×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb

A triumphant demonstration of animation techniques, but weakened by thin plotting that doesn't quite hold the attention, "The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb" is a high-grunge, post-industrial meltdown of elements from the traditional yarns "Tom Thumb" and "Jack the Giant Killer."

With:
Pa Thumb - Nick Upton
Ma Thumb - Deborah Collar
Two men - Frank Passingham, John Schofield
Woman in bar - Mike Gifford

A triumphant demonstration of animation techniques, but weakened by thin plotting that doesn’t quite hold the attention, “The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb” is a high-grunge, post-industrial meltdown of elements from the traditional yarns “Tom Thumb” and “Jack the Giant Killer.” Hourlong feature should find a home in adventurous TV programmers’ skeds, though item and subject matter is too outre for afternoon kidslots.

Production is the brainchild of U.K. animator Dave Borthwick, co-founder of Bristol-based production house bolexbrothers with Dave Riddett, a cameraman from claymation specialists Aardman Studios. Pic mixes their pixilation technique (frame-by-frame animation of live actors) with standard model and clay animation , all done in-camera. Result has an unreal, time-lapse feel, perfectly suited to the film’s David Lynch-like, industrial-Gothic atmosphere.

Slim story, set in a kind of 1950s British working-class ambience, has a hairless, earless, tiny sprig (resembling the Star Child in Kubrick’s “2001”) born to a poor couple in a bug-ridden apartment. Christened Tom Thumb by his parents, the kid is taken away by Kafkaesque goons for testing in a lab, whence he escapes down a chute to discover an alternative society of Little People scraping a living among the garbage and industrial waste.

The medieval-like society is led by Jack, who goes on raids among the Giants (humans), felling them with blowdarts. Tom’s father tracks him and Jack down but is accidentally killed by a drinking partner in a fight. The tiny duo make their way to the lab, where they smash a secret, mystical power source. Surreal ending is ironic (and obscure).

Though the pic’s technique is often awesome, the relentlessly downbeat tone, with the screen suffused by bugs, creepy-crawlies and dank imagery, proves a turn-off after a while. Dialogue is mostly grunts, with occasional key words highlighted to aid comprehension.

The project started as a 10-minute series pilot, screened by pubcaster BBC during Christmas 1988. When the BBC went cold on more funding, the producers raised their own coin for a feature version, finally re-interesting the BBC. Following a screening at last year’s London fest, and a brief theatrical outing, pic aired Dec. 23 in an evening slot on the U.K. pubcaster’s minority channel, BBC2.

The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb

British

Production: A Manga Entertainment release of a bolexbrothers production for BBC Bristol/La Sept (France)/Manga Entertainment, in association with Lumen Films. Produced by Richard "Hutch" Hutchison. Executive producers, Thierry Garrel (for La Sept), Colin Rose (for BBC). Directed, written, edited by Dave Borthwick.

Crew: Camera (color), Borthwick, Frank Passingham; music, Startled Insects; title theme, John Paul Jones; production design, Borthwick; sets, costume design, makeup, the bolexbrothers; sound design, Andy Kennedy; sound, Paul Hamblin; key animators, Borthwick, Passingham, Lee Wilton; character models, Justin Exley, Jan Sanger; additional models & set dressing, Cathy Price, Beverley Knowlden; script associate, John Schofield; associate producer, Hengemeh Panahi; second unit director, Passingham. Reviewed in London, Jan. 5, 1993. Running time: 60 MIN.

With: Pa Thumb - Nick Upton
Ma Thumb - Deborah Collar
Two men - Frank Passingham, John Schofield
Woman in bar - Mike Gifford
Voices: Brett Lane, Helen Veysey, Paul Veysey, Peter Townsend, Marie Clifford , Tim Hand, Andrew Bailey, Nick Upton, John Schofield.

More Film

  • Abigail Disney on Bob Iger

    Abigail Disney Calls Robert Iger's Pay 'Naked Indecency' in Op-Ed

    After stirring a flurry of reactions over her Tweets calling out wage inequality at the Walt Disney Co. on Sunday, Abigail Disney, a filmmaker and philanthropist who is the grand niece of Walt Disney, penned an opinion column outlining her arguments against Disney’s pay practices. In her op-ed, which was published in the Washington Post [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame' Reaps $90 Million in China by Late Afternoon of Opening Day

    “Avengers: Endgame” is already breaking records in China, raking in $89.6 million (RMB602 million) as of 5 p.m. on opening day Wednesday – two days ahead of the U.S. – and putting itself firmly on track to become the biggest Hollywood title ever in the Middle Kingdom. The Marvel finale has already set a new [...]

  • ‘The Gift: The Journey of Johnny

    Film Review: ‘The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash’

    Very much in the manner of an “unplugged” acoustic album that showcases the musicianship of a major artist without distracting flash and filigree, “The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash” is a tightly focused yet impressively multifaceted documentary that attempts nothing less than to delve past familiar myths and illuminate the soul of its fabled [...]

  • Emily Morgan Cormac Fox Gregoire Debailly

    European Film Promotion Reveals 2019's Producers on the Move

    Twenty of Europe’s up-and-coming producers are going to Cannes with European Film Promotion. The organization unveiled its latest roster of Producers on the Move on Wednesday, a lineup that features France’s Gregoire Debailly, who produced Jean-Bernard Marlin’s “Sheherazade,” which premiered in Critics’ Week in Cannes last year, and Ireland’s Cormac Fox, who produced Sophie Hyde’s [...]

  • Avengers EndGame Trailer

    ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Marvel claims the top spot in spending with “Avengers: Endgame.” Ads placed for the superhero film had an estimated media value of $6.28 million through Sunday for 927 national ad airings on 39 networks. (Spend figures [...]

  • Oscar OScars Placeholder

    Netflix Can Chill: Academy Rules No Change in Streaming Oscar Eligibility

    The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will not change eligibility rules for the Oscars, despite speculation that streaming companies might see a crackdown on their release practices when pursuing golden trophies. A board of governors meeting on Tuesday voted to maintain the status quo, that any feature-length film can be considered for the [...]

  • Aniara review

    Film Review: 'Aniara'

    Each year brings an example or three of purported “thinking person’s science-fiction” films, a category that pretty much embraces anything not centered on monsters or lightsaber battles. These efforts are often more admirable in theory than result, but “Aniara” — the first film drawn from Nobel Prize-winning Swedish poet Harry Martinson’s 1956 cycle of 103 [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content