Horrorible Review: “The Secret of NIMH”

Poster of the movie The Secret of NIMH

The Secret of NIMH

After loaning this film to a neighbor recently it occurred to me I hadn’t watched it in well over a decade. I had forgotten how much I liked it until we watched it again. The Secret of NIMH is a mystical science fiction animated movie done in an old fashioned hand painted Disney style. Though they look nothing alike, I’ve always thought it a cousin to Wizards in its unconventional storytelling.

Created by Don Bluth and a few other escaped Disney animators, it’s a simple tale of heroism and love of family. Bluth, et.al., were unhappy with the increasingly cheapened product Disney was turning out in the 1970s and purposefully crafted a movie that is beautiful in the old fashioned, lavish style they had come up in. I think the music was supposed to be great as well, but there they failed miserably. This is the last of the sumptuous animation films with big color, soft edges and sweeping imagery. It was around this time that Pixar began their compute generated revolution, and Disney took up Bluth’s challenge and made a slightly larger effort to make good movies. So in the end the little guy lost, but at least we still have this movie in the can.

Mrs. Brisby a field mouse forced to brave the world to go in search of medicine for her very sick son, and discovers she can’t move him for a while. Their home is a cement block in the farmer’s field, and if they want to escape the impending Moving Day (first plowing of the season), the house must be moved since Timmy can’t be. The only help she can get is from the rats who live under the rose bush at the farmer’s house. The rats escaped from NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health), and are stealing power from the farmer’s house and debating the merits of self-sufficiency. NIMH made them smart, and now NIMH is closing in on them. Now there are two dangerous deadlines closing in on all the characters, which is about one and a half more deadlines than your typical Disney story.

Beyond the great and sometimes innovative look of the film, the voice work alone should be considered classic. The Great Owl, voiced by an aged (and supposedly drunk) John Carradine, is grave and deep and perfectly suited to be the feared voice of reason. My favorite voice character is that of Hermione Baddeley, who is the incredibly theatrical and screechy older matron Auntie Shrew. I’ve known a couple of women who actually talk and act like that and it makes me nostalgic every time. The hilarious Dom DeLouise is Jeremy the Crow, ad libbing perfectly, and Peter Strauss embodies the essence of the 1950s Heroic Man in Justin the Rat. Even the voice of Martin, one of Mrs. Brisby’s sons is interesting, mostly because it’s Wil Weaton, who was Wesley Crusher on Star Trek, Chaos on Leverage, and himself on The Big Bang Theory.

The biggest and most obvious difference from Disney in this film is that it’s the dad who is dead. Brisby is the widow of the renown Jonathan, hero to the rats, so it’s mom who bravely ventures into danger, saves the day through diplomacy, saves herself with resourcefulness, and raises children able to do their own laundry. The shrill Auntie Shrew might faint on a couch from being sassed by a child, but she’ll also throw herself into danger to save the creatures of the field on Moving Day. The rats are all male. 

Though it may be difficult to find this movie it’s well worth the effort, especially if you want to show a wholesome female hero to some children, though it’s a little scary sometimes with the action and the scary Great Owl. The Secret of NIMH is a classic film and I very much recommend it.


The Secret of NIMH (1982) Official Trailer – Dom DeLuise, Derek Jacobi Movie HD

The Secret of Nimh (Uh yeah, it looks like this is the entire movie! – CFR)

CFR: In Addition: Oh goodness! Yeah, it looks like you can watch the whole movie on YouTube. Cool and ENJOY!

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