Monday, August 2, 2010

Don Bluth Month: "Do it for Timmy!" - Thoughts on "The Secret of NIMH"

"My child, we can no longer live as rats. We know too much." --Nicodemus

Oh, God, I don't know where to start.

This is the first movie I really remember ever seeing. Now, I must have seen movies and other things before this one, but this is the first movie I
really remember. As with the aforementioned "The Brave Little Toaster", I could tell this one was different right from the start. There was a darkness, poignancy, and overall a maturity I wasn't used to, and where some kids would have been frightened, I was fascinated. "The Secret of N.I.M.H." was the first movie that didn't insult my intelligence. This made me happy. I was, perhaps, five.

And at 32, I'm very happy to say that the film is still wonderful. Now, this was the first time I watched my copy of the 2-disc Family Fun 25th Anniversary Edition (I know, I know), so I've only seen the movie on the grimy pan-and-scan VHS. What I want you to do is run out and grab a copy of this DVD immediately (this goes double if you're a parent with a weird, proto-geek kid). It looks absolutely terrific. Do what I did and watch it on the biggest screen you have ready access to.

Watching "The Secret of N.I.M.H." in this cleaned-up widescreen print felt like watching it for the first time. A few things that struck me on this viewing:

* - Everything about this movie is superb, but the sequence with the Great Owl. Holy s**t. (Yes, I actually did say that out loud. Me = total dweeb.) This scene is Bluth's Crowning Moment of Awesome right here. The animation, the composition, the music, the visual effects, even the sound design -- I don't know what they could have been using for the sound of the Owl walking, but you feel like those talons could tear you to pieces!

* - And this is key to the next thing I noticed: this movie never lets you forget that the heroine is a mouse. Inches high, very low on the food chain, running on fear. Notice how the only thing keeping Brisby on-task is her determination to save her family. She's brave, but it's bravery born out of necessity.

* - The quote at the top of the page. I loved it since I found "N.I.M.H." again in high school, but I just noticed that it informs the entire movie. It's at once funny and sad and scary and poignant. And it is not a line of dialogue you're going to hear in "Cats and Dogs 2".

* - I can only really compare "The Secret of N.I.M.H." to a PIXAR movie (not even other Don Bluth movies). The way it's clearly a labor of love. They way the pathos is undercut with humor. The gorgeous character animation. The epic score. "N.I.M.H."'s closest relative might be "WALL-E" or "Finding Nemo".

More -many more- of my sentiments are reflected in this wonderful "N.I.M.H." tribute page.

Next up, weird video games!


Sketch of the day! Ducks!

6.8.10 - Long Lake duckies!


Announcement: Ebay auctions are back after a summer hiatus. I'm already selling some of the old books and things from the Basement Cleanout. Have a look!


Zach said...

Without a shadow of a doubt, my favorite Bluth film. I also love the owl sequence, although I like the scene where the cat is stalking the raven and Ms. Brisby, too. Very moody, tense scene.

Possk said...

I remembered reading your blog about a Don Bluth month, so I came back here after listening to an idiot go on and on about Bluth being "the worst cartoonist ever." I..really don't know what to say to that when he's made several very well made movies, this one probably being his finest. The Land Before Time is amazing too, and depending on the viewer, All Dogs Go to Heaven is great too. I admit the latter has lots of flaws (...King Gator, good grief) but is still pretty enjoyable and awesomely dark. While An American Tail is plain out depressing, people can at least respect it. Still got the great animation and pretty interesting in itself. Then you throw in all his work at Disney, and bam. The 'worst cartoonist ever' idea is thrown out the window.

But then again this is the same kid who thought Disney's Home On the Range was 'awesome'. Oi vey.

...And I'm rambling. Anyways, I completely agree that Secret of NIMH was a fantastic film. Awful shame that it didn't do well in box office, since it deserved much more attention than it ever received.

Trish said...

^^ He liked "Home on the Range" but thinks Don Bluth is a hack? Ladies and gents, I think the animation fandom finally has it's Armond White.