The Animated Films of Don Bluth
by John Cawley


As Don heads past the half century mark, he continues planning pictures to intrigue audiences. Next to be completed is A TROLL IN CENTRAL PARK, while THUMBELINA has already begun production.

This film has been in production for over a year as this book goes to press. John Pomeroy, heavily involved in the writing of this film stated in June of 1990 that "We now have a script that we are confident will hit the children's marketplace as well as the family's. It's a simple story with characters that are very likable and appealing. It has good comedy and presents a good moral. We feel that it can be one of the most successful pictures we've done to date.

"It has many of the elements that THE LAND BEFORE TIME had. In particular, it deals with children and their relationship with an entity from another world. It's a kind of personality exchange between the three main characters - Stanley, a troll; a two-year old girl named Rosie and her seven-year-old brother Gus."

The current story for the film begins in the Kingdom of Trolls, where there is a problem. It is Stanley, a little troll with a green thumb, who is **nice**. Queen Gnorga doesn't want him to influence the other trolls, so she threatens to turn him into stone with her black thumb. But her wimpish husband, King Llort, suggests an even worse fate for Stanley: banishment to New York City. Gnorga agrees and whisks Stanley away in a flying cocoon. Stanley crashlands in Central Park and, after a harrowing escape from an angry squirrel, a restuarant waiter, a boy on a skateboard and a pack of dogs, he settles down under the bridge. With his green thumb, he creates a world of plant life to comfort him.

Meanwhile, a lawyer husband and his real estate-selling wife leave their children at home under the care of their nanny. 7- year-old Gus and his 2-year-old sister, Rosie, sneak out to Central Park to play with Gus' remote control toy boat. Rosie wanders off and finds Stanley in his cubby hole, where they become fast friends. He entertains her by creating some dancing pansies.

Gnorga checks up on Stanley with her magic viewing glass, and is disturbed that he's happy in Central Park. She also notes that Gus is rash and bad-tempered -- perfect traits for a troll, thus making him eligible to **become** a troll. Thus she and Llort transport themselves to Central Park, in a twister that destroys the Park.

Stanley and the kids try to escape Gnorga in a wagon, but Gnorga manages to seize Rosie. Gus tries to convince Stanley to help him rescue her, but Stanley is frightened of Gnorga's thumb. Gus tries to rescue his sister, but he too is caught. Stanley finally musters the courage to save his friends. Just as Gnorga is turning Gus into a troll, Stanley arrives and saves the kids using Gus's toy boat (enlarged, with leaves to make it fly). But Gnorga casts a spell on Gus, who now also has a black thumb to turn objects to stone. She commands him to press the thumb on Stanley who petrifies into rock. The boat deposits the kids back in their apartment, and Gus reverts back into human form. Gnorga and Llort, triumphant, return to their kingdom.

The next morning, the kids and their parents take the statue of Stanley back to the Park. Rosie kisses Stanley, and Gus touches him with his thumb, which has a greenish tint. As the family leaves the Park, the statue comes to life; Stanley is back to normal. Gnorga and Llort return for a rematch, but Stanley counters her black thumb with his green thumb, and she is consumed with flowers. Soon the Park, and then the city, blossoms with flowers.

Voices for the film include Disney live action veteran Hayley Mills and stage star Jonathan Pryce as the parents. Dom DeLuise voices Stanley, the troll. (Buddy Hackett originally recorded the voice, but was replaced.) Cloris Leachman is the villainous Queen Gnorga, while Charles Nelson Reilly plays King Llort. (Robert Morley recorded the character first, but was replaced early in production.)

The screenplay was written by Stu Krieger. Music will be handled by Robert Folk (ROCK-A-DOODLE).

Still largely a secret, work on THUMBELINA began in earnest in 1991. In May of 1991, Frank McCourt, the studio's general manager, stated, "Recording for this is almost finished and the storyboarding is well underway and should be complete by Mid- July."

The voice cast will include Jodie Benson (Disney's THE LITTLE MERMAID) and Charo. Songs are being written by Barry Manilow.

After THUMBELINA, several feature projects have been discussed. Announced with THUMBELINA was HANSEL AND GRETEL. Another, THE PENGUIN STORY, has just been announced. Through the years, though, several projects have been mentioned or discussed. Here is an alphabetical listing of the major projects considered by Don and the studio. The projects here range from just barely being on the drawing boards to having been developed over some time.

This feature was developed during the videogame period. After some discussions with famed screenwriter Robert Towne (SHAMPOO, CHINATOWN), the idea of a feature about a baby blue whale developed. The story was described as "an underwater BAMBI." From several pages of notes by Towne, Don and his crew began developing a story and boards. When Towne stated he would have to write the final script, the film became stalled. Towne would spend several years working with Jack Nicholson on the CHINATOWN sequel, THE TWO JAKES. The sequel was on and off for several of those years. Finally, in the late Eighties, Sullivan Bluth dropped the idea and gave the project fully to Towne.

Early in 1984, Don began in earnest turning the famous tale into an animated feature. He even announced it in the Fall of 1990 in his Animation Club newsletter. At the time, he described it as "a tender love story that says, 'a thing must be loved before it's lovable.' We sprinkled this classic tale with a generous amount of comedy, a little bit of terror, and a lot of love. From Nan, the clairvoyant dog, Max, a bird detective, and Otto, an escape artist lizard, to the King Bats, the Wee Beasties and Queen Livia, herself, this picture has something for everyone." TAIL also interrupted this production.

As work began on LAND, Don felt that BEAUTY would be his first independent picture. However in late 1986, the Disney Studio announced they were working on a version and by 1989 had begun full production (for a 1991 release). Knowing his version could not be completed before Disney's, Don dropped the project.

This feature was fully discussed in the "Games on TV and the Big Screen" chapter. As recently as 1990 the studio was looking at the popular video game characters. A new release of the games to the home market in 1991 sparked some new interest in the characters Dirk and Daphne.

Prior to the start of AN AMERICAN TAIL, this feature began being developed by Don and his skeletal crew. The studio bought the rights to the book by Stephen Bauer. It was a strange tale of the last human, living in a world of mysticism and darkness. A giant owl steals the moon, which is depicted as a young girl in a glowing, glass sphere. He hopes to keep the world in darkness and thus rule it. The human, along with his Satyr friend and a beautiful werefox journey to rescue the moon and discover the fate of the human race. Don stated that most of the book would not transfer well, but he was fascinated by the relationship of the owl, the darkness and the boy. He once stated it was similar to the relationship of Shere Kahn and Mowgli (from Disney's THE JUNGLE BOOK). With the start up of TAIL, interest in this project faded and it was seldom mentioned again. (A similar, dark-loving, giant owl does make an appearance as the villain in ROCK-A-DOODLE.)

This tale, reminiscent of the whale feature worked on with Robert Towne, was based on the incident in the arctic when whales were caught in the ice. Countries around the world spent millions of dollars to free the whales before they would perish. As this book was going to press, it was announced that Sullivan Bluth was dropping this project.

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