Tom Thumb (film)

Tom Thumb (stylised as tom thumb) is a 1958 fantasy-musical film directed by George Pal and released by MGM. The film, based on the fairy tale "Thumbling" by the Brothers Grimm, is about a tiny man who manages to outwit two thieves determined to make a fortune from him.

Tom Thumb
Theatrical release poster by Reynold Brown
Directed byGeorge Pal
Produced byGeorge Pal
Written byLadislas Fodor
StarringRuss Tamblyn
Alan Young
Peter Sellers
June Thorburn
Music byDouglas Gamley
Ken Jones
CinematographyGeorges Périnal
Edited byFrank Clarke
Galaxy Pictures Limited
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • 4 December 1958 (1958-12-04) (U.K.)
  • 22 December 1958 (1958-12-22) (U.S.)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
United States
Box office$3,250,000[1]

It stars Russ Tamblyn in the title role, with a largely British supporting cast (it was filmed in both Hollywood and London), including Bernard Miles and Jessie Matthews as Tom Thumb's adoptive parents, June Thorburn as the Forest Queen and comic actors Terry-Thomas and Peter Sellers as the villainous duo who try to exploit the tiny hero for profit.

Director Pal worked with cinematographer Georges Périnal, animators Wah Chang and Gene Warren, art director Elliot Scott and special effects artist Tom Howard to create the animated and fantasy sequences. Peggy Lee wrote the songs, and Douglas Gamley and Ken Jones wrote the music.

The film is referenced in The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962) and Pinkeltje (1978). The film is also featured in That's Dancing! (1985)

The filming locations for the movie were in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S. and London, England.


Jonathan, a poor but honest lumberjack, lives in the forest with his loving wife Anne. One day, while chopping down a tree, the mystical Forest Queen appears before Jonathan and begs him to spare the tree as it is a home to a family of birds. As selling wood is his livelihood, Jonathan is initially reluctant, but after the Queen demonstrates her magic powers, Jonathan agrees. In gratitude, the Queen tells Jonathan she will grant Jonathan and his wife three wishes. Jonathan races home to tell Anne about the incredible encounter.

Unfortunately, Jonathan and Anne accidentally squander the wishes while bickering over dinner. As they turn in for bed that night, they look over the second bedroom of their cottage, which is fully stocked with toys for the child that they dearly wanted but were never able to have. Anne laments their previous squandering of their magic wishes, which they could have used to wish for a child, but Jonathan consoles her that the Forest Queen may yet show them kindness and grant them one more wish. Anne remarks that she would love any child that they would have had "even if he was no bigger than her thumb."

Later, they are roused by a soft knocking at the door and find before them a young boy who is literally the size of a thumb, who addresses Jonathan and Anne familiarly as "Father" and "Mother". Anne instinctively knows that the boy's name is Tom.

In the following days, family friend Woody takes Tom into town where a carnival is being held. Tom is carried off by a balloon up to the top of the nearby castle's treasury tower, where two thieves, Ivan and Antony, are conspiring to steal the gold. They realize that due to his size, Tom will easily be able to slip between the bars of the grill on the treasury roof and trick him into believing that they need the gold to help poor orphans. As a reward for his assistance, Ivan gives Tom a single gold sovereign from the stolen loot. Tom returns home late at night, to find his parents distraught over his disappearance from the carnival. While he sneaks in through the window, he accidentally drops his sovereign into a cake that his mother had been baking.

By the next morning, the robbery has been discovered and guards are scouring the countryside searching for the thieves. A unit stops at Jonathan's cottage to ask if he or Anne have seen anyone suspicious in the area. Anne offers the guards some cake and one guard bites into the slice containing the sovereign, instantly recognizing it as part of the stolen treasure. Jonathan and Anne are arrested and taken away to be flogged in the town square.

With Woody's help, Tom tracks down the real thieves and, thanks to his ability to control animals, eventually manages to bring them back to the town square, along with their loot, thereby exonerating his parents. Ivan and Antony are arrested and the gold is returned to the treasury. The movie concludes with Woody marrying the Forest Queen, whom he has been clumsily romancing throughout the movie.



Pal said he had the idea to make a film out of tom thumb in the late 1940s when making Puppetoons for Paramount. He filmed scenes in England in early 1958, taking over every one of the seven sound stages at MGM's London studios, and using two crews. He moved his unit to Los Angeles in April 1958.[2]


  • "Tom Thumb's Tune"
Music and Lyrics by Peggy Lee
Sung and danced by Russ Tamblyn and the Puppetoons
  • "After All These Years"
Music by Fred Spielman
Lyrics by Janice Torre
Sung by Jessie Matthews (dubbed by Norma Zimmer)
  • "Talented Shoes"
Music by Fred Spielman
Lyrics by Janice Torre
Sung by Ian Wallace
  • "The Yawning Song"
Music by Fred Spielman
Lyrics by Kermit Goell
Sung by Stan Freberg
  • "Are You a Dream"
Music and Lyrics by Peggy Lee
Sung by Alan Young


Variety wrote, "film is top-drawer, a comic fairy tale with music that stacks up alongside some of the Disney classics";[3] and Time called it "unusually fresh and appealing; it is kid stuff, but it will probably sell a lot of popcorn to the grownups, too."[4]

The film was the 8th most popular movie at the British box office in 1959.[5]

According to MGM records the film earned $1,800,000 in the US and Canada and $1,450,000 elsewhere, making a profit of $612,000.[1]


At the 1959 Academy Awards, the film won an Oscar for Tom Howard in the category of Best Effects, Special Effects.

At the 1959 BAFTA Awards, Terry Thomas was Nominated for a BAFTA Film Award in the category of Best British Actor.

At the 1959 Golden Globes, the film was nominated for Best Motion Picture - Musical.

At the 1959 Laurel Awards, the film was nominated for Top Musical, while Russ Tamblyn was nominated for a Golden Laurel for Top Male Musical Performance.

At the 1959 Writers Guild of America Ladislas Fodor was nominated for a WGA Award (Screen) for Best Written American Musical.

Home video

Tom Thumb has been released as a DVD for all regions and to VHS.[6][7][8]

Comic book adaption

See also


  1. 'The Eddie Mannix Ledger’, Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study, Los Angeles
  2. THE SECRET 'LIFE' OF 'TOM THUMB' By JOHN H. ROTHWELL New York Times 19 Oct 1958: X8.
  3. Staff, Variety (1 January 1958). "Tom Thumb".
  4. "Cinema: The New Pictures, Jan. 5, 1959". 5 January 1959 via
  5. "Year Of Profitable British Films." Times [London, England] 1 January 1960: 13. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 11 July 2012.
  6. "tom thumb". Warner Archive. Retrieved 27 February 2013. Produced to order.
  7. Tom Thumb (DVD (region 1)). Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. 3 October 2000. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  8. Tom Thumb (VHS videotape). Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. 7 December 1994.
  9. "Dell Four Color #972". Grand Comics Database.
  10. Dell Four Color #972 at the Comic Book DB (archived from the original)
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