nostalgia necessities: THE SECRET OF NIMH (1982)
First thing’s first — how many kids grew up with the Don Bluth semi-dark, semi-sweet classic The Secret of NIMH on constant rotation? Assuming not many hands are being raised at this point, let me be the first to tell you that it’s one of the best animated films I’ve ever seen, and it certainly didn’t get its due (perhaps overshadowed by the biggest family movie of all time being released the same year). Thanks to a complex and adult story-line from the novel by Robert C. O’Brien and the family-movie flavor of talking and personified animal, the result is a great mixture. And let’s be honest, we all miss 2D, hand-drawn animation, and this one is a beautiful-looking one to revisit.
Following the adventures of Mrs. Brisby, the widowed mother field mouse of four, our heroine has little time to find a way to move her ailing, bed-ridden son from the path of the farmer’s plow. But thanks to her late husband’s mysterious connections with an organization called NIMH, the “assistance” of a bumbling crow named Jeremy (voiced with typical tenacity by Dom DeLuise), the wise old rat Nicodemus, and her own adventurous ways, she goes on a quest to have her tiny house moved from the potential destruction. Just like it sounds, the movie is exciting, endearing, and a rousing ode to the courage of a mother’s heart and the strength she calls on to rescue her loved ones.
Now, I am a firm believer in the notion that Don Bluth is responsible for some of the best and most lasting non-Disney animated efforts out there. Dream Works Animation can try to claim that position, but thanks to Secret of NIMH and other efforts (namely, The Land Before Time, the American Tail movies, and Anastasia), Bluth’s got the market cornered on endearing, yet riveting, family adventure films. It’s truly a pity that 2000’s flop Titan A.E. basically ended his career. So take this opportunity, whether you are familiar with the film or not, to either experience or revisit The Secret of NIMH. It has all the elements of a great live-action blockbuster in a gorgeous, intelligent, hand-drawn package.
Memorable Moment: Reactions may differ from person to person, but the at-last reveal of Nicodemus is dramatic and effective. (Though, it apparently scared some of my peers as children.) One thing can basically be at a consensus, though: the owl was and is still terrifying every time you watch it.