Released just 30 years ago, the animated film “Fievel in the Wild West” marked the very last -vocal- role of an absolute legend of the 7th art long retired from the sets, James Stewart, retired by Steven Spielberg.
Released in 1986 in the United States (1987 with us), Fievel and the New World was a magnificent animated film signed by veteran Don Bluth. The film featured the story of Fievel, a mouse whose family was persecuted by cats in Russia, forced to flee the country to board a ship and settle in the New World: the America.
Behind this film which had attracted 1.08 million spectators in France was none other than Steven Spielberg, producer. A moving story which was also a form of homage to his grandparents, who had left the old European continent to try their luck in the United States, the new promised land.
Five years later, a new (mis) adventures of Fievel was released, this time taking place in the Wild West, and which we are celebrating today the 30th anniversary of its release date, December 11, 1991. After dealing with the he history of American immigration in the first episode, this cartoon took up the theme of the conquest of the West in the 19th century in the United States. If Steven Spielberg donned the producer cap again for Fievel in the Wild West, Don Bluth on the other hand could not resume the realization of this episode, taken by the turning of Rock-o-Rico.
Here is the trailer again …
A legend put to use … On one condition
For the actor who was going to lend his voice to the canine character of Sheriff Wylie Burp, Spielberg already had a firm idea in mind: he wanted to entrust the vocal role to a legend of the 7th Art: James Stewart. The director – producer revered the actor, and had always cherished the hope of working with him one day.
But the filmmaker’s career took off around the same time that Jimmy’s was slipping away. And in the 1980s, the actor had already largely retired from film sets. He did make a few appearances in TV spots and other commercials (like the Campbell soup brand!), But the limelight was already extinguished.
Moreover, with 78 films on the clock in nearly 60 years of career, including an impressive number of masterpieces, the actor did not have to be ashamed to enjoy a well-deserved retirement. But Spielberg wanted to add a 79th to an already glorious counter.
An article from the Los Angeles Times, dated 1991, relates a tasty anecdote on this subject. Spielberg met Stewart at a party, and asked him if he could play a vocal role in the animated film. Fievel in the Wild West. Dubbing for Stewart wasn’t exactly new; he had done it in the past.
The actor agreed. But on one condition: that Steven Spielberg is in the studio, and that he directs it himself in this work. A request which was also taken as a great mark of esteem by the filmmaker, who could not but accept. The two therefore spent ten days in the recording studio ofInterlock, in Hollywood, where Stewart put his warm and famous voice on his character Wylie Burp.
The role was Stewart’s first (admittedly animated) western since 1976, when he made an appearance in The Last of the Giants. A title quite appropriate to tell the truth for this icon of the 7th Art, which found with Fievel in the Wild West his last contribution to the cinema, in 1991. He died six years later, at the venerable age of 89 years.