The Secret of NIMH (1982) Poster

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Don Bluth's Best work!
ZeroByte30 December 1998
Anybody who doesn't like this movie just doesn't love animation. How can a proclaimed fan of feature animation not be dazzled by the extravagance of Don Bluth's work seen in NIMH? Here is a perfect example of what happens when artists are given free reign to just create whatever their vivid imaginations may produce. To me, the greatest triumph of this movie is the art itself. Its greatest flaw is that it was cheapened by a sequel! Why in the name of HUMANITY was a sequel made? A masterpiece of this magnitude should not be so insulted as to be milked for every dollar that the bean counters say it can!

But I digress...

Bluth's use of highly stylized art to influence your emotions is rarely seen in others' work. The whole point of animation is that you are not limited by the bounds of reality, so thorns and cobwebs can be just that much more twisty and foreboding. Owls' eyes can glow- not because they do, but because it just plain looks cooler. The bright and sunny entrance to the rats' lair can suddenly fade to a background of blood red as Mrs. Brisby runs in terror from Brutus' electrified blade. What plot holes does using a lit electric lamp as a diving bell produce? Who cares? The concept just looks awesome on screen! The effects animation is spectacular in this movie as well. The glow of Nicodemus' eyes, the sparkling of the fairy dust ink and the flaming letters of the movie title screen are great, and the radiance emitting from Mrs. Brisby as the sheer strength of her character lifts her home from the mud is fantastic.

If the story were no more than a shabby framework to lace all of this cool art together, it would be good enough, but there's a lot going for it as well. It's not a complicated story, but its message of love, devotion, and courage shown in the meekest of people (mice?) is enough to inspire anyone! Mrs. Brisby's simple wish for the safety of her family drives her to the greatest of courage, despite her apparant simplicity and weakness. She stands as a model for all of us to aspire to.

Animation should never be considered something just for kids. It should not require the characters to burst into song at regular intervals, or the story to be sappy and condescending. NIMH does none of this. It is truly a movie for movie-lovers of all ages. Disney, take a hint!!! Don Bluth, keep making movies like this, and your field will reach an entirely new level of acceptance among older viewers in America.
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Perhaps the greatest postwar animated film
Lupercali13 August 2004
The short version: 'The Secret of NIMH' isn't just a masterpiece: it's the best classically animated film since the early 40's. It's up there with 'Bambi', which is to say, this is about as good as it gets.

I remember walking down the street when I was about 19, and seeing the poster for 'The Secret of NIMH' up in a theatre, and immediately thinking "This film is going to blow my mind." A week later, I was sitting in an empty theatre, watching the last credits rolling down the screen after everybody else had left, and the house lights were up, thinking "yep."

A bit of history is probably in order for a film of this importance. Flashback to about 1980. Disney animator Don Bluth walks out, halfway through production on 'The Fox and the Hound', taking several other key animators with him, and declaring that he was going to recapture the spirit of classical animation, which Disney had forgotten about.

Nearly three years later, NIMH debuts. Critically it is well received, but lack of distribution and advertising means it's swamped by such an historical non-entity as Disney's 'Tron'. Accepting an animation award for best film, Bluth remarked "Thanks. We didn't think anyone had noticed."

NIMH is a glorious achievement. It puts to shame anything which Disney had done for a quarter century, and singlehandedly did exactly what Bluth set out to do. It revived the spirit of classical animation, and at the same time it proved that there was room on the block for another player than Disney - not an unimportant fact when you consider that at the time there was no Dreamworks or Pixar, and no feature animation section in Universal or MGM.

As to the film itself: from the first moment you are treated to a gloriously rich, sumptuous, seamless animation and background art, the likes of which hadn't been seen since Disney's war years. Particularly stunning is the movie's use of colour to enhance moods. The dark blues and blacks of the stunning 'lantern elevator' descent into the rats' city, and the tractor scene - the background starts out in subdued tones and ends up flaming red as the action peaks. One reviewer at the time wrote "I felt as if I was watching the invention of color, as if I was being drawn into the depths of the screen."

The characters are beautifully conceived and drawn, and the voice characterisations are spot-on (including the animation debut of Dom de Luise as Jeremy). And, significantly, there is only one song, and it's not sung by a character (significantly, 'Balto', one of the few animated films since which can hold a candle to NIMH, followed the same principal). Jerry Goldsmith's score supplies the emotional power for the rest of the soundtrack.

Even more importantly though, the film is incredibly emotionally potent, and not in a sentimental, kiddy way. It has genuine choke-you-up power which will appeal to adults.

Bluth ditched the double storyline of the book, relegating Jonathan Brisby's more substantial role in the novel to a short piece of background information revealed in an explanatory flashback. Personally I think this was the right decision. To do otherwise would have been to take the spotlight off Mrs Brisby, and probably diminish the film's coherence and power.

So, Don Bluth achieved his goal: his debut feature film was the greatest animated achievement in 40 years. Sadly, it was also his only masterpiece. He peaked on his first outing, and afterwards declined into mediocrity, while Disney picked itself up and overtook him. In fact, ironically, there were signs of this in 'The Fox and the Hound', which despite being plagued by Bluth's departure amongst other catastrophes, turned out to be Disney's best movie since the 60's, even if it would still be the better part of another decade before they started hitting their marks consistently.

Today NIMH enjoys the sort of cult following it deserves. It's just a damn shame that its greatness isn't more widely acknowledged, and an almost equally great shame that a generation later it was cursed with one of the most insulting, wretched sequels in cinematic history.

It's an important film, and it's a great film. In the two decades since it was released, only a small handful of animated films have approached its stature.
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Magical, Fantastic, a real delight
Curtis Mitchell10 March 2005
The Secret of NIMH after twenty three years is still an absolutely fantastic film. I hold it in such high regard as the even more obscure Gay Pur-ee (with the voice talent of Judy Garland, also wonderful) and Disney's Robin Hood.

Criticisms can be made of the film. For one, "faithful" isn't exactly an adjective that can be used when describing it's relation to the source material: "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH" by Robert O'Brien. However, the novel was a Newberry Award winner and it deserved an excellent film which is what it received.

The book itself had two separate story lines, one focusing on Mrs. Frisby and her plight, and the other a lengthy backstory involving the rats of NIMH. For the animated feature, Don Bluth and his team chose to focus on Mrs. Frisby's plight and for this I am grateful.

In Mrs. Brisby we have a totally unique and a truly delightful heroine. She isn't some young boy getting ready to go on a fantastic adventure or some sort of great, brave hero. She's just a mother, a mother whose first concern is her family. And she makes a fantastic hero, showing that courage isn't just involved in facing down fierce monsters (though when she has to do that she finds the courage). She never stops pushing herself and though she might be a very small mouse, she has a very big heart.

As a kid I walked away thinking how cool Justin was, but now that I'm older I have complete respect for Mrs. Brisby. It's an excellent film both for children and adults alike.

And how about Derek Jacobi as Nicodemus? Dom deLuise as Jeremy? Not to mention Elizabeth Hartman, whose short career was never-the-less magnificent. Thank god for film that we might have her talents available to us for all time!
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Dark, mystical story is for adults, but endured by children.
Banshee5718 April 2005
When I first saw this film, years ago, I was very afraid of many aspects it contained, yet I was also in love with it. As a cartoon, it captures the very familiar values that we have seen in such praised Disney films such as The Sword in the Stone". This one is much darker though, and because so, it also brings forth, a much scarier element that Disney will never have! Being based completely on archetypical formation, the "Secret Of NIMH" is based on the famed children's book "Mrs. Brisby and the rats of NIMH". As the book is very darling, and for children of all ages, the film is put together in a more mature, adult style, with intense moments. Later on in life, I realize that children watching this film is an amazing happening, if I knew then, what I know now about the film, I would have been completely overtaken by the film. Some things are better left unknown in childhood. Most kids today will not appreciate this film, for all the glory in which it was made. There were two direct-to-video sequels. Two. This is unacceptable for a movie of this type. The two latter films were made with light, fluffy, musical touches that did NOT capture anything this film did. The two latter films had NO business being made! The generation I grew up in was able to take this wondrous intensity we were given, today, things are much different, and movies like this one are hardly seen. The "toy story" genre has taken over, and most films that would, otherwise be like this one are laughably awful, without any real heart. Don Bluth was expressing his strong imagination for this one, most "pixar" company films are just money, and offer nothing for anyone except babies in cribs! This movie is a cartoon, a pure adventure, and a treasure full of heart! Don Bluth is a wonderful filmmaker!
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Early great Bluth film
twinreverb24 November 2006
This film has more soul than most animated films. The film music is excellent, and honestly is the shining jewel of the movie. The art work is excellent for the time period: and no computers used! The backgrounds have excellent detail: they could honestly be used as great works of art on their own merit. The voices are excellent and very fitting for the characters. The story line is very well done: while not lacking in action at any time, it's also not like most modern films that are constantly "in your face" with fast-moving activity. The facial expressions are outstanding! Too bad Don Bluth didn't do more films! The mud in certain scenes was very well done. The story has great struggle and good-versus-evil appeal to it. The music is actually great for an animated film: no catchy or cheeky pop music at all, but the music score seems to always be doing something. Many times it does such a good job at painting the mental picture of certain scenes that if you were to listen to the score by itself after seeing the movie, you could trace the story line by heart. Even the musical prototype for the main theme, "Flying Dreams" (or whatever) was done so well that it makes one wonder who wrote and performed the original demo (first song of the credits). Excellent movie in all aspects, even if it seems "old school" to some :)
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Go rent NIMH. You won't be disappointed.
thousandisland4 June 2000
The Secret of NIMH is powerful, dramatic and has great originality. The animation is excellent and stylish, and complements the mystical storyline.

The plot is complex and beyond your average toddler. This is a film for older kids and adults, anyone who enjoys a unique film experience and is looking for deviation from the expected norms of an animated film.

Truly ahead of its time, NIMH is a must - It's become a classic and is not at all childish, as one might predict for animation. There are no musical numbers, just an exciting, vibrant score that follows the action perfectly. Clear your brain of prejudgments and animation stereotypes, and then go rent The Secret of NIMH. It is an ultimately rewarding film.
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Complicated story for kids, but extremely well-done animated tale...
dwpollar13 May 2001
1st watched 5/13/2001 - 8 out of 10 (Dir-Don Bluth): Complicated story for kids, but extremely well-done animated tale of a group of rats who are experimented on by NIMH(National Instiute for Mental Health) and become smart. They escape and live in an underground existence stealing electricity from a farmer. The plan is to generate their own electricity and be able to move to a safer locale, but we don't exactly know how this is going to happen. Dom Deluise has a humorous role as a clumsy love-lorned crow to keep the seriousness of the story at bay. This movie is excellent from beginning to end and deserved more recognition than it got(probably because it's not Disney), but launched a series of Bluth animated movies to give animated movie fans an alternative to Disney.
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Bones72922 November 2002
I voted a 10 on this movie mostly for its hauntingly breath-taking original musical by Jerry Goldsmith. Surely this film's score has to be some of his very best work.

The awe-inspiring wisdoms of Nicodemus and The Great Owl, the comic reliefs of Mr. Ages, Jeremy and Auntie Shrew, the fascinating struggle between good and evil (Justin and Jenner), and of course the unmatchable greatness of the Brisby family name make this film one of the best animated movies ever.

The movie's ending climax is powerful and gorgeous. You are left utterly stunned. Mrs. Brisby proves once again that she is just as brave and capable as her husband, if not more so, by never giving up hope and eventually succeeding in keeping her family safe.
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beautiful animation within a beautiful story
PeachHamBeach30 August 1999
I turned on Nickelodeon the other day and was disgusted with "Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue". Among the many things was the pee-poor animation. So it's not even worth mentioning.

The original "The Secret of NIMH" remains to this day, my favorite animated feature. Animation-wise, it outshines even Disney's finest features of old: Bambi and Snow White; and of new: Mulan and Beauty and the Beast, all of which are favorites of mine. If the story of Mrs. Brisby, a widowed fieldmouse with four children to rear alone and the heroism she displays throughout the movie isn't enough to touch certain people, they should watch it if only to marvel at the miraculous use of color and dexterity. My favorite scene is when the farm cat is chasing Mrs. Brisby and they end up falling into the water beneath a windmill. But the whole movie has a kind of visual "theme" of glowing, sparkling mysticism, which fits into the storyline of power, beauty, courage, the abuse of power, and good and evil. It was rated G, but I feel that because of the amount of violence and animated bloodshed, and because of a very frightening scene involving a sinkhole, it should have been rated PG. That means it's not a kiddie kind of cartoon!!!
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Decent animated film, with a heavy-going plot but good features along the way.
Jonathon Dabell27 July 2004
In the early '80s a group of Disney animators, headed by Don Bluth, decided to break away from the Disney studio. The Secret of NIMH was the first film they made. Based on a semi-classic children's book entitled "Mrs. Frisby And The Rats Of NIMH" by Robert C. O'Brien, the film emerges as a decent little animated feature. The story is a bit on the sombre side - probably a bit too serious and complex for really young viewers - but the animation is of a superb quality and the characters are very nicely voiced.

Field mouse Mrs Brisby needs to move her family from their home in a farmer's field, as it is almost time for the farmer to gather his crop with the combine harvester. Inevitably the Brisby home would be destroyed and anyone in it killed during the gathering of the crop. Unfortunately, one of her children, Timmy, is suffering from pneumonia and couldn't possible survive the move. Mrs Brisby is advised to contact the rats of NIMH, a group of hyper-intelligent rodents, to ask for their help. Apparently, her late husband Jonathan was a close friend of the rats and they held him in such high regard that they will do anything to help a member of the Brisby clan.

The story is told mainly through talk, with occasional bursts of action. As already pointed out, this means the film doesn't really lend itself to a very young audience. But older kids, especially those who are willing to listen with the appropriate degree of attention, will find the story interesting. There are other plus points - Jerry Goldsmith's rousing score; Dom DeLuise's amusing vocals as an accident-prone bird; and some very well-conceived "baddies" in the shape of rat conspirator Jenner and savage farm-cat Dragon. The Secret of NIMH is a moderately successful film - no masterpiece, true enough, and not really a serious challenger to the Disney dominance over the genre, but definitely a film that every child should see at least once.
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A beautiful throwback to animation's golden age
MissSimonetta7 September 2013
The Secret of NIMH (1982) is an 80s animated film with the sensibility of an early Disney feature. Produced during the darkest age of animation to date where selling toys was a greater priority than artistry or storytelling, NIMH was a rebel with its beauty and darkness.

Never once does it pander to children by painting the world as a rosy place. Like Disney's first features, it evokes terror just as often as it does wonder. Mrs. Brisby might just be the greatest female character in all of American animation. She is no crooning ingénue nor a hard-nosed warrior, but a mother who's willing to face the worst dangers imaginable to save the life of her child. Her struggle is truly powerful.

The animation and music also deserve praise. It's hard to tell that this was a low budget project, so fluid is the animation. Jerry Goldsmith's score is a perfect match for the dark yet hopeful tone of the film.

I'm not the biggest fan of much of Don Bluth's later work, but this movie never fails to astound me. It's his magnum opus most certainly. In many ways, this is a precursor to the animation renaissance that would flourish from the late 80s and into the 90s. It deserves more attention than it has been given, that's for sure.
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Don Bluth's Masterpiece!
TheLittleSongbird22 May 2009
I will confess I saw this for the first time today on YouTube, and I loved it. I always said that Anastasia and American Tail were the best of Bluth's movies, but I now think that this beats them both.The story is very dark and mysterious but magical all the same. The animation is just stunning, with beautiful backgrounds and excellent character animation. Brutus is a little frightening though, or his animation is, so is the scene with the great owl, which is inredibly haunting. The music by the wonderful late Jerry Goldsmith is phenomenal, very reminiscent of his score for the Eurpean version for Legend (the Ridley Scott film). The song I think it's called Flying Dreams is heart-rending, and just shows the talent the man had, and I am grateful that there weren't too many songs to interrupt the flow. The characters are very well done, the brave yet timid Mrs Brisby, the dashing Justin, the villainous Jenner, the wise Nicodemus and the wise-cracking Jeremy. Nicodemus and Jeremy are very impressive, voiced wonderfully by Derek Jacobi and Dom Deluise, and Jenner while not as sinister and frightening a villain as Hexxus, Chernabog or the Horned King, he is still very convincing. Oh, and the scenes with Mrs Brisby's children and Auntie Shrew brought some fun into a dark story, and didn't interfere too much, and Elizabeth Hartmann gives a sorrowful and poignant portrayal as Mrs Brisby. I haven't read the book in its entirety, but I do remember my year 6 primary school teacher reading the chapter when Mrs Brisby(or Frisby in the book) meets Brutus for the first time. All in all, a beautiful film, and I am sorry it has taken me so long to see it. I advice you to avoid the sequel though, it's awful. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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A dark, superbly animated film
FrankBooth_DeLarge11 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The Secret of NIMH is a movie that I saw once when I was a younger kid and I loved it. The animation is the older style that you tended to see during the late '70's and early '80's. The characters are really interesting, and some are funny. The story is rather dark and some kids may find it to be a bit scary, but for those of you who have seen some of Don Bluth's other movies, you'll probably get the hint that his movies are darker. There are a few characters that are rather menacing looking and may frighten kids who are younger than 4, and there is a scene that is kind of nasty where you see rats in a lab being injected with chemicals and being tortured.

This movie is one that your kids will probably enjoy. Even though the newer box cover makes this movie look like a movie for very young kids, I'm sure that kids who are 10 will also enjoy this movie. This was released during the era where kids movies were good, unlike some of the movies that are made for kids today.

This is rated G, but I think it used to be rated PG because of the darkness. You should watch this at all costs. Even if you are a teen and the last time you watched this was as a young child, this movie would probably bring back some memories. Just like Bluth's other classic All Dogs Go TO Heaven, this will live on forever in my memory.
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Little more then nice...
regnarghost10 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
OK, positive things first. The film has nice and alluring look. The protagonist being not only female, but also a mother, is feels really fresh. Mrs Brisby is instantly likable, and her quest to help her child becomes engrossing really quickly . The obligatory oddball character the Crow is also very likable, maybe somewhat annoying to, but mostly likable. 20 minutes into this film i was still certain that i was watching a stellar Disney film. Unfurtunately i was disappointed. Things does not exactly turn sour, but there are a number of problems that brings the experience down. Halfway through we are introduced to the rats society and its politics, everything here moves at breakneck speed, and its quite hard to care for the everything that happens. Its revelation on revelation before we even have grown accustomed to the surroundings and have any bigger reason to care for the different characters like ex Nicodemus. Its betrayal, sudden information about her dead husband, the weird part that explains how the rats became intelligent, and then the utterly awkward introduction of magic. I though all this elements were forced into drama in a very hamfisted way. Aspects like this needs to get introduced and foreshadowed a LOT more in order to work. As for the resolution its handled nice enough, and has some controversial (???) parts that are decidedly more dark then anything I've seen in Disney before. In short, this is a nice film, but little more.
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Don Bluth's first feature film and a fanciful film
NIMH is one of favorite Don Bluth films. I now admitted that Bluth is now one of my favorite animators along with Max Fleischer, Chuck Jones, Hayao Miyazaki and even from Disney David Hand director of Snow White and Bambi; Don was animator from Disney himself. I also would like to point out that this is the first feature film he made.

I think I remember reading the original book with my mom when I was a kid in Elementary School, but now I think it kind of slip off of my mind, I would have to read it again. My favorite scenes from the film are when Ms. Brisby meets Justin the rodent hottie. And when she used the stone's magic powers to move her house out of the mud, now that was AWESOME!
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A valiant attempt
revere-714 July 2009
Many people remember hearing about this film when they were kids. An animated movie - a feature length cartoon - and not made by Disney!

Well, I have to say, groundbreaking though it may have been at the time - launching the Don Bluth animation studios. It has some problems that keep it from holding up.

First the good - unlike Disney films, which are still stuck in the animated musical rut to this day, The Secret of NIMH does not lapse into cheesy and contrived song and dance numbers every 7 minutes or so. Second, as the name implies (for those who are familiar with the acronym N.I.M.H.) there is a science fiction element at work here - one that provides a credible backstory for a community of talking animals who use tools and even complex machinery - something that other animated tales seldom address.

On the downside, the annoying comic relief character (which always seems to be a bird in these films) is present, though thankfully, Dom DeLouise's portrayal isn't as over-the-top annoying as Disney films that cast more frenetic comics like Robin Williams or Eddie Murphy.

That however is minor in comparison to the films big flaw, the use of magic, which practically invalidates the science elements entirely. Not that a children's fantasy film can't have magic (most of the best ones do), or even a mixture of magic and technology, it's just that the two don't mix very well in this film.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the animals ultimately solve their problems not through their own ingenuity, but (in one of the worst deus ex machina moments in any film of this kind) by using hitherto unexplained magical powers, wrapping things up with a true groaner of an ending.

So, what we have is a modestly entertaining animated feature that was groundbreaking for it's time (especially in the use of special effects animation), and whose good points still outweigh it's bad ones, but which is ultimately outshined by many more recent efforts.
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A miraculously animated movie with memorable characters and a well-told story
Alex Popp22 July 2013
This 1982 hand-drawn film is based on a book titled "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH", which tells the story of a field mouse named Mrs. Frisby. Unfortunately, the people at the Wham-O company (the makers of the Frisbee) were reluctant to allow them to use the name in the movie, despite the difference in the spelling. So instead, the name was changed to Mrs. Brisby. This alteration was made late in production. So rather than having the voice actors say their lines again, the sound editors carefully sliced out the "fr" and replaced it with a "br" from other lines from each character. But it sounds as if no change had been made.

In the opening scene, we see these long-fingernailed, warted hands writing in a book. At first we think these are the hands of the villain, but he is actually Nicodemus, the wise leader of a group of super-intelligent rats who escaped from a science organization called NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health). He's writing about the death of Jonathan Brisby. There's dazzling animation on the magic that flows from the words he writes, effects that are unmistakably Bluth animation. Other animators would just settle for CGI.

The animation of the entire film is simply magnificent. Bluth experimented with rotoscoping, tracing over footage, frame by frame, plus some cool backlighting techniques. With a variety of more than 600 colors, the color scheme looks dark and genuine. And it has sort of an 80s feel to it that I really dig. What could also be a Bluth trademark is that in backgrounds, there's always something moving.

After the title appears, we meet the widow of Jonathan, Mrs. Brisby, who lives in a cinderblock with her family on the Fitzgibbons' farm. She's voiced by Elizabeth Hartman, who plays the character perfectly. Mrs. Brisby is searching for a grouchy, old mouse named Mr. Ages, who can give her a cure for her pneumonia-diagnosed son Timothy. Mr. Ages warns her that Timothy should stay inside for at least three weeks or he will die. As she heads home after receiving the medicine, she comes across a crow named Jeremy, voiced by the hilarious Dom DeLuise (may he rest in peace). Jeremy is a clumsy and whimsical feathered bloke who anxiously anticipates the day he finds true love. Mrs. Brisby befriends him after they escape the Fitzgibbons' cat, Dragon. I do not know why this cat roars.

The next day, Mrs. Brisby wakes up to find that Mr. Fitzgibbons has started spring plowing early. She knows that they can't move because the chill in the air would easily kill Timothy, but the tractor would destroy their house. With the help of Auntie Shrew, she manages to disable the tractor. Auntie Shrew suggests that she go before the Great Owl, a wise creature living in the nearby woods. Jeremy flies her to the Owl's tree, where she asks him for advice for a new plan. At first, he tells her to move Timothy anyway. But upon hearing that she is the wife of Jonathan Brisby, he tells her that the rats living in the rosebush in the Fitzgibbons' front yard can help her move her entire house. He tells her to ask for Nicodemus.

In the rosebush, Mrs. Brisby is surprised to find Mr. Ages there. When he hears that the Owl sent her to see Nicodemus, he introduces her to Justin, a kind and friendly rat who is the Captain of the Guards. The two of them show her the electricity and technology they and the other rats have obtained from the Fitzgibbons' house. They also tell her that they are ashamed of their theft, and are organizing a plan to move to a place called Thorn Valley to end it. But there's a power hungry rat named Jenner who opposes the plan.

Just from seeing Jenner, you can tell that he is the villain, his hideous identity complete with sharp teeth and his apparel consisting of a long cape. I think this a dumb cliché in animated movies. Why not wait for us to find out that he is a villain when he explains his evil plan? In "Beauty and the Beast", Gaston was a handsome, normal-looking guy, though granted, that was what made him a great opposition to the beast.

Anyway, Mrs. Brisby is taken to Nicodemus (or the rodent version of Moses maybe), who has her read the book he wrote in (Jonathan taught her how to read). As she reads, she finds out that her husband not only died, but was killed. You feel the emotion that she feels here as she almost starts to cry. Nicodemus then tells her the whole story, which we see in a flashback scene that has a curious sense of wonder. I think it best to leave it there and let you see it yourself. Now what surprised me is that there's a vicious sword duel toward the end of the film resembling the one in the 1938 "The Adventures of Robin Hood". A sword duel in this mostly calm, non-medieval movie felt a bit out of place. I also wonder how the rats got swords. Did they steal knives from Mr. Fitzgibbon's? If so, how could they get them to look like swords? Oh well.

Despite its flaws, "The Secret of NIMH" is a miraculously animated movie with memorable characters and a well-told story. It does avert from the book in parts, but the dark wonder is still present. Young audiences may not understand it all, but the movie respects them enough to not tone down its subject matter, which is the great thing about the 80s movies directed by Don Bluth. This is his second best film.

8/10 for "The Secret of NIMH".
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The Best of Bluth
CryptMistress23 December 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Don Bluth has always had his unique animation, in fact if you watch any of his past work at Disney then you can definitely tell when he had a hand in it. Perhaps that's what I love most about Mr. Bluth's films; he has his own unique style, his own way of drawing that is different from other animators. He's an individual, and I'm sure when he walked out of Disney, they weren't aware they had just lost one of their best animators.

Which brings me to The Secret Of Nimh. This animation gem was directed by Mr. Bluth and was released in 1982. It got pretty healthy numbers at the box-office, but as mentioned in my review for the film's sequel; it was bested by E.T: The Extra Terrestrial. I think what might have had actually scared audiences off was the darkness of this movie. At that time, audiences were likely use to kid-friendly films such as The Rescuers or the film that had been released only a year before NIMH, "The Fox and The Hound." (actually, that had some dark stuff but nowhere near as dark as NIMH)So, when something as dark and actually violent as NIMH was released, it probably didn't sit well with those use to the candy-canes and lollipops that Disney was offering.

The film itself is based off the Newbery winning children's book, "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH" by Robert C. O'Brien. The story is quite simple, about a widowed mouse named Mrs. Brisby (her name had to be changed due to a license law or something or other) who is raising her four children Martin, Theresa, Timmy, and Cynthia after the death of her husband, Jonathan. When Timmy is stricken with pneumonia, it becomes impossible to move him from the house because of the chilly air. Of course, the humans don't know of the Brisby family's woes when they decide to start up their plow and begin planting new crops. Desperate to protect Timmy and her other children from death, Mrs. Brisby seeks the help of some mysterious rats that reside in a rose bush. It turns out they may be helpful, because they are no ordinary rats. They have actually escaped from a mental hospital after being injected with an drug that makes them super-geniuses and slow to age. Along the way, Mrs. Brisby meets a wisecracking crow named Jeremy (voiced by Bluth veteran, Dom Deluise); and actually learns the sad truth behind her late husband's death.

What I love most about the film, aside from its level of maturity (which I will dwell on later), is the fact that Bluth took characters that were so minor from the novel and gave them more. The first (and most obvious for those who read the book) is the villain, Jenner. In the novel, Jenner was nothing more than a rat that wanted to stay at the rosebush instead of venturing away where there could be safety from NIMH. In fact, he dies pretty early on in the novel and you don't even meet him, you just read that he left the rosebush with a small group of the rats and was killed along the way. In the movie, however, Jenner is the villain. Yes, he still wants to stay in the rosebush, but the lengths that he is willing to go to is extreme to make sure that it happens. His lackey Sullivan (also a minor character in the novel) is actually not your typical villain sidekick. He is actually more of anti-hero and actually becomes one of the heroes at the end. There are more characters who have their roles expanded like The Shrew (Auntie Shrew in the film), Brutus (who is downright frightening in the film), Jeremy, and even Mrs. Brisby's kids. I just love how the choice was made to take such minor characters and actually expand them.

What I also love about the movie is the animation. If anybody has read my review for the sequel, you will know that I DID NOT LIKE THE ANIMATION!This is a very different story, however. Bluth still maintains his unique style while being able to cut the apron strings that Disney had tied around him. I mean, there is blood in this movie which is something you rarely see in a Disney film. I mean, Sleeping Beauty gets her finger pricked and there's not even a drop. Here, we get blood in two scenes. I also love the colors used for the film, because they reflect the film's atmosphere. Dark, but still enough to stay true to the vivid colors of the happier animated features.

Now about the darkness. I don't mean dark like it's only meant for an extremely depressed audience. I mean dark in the sense that it's not a fairy-tale, and is actually pretty grounded in reality. Which is actually something that you rarely see in the genre of animation. Much like the films of director Martin Rosen, Bluth seems to treat animation as a genre and not something that is just meant to entertain kids. He is not afraid to have violence, swearing, and a fleshed out story. He pays attention to his art, and uses it to set the story's tone. That is all animation is: A genre and Bluth understands. I will not deny that there is a fantasy undertone, but it certainly doesn't add a sense of whimsy and it certainly isn't overblown. The film, like a favorite internet critic of mine pointed out, it takes the audience seriously. It doesn't try to melt your brain by putting in nonsensical music numbers, princesses, and bright colors. No, this film is geared towards the young and the old.

What's the conclusion? The Secret Of Nimh is awesome. It's animation is stunning, it has a great storyline, and great characters.

P.S-Again, I apologize if any of these critiques appear to be strongly borrowed from other reviews.
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Easily Don Bluth's Finest.
Anthony Paolino11 October 2012
I first heard about this film via the Nostalgia Critic during his Secret of NIMH 2 review. And although I swore to myself to never see the sequel, I got really curious about the first movie, since he seemed to praise the original so much. When I heard that it was made by Don Bluth (The same person who made the Land Before Time, one of my favorite films ever), I decided to see it. I watched it on Netflix one night, and I honestly wasn't expecting something that could top Land Before Time, since that had been a part of my childhood for years.

But when the credits rolled, I punched myself in the face for ever thinking like that.

The Secret of NIMH, to say the least, is EXACTLY what animated films should be like nowadays! It was dark, edgy, had a deep and rich storyline, and I actually cared for what was going on and what was happening to the characters and all of that. it was just fantastic.

One thing that really surprised my upon first viewing is that this movie actually had some intense death sequences in it, especially towards the end. I'm not going to say who dies or why, but it was actually pretty violent. In fact, after it was over, I was baffled that the film didn't have a PG rating instead of G. But you know what? That's not even a nitpick. I really do like that aspect of the film, as if it were intended more for adults than children. I always love movies like that.

The Secret of NIMH should've been an example as to how hand drawn animated movies should be handled. And while a few movies were able to accomplish this afterword, most just seemed to spiral into a childish and immature trend that began right after the 80s ended. Many people today seem to think that animated movies in general are always intended for kids, and that adults will enjoy them a lot less than real live films.

But Don Bluth really took a bold stand in that department. It's as if he said to himself, "You know, animated films always seem to be made for very young kids, and adults don't seem to like those kinds of movies. But what if I did something slightly different with that?..."

Creating an animation this dark and exciting was a very bold and brave move for somebody making his first movie on his own. In fact, there are very few animated films out there today that I can comfortably compare this to, except maybe for the Land Before Time. And this, in my mind, makes the Secret of NIMH extremely unique in the world of animation. It doesn't treat us like we're still in 1st grade, it doesn't treat us like we're not supposed to know the concept of death yet. No. Secret of NIMH is a truly mature film that in my opinion, raised the standards for 2D animation for a while. Don Bluth... may your films someday go into the National Film Registry, where they belong.

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A really big surprise. A animated movie that's near perfect.
Jason Rivera9 June 2012
This movie came of interest to me after I saw a trailer for it. I bought it for 3 DOLLARS from After about 675 years later.. It came in the mail. I saw it, And here's what I have to say.

Positives: Amazing Animation, Great Soundtrack, Amazing Story, Film is not dated, Very entertaining.

Negatives: The film itself has some bad quality at times. (lots of scratches on the film print) near the end, The movie becomes really rushed. The villain rat was a character that was Completely pointless to add to the movie.

Overall , "The Secret of NIMH" is a AMAZING movie that's Kinda dark at times, but….IT'S GREAT I'm going to shut up just see it.
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A Powerful Dose of Nostalgia and Timelessness
Sean Lamberger24 August 2011
Gorgeously animated, smartly written and surprisingly mature for a film that's clearly geared to young audiences, this one is a real gem. Don Bluth and company really peered over new horizons with their painstaking efforts on this picture, and ultimately gave their old bosses and coworkers at Disney the kind of direct competition they needed to wake up from their late '70s slump. Bluth's unmistakable style positively seeps out of every panel of NIMH, with an expressive, gestural quality that manages to be both creatively streamlined and rich with detail. The story, so dark that Disney actually opted out of making the film themselves, remains a breath of fresh air even today, thirty years after its premiere. Its broad landscapes and diverse characters tackle some very challenging themes with succinct honesty, respecting their viewers without scaring them off. Too many kids' movies resign themselves to the opinion that children need their hands held on a stroll through happy town from start to finish, with a reassuring character always nearby whenever something remotely spooky happens. NIMH rejects that theory, cautiously, and ends up a better picture for all audiences as a result. It's a revelation.
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ModKuraika23 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The Secret of NIMH was a pleasant surprise for me. Don Bluth is neither here or there in my eyes. He's made good films, such as this one and The Land Before Time, but has also made some terrible ones, (e.g. The Pebble and the Penguin, A Troll in Central Park) but luckily his first film seems to be his best. The Secret of NIMH is an adaptation of the children's book "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH" and follows the mouse Mrs. Brisby (named changed in the adaptation to avoid copyright dispute with Frisbee, the flying disc) visiting Mr. Ages about the subject of her youngest son Timothy's sickness, which Mr. Ages deduces as pneumonia. A simple scene, before the title had appeared we had seen what we are to assume is a mice or rat of some sort with magical abilities, shown as he writes entries into a book, and thinking aloud before looking into an amulet. This scene did well to draw me in, with its design, its great lighting, and the character's very distinct voice acting in the span of just a short prologue.

The plot starts simple, but builds in a linear motion, at no time will you question what is going on or be left in the dark. The conflict plays a huge part in the adventure, we are not given a premise and then put through a series of random, unneeded events (e.g. Spirited Away). Mrs. Brisby is a little sensitive but overall a strong-willed heroine, in my opinion its something films tend to lack today, I would prefer more female protagonists like this.

The film has its darker moments, but stays true to a balance, a middle-ground that All Dogs Go To Heaven lacked. Characters such as The Great Owl and Nicodemus add a weight in terms of how serious the film takes itself, and how this is much more than your run-of-the-mill children's entertainment. The adaptation adds an element of mystic to the story and certain plot points which the original book never had, but it works well in execution, it doesn't overstep its boundaries and retains a sense of mystery and wonder.

The Secret of NIMH looks good, feels right, and treats itself as an epic tale, executing a perfect balance on everything in the film except on three minor points.

1. Jeremy's character felt too forced for comic relief, and his character becomes useless after helping Mrs. Brisby to The Great Owl's lair and the Rosebush.

2. Jenner was a wasted opportunity for far more character development, and it would have been more interesting to see the consequences of him actually obtaining the stone.

3. The ending feels rushed, like it tries its best to tie every loose end and have Mrs. Brisby explain the fate of the rats and Timmy's health to finish off the movie in a certain frame of time.

However, aside from its flaws, The Secret of NIMH is one of a kind, but because of them, it fails from reaching perfection, and just misses.
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One of my Favorite animated movies.
Warning: Spoilers
This is a great movie. The animation in this movie, although not as good as like Disney or Studio Ghibli animation, is still great to look at. It was done by Don Bluth who you might remember as the guy who did, The Land before Time, An American Tail, etc. But trust me when I say that this is Bluth's masterpiece. The voice acting in this film is actually very good, considering that it always seems that voice actors don't sound convincing. But here they do. The Story line to this movie is the best part. For a kids film it is actually kinda dark and interesting at times. Sure there are times when it gets childish but for the most part it's pretty interesting. So in the end THE SECRET OF NIHM is a great movie, so I say check it out.
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A timeless masterpiece.
Andrew26 March 2010
Animation is rare, it is much more difficult and expensive to make than live action. Good animation is even more rare, because, in the Western world (United States in particular) it is mostly aimed at very small children and, as a result, ends up pretty boring to watch.

While not specifically "adult", The Secret of N.I.M.H. is something of a rare treasure - something a grownup can watch without falling asleep (unless you have a severe hatred for the medium). I, for example, first saw it at the age of 20 (I wasn't babysitting by the way, but watched it alone). And boy, was I surprised! For many years I haven't seen a piece of animation that moved me. But this time it was different - I got that feeling a person gets from watching something like The Good The Bad & The Ugly and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. I absolutely LOVED it. A month later I bought the DVD, that is a honorable part of my collection.

A lot has been said about the movie already, and you could easily find the plot synopsis at, so I won't get into the story here. Instead, I will try to clear the film from some accusations made at the time of its release:

The story was accused of being shallow and the film for having no central character. Well I'll be! Shallow is something I would say about The Princess and The Frog. It is hard to find a western animated feature with a story as complex as in The Secret of N.I.M.H. And, for us "grownups", complex = interesting. Yes, the film has many characters, but it is a good thing. No "Main Guy/Girl + Love Interest + Bad Guy + Comic Relief" formula here. While there is a comic relief AND a bad guy(somewhat), the film is very realistic. And the story never concentrates on Ms. Brisby (the main) too much. Everybody enjoys just enough screen time. Great.

Also, something worthy of mentioning - during the film's production, DIn Bluth wanted to raise the interest in animation in people again. He wanted it to appeal to older audiences. The original intension was to receive a PG rating (watch the film to see WHY). But, because it was ANIMATED, it automatically received a "G". Nowadays such things normally do not happen. Yes, the film IS more dark and complex than an average G-rated flick. It was of a bad film for children. But it was originally aimed at the age group of 12 and up. And it has the word "damn".

Oh yes, and Jerry Goldsmith and Steven Spielberg loved the movie. If THAT does not say anything to you, I don't know what will...
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A lovely and moving animated gem
Woodyanders15 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Mild-mannered mouse Mrs. Brisby (wonderfully voiced with great warmth by Elizabeth Hartman) has to move her family from a field that's about to be ploughed, but can't make said move because her youngest son Timmy is sick with pneumonia. Ms. Brisby enlists the aid of a secret society of super-intelligent genetically enhanced escaped lab rats to move her home. Director Don Bluth and writers Gary Goldman and John Pomeroy tell this simple, yet absorbing and inspirational story of courage, friendship and devotion with tremendous clarity and sensitivity. Moreover, the main characters are extremely engaging, with Mrs. Brisby making for an endearing reluctant heroine who most overcome her innate timidity and discover remarkable reserves of inner strength. The uniformly excellent cast voice their colorful roles with admirable aplomb: Hermoine Baddeley as the feisty Auntie Shrew, Dom De Luise as the amiably bumbling Jeremy the Crow, Derek Jacobi as the sage rat leader Nicodemus, Peter Strauss as the dashing, gallant Justin, Paul Shenar as the evil, power mad Jenner, Arthur Malet as cranky old Mr. Ages, Will Wheaton as the blustery Justin, and, in an especially bravura turn, a perfectly sinister John Carradine as the wise, but fearsome the Great Owl. The exquisitely fluid and vivid animation has a striking painterly quality to it. Jerry Goldsmith's supremely graceful, robust and harmonic score further adds to the considerable drama and intrigue. The magical and uplifting conclusion is simply astounding. But ultimately it's the feeling of real heart that's evident throughout which makes this animated feature so special and touching.
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