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An American Tail: The Mystery of the Night Monster is a 1999 American animated direct-to-video film directed by Larry Latham. It is the second direct-to-video sequel to An American Tail and the fourth and final entry in the American Tail series. The film sees the return of Thomas Dekker as Fievel Mousekewitz, for which he received a Young Artist Award, and featured performances from Candi Milo, Susan Boyd, Robert Hays, Jeff Bennett, and John Mariano, as well as returning actors Nehemiah Persoff, Dom DeLuise, and Lacey Chabert.

The film was released on December 9, 1999 in Europe and July 25, 2000 in North America. It was Nehemiah Persoff's final film before his retirement and was Dom DeLuise's final performance as Tiger before his death in 2009.

Plot

Like the previous film, this film is set in between the events of An American Tail and Fievel Goes West. As the mice of New York are being terrified by the mysterious Manhattan Night Monster, Fievel Mousekewitz, Tanya Mousekewitz, Tony Toponi, and Tiger the cat all get jobs at The Daily Nibbler, a mouse newspaper located beneath the New York World. There they meet Nellie Brie, a famous investigative journalist whose skepticism of the Night Monster's existence brings her into conflict with the paper's sensationalist editor, Reed Daley. Upon learning from Tony about a Night Monster attack in Chinatown, Reed assigns Nellie to the story, sending Fievel along as an illustrator. Along the way, Fievel admits to Nellie that he is suffering nightmares about the Monster, but Nellie assures him that fear is natural and that exposing the truth will help the fear go away. Arriving in Chinatown, the wife of the missing mouse describes an attack by a ferocious dragon, but Nellie finds a footprint that Fievel notes is too small to belong to a dragon. Upon returning to Fievel's neighborhood, the pair encounter Madame Mousey, a miniature poodle with a fake French accent who claims to be a soothsayer. The crowd is excited when Mousey claims that her magical herbs can repel the Monster, but Nellie remains unimpressed, declaring that she won't believe in the Monster until she has seen it with her own eyes.

Over the next couple weeks, mice continue to disappear. Mousey makes a fortune from her enchanted herbs while The Daily Nibbler sees its sales improve drastically, but Nellie can't make any progress on the story and Fievel's nightmares worsen to the point that he can't even sleep. Eventually, however, the pair get a break when one of the Night Monster's victims, a Scottish mouse named Haggis, manages to fend off the Monster. At the scene of the attack, Nellie and Fievel discover a cat's hairball, and their discovery is promptly reported in the Nibbler. This development angers Mousey, as the Night Monster is actually her mechanical creation, and she berates the cats she had recruited for their failure. The next day, Mousey gives Tony and Tiger a "hot tip" in order to lure Nellie into a trap. The Night Monster ambushes Nellie and Fievel in an abandoned house, but Tony, having followed them against Reed's orders, drops a chandelier on the Monster and drives it into a sewer beneath the house. Nellie finds a rhinestone of the sort found on dog collars and goes to Central Park to seek the help of Lone Woof, her contact among the Dog High Council. Lone Woof is reluctant to get involved, but he eventually points her to a poster of a missing poodle. Bringing it back to The Daily Nibbler, Fievel draws on the poster to reveal that the poodle is Mousey, while Tanya discovers that the house where the ambush had occurred used to belong to Mousey's owner. Armed with this new information, Nellie and Reed prepare a story exposing Mousey's connection to the Monster.

Meanwhile, Mousey's cats have grown dissatisfied with her leadership after the failed ambush, and their leader, Twitch, decides that they don't need her anymore. However, Mousey keeps them in line by pointing out that Nellie Brie is about to expose their scheme, which will cost them the element of surprise, and says that she has a plan to prevent this. They bring the Monster on a rampage across the city, abducting dozens of mice (including Fievel's parents and baby sister). Fievel sends Tiger to appeal to the dogs for help while he and Tony track Mousey into the sewers. They find Mousey's hideout and the missing mice but are outnumbered by the cats, so Fievel goes looking for Nellie. However, when Tony sees that Fievel's family are about to be eaten, he floods the sewers to drive away the cats and frees the captive mice. Meanwhile, Fievel finds Nellie, Reed, and Tanya cornered by Mousey's gang in The Daily Nibbler, where Mousey reveals that she created the Monster in frustration over being mistaken for a rodent, as well as for being turned away by the Dog High Council. Confronting his fear, Fievel realizes that the dreaded Manhattan Night Monster is actually just a machine, and he uses a stray wire to electrocute Mousey. The cats use the monster to chase Fievel into the offices of the New York World, but Nellie and Reed manage to destroy the contraption, and Fievel traps Twitch in the World's printing press. The other cats are scared away by the timely arrival of the Dog Council, and Mousey is captured by Tiger when she attempts to slip into the sewers. With their ordeal over, Reed confesses his love to Nellie and proposes to her, much to the disappointment of Tanya, who had a crush on Reed.

In the final scene, the Mousekewitz family, Tony, and Tiger spend the day at the beach, where they learn that Mousey had been returned to her overbearing owner. With the Night Monster vanquished, Fievel doses off on his towel and has his first restful sleep in weeks.

Animation style

The comparison with the characters shown from the distance in films 3 and 4.

In comparison with the two theatrical features in the American Tail series, both direct-to-video releases falter in animation quality, as typical for direct-to-video cartoons. On top of that, Fievel's fur color was desaturated even though the rest of the Mousekewitz family have kept their original fur color. Which direct-to-video film has the better animation seems to be a matter of opinion, but this film did do a better job of the shots where the characters are tiny, along with keeping the humans seen from the neck down, with the exception of Madame Mousey's owner at the end of the film.

Characters

The Daily Nibbler:

  • Fievel Mousekewitz (voiced by Thomas Dekker): The main protagonist of the film. Fievel is a young mouse who has been suffering nightmares about the mysterious Manhattan Night Monster. He becomes the assistant to reporter Nellie Brie in the hopes that she can teach him to be brave.
  • Tanya Mousekewitz (voiced by Lacey Chabert): Fievel's older sister and assistant to Reed Daley, editor of The Daily Nibbler. She has an unrequited crush on her boss.
  • Nellie Brie (voiced by Susan Boyd): Based on the real-life reporter Nellie Bly, Nellie Brie is a famous investigative journalist at The Daily Nibbler who has been tasked by Reed Daley to uncover the truth about the Manhattan Night Monster. She is partnered with Fievel for her investigation and assumes a mentorship role over the young mouse.
  • Tony Toponi (voiced by Pat Musick): Fievel's adolescent best friend. Tony is a newsboy/aspiring journalist at The Daily Nibbler and helps Nellie Brie in her investigation.
  • Tiger (voiced by Dom DeLuise): An orange cat friend of Fievel who helps Tony deliver newspapers. This was DeLuise's last performance as Tiger before his death in 2009.
  • Reed Daley (voiced by Robert Hays): The owner and editor-in-chief of The Daily Nibbler. He bickers with his star reporter, Nellie Brie, but is actually in love with her.

The Mousekewitz family:

  • Mama Mousekewitz (voiced by Jane Singer): The matriarch of the Mousekewitz family. She encourages Fievel to become Nellie Brie's assistant in the hopes that the famous reporter will calm his fears about the Night Monster.
  • Papa Mousekewitz (voiced by Nehemiah Persoff): The patriarch of the Mousekewitz family. This was Nehemiah Persoff's last role before he left acting to become a painter. Persoff later died with a heart problem on April 2, 2022.
  • Yasha Mousekewitz: Fievel's baby sister.

Other:

  • Madame Mousey (voiced by Candi Milo): The main antagonist of the film and mastermind behind the Manhattan Night Monster. She has grown to dislike rodents due to constantly being mistaken for a rat and plans to use the Night Monster to capture mice and sell them as food to cats. She speaks with a French accent, but slips into a Brooklyn accent when flustered.
  • Twitch (voiced by John Mariano): Madame Mousey's feline second-in-command, though the relationship between the two of them is generally antagonistic.
  • Bootlick (voiced by Joe Lala): A member of Mousey's gang of cats. His appearance and mannerisms are modelled on the actor/comedian Jerry Lewis.
  • Slug (voiced by Jeff Glen Bennett): A member of Mousey's gang of cats. Although quite large, he is unintelligent and easy to outwit.
  • Lone Woof (voiced by John Garry): Nellie Brie's contact with the Dog Council. Lone Woof and the rest of the council turned Mousey away when she attempted to join them, which is what prompted her fall to villainy.
Songs
Trivia
  • This is the second American Tail media not to feature Erica Yohn as the voice of Mama Mousekewitz. The first was Fievel's American Tails.
  • This is the only An American Tail film in which the mice don't sing in a large group.
    • This is also the only film in the franchise that doesn't include the large Italian mouse.
  • In the original trailer of this finale, it was titled An American Tail IV: The Mystery of the Night Monster. In the actual film, its Roman numerals were dropped from the title in the beginning of the film.
    • To date, this is the only film in the series that stayed the way it was originally released.
  • This is the first and only time Tony is seen without his usual outfit. He wears a bathing suit at the end of the film.
  • While the film itself is rated G, it received a TV-PG rating when it aired on Freeform for some scary images and thematic paranormal elements.
  • Despite Universal owning The Mystery of the Night Monster and is classified as a children’s film, this movie was not scheduled to air on Universal Kids. This result regards Tanya’s persona of rushing her maturity much further than her age as the executives felt that it’s not the appropriate example for very young children.
  • Ironically, this DTV sequel is first to be released in Germany as the previous DTV sequel is released second, which was released 4 years later.
  • Like the previous DTV movie, this film is also regionally limited. This film is also unavailable in the Middle East due to unrequited underage flirting with an older adult, which this concept depicted in children’s medias is outlawed from the MENA regions.
Release dates
  • Germany: December 9 1999
  • UK: March 6, 2000
  • USA: July 25, 2000
  • Canada: July 25, 2000
  • Japan: March 30, 2002 (TV premiere)
  • Hungary: November 1, 2004 (TV premiere)
  • Australia: November 2, 2004
  • Spain: January 5, 2005
  • Japan: June 23, 2005
  • Italy: October 5, 2005
  • Russia: October 31, 2005
  • France: February 3, 2006

This film is unavailable in other regions, such as South America, Southeast Asia, and MENA.

TV Airings

Toon Disney (2001-2007)

Cartoon Network

Starz Encore

Starz Kids and Family

Freeform (2019)

This film is no longer available for television schedulings as of 2020. It is only available from certain streaming services or on DVD.

Streaming

Netflix (2017-2020)

iTunes/Apple TV

Amazon Prime

Goofs
  • When Tanya wakes up saying "Oh, not again!" after Fievel's nightmare at the very beginning, the captions say "Oh, my God!".
  • When Haggis explains about the monster to Nellie, the character froze in one shot, but his voice can still be heard without his mouth moving.
Reception

The film has an audience score of 40% on Rotten Tomatoes, beating The Treasure of Manhattan Island's score by 11% but falling behind Fievel Goes West's critic score by 10% (which has an audience score of 62%). Common Sense Media gave it a positive review compared to its predecessor, describing it as "A mystery with spunk, courage, and heart" which encourages children to overcome their fears.

Within the fandom, it is not nearly as divisive as The Treasure of Manhattan Island, perhaps because it makes no attempt to neglect the continuities of the first two films. Madame Mousey was considered an enjoyable antagonist by fans and has gathered many fan art. This villain was also considered superior to the villains of the third film. The character of Nellie Brie was also well-received by fans. However, the film has been criticized for its animation, as was the previous film, some fans took issue with Fievel's characterization in this film, and minor plot problems partaking Tanya being the least concern to any of her family members, making her appearance more acceptable in the previous DTV movie. Even if not finely made like An American Tail and Fievel Goes West, Thomas Dekker received a Young Artist Award for best voice-over performance for Fievel, which is the only direct-to-video sequel in the series that received an accomplishment.

External links
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