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An American Tail: The Treasure of Manhattan Island is a 1998 American direct-to-video animated film produced by Universal Cartoon Studios, animated in Japan by TMS Entertainment and released by Universal Studios Home Entertainment. It is the third installation in the American Tail film series, and is set in between the events of the 1986 film and Fievel Goes West. The film was released in the United Kingdom in November 1998. It was often advertised on related titled VHS in United States the same year, but the North American release was delayed until February 2000.

This film introduced Thomas Dekker in the role of Fievel Mousekewitz and Lacey Chabert in the role of Tanya Mousekewitz, replacing Phillip Glasser and Cathy Cavadini, respectively, from the previous film. It was also the final film roles of Erica Yohn and Elaine Bilstad before their deaths. The film was produced and directed by Larry Latham.

Plot

The story is set in New York City sometime after the first movie. Fievel and Tony decide to explore the abandoned Beach Pneumatic Transit system and stumble upon the remains of a dead mouse clutching a treasure map. The two of them bring the map to a British archaeologist named Dr. Dithering and his assistant Scuttlebutt. Dithering deciphers the map and learns that it leads to a treasure left behind by the Lenape, New York's pre-colonial inhabitants. Upon this discovery, Dithering organizes an expedition to find this treasure and brings Fievel, Tony, Scuttlebutt, and Fievel's feline friend Tiger into the tunnel system beneath New York. The group survives several traps only to discover that the "treasure" the map had referred to was actually a village of Lenape mice buried deep underground. The Lenape welcome the visitors from the surface and reveal that they had retreated to their hidden village upon witnessing the treatment of the human Lenape by the European colonists. At Fievel's suggestion, the sachem Wulisso has his young daughter, Cholena, accompany the expedition back to the surface to observe the Europeans and learn whether or not it is safe for the Lenape to emerge from hiding.

Meanwhile, Fievel's father works at a cheese factory run by Mr. Grasping, Mr. Toplofty, and Mr. O'Bloat. The overworked, underpaid workers are beginning to grow resentful of their treatment at the factory, but they are intimidated into compliance by the NYPD, led by the brutal Chief McBrusque. Upon the expedition's return, Scuttlebutt (who is secretly on Grasping's payroll) reports the existence of the Lenape village to the factory owners, who see an opportunity to distract the workers from their grievances. Taking advantage of the anti-Native American sentiments among the populace, Grasping works the mice of New York into a frenzy and sends them out to capture Cholena and anyone aiding her. Fievel and Tony manage to save Cholena from the police, but Dr. Dithering is captured by the mob and taken to the butcher's shop for trial. Papa instructs Fievel, Tony, and Tanya to take Cholena back to her village while he and Tiger save Dithering.

At the butcher's shop, the crowd (at Scuttlebutt's prompting) declares Dithering guilty of aiding Indians and demand his execution. However, Tiger rescues him before the police could carry out the sentence, and Papa appears before the crowd and makes them realize that the factory owners are using fear to divide them. Seeing the crowd turning against them, the factory owners quickly make their escape and instruct McBrusque to wipe out the Lenape to prevent an alliance between them and the workers. However, Fievel, Tony, Tanya, and Cholena reach the village first and warn them of the impending attack. When the police, guided by Scuttlebutt, reach the village, they are ambushed by Fievel and the Lenape, who use produce to fend them off. Wulisso then instructs Fievel and his friends to use a gunpowder bomb to collapse the tunnel leading to the village. Fievel's group takes the bomb to a place in the tunnel near an underground river, but they are attacked by McBrusque and Scuttlebutt before they can set it off. Fievel manages to break free of McBrusque's grasp and sets off the bomb, flooding the tunnel and carrying McBrusque and Scuttlebutt to their deaths. Fievel is seemingly swept away too, but he emerges from the mud and shares a tearful reunion with Tony and Tanya.

Some time later, the factory workers have gone on strike and elect Papa to be the leader of their new union. The factory owners reluctantly agree to negotiate with the workers, though Grasping assures his partners that they will find a way to regain control as there are many ways to skin a cat. However, they retreat upon realizing that Grasping's metaphor had offended the new Chief of Police, Tiger. As the workers celebrate, Dr. Dithering gifts a telescope to Fievel and suggests he use it to look at a nearby statue. Following the doctor's suggestion, Fievel spots Wulisso and Cholena waving at him from the entrance to a secret passage.

Characters

The Expedition:

  • Fievel Mousekewitz (voiced by Thomas Dekker): The main protagonist, a little mouse child with hopes and dreams for life in America. After finding a treasure map left by the Lenape, he embarks on an expedition to find the village and claim its treasure, accidentally becoming embroiled in Mr. Grasping's schemes in the process.
  • Tony Toponi (voiced by Pat Musick): Fievel's adolescent best friend from Sicily. Having become disillusioned with his job at the Cheese Factory, Tony decides to accompany Fievel on his expedition to the Lenape village and has an unrequited crush on Cholena.
  • Tiger (voiced by Dom DeLuise): An orange cat and one of Fievel's closest friends. He accompanies Fievel's expedition to the Lenape village and later replaces McBrusque as Chief of Police.
  • Dr. Dithering (voiced by René Auberjonois): A British archaeologist who is introduced to Fievel by Tony. He leads the expedition to the Lenape village.

The Mousekewitz family:

  • Tanya Mousekewitz (voiced by Lacey Chabert): Fievel's older sister. She resents that her younger brother gets to go on exciting adventures while she is kept at home, but she does still love him.
  • Papa Mousekewitz (voiced by Nehemiah Persoff): Fievel's father and an employee at the Cheese Factory. Although he initially tries to keep his head down, the factory owners view him as a threat. At the end of the film, he is chosen to lead the new factory workers' union and organizes a strike.
  • Mama Mousekewitz (voiced by Erica Yohn): Fievel's mother. This was Yohn’s final acting appearance before her retirement and later death on January 27, 2019.
  • Yasha Mousekewitz: Fievel and Tanya's baby sister.

The Lenape:

  • Cholena (voiced by Elaine Bilstad): The princess of the Lenape, loosely inspired by the Powhatan princess Pocahontas. Cholena befriends Fievel and accompanies him back to the surface. Her voice actor, Elaine Bilstand, was a Native American, and this was her last role before her death from a heart problem on January 29, 1999.
  • Chief Wulisso (voiced by David Carradine): The Lenape Chief and Cholena's father. Although distrustful of Europeans, he welcomes Fievel's expedition to his village.
  • Tankho: Cholena's buxom Lenape handmaiden. She initially has a crush on Scuttlebutt, but turns against him when she catches him stealing.

Antagonists:

  • Mr. Grasping (voiced by Ron Perlman): The film's main antagonist and co-owner of the Cheese Factory with Toplofty and O'Bloat. He exploits the labor of his workers and plans to use their fear of the Lenape to distract them from their complaints.
  • Mr. Toplofty (voiced by Tony Jay): One of Grasping's partners at the factory. He identifies Papa Mousekewitz as a potential leader among the workers.
  • Mr. O'Bloat (voiced by Richard Karron): One of Grasping's partners at the factory. He is paranoid about the possibility of an invasion by the Lenape.
  • Chief McBrusque (voiced by Sherman Howard): The corrupt New York Police Chief who serves as the film's secondary antagonist. Grasping pays McBrusque to brutally suppress dissent among the factory workers.
  • Scuttlebutt (voiced by John Kassir): Dithering's greedy and irritable assistant. He accompanies Fievel's expedition to the Lenape village but is secretly working for Mr. Grasping. The name "Scuttlebutt" is commonly used as a slang term for gossip and rumors.
Production

Following a six year hiatus for the An American Tail series, Universal kicked off a $15 million marketing campaign to reignite interest in the franchise with re-releases of the first two films leading up to the release of An American Tail III with the fourth installment scheduled for the following June. The mandate for the series as dictated by then President of Universal Worldwide Home Entertainment, Louis Feola, was to “...to create the same value and success for An American Tail as the studio did with the Land Before Time (series).”

Soundtrack

The soundtrack was never released in any official format. Much of the background music is recycled from James Horner's scores for the first two An American Tail films, or are instrumentals of one of the three original songs from the film. Those songs are:

A version of Anywhere in your Dreams without any background noises or vocalizations was made available as a sing-along extra on the DVD. This was the first An American Tail film where the villain(s) was given a musical number.

Geography error
  • Tony Toponi mentioned that the Beach Pneumatic subway shut down twelve years before the events of this movie. The original film began in December 1885 and spanned into 1886. Assuming that this film takes place in 1886 as well, this would mean that the subway's closure was thirteen years before the movie took place, as the Beach Pneumatic Transit system had closed in 1873.
  • The Statue of Liberty is seen to have its modern green patina in this film. However, the statue would have still had its copper sheen during the timeframe of the movie, as oxidation didn't completely turn the statue green until 1920. This strangely carries on in the next film.
Reception

The film was poorly received by audiences and currently has a 31% Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes. A common criticism of the film relates to its direct-to-video animation quality. The film has proven to be divisive within the fandom. Many fans appreciate that most of the voice cast from the first film returned and that it was closer in tone to the original, and some praise it for including more mature themes than many DTV films of the time. However, Fievel Goes West was the better-received film with most audiences, and this movie's attempt to retcon that film into a dream angered some fans. Also, some fans take issue with the changes made for the franchise’s original characters, deliberately ignoring the continuities from the past films. Some have praised for having Tanya regaining her sisterly love towards her brother, but criticizing Lacey Chabert‘s dialogue as many were more fond with Cathy Cavadini’s input. Some of the new characters, such as Cholena, were considered among the highlights of the film, and Elaine Bilstad was praised for her voice performance. The villains of the film received mixed reviews. Their bigotry and brutality was seen by some as too mature for a kid's film; however, Tony Jay and Ron Perlman were praised for their performances. Common Sense Media applauded the film's message about tolerance and equality but criticized it for scenes of violence and the inclusion of Native American stereotypes. [1]

The Treasure of Manhattan is not the most poorly received sequel to a Don Bluth film (that distinction goes to The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue).

Trivia
  • This is the first and only movie that shows mice antagonists. The previous two movies had depicted cats as the villains, and the main villain of the fourth film was a dog.
  • Scuttlebutt and Chief McBrusque are the only villains to be killed off from the franchise.
  • This film is thematically similar to Pocahontas. Both films involve a European developing a friendship with a Native American and attempting to prevent violence between the Natives and the Europeans.
  • This is the only film in the franchise in which Fievel has a love interest, though the romance is downplayed due to the age of the character.
  • This is the only film in which Tony mentions his family and that he is from Sicily. It is also the only time he speaks Italian.
  • The Treasure of Manhattan Island was banned from Freeform due to a number of racially insensitive scenes, although the flim did air on Universal Kids, Cartoon Network, Starz Encore, Starz Kids and Family, and Toon Disney (now Disney XD)
  • Despite this film is regionally limited, it is banned from being released in the Middle East due to the innuendo depicting in a children's film, including scenes showing Tony and the Lenape handmaiden's flirtations towards their unrequited crushes here, is outlawed in the MENA regions.
  • The opening title of the movie is different at the beginning of the VHS and the DVD. At the beginning of the VHS, the opening title is An American Tail III: The Treasure of Manhattan Island, where on the DVD, the opening title is simply An American Tail: The Treasure of Manhattan Island.
Release dates
  • USA: Summer 1998 (video advertisement only)
  • UK: November 16, 1998
  • USA: February 15, 2000 (official)
  • Canada: February 15, 2000
  • Japan: February 4, 2001 (TV premiere)
  • Italy: April 6, 2001 (TV premiere)
  • Spain: January 2, 2003
  • Australia: February 9, 2003
  • Russia: April 3, 2003
  • France: June 19, 2003
  • Germany: November 4, 2003
  • Hungary: December 29, 2005 (TV premiere)
  • Japan: April 4, 2006

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

TV Airings

Toon Disney (2001-2005)

Cartoon Network (2002)

Starz Encore

Starz Kids and Family

Universal Kids (2017)

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

Political themes

The movie deals extensively with the theme of racism and seeks to deconstruct the xenophobia and anti-Native American sentiments of the time. In addition, the exploitation of the American working class and the violence faced by early union efforts is a driving force on the movie's plot.

External links
An American Tail: The Treasure of Manhattan Island
Characters Papa MousekewitzMama MousekewitzTanya MousekewitzFievel MousekewitzYasha MousekewitzTigerTony ToponiCholenaChief WulissoLenape MiceMr. ToploftyMr. GraspingMr. O'BloatChief McBrusqueScuttlebuttDr. Dithering
Locations New YorkLes Club Des Grands FromagesCheese Factory
Songs We Live in ManhattanAnywhere in Your DreamsFriends of the Working Mouse
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