Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Film #54: The Secret of NIMH

Former Disney animator Don Bluth was so fed up with how the pre-Little Mermaid animation department was going that he broke away and formed his own animation studio, with The Secret of NIMH being their first offering. At a time when Disney animation seemed dead--the early 80s--Bluth's first solo effort was an extremely welcome pleasure that trumpeted a new force in the animation field.

But, while Bluth went on to bigger box-office success with The Land Before Time, his subsequent films largely failed to match the appeal of this wonderful adaptation of Mrs. Brisby and the Rats of NIMH, Robert C. O'Brien's children's novel about a band of ultra-intelligent rodents scrambling to relocate before a farmer plows over their turf. Elizabeth Hartman (A Patch of Blue, The Beguiled) provides the voice of Mrs. Brisby, a desperate mother mouse trying to locate an antedote to cure her dying son, and Dom Deluise does stand-out work as the voice of Jeremy, the clumsy black crow who comes to the family's aid. Peter Strauss and Derek Jacobi provide the voices of two opposing elder statesmen in the rat council, John Carridine assays the role of a wise old owl, and two notable child actors--Shannon Dougherty and Wil Wheaton--play Mrs. Brisby's older children. One very refreshing aspect of this movie: no clunky songs to get in the way. But the Jerry Goldsmith score is still very nice. Gather the kids and check it out.

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