Directors – Charles Swenson & Fred Wolf, Screenplay – Carol Mon Pere, Based on the Novel The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban, Producer – Walt de Faria, Music – Roger Kellaway, Lyrics – Gene Lees, Music Supervisor – Jules Chaikin, Production Design – Sam Cirson, Vincent Davis, Bob Mitchell & Al Shean. Production Company – de Faria-Lockhart-Sanrio Film/Murakami-Wolf Enterprises.
Marcy Swenson (The Mouse Child), Alan Barzman (The Mouse), Peter Ustinov (Emmanuel Wolfington Rat III), Andy Devine (Mr Frog), Cloris Leachman (Euterpe the Parrot), Sally Kellerman (The Seal), Cliff Osmond (C. Serpentine)
A toy mouse desires to be free of how he is designed, having to walk in endless clockwork wind-up circles, carrying a child. The mouse and child fall into the trash and are carted away to the dump. There they are found and taken into slavery by the evil Emmanuel Wolfington ‘Manny’ Rat III. Manny sends them to steal a jar of peanut brittle from the bank. However, this goes wrong and the mouse and child fall into a series of adventures with variously a charlatan oracular frog and a theatrical company run by a parrot. Throughout, the Mouse seeks to be free of his wind-up key.
This kiddie film, designed for a very young age group, developed a minor reputation in some places when it came out. However, it was not widely seen and rarely turns up in reruns today, nor has it ever had an English-language dvd release. Based on The Mouse and His Child (1968), a children’s book by Russell Hoban, it does seem like an opportunity bumbled.
The animation is very nice in a soft, understated way – the film has no trouble achieving a certain tender, sweetness. However, it is simplistic. The plot is slack and moves at a torpid pace. Crucially, the film fails to gain its wings as a fantasy. Russell Hoban used the image of the mouse and child who are forced to move in wound-up circles going on a quest to be free of their wind-up key as a sharp metaphor, but this becomes garbled and vague in the film. There is a very nice plaintive song sung in a waveringly broken, off-key child’s voice over both sets of credits.
Co-director Fred Wolf later went on to become an animation producer, being most well-known as the producer of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987-86).