tom thumb

Little guys rock. A boy no bigger than a thumb can be a hero!
Director: George Pal
Year: 1958
Country: UK
Running time: 92 mins
UK/USA
Screenplay: Ladislas Fodor. Based on the story by the Brothers Grimm
Photography: Georges Perinal
Editor: Frank Clarke
Music: Douglas Gamley, Ken Jones
G cert

With: Russ Tamblyn, Alan Young, June Thorburn, Terry-Thomas, Peter Sellers, Bernard Miles, Jessie Matthews, Ian Wallace

Grimms’ fairy tales were never more upbeat than in this high-spirited 1958 adaptation, directed by Hungarian-born puppet animator George Pal. A couple wish for a son whom they would love with all their hearts, “even if he were no bigger than my thumb“. Their prayer is taken all too literally by the obliging Queen of the Forest and a tiny, fully formed boy appears. The bungling villains, two thieves (a gleeful Peter Sellers and Terry-Thomas), plot to exploit tom’s tininess for their own nefarious purposes. But since this is a fairy tale – and a family movie from MGM’s British production unit – goodness prevails. There are songs by Sonny Burke and Peggy Lee, an array of charming and ingenious special effects, and an energetic lead performance by a leaping and bounding Russ Tamblyn, future dance star of West Side Story.

tom thumb took the Special Effects Oscar in 1958 for its classic blend of matte work, optical tricks and oversized sets. These were scaled one foot to the inch to give the five-inch hero his proper proportion. When tom dances on a bench, it’s 35 feet high and 90 feet long. To achieve the proper angles and perspective the camera had to be placed extremely far from the action. — BG

"A lively predecessor to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids… Pal, an architecture student whose first films were self-styled ’Puppetoons’, put his training to good use here, cleverly meshing miniatures, giant props and animation techniques to create an impression of the world as tom sees it. With a good deal of unforced humour, acrobatic dancing, and some likeable songs, it makes for pleasant entertainment.“ — Tom Charity, Time Out Film Guide.

“Excellent.“ — Leonard Maltin