I have a big soft spot in my heart for The Secret of NIMH. As a kid I thought it was pretty kick-ass for a cartoon, and as I grew up I began to admire it more for the incredible handmade artistry. In terms of dramatic storytelling, NIMH delivers the goods as well as any live-action fantasy. The story is based on Robert C. O’Brien’s Newbery Award winning book about a timid field mouse named Mrs Frisby (voiced by Elizabeth Hartman, and renamed Mrs Brisby for the film version) and her desperate plight to save the life of her youngest child.
Director Don Bluth (An American Tail, The Land Before Time), a Disney defector who started his own studio in his garage, does an incredible job staging action and creating characters worth caring about. One scene in particular, where Mrs Brisby must stop the farmer’s plow from destroying her home, is one of the most tense and exciting action sequences I’ve ever seen in an animated movie. And the film is full of other memorable highlights, including a spooky encounter with the Great Owl (voiced by John Carradine), a deadly knife fight between two ideologically opposed rats, and the tragic back story of how the mysterious Rats of NIMH came to be.
The only thing that bothers me is how a certain magical amulet is used to contrive a happy ending, but it’s so beautifully executed, I can easily let it slide. The Secret of NIMH is a gorgeous film full of impressionistic backgrounds and vibrant colors, all of which is sent soaring by a spectacular score from Jerry Goldsmith. It’s one of my favorite animated films of all time, right up there with Bambi and The Iron Giant.
Scott studied film and sociology at Indiana University and is currently the video producer for a large publishing company. He is the director of several independent films, including "House of Hope," "Off the Beaten Path," "The Day Joe Left," and "Found." For more about Scott, visit www.scottschirmer.com. Scott is also one of the principal organizers of the Dark Carnival Film Festival. (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com)