A Troll in Central Park (also known in the UK as Stanley's Magic Garden) is a 1994 animated feature-length film directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, creators of films such as Thumbelina, The Land Before Time, and All Dogs Go to Heaven. It was released on October 7, 1994, by Warner Bros. Family Entertainment.
The story begins in an area known as the "Kingdom of Trolls", where a troll named Stanley resides. Stanley has a magical green thumb that can make precious, beautiful flowers appear with a mere touch. Unfortunately, flowers are not allowed in the Kingdom of Trolls, forcing Stanley to hide any flowers he creates. In his house, Stanley speaks to his sentient flowers of his desire to complete his flower collection with a rose bush. That day, the other trolls become suspect of Stanley and take him to Gnorga, the Queen of the Trolls. Upon analyzing Stanley, Gnorga concludes that Stanley gives a bad name to trolls everywhere and demands that he be turned to stone. However, her husband consort, Llort, suggests that they instead banish Stanley to "a place of rock and steel where nothing grows". Gnorga immediately complies and sends Stanley off to Central Park. After many mishaps in New York, Stanley hides under a bridge.
Meanwhile, in a Manhattan apartment, two children named Gus and Rosie get ready to have some fun with their father at Central Park, but he tells his son that he has a trial he's preparing for in a court, much to Gus's anger. Gus then asks his mother to take him, but she tells him that she's going to an open house on Park Avenue today. Both Alan and Hilary said goodbye and leave Gus and his baby sister Rosie with their nanny, Maria. Eventually, Gus quietly leaves the apartment, taking Rosie on his wagon with him to Central Park. While playing with Gus's toy boat, the kids accidentally find Stanley hidden in the cave under the bridge in Central Park, and he befriends them. When Gus tries to force Rosie to come home with him, Rosie begins to cry, which attracts the attention of Queen Gnorga. When she discovers that Stanley isn't miserable, she puts a spell on Gus that causes him to cry a raging sea to drown them all. Stanley saves the kids and himself by using his green thumb to turn Gus's toy motorboat into a larger boat for the trio and the talking flowers to ride in.</p>
Queen Gnorga decides to destroy Stanley's happiness once and for all by obliterating Central Park with a rampant tornado. As Rosie and Gus decide to go home upon discovering the destruction, Gnorga arrives to kidnap Rosie. Gus goes to Stanley and begs him for help, but Stanley claims that he is no match for Gnorga's magic. Gus angrily accuses Stanley of being too scared to fight Gnorga and tells him that he will never have a dream come true if he's too scared to fight for what he believes in. Gus leaves to face Gnorga, along with several talking flowers and animals who have turned their backs on Stanley for his cowardice. Gus finds and frees Rosie from a kennel. Gnorga discovers Gus and transforms him into a troll while Rosie runs away and accidentally falls into a gorge, much to Gus's dismay. However, Stanley returns and uses the flying boat to save Rosie. Stanley steps forward and faces off with Gnorga in a thumb-wrestling match, which ends with Stanley getting the upper hand and causing roses to sprout on Gnorga's body. As Stanley, Gus and Rosie escape, Gnorga makes a last-ditch effort and takes control of Gus's thumb, using it to turn Stanley into stone.
Gus and Rosie are thrown back into their apartment as the petrified Stanley is jettisoned into a garbage can. Gnorga declares her victory before it doesn't last long as she fully transforms into a rose bush, much to her discomfort. Gnorga, Llort, and her dog are sent away from New York by the same tornado, and by this undoing, it turns Gus back into a human. The next day, Gus, Rosie, and their parents go to the obliterated Central Park, where Gus and Rosie place the Stanley statue on a makeshift pedestal. Gus briefly uses the green thumb he earned from his time as a troll and presses it against Stanley to seemingly no effect. As they leave, they turn around to find the troll revived and jolly as ever. Restored to life, the troll revives Central Park and turns New York into a beautiful green city, singing about his vision of the earth if everyone were to care for it.
Meanwhile, Llort has been made the new Troll King after Gnorga's transformation into a rose bush, the Troll Kingdom is finally made happy again, and the dog is freer to bite Llort than ever.
Cast of characters
- Dom DeLuise as Stanley: a good-natured troll and the main protagonist of the film. Gifted with the ability to create flowers, thanks to a literal "green thumb", he is exiled to Central Park for this. There, he befriends Gus and Rosie, and protects them from Gnorga, though he fears her.
- Phillip Glasser as Gus: a human and the deuteragonist of the film. Angry that his parents are too busy to play with him, he and his sister Rosie go to Central Park. There they meet and befriend Stanley, and battle Gnorga, who briefly turns Gus into a troll. It's this experience that (apparently) gains Gus the same powers as Stanley.
- Tawny Sunshine Glover as Rosie: the tritagonist of the film. Gus' toddler sister, she discovers Stanley first and befriends him. When Gus tries to take her away, her crying gets Gnorga's attention. Rosie is eventually kidnapped by Gnorga, but is saved by Gus and Stanley.
- Cloris Leachman as Gnorga: the main antagonist of the film. The incredibly cruel, flower hating queen of the trolls, she has the ability, among others, to turn people to stone. She exiles Stanley for creating flowers, figuring he'll suffer. She later learns that this isn't the case, and sets out to destroy him, kidnapping Rosie and Gus in the process. Stanley eventually defeats her by turning her into a rose bush.
- Charles Nelson Reilly as Llort: the secondary antagonist of the film. Gnorga's bumbling husband, he'll do anything to keep his hot-tempered wife from getting angry. He is the one that suggests that Stanley be banished instead of turned to stone. When they later learn that Stanley's enjoying himself, he is forced along in her plan to defeat him. They kidnap Gus and Rosie, but Stanley defeats Gnorga, leaving Llort to run the kingdom. A running gag in the film involves Llort being attacked by Gnorga's dog.
- Jonathan Pryce and Hayley Mills as Alan and Hilary: Gus and Rosie's parents. When we first meet Gus and Rosie, the former is getting ready to go to Central Park. Sadly, Alan, a lawyer, has to go to a case, and Hillary, a businesswoman, is also busy, leading to the kids' involvement in the story. The parents, completely unaware of the adventure, return and take the two to the destroyed Central Park the next day. Gus revives Stanley (who was turned to stone during the final battle with Gnorga) who brings the park back to life. Whether or not the parents see Stanley is unknown.
- Frank Welker as Flowers and Gnorga's Dog
- Jack Angel as Trolls
- Kath Soucie and Scott Menville as Flowers
- Queen of Mean - Gnorga
- Absolutely Green - Stanley & Flower Chorus
- Welcome to my World - Stanley & Flower Chorus
- Absolutely Green (ending) - Stanley & Flower Chorus
The film met with an extremely poor performance at the box-office, only grossing $71,368 domestically, which is about the population of Dominica (with a budget of $23 million it grossed less than 0.33% of its budget), making it Don Bluth's lowest-grossing film to date (though not his film to lose the most money overall). Gary Goldman has said the reason for this was because the film was released without any sign of promotion and release was limited. He also stated that its distributor Warner Bros. did not have any confidence in the film. It currently has a score of 17% at Rotten Tomatoes based on five reviews, ranked behind 3% of Rock-a-Doodle (also one of Bluth's least received projects, as holding 20% audience score). The film's score among the website community is higher, at 46%.
Doug Walker (Nostalgia Critic) hated on the film. He says that just hearing the title pisses him off. He has dubbed the movie "Don Bluth's worst film".
References in other Media
In a comedy sketch in a 2001 episode of Saturday Night Live, Alec Baldwin played Charles Nelson Reilly in a parody of the show Inside the Actor's Studio. During the course of the sketch, host James Lipton (as played by Will Ferrell) comments on how he loved A Troll in Central Park — he says watching it "is like looking into the face of God and seeing him smiling back, saying: 'You are my most wondrous creation'" — and asks if he can "speak to King Llort". Reilly accommodates by holding index cards to his ears and saying: "Well, hello, James Lipton! I'm King Llort! There's a troll in Central Park! I'm King Llort!".
- This is the only Don Bluth film in which Dom DeLuise voiced the main protagonist; in previous Don Bluth films that starred him, he voiced a supporting character, and he did not voice anyone in The Land Before Time, Rock-a-Doodle, or even Thumbelina.
- One of the characters, a Squirrel closely resembles another squirrel character from Rock-a-Doodle.
- As of 2018, this is the only feature-length Don Bluth production that has still yet to be released on Blu-ray.
- When the film's theatrical trailer was finalized, it showed the final battle between Stanley and Gnorga (which especially included some bits that showed Gus in troll form). That scene was cut from the trailer found on VHS releases of Black Beauty and Thumbelina likely to avoid spoilers for anyone who has not seen the film. However, the full spoiler-heavy trailer was shown on the VHS release of Little Giants.