spoilers)


  1. I remember for my 7th birthday, the one thing I desperately wanted was Thumbelina on VHS... I made my mom buy it from J.C. Penny in July and she hid it from me, wrapped it up, and then gave it to me on my bday. Of course, I watched it over and over and over again. Also, I wanted to sleep in a walnut shell.

    But you're right, when I re-watched this movie in college, it was crap! Animation style was poor, Thumbelina annoyed me, and I couldn't get over the fact that she let herself be kidnapped by FROGS. Come now, Thumbelina, grow a backbone! I still definitely do enjoy "Let Me Be Your Wings," despite the movie's shortcomings. And I still do want to sleep in a walnut shell.

    Thanks for the nostalgia post, yay! Miss you, Er. :)

  2. I know somebody really nice who, after finding out how much I love Let Me Be Your Wings (and Prince Cornelius's voice), made me a c.d. with the movie version of the song. That was you! It's still one of the most thoughtful presents I ever got.

    Thumbelina is a frustrating movie to watch because they took an assertive, independent heroine and turned her into a really annoying, downright stupid damsel in distress. Argh. But yeah, I wanted that walnut shell bed too. I still want it. Just remember not to sleep in it next to an open window.

    Thanks for reading, adorable friend!