The 90s were not a good time for Don Bluth. As his old employer, Walt Disney Animation Studios found its footing and started making fantastic animated films, Bluth slipped up very badly. Despite having made fantastic animated films during the dark age of the 80s, his films after "All Dogs Go To Heaven" lacked the dark aesthetics and wonder that made films like "The Secret of NIMH" and "The Land Before Time" so enjoyable. In 1994, Bluth finally hit rock bottom when his company released "A Troll In Central Park". The film did so badly at the box office that it didn't even make $100,000 domestically and was the final nail in the coffin for Sullivan Bluth. Having now seen it, I'm not surprised in the slightest that people stayed away from this film. While I have so much respect for Bluth, there is no defending this film. Not only is this one of the worst animated films released in the 90s, but this is also one of the worst animated films I've ever seen.
In the Kingdom of Trolls, a troll named Stanley (Dom DeLuise) is a good troll who has a magical green thumb that can make magical flowers. However, flowers and good nature are shunned upon in the kingdom and when the trolls find out about his flowers, they take him to see the nasty and evil Queen Gnorga (Cloris Leachman). Gnorga wants to turn Stanley into stone, however, King Llort (Charles Nelson Reilly) asks her to do a less harsh punishment and send him to a darker place instead. Gnorga obliges but ends up sending Stanley to Central Park where he ends up under a bridge in a cave. Meanwhile, two young children named Gus (Phillip Glasser) and Rosie (Tawny Sunshine Glover) feeling their parents don't get them to do what they want, go off to Central Park where they end up running into Stanley, and from there a wonderful adventure begins to take shape.
I was absolutely baffled while watching this film. Throughout the entire film, I kept wondering how a talented director like Bluth could make an animated film this bad. The magic and darker themes that made his earlier films so beautiful and endearing to watch were gone in this film and I was left both baffled and frustrated throughout the entire runtime. The story is easily the worst part of the film. Everything in this film is so lightweight and sweet that it just left me feeling frustrated by the end. I always feel that a good animated film needs to balance its light and dark themes perfectly and this film has way too much light with the darker scenes coming off sanitized. I guess the reason why this could be is Bluth might have gotten too many complaints about his films being too dark, particularly "All Dogs Go To Heaven", but at least in those films, they had plenty of tender moments and lots of cheer to keep it afloat. In this film, everything is so sugary and sweet that it became way too overwhelming by the end. I also found the film very pandering to its audience. The film tries to talk down to the audience and make everything spoon-fed to them and it got annoying. For example in the opening scene, one of the troll guards is singing a song about how bad he is. I'm pretty sure that even little kids would know that's too silly. As far as the animation goes, it's very unimpressive. This animation feels like animation that was made for an after-school TV special in the 80s rather than an animated film made for theaters in the 90s. Everything looked so hollow and stale and nothing stood out in the slightest. I was really surprised by just how seemingly lifeless and empty New York City was here. Compared to the older New York seen in "An American Tail" which had the look of an old and golden America, New York City here looks so bland, grey, and rather boring. Even the character animation wasn't exactly impressive as it looked rather awkward and didn't blend in with backgrounds very well. This animation is a far cry from films like "The Secret of NIMH" which looks gorgeous even almost forty years later. The characters are also very unimpressive and frankly rather unoriginal. Stanley feels like a very annoying version of Dopey from "Snow White" and got on my nerves really quickly. He doesn't have any notable characteristics about him and also fails to have a justifiable arc. The writers try to give him an arc about conquering his fear, but it feels very underdeveloped. Gnorga was also a highly unoriginal villain. She basically looked like Ursula from "The Little Mermaid" while having the personality of the Queen of Hearts from "Alice in Wonderland" right down to even having a husband that holds her back from doing nasty things. The children in this film are also rather bad with Gus being very spoiled and bratty and Rosie having nothing that stands out about her other than that she's a very young toddler that can't speak. Compared to a character like Boo from "Monsters Inc", she's very lackluster. Even the songs in this film don't work as they're rather forgettable and just pointless to the story. If there's any remote praise I have for this film, it's that the voice actors tried their very best with this film. Dom DeLuise tried his best by giving some sweetness to Stanley and Cloris Leachman tried her best going over the top with Gnorga, but no matter how good their performances are, there was no getting around the bad writing.
"A Troll in Central Park" is a really bad animated film. The story is too sweet and lacks surprises, the animation feels dull and lacks personality, and the characters are all boring and feel like cut-outs. This is not a good animated film at all and I really strongly suggest avoiding this film at all costs. Even Bluth himself has distanced himself from the film and I honestly don't blame him. There are tons of films from the master animation director that you should check out, but I strongly encourage you not to see this one. It's not a beautiful flower, but rather like a dead weed.