The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb
with Nick Upton, Deborah Collard, Frank Passingham
Written and directed by Dave Borthwick
by Paul Lee
The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb is a phenomenal and unsettling animated movie. Unlike the fairy tale the name invokes, this sixty-minute film is hardly for children. Any normal child who saw this would have nightmares for weeks. Created, written, edited, and directed by Dave Borthwick of the British company BolexBrothers, Tom Thumb is on a par with movies like Brazil in its twisted perception of a world only slightly like our own.
The film uses a type of stop-motion animation and animated live actors that looks like nothing else, except maybe those disturbing stop-motion Tool videos. But Tom Thumb has a look and feel unlike any contemporary animated film. Sitting through an hour of this would make Disney lovers’ skin crawl and send them running for a nice, safe viewing of The Lion King.
Tom Thumb hardly resembles the original story, save for the birth of an incredibly tiny child who has to face a giant-sized world inhabited by evil scientists with malevolent machinations who kidnap Tom in order to perform experiments on him. Tom is hauled off to a laboratory filled with genetic mutants of all shapes and sizes. Rescued by one of the mutants, Tom escapes to a town filled with tiny humans his own size. There he meets Jack The Giant Killer. With Jack’s help, Tom sets out on a hazardous quest to be reunited with his father.
On the one hand, Tom Thumb is unsettling. The world portrayed is dark, bug-infested, and populated with dirty, ugly people. The scientists’ lab is a stark, cold, ominous place where all sorts of nasty little mutants suffer for the sake of science. The town Tom’s family is from is a throwback to an English slum of the nineteenth century with bugs crawling on every wall and out of every crevasse.
On the flip side, Tom Thumb is a mesmerizing and darkly beautiful film. With all its muted colors and odd architecture, Tom’s world has its own strange appeal. Even Jack’s town of little people is oddly attractive.
Tom Thumb works on many levels and should be seen a number of times to catch all the subtleties. I won’t spoil the ending but it definitely isn’t predictable. If more animated films of this caliber are produced, adult animation will finally be taken seriously.