The Indian in the Cupboard (film)

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The Indian in the Cupboard
Indian in the cupboardposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFrank Oz
Produced by
Screenplay byMelissa Mathison
Based onThe Indian in the Cupboard
by Lynne Reid Banks
Music byRandy Edelman
CinematographyRussell Carpenter
Edited byIan Crafford
Distributed by
Release date
  • July 14, 1995 (1995-07-14)
Running time
96 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$45 million[2]
Box office$35.7 million[3]

The Indian in the Cupboard is a 1995 American family fantasy drama film directed by Frank Oz and written by Melissa Mathison, based on the 1980 children's book of the same name by Lynne Reid Banks.[4] The story revolves around a boy who receives a cupboard as a gift on his ninth birthday. He later discovers that putting toy figures in the cupboard, after locking and unlocking it, brings the toys to life. The film stars Hal Scardino as Omri, Litefoot as Little Bear, Lindsay Crouse, Richard Jenkins, Rishi Bhat as Omri's friend Patrick, Steve Coogan as Tommy Atkins, and David Keith as Boone the Cowboy.


On his ninth birthday, Omri receives an old cupboard from his brother and a toy Native American "Indian" from his best friend Patrick. Omri finds a special key and locks the toy in the cupboard. The next morning, he hears a small tapping noise coming from the cupboard, and finds that the toy has magically come to life. Frightened by Omri's size, the tiny man pulls out a dagger and points it at Omri. Omri closes and locks the cupboard and decides to keep it a secret.

The next day, the living toy eventually reveals himself as an English-speaking, 18th-century Iroquois (specifically Onondaga[5]) man named Little Bear (Litefoot) who was fighting in the French and Indian War on the side of the British. During Little Bear's stay with Omri, Omri learns a lot about the Iroquois, and the two develop a friendship. Omri also learns that Little Bear is a widower.

When Omri brings to life another Native American figure (resembling a Mohawk chieftain), saying Little Bear can have the chieftain's longbow, the chieftain suffers a heart attack out of fear after looking at Omri. Omri's shocked reaction causes Little Bear to realize that Omri really is a child, and not a spirit.

Eventually, Omri reveals his secret to Patrick, who immediately wants to bring to life a toy of his own, which becomes a cowboy from 1879 called "Boohoo" Boone. Boone and Little Bear are initially hostile toward one another but are forced to behave themselves when Omri and Patrick bring them to school.

That night, Omri and Patrick, along with Little Bear and Boone, watch a program on TV that shows a relentless slaughter of Apaches by cowboys. Boone is enthusiastic at the sight of his "boys" killing the helpless Native Americans, while Little Bear watches in horror at the sight of his people being massacred. Upon hearing Boone fire his gun into the air with delight, Little Bear becomes confused and shoots an arrow into Boone's chest.

The key to the cabinet is lost, and Little Bear goes under the floor to retrieve it, nearly getting killed by an escaped pet rat in the process. With the key back, Omri brings a World War I medic toy to life to treat Boone's wounds. Omri realizes it is time to return Little Bear and Boone to their respective time periods. Later that night, as Patrick sleeps, Omri goes to bring a female Native American toy to life, but Little Bear realizes what Omri is doing, and stops him. Omri says he doesn't want Little Bear to be alone when he goes back, but Little Bear says that the woman probably has people of her own, maybe even her own family. Omri agrees not to bring her to life.

The next morning, Omri and Patrick say their goodbyes to the two tiny men before locking them back in the cupboard and sending them home. Just before saying goodbye, Omri has a vision of a life-sized Little Bear telling him that he takes Omri on as his nephew.



Litefoot was discovered after performing a rap concert in Rome organized by the American Indian College Fund, who recommended him to the producers.[6] When he joined the film, Litefoot convinced the filmmakers to hire an Onondaga adviser, Jeanne Shenandoah,[7] instead of the Mohawk adviser they had, and the adviser helped make his character Little Bear culturally authentic: "From the bottom of my feet to the top of my bald head, all the tattooing, the dropped earlobes, the leggings, the moccasins, were all Onondaga in 1761."[5] Each day of shooting, it took 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours to apply his tattoos with permanent markers.[6]

The filming was marred by the death of technician Pat Tanner, who fell while riding a motorized hoist used to lift scenery on the sound stage at Sony Pictures in Culver City.[8] Tanner's death led to a change in motion picture safety rules on IATSE union film sets to prevent similar accidents.


Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a score of 73% based on reviews from 22 critics, with an average rating of 6.4/10. The site's consensus states: "The Indian in the Cupboard gussies up its classic source material in modern effects without losing sight of the timeless themes at the heart of the story."[9] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 58 out of 100, based on 25 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews."[10] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale.[11]

Additionally, both Rishi Bhat and Hal Scardino received nominations in 1996 at the 17th Youth in Film Awards.

Box office[edit]

The movie debuted at number six at the North American box office.[12] The film made only $35 million against a production budget of $45 million, making it a box office bomb; however, the film was in competition with high-profile successes like Apollo 13, Nine Months, Pocahontas, and Batman Forever.[13] As a result, plans to adapt the next four books in the series into films were dropped.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Indian in the Cupboard (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. August 31, 1995. Retrieved October 12, 2016.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Lynne Reid Banks
  5. ^ a b O'Steen, Kathleen (July 2, 1995). "Life Lessons, via Indians". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 10, 2020.
  6. ^ a b Davis, Sandi (July 9, 1995). "American Indian Actor Uses Role to Educate Others". The Oklahoman. Retrieved October 10, 2020.
  7. ^ Longsdorf, Amy (July 9, 1995). "Native American Rapper Becomes Warrior Against Film Stereotypes". The Morning Call. Retrieved October 10, 2020.
  8. ^ "Movie Technician Plunges to His Death on Stage". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 12, 2020.
  9. ^ "The Indian in the Cupboard". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved July 15, 2020.
  10. ^ The Indian in the Cupboard, retrieved July 15, 2020
  11. ^ "Home - Cinemascore". CinemaScore. Retrieved July 15, 2020.
  12. ^ "Weekend Box Office : 'Under Siege' Opens in No. 2 Spot". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 13, 2011.
  13. ^ The Indian in the Cupboard (1995) - Box office / business

External links[edit]