When country field mouse Mrs. Brisby (Elizabeth Hartman) visits Mr. Ages (Arthur Malet), he diagnoses her son Timothy (Ian Fried) with pneumonia and prescribes three weeks of bed rest to recover. Unfortunately, the final frost has passed and any day Farmer Fitzgibbons’ plow will be hurtling towards her home. Her urgent need to move forces her to seek counsel with the Great Owl (John Carradine). He advises her to seek Nicodemus (Derek Jacobi) and the rats of NIMH who live beneath the rose bush so that they may devise a solution.
You know, Mrs. Brisby is a widow with four kids (one of whom is sick) and she’s trying to move. She could claim head of household with four dependents and take deductions for medical expenses and moving. Not sure if she’d have to pay estate taxes on The Stone she receives from Nicodemus though. Probably not because one, mice don’t pay taxes and two, such adult concerns have no place in kids movies.
The Secret of NIMH is G-rated, but it deals with some heavy adult situations. Mrs. Brisby still mourns the loss of her husband and worries she may lose her son to disease. Rats, mice, rabbits and birds alike fear for their lives from the threat of the Fitzgibbons’ cat, Dragon. Mrs. Brisby and the rats fret over moving before their homes are destroyed by the Fitzgibbons’ plow or NIMH. Jenner (Paul Shenar), an opponent to the rats’ big move, plots to murder Nicodemus and wrest control of their pack. The inclusion of the clumsy crow, Jeremy (Dom DeLuise), must provide enough comic relief to lighten the mood.
An adaptation of the 1971 children’s book, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, The Secret of NIMH is the directorial debut of animator Don Bluth (no relation to George Bluth, Sr.). I know nothing about the technical side of animation, but I know what I like, and I still love The Secret of NIMH. According to my research, Bluth and some other animators left Walt Disney to create their own studio. Don Bluth Productions would strive to create projects using more traditional animation methods. Though more time consuming, the result is a richer, more satisfying storytelling experience, one audiences will definitely notice in The Secret of NIMH.
Totally random side note: The Secret of NIMH is the film debut for Shannen Doherty and Wil Wheaton, who provide the voices for Mrs. Brisby’s oldest kids Teresa and Martin, respectively. Thirty years later the adventures of the courageous Mrs. Brisby are still great to watch from both a story and animation standpoint. Just keep in mind that if you decide to watch it with your little one, you may have some explaining to do.