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Don Bluth
Derek Jacobi, Elizabeth Hartman, Arthur Malet, Dom DeLuise, Hermione Baddeley, Shannen Doherty, Wil Wheaton, Jodi Hicks
Writing Credits:
Don Bluth, Will Finn, Gary Goldman, Robert C. O'Brien (novel, "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH"), John Pomeroy

Right before your eyes and beyond your wildest dreams.

Get ready to meet some runaway rodents with an earth-shattering secret! Suspenseful and heartwarming, this beautifully animated odyssey stars Mrs. Brisby, a mild-mannered mother mouse with a plan to move Heaven and Earth (or at least her house and home) to save her family from Farmer Fitzgibbon's plow! Along the way she gets some help from a lovelorn Crow, a busybody neighbor mouse and a fearsome Great Owl. Unfortunately, Mrs. Brisby will need an engineering miracle to hoist her home, and for that she must face a mysterious rat, fend off a ferocious cat and claim a magic amulet! But when Mrs. Brisby discovers the astounding secret of NIMH ... it could change her life forever! This timeless tale of love, courage and determination will transport the whole family into an enchanting world where the bravest hearts live in the meekest of mice.

Box Office:
$7 million.
Opening Weekend
$386.530 thousand on 88 screens.
Domestic Gross
$7.028 million.

Rated G

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Spanish Stereo
French Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 82 min.
Price: $19.97
Release Date: 6/19/2007

• Audio Commentary with Director/Producer Don Bluth and Directing Animator/Producer Gary Goldman
• Preview
• ”Secrets Behind The Secret” Featurette
• “Who’s Footprint?” Game
• “Fuzzy Focus” Game
• “Untangle Jeremy” Game
• “Origami Mouse” Activity
• “Memory Game”

• Booklet


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Secret Of NIMH: Family Fun Edition (1982)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 18, 2007)

Back before the days of DreamWorks and all the other modern competitors, Disney essentially had the feature film animation market all to itself. Of course, we still got other efforts at times, a niche represented here by Don Bluth’s 1982 flick The Secret of NIMH.

Life’s not going well for a mild-mannered mouse named Mrs. Brisby (voiced by Elizabeth Hartman). Her husband died recently, her son Timmy (Ian Fried) has pneumonia, and she’s about to be forced to move since a tractor will demolish her home. All that, and she has to worry about attacks from Farmer Fitzgibbon’s (Tom Hatten) nasty cat Dragon, a critter who almost nabs her while she takes medicine to Timmy. A clumsy crow named Jeremy (Dom DeLuise) helps save her, though, and they start an unlikely friendship.

Despite her escape from Dragon, Mrs. Brisby still faces problems due to “moving day”. Because of his bed-ridden status, she can’t move Timmy. She needs to figure out how to keep the tractor from her home, at least until Timmy recovers. A visit with a prophet called the Great Owl (John Carradine) reveals that she needs to consult with a mystical rat named Nicodemus (Derek Jacobi). The rest of the flick follows Mrs. Brisby’s escapades as she tries to save Timmy and she learns the secret possessed by the rats.

Given the crappiness of Disney’s late Seventies and early Eighties animated films, one would think competition would do well. That wasn’t the case for NIMH, however, as it didn’t draw much of an audience back in 1982. Time hasn’t treated the film kindly either, as it seems just as bland and forgettable as Disney’s efforts in the same era.

That’s too bad, as the story presents real promise. With their special powers, the rats of NIMH should be interesting – maybe even fascinating - characters. Unfortunately, the focus on Mrs. Brisby places them firmly in the background, so we never get to see much of them.

A lot of films use “cipher” characters as a way for the audience to enter into a story. The theory goes that viewers need a personality with whom to identify so they can become better immersed in the tale. Perhaps that was the design behind Mrs. Brisby, but she’s such a tremendously dull character that the plan doesn’t succeed.

Let’s not even deal with the fact that an audience logically made up of kids will probably not identify with a maternal character like Mrs. Brisby. Even if they did, her bland nature makes it impossible to get involved with her path. She comes across as so flat and forgettable that we never really care about her.

Since the movie never imbues its other roles with much development, it sinks or swims with Mrs. Brisby. All the other characters seem significantly more interesting, but they receive so little screen time that we can’t find out much about them. Starting with the wacky comic relief of Jeremy, each additional character fills out a well-worn personality concept and nothing more. They’re flat and one-dimensional.

Because the story focuses so much on Mrs. Brisby, we miss the real action. This seems like a bizarre choice. Here we have rats with amazing abilities and yet we’re preoccupied with some boring Mama Mouse and her attempts to move her family a short distance? That’s like a version of the nativity story that only occasionally visits Jesus but spends most of its time with some guy milking his cows nearby instead.

The animation itself seems perfectly solid. I can’t say Bluth’s work really impresses me, but he manages to give the flick a reasonably lively and vivid presentation. Though no one will classify this as great animation, at least that side of things doesn’t disappoint.

Unfortunately, that’s about the only good part of NIMH. A disjointed narrative that focuses on the least interesting characters and situations, the movie feels like a missed opportunity.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+/ Bonus C+

The Secret of NIMH appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. I thought the movie looked decent but rarely much better than that.

Sharpness usually came across as reasonably concise and distinctive. However, a fair number of scenes looked strangely fuzzy and blurry. Those didn’t dominate the movie, but they caused occasional distractions. No signs of jagged edges or moiré effects appeared, and I also saw no problems with edge enhancement. Print flaws created concerns, however. Grain looked moderately heavy at times, and the image displayed a mix of specks, spots, marks, streaks and blotches. These were prominent enough to create some distractions.

For the most part, colors came across as reasonably lively and precise. Most of the hues were acceptably vibrant and dynamic. However, some tones appeared bland and murky, so inconsistency occurred. Black levels were nicely deep and rich, but shadows seemed somewhat muddy and excessively heavy. Much of NIMH offered a reasonably nice image, but enough problems occurred for me to knock my grade down to a “C+”.

The Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of The Secret of NIMH seemed similarly mediocre. Despite the extension of the extra channels, the mix largely remained monaural. Music demonstrated the greatest expansion, as the score offered general spread to the sides and the rear. However, stereo imaging seemed somewhat weak and blobby, as the musical delineation lacked definition. The same went for effects. On the occasions when elements popped up outside of the center, they sounded vague and artificial.

Audio quality was acceptable but erratic. Speech appeared acceptably distinct but lacked much warmth, as the dialogue was somewhat thin and brittle. Music was too bright and could sound a bit shrill, though the score demonstrated decent bass response at times. Effects came across as similarly lackluster; they showed passable definition and that was it. The audio seemed decent for its age, but it showed a moderate number of problems that made it less than successful.

Although this “Family Fun” edition of NIMH uses two discs, don’t expect it to come packed with extras. On DVD One, we open with an audio commentary from director/producer Don Bluth and producer/directing animator Gary Goldman. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They talk about animation techniques and visual design, cast and performances, story and character issues, and a few other technical topics.

I guess I can’t fault the topics covered in this commentary, but that doesn’t mean I don’t find it to be pretty dry. We get a passable overview of the production that comes without much spark or sense of real insight. Bluth and Goldman occasionally produce some interesting tidbits about the flick as well as interesting stories such as their rescue of an injured owl. However, most of the commentary remains mediocre and it doesn’t often threaten to really involve the listener.

DVD One opens with an ad for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. No trailer for NIMH appears anywhere in the set.

Only a few minor components show up on DVD Two. A featurette called The Secrets Behind The Secret runs 14 minutes, 24 seconds. It presents movie clips, behind the scenes materials and interviews with Bluth and Goldberg.

The program looks at the adaptation of the novel and its path to the screen, getting their animation studio running, and design for NIMH. We also learn about characters and performances, animation techniques, and various challenges that came along the way. This acts as a good complement to the commentary, as it touches on different subjects and fleshes out our knowledge of the flick. It’s too bad it doesn’t include additional participants, but it’s still pretty informative.

Under “Fun & Games”, we find five components. Who’s Footprint? - which would be called “Whose Footprint?” if this disc had better quality control – requires you to match movie characters with five possible trackmarks. It’s pretty dull and not fun at all.

Next comes Fuzzy Focus. It shows seven blurry images which are supposed to resemble the way Nicodemus sees the world due to his failing eyesight. You have to indicate what the frames depict. This becomes more challenging and interesting than “Footprint”, but it remains a minor diversion at best.

We encounter the film’s crow character in Untangle Jeremy. It shows Jeremy all tied up, and you have to figure out the sequence of pulls that will extricate him. It actually provides a decent challenge, but it presents no replay value since the answer always remains the same.

With Origami Mouse, we get an activity instead of a game. It shows kids how to make little paper mice. I didn’t try out the tutorial, but it might provide some fun.

For the final component of DVD Two, we get a Memory Game. It shows a few different movie scenes and asks nit-picky questions about them. This is another game with some challenge to it but not much fun. At least it offers some replay value; it uses the same scenes each time but may present different questions.

The package concludes with a booklet. Instead of the usual production notes, this piece features more games and activities for kids.

Despite an intriguing story, The Secret of NIMH never turns into anything memorable. The movie meanders along and tends to focus on the least interesting characters, much to its detriment. The DVD presents fairly average picture, audio and extras. This is an ordinary release for a forgettable flick.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2173 Stars Number of Votes: 23
2 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

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