The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb

Lynchian Animation

by Donato Totaro Volume 1, Issue 9 / November 1997 1 minute (218 words)

The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb (1993 Dave Borthwick )

The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb is a quietly dark, sinister reworking of The Island of Dr. Moreau and various children’s tales (Tom Thumb, Jack the Giant Killer). The film begins in a squalid “Eraserhead”-like apartment where a youngish couple unexpectedly gives birth to a miniature-sized baby. Ominous government officials soon come to take the oddity away to a experimental laboratory where hideous, mutated by-products are kept in jars and cells. Little Tom escapes with the aid of a mutated, crawling iron bird to a fairyland reigned by a heroic Jack the Giant Killer. What gives the film an added nightmarish quality to the visual ugliness is the effect of shooting the live action in stop animation. This technique of fragmenting human movement renders the proceedings a surrealism that approaches the hallucinatory genius of animator Jan Svankmejer. There is an unsettling disparity between the cartoon-like technique and the eerie imagery. Unlike most pixillated films where one or two objects are animated, in Tom Thumb background walls and ceilings come alive with detailed objects and creepy crawlers that complement the animated figures in the foreground. I was smitten by Tom Thumb’s baby sighs and wide-eyed amazement as he ventured through the harsh, Charles Dickens meets David Lynch landscape.

The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb

Donato Totaro has been the editor of the online film journal Offscreen since its inception in 1997. Totaro received his PhD in Film & Television from the University of Warwick (UK), is a part-time professor in Film Studies at Concordia University (Montreal, Canada) and a longstanding member of AQCC (Association québécoise des critiques de cinéma).

Volume 1, Issue 9 / November 1997 Film Reviews animationbritish cinemadavid lynchgenre_horror