Welcome to The AniMAYtion Challenge, where Ashe and Branden review one animated film every weekend throughout the month of May. Each film was chosen in draft style, with Ashe recieving the first pick of round one. Today, Ashe Collins selects The Secret of NIMH from 1982.
When I was a kid, we had a lot of VHS tapes and basic cable, so we taped a lot of shows off cable to watch later. The Secret of NIMH, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and Amadeus used to all reside on the same VHS tape. I had an interesting childhood as I regularly watch all three. This was one of those go-to films for me and my sister. It was one we could both agree to watch and loved the hell out of it. We even had a cat that was clumsy as hell that we named after the crow in the film. While it doesn’t hold quite the same magic for me as it did as a kid growing up, The Secret of NIMH is still a great film and one of my favorites from Don Bluth.
The film is an adaptation from the novel Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, which I will have to admit to having never read. They changed the name of Mrs. Frisby to Mrs. Brisby, but other than that, I don’t know what else was changed. Mrs. Brisby is a mouse living in a farmer’s field, having turned an old cement block into her home for the winter. She’s a widow and never really knew what happened to her husband, but her youngest son has become deathly ill and she goes to another mouse, Mr. Ages, to get a cure. On the way home she meets a rather exuberant and clumsy black bird named Jeremy who ends up helping her as much as he’s hindering her in getting the medicine home before being devoured by the farmer’s cat, Dragon.
Timothy can’t be moved, which is a real problem as moving day is at hand as the farmer is going to start plowing the field where they live, and her home is right in the way of the plow. She heroically disables the tractor, but is at a loss until she goes to see the Great Owl, who recommends she visit the rats living in the rose bush near the farmer’s house. He believes that they can help her move her home and keep her son safe. The rats are harboring a secret that humanity would like covered up, and only a few of the rats are willing to work with her.
While this is set in more modern times, it blends some science fiction as well as a heavy dose of fantasy into the mix to really give people watching it a sense of wonder about everything going on. It’s a great blend and nothing feels out of place. The characters are deep and wonderful despite some of them not getting much development, and you’re definitely rooting for Mrs. Brisby all the way through.
While I don’t recognize everyone who voices characters in this, there is no mistaking Dom De Luise as the clumsy black bird, and Peter Strauss from Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone. He plays Justin, the Captain of the Guard for the rats in NIMH. The rest of the voice cast is pretty good as well, but those were the standouts for me. Jerry Goldsmith does the music for the film and it really reminds me of his Star Trek scores in a lot of places throughout, which isn’t a bad thing at all.
This is a Don Bluth film so it oozes his design style and look, which is very much like Disney of that era, and in the same way, not at all. There are a lot of great moments in the film, and even when it’s a bit slower there’s a sense of wonder about what we’re seeing on screen.
I actually only own this on DVD, and even then it’s the full screen version, which, watching now, has me thinking I need to track down a Blu-ray and widescreen copy. The Secret of NIMH was a staple from my childhood, and it’s one of those films that hasn’t really tarnished with age like some of the other TV shows I watched as a kid. Very easy to recommend, there’s something here for young and old alike, but this is definitely geared more for the young at heart.
Born the same year as Star Wars, it seems Ashe was destined to be into films with big impacts, explosions, and laser swords. With a love for sci-fi and horror, Ashe has a thing for games of both the tabletop and video variety. He is living a charmed, married life of sixteen years, along with several cats, a dog, and a bearded dragon. Ashe currently writes for Diehard Gamefan, covering video and tabletop games since 2008. Starting with Cinefessions just a few years ago, he has decided to tackle one of his original passions: film.