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Somewhere Out There, How a Song from an Animated Movie Helped me Cope

In the early 80s the revolutionary animation director Don Bluth released a movie about a lovable family of mice moving from Russia to America. Set in the 1880s An American Tail was a mixture of lighthearted music, tear jerking emotions and historical fiction with a unique anthropomorphistic lenses on the immigration experience of the nineteenth century. As a boy I didn't understand the grander messages (xenophobia for one) but being a fan of The Secret of NIMH and All Dogs Go to Heaven I was excited to watch it. Waiting till it shifted to the dollar theaters (my family was cheap that way) I went to see it with my father and sister.

I was surprised at the emotional depth of the movie and my biggest take away was the focus on the bond between the main character, Fievel and his sister Tanya. A large portion of the plot centered around Fievel going missing and his family grieving while his sister insisted he was alive. Making friends and uncovering a plot device that leads to the climax we see him nearly run into his family on several occasions. During Act 2 when things seem bleak the brother/sister combo still separated break into song with a large moon rising over the gritty New York scene.

The lyrics to Somewhere Out There convey the love felt by two people (mice) separated by vast distances, but cheered by the belief that their love will eventually reunite them to be with each other once again. I remember in that initial viewing thinking it was a great song and feeling a bond with my sister sitting to my side. We had both faced emotionally traumatic experiences at home but through it all had each other. We would hide in each others rooms to avoid the drama unfolding and on more than one occasion left home with the short sighted intention of running away.


When my parent's finally split to our horror we were separated too and the one person I trusted implicitly was gone from my life. I had no say in the matter and my objections fell upon deaf or at least unwilling ears. At this point I rediscovered the song Somewhere Out There and it struck me to the core this time. The message of being separated but still holding out that your love will reunite you with a family member was all too real. I watched that movie on VHS repeatedly and every time I wondered if my sister was watching it and thinking of me. It sounds kind of silly to say (write) but the similarities between us and those characters were unmistakable. When I finally did connect with my sister 17 years later I mentioned the movie and instantly regretted it. She had no idea what I was talking about and it had no significance to her. All the same it helped me cope in a very trying time in my life and holds a special place in my heart.


8/19/2021

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