The Secret of NIMH (1982)

(On Cable TV, July 2017) There was a time during which renegade-Disney-animator/director Don Bluth represented perhaps the only credible alternative to Disney when it came to animated movies. The Secret of NIMH was the first such challenge, and even today it’s easy to see that it had things to offer that couldn’t be found in Disney movies: a darker, harsher, more epic-fantasy-like story that similar offerings such as Disney’s The Rescuers. The quality of the animation is average at best, but there is some ambition in presenting a story of this scope in animated format. This being said, I’m not as taken by The Secret of NIMH as I expected to be. The darker tone proves a hindrance at times, and the scattered subplots don’t help either, oscillating between light comic relief and far more serious dark fantasy involving uplifted rats, deadly succession game, magic and a widow trying to escape death. Whew. Then there’s the shaky logic of the premise, in which the “talking sentient animals” is justified by way of a scientific experiment, raising far many more questions about the presence of other talking sentient animals (such as the birds) that weren’t in the lab. As such, The Secret of NIMH feels dull, dark and unpleasant. Not quite what I was expecting.

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