The Secret of NIMH (1982)

secret of nimh poster 1982 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great looking movie, dark story

Too dark for some children, never a fan of the magic aspect

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Secret of NIMH

Studio:  Aurora/Don Bluth Production/Mrs. Brisby Ltd.

Genre(s):  Animated/Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Family

Release Date(s):  July 2, 1982

MPAA Rating:  G

secret of nimh jeremy the crow mrs brisby dom deluise elizabeth hartman

Jeremy, you’re an idiot

Mrs. Brisby is a widow.  Her husband Jonathan was killed by the Fitzgibbons’ cat Dragon.  Now, plowing season is approaching and her son Timothy is too sick to move from their cinderblock home in the field.  Mrs. Brisby must seek out help from unlikely sources in a crow named Jeremy, the Great Owl, and the mysterious rats that live under the Fitzgibbons’ rosebush.  When Mrs. Brisby meets the leader of the rats Nicodemus, Mrs. Brisby learns there is more to them than she thought, and a desperate race against time to save Timothy begins.

Directed by Don Bluth, The Secret of NIMH is an animated family action-adventure fantasy.  It adapts the 1972 Newbery award winning novel Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien.  The movie was forced to change the name of Mrs. Frisby to Mrs. Brisby due to Wham-O’s Frisbee products (most of the film had been shot so the dialogue was altered to make it sound like a B.)  The movie was released to critical acclaim and was praised for its animation.

secret of nimh scary owl mrs brisby

Nope…not terrifying at all

The Secret of NIMH came out when I was young and was a much darker movie than many of Disney’s offerings.  Being a kid, I had a lot of The Secret of NIMH merchandise including the original novel…so much so that I can’t remember if I even saw the movie when I was young.

The story of The Secret of NIMH is a strange one.  The story runs on a few levels.  There is the basic story of the Brisby’s trying to save their home from the plow, and there is the story of the rats.  The story smartly tell the rats’ story through the likeable and gentle Brisby, and this helps lighten the story of genetic animal experimentation.  I don’t really love the actual magic aspects of the film and just preferred the rats to be extremely intelligent.  The writers didn’t really pull any punches and killed major characters (and not by Disney’s classic “falling” means) and provided some scary moments for younger viewers…which I liked as a kid.  The film also borrowed a few aspects from Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH’s sequel Rasco and the Rats of NIMH.

secret of nimh justin vs jenner swordfight rats

This is definitely not a Disney fight…

For its time, The Secret of NIMH also employed strong voice actors.  Elizabeth Hartman (in her last role) provided the voice of Mrs. Brisby.  Derek Jacobi was he creepy Nicodemus and John Carradine provided the voice of the owl.  Dom DeLuise gave his distinctive voice to Jeremy, and Hermione Baddeley was Auntie Shrew.  Child stars Shannen Doherty and Wil Wheaton voice two of Mrs. Brisby’s children Martin and Teresa.

Visually, the movie was quite stunning at the time.  Bluth was an animator for Disney and he and other famously left Disney before this film.  The movie used many more colors than other animated films at the time and it gave the film a richness that was missing from many animated films.  With good character designs and the strong art, The Secret of NIMH was one of the better looking animated films of the ’80s.

secret of nimh magic stone mrs brisby

I can buy hyper-intelligent rats…but magic stones? You lost me…

The Secret of NIMH definitely isn’t for everyone and now would probably be recommended for older children.  The darkness of the story might be too hard for some kids (that owl and Dragon the Cat are still terrifying) and aspects of the story might also go over their heads.  The Secret of NIMH is a fun return to childhood for me and other kids of the ’80s might enjoy sharing it with their kids…but if you get a chance read the book first for a good young adult story.  The Secret of NIMH was followed by The Secret of NIMH 2:  Timmy to the Rescue in 1998.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response