The Indian in the Cupboard (film)

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 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
  • Paramount Pictures
    (North America theatrical, International home video releases and Netflix prints)
  • Columbia TriStar Film Distributors
    (International theatrical, North America home video releases and TV broadcast airings)
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 film starred 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.[5] It was distributed by Columbia Pictures (International theater release, TV broadcast rights and US video release) and Paramount Pictures (US theater release, Netflix rights and international video release).


On his ninth birthday, Omri receives an old cupboard from his brother Gillon and a toy Native American "Indian" from his best friend Patrick. That night, Omri goes through his mom's box of old keys and finds that a gold-colored key with a red ribbon tied to it (given to his mother by her grandmother) actually fits the keyhole of his cupboard. He then locks the Indian in the cupboard.

The next morning, he hears a small tapping noise coming from the cupboard. Omri opens the cupboard and finds that the Indian has magically come to life. Frightened by his large acquaintance, the Indian pulls out a dagger and points it at Omri. Shortly afterward, Omri's father comes into the room, forcing Omri to lock the cupboard and keep the Indian a secret.

When Omri arrives home from school, he is upset to discover that the Indian has returned to its original toy form. When he goes to bed, Omri once more hears the tapping noise that he heard that morning. He opens the cupboard to find that the Indian alive once more. Though the Indian is still fearful of Omri due to his height, he eventually reveals himself as an English-speaking, 18th-century Iroquois Indian 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 takes Little Bear outside, he gets hurt by a pigeon, forcing Omri to bring to life his brother's WWI British Army medic named Tommy Atkins to treat the wound.

After Omri gives Little Bear tools, sticks and some paper, Little Bear crafts a longhouse and eagerly talks of hunting and sharing stories with Omri over a fire, as he does with his own people. Omri decides to surprise Little Bear with another Indian figure (resembling a Mohawk chieftain), saying Little Bear can have the chieftain's longbow. Little Bear watches in excitement as Omri brings the figure to life. However, the chieftain suffers a heart attack out of fear after looking at Omri. Omri is shocked by this, which puzzles Little Bear. Confused as to why a spirit would be frightened at the sight of death, he soon comes to the realization that Omri really is a child. Little Bear tells Omri to send the man back. Upset, Omri locks the dead chieftain in the cupboard, making him plastic once more.

Eventually, Omri reveals his secret to Patrick, who immediately wants to bring to life a toy of his own. Ignoring Omri's protests, Patrick brings to life 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 reluctantly accepts Patrick's request to bring them to school. Their cover is nearly blown when Patrick almost shows Boone and Little Bear (now friends) to some classmates.

Back home, Omri shows a female Indian figure to Little Bear, which he intends to bring to life to give Little Bear a new wife. Just as he is about to lock the figure in the cupboard, he and Patrick (who is spending the night) are puzzled to find the cupboard is missing. Omri's brother confesses he hid the cupboard in the downstairs crawlspace as means of getting back at Omri for hiding the ball his brother keeps his pet rat in. When Omri retrieves the cupboard, he discovers that the key is gone.

That night, Omri and Patrick, along with Little Bear and Boone, watch a program on TV that shows a relentless slaughter of Indians by cowboys. Boone is enthusiastic at the sight of his "boys" killing the helpless Indians, 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 fires an arrow into Boone's chest. Making matters worse, Omri's mother warns that Omri's brother's pet rat has escaped and is hidden somewhere under the wooden floors.

Later that night, Omri and Patrick find the key jammed between two floor boards and accidentally push it down out of sight while trying to retrieve it. Little Bear goes under the floor and manages to return the key to Omri just before he is nearly killed by the pet rat. With the key back, Omri brings Tommy Atkins back to life, so he can treat Boone's wounds. While the still unconscious cowboy is being examined, Omri realizes it is time to return Little Bear and Boone to their respective time periods where they belong. Shortly after Omri sends Tommy Atkins back to his own time, Boone awakens and forgives Little Bear. Later that night, as Patrick sleeps, Omri goes to bring the female Indian 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 Indian woman probably has people of her own, maybe even her own family, and forcing her to be with Little Bear would sadden her and, in turn, sadden him. Omri agrees not to bring her to life.

The next morning, Omri and Patrick say their goodbyes to their little friends 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 when he returns to his own time, he will take Omri on as his nephew. The film ends with Omri at school reading a journal entry where he assures everyone that although he will never know where or how Little Bear may be, he does not worry about him anymore.



Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 73% based on reviews from 22 critics. 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."[6]

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


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.[7] Tanner's death led to a change in motion picture safety rules on IATSE union film sets to prevent similar accidents.

Box officeEdit

The movie debuted at number six at the North American box office.[8] 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.[9] As a result, plans to adapt the next four books in the series into films were dropped.

See alsoEdit


  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. ^ The Indian in the Cupboard (1995) - Full cast and crew
  6. ^ "The Indian in the Cupboard". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster.
  7. ^ "Movie Technician Plunges to His Death on Stage". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 12, 2020.
  8. ^ "Weekend Box Office : 'Under Siege' Opens in No. 2 Spot". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 13, 2011.
  9. ^ The Indian in the Cupboard (1995) - Box office / business

External linksEdit