The Secret of NIMH

The Secret of NIMH Information

The Secret of NIMH is a 1982 animated film directed by Don Bluth in his directorial debut. It is an adaptation of Robert C. O'Brien's 1971 children's novel Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. The film was produced by Aurora Pictures and released by United Artists. The film features the voices of Elizabeth Hartman, Dom DeLuise, Arthur Malet, Derek Jacobi, Hermione Baddeley, John Carradine, Peter Strauss, and Paul Shenar. The "Mrs. Frisby" name in the novel had to be changed to "Mrs. Brisby" during production because of a trademark conflict. Released to wide critical acclaim, the film was a moderate box office success. The original was followed in 1998 by a direct-to-video sequel called The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue, which was made without Bluth's input or consent.


Mrs. Brisby (Elizabeth Hartman), a shy and timid field mouse, lives in a cinderblock with her children in a field on the Fitzgibbons' farm. She is preparing to move her family out of the field they live in as plowing time approaches; however, her son Timothy has fallen ill. She visits Mr. Ages (Arthur Malet), another mouse and old friend of her late husband, Jonathan, who diagnoses Timothy with pneumonia and provides her with some medicine from his laboratory. Mr. Ages warns her that Timothy should stay inside for at least three weeks or he will die. On her way back home she encounters Jeremy (Dom DeLuise), a clumsy but compassionate crow. They both narrowly escape from the Fitzgibbons' cat Dragon.

The next day, Mrs. Brisby discovers to her horror that Farmer Fitzgibbons has started spring plowing early. Although Auntie Shrew (Hermione Baddeley) helps her disable his tractor, Mrs. Brisby knows she must come up with another plan. With the help of Jeremy, she visits the Great Owl (John Carradine), a wise creature living in the nearby woods, to ask for help. He tells her to visit a mysterious group of rats who live beneath a rose bush on the farm and ask for Nicodemus (Derek Jacobi), the wise and mystical leader of the rats.

Mrs. Brisby enters the rose bush and makes her way down to the rats' home, where she is amazed to see their use of electricity and other human technology. She meets Nicodemus, Justin (Peter Strauss), a kind and friendly rat who is the Captain of the Guards, and a ruthless, power-hungry rat named Jenner (Paul Shenar). From Nicodemus, she learns that many years ago her late husband, along with the rats and Mr. Ages, were once part of a series of experiments at a place known as NIMH (which stands for the National Institute of Mental Health). The experiments had boosted their intelligence to human level, allowing them to easily escape. However, the rats have concocted "The Plan", which is to leave the farm and live without stealing electricity from humans. Nicodemus then gives Mrs. Brisby an amulet called 'The Stone', that gives magical power when its wearer is courageous.

Because of her husband's prior relationship with the rats (mostly with Nicodemus), they agree to help Mrs. Brisby move her home out of the path of the plow. But the first thing that they need to do is to drug Dragon to sleep, so that they can complete the move safely. Only mice are small enough to fit through the hole leading into the house; Jonathan was killed by Dragon in a previous attempt, while Mr. Ages broke his leg in another. Later that night, she successfully puts the drug into the cat's food dish, but the Fitzgibbons' son Billy catches her and convinces his mother to let him keep her as a pet. While trapped in a birdcage, she overhears a telephone conversation between Farmer Fitzgibbons and NIMH and learns that NIMH intends to come to the farm to exterminate the rats the next day. She manages to escape from the cage and runs off to warn Justin.

Meanwhile, the rats are in the process of moving the Brisby home using a rope and pulley system during a thunderstorm. However, Jenner, who is strongly opposed to the Plan and wishes for the clan to remain in the rose bush, sabotages the ropes with his hesitant accomplice Sullivan (Aldo Ray), causing the cinder block to fall and crush Nicodemus, killing him and making it look like an accident. At that time, Sullivan feels extremely remorseful for letting this happen. Mrs. Brisby arrives and tries to convince the rats that NIMH is coming and that they must leave immediately, but Jenner, angered by her claims, attacks her and attempts to take the amulet from her neck. Alerted to the situation by Sullivan (who later gets mortally stabbed by Jenner), Justin rushes to Mrs. Brisby's aid and battles Jenner, who then finally admits to having plotted the sabotaging that killed Nicodemus to take over the group. As Justin manages to defeat Jenner by stabbing him, he addresses the other rats to prepare for their departure from the farm immediately. However, Jenner, despite his injury, attempts to make a lethal blow on Justin with his sword, but the dying Sullivan saves Justin by killing Jenner with a throwing knife behind him.

Mrs. Brisby sees the house sinking in the mud it landed in, but Justin and the rats are unable to raise it from the muck. However, Mrs. Brisby's will to save her children gives power to the amulet, which she uses to lift the house out of the mud and move it to safety from the plow. The next morning, the rats depart to Thorn Valley with Justin as their new leader and Timothy has begun to recover. Jeremy also finds "Miss Right", an equally clumsy crow, and the two fly away together.

Voice cast

This was Hartman's last Hollywood role. In 1987, she committed suicide by jumping from the fifth floor window of her apartment after suffering from depression throughout most of her life.
  • Dom DeLuise as Jeremy the Crow
  • Derek Jacobi as Nicodemus
  • Arthur Malet as Mr. Ages
  • Hermione Baddeley as Auntie Shrew
  • John Carradine as The Great Owl
  • Peter Strauss as Justin
  • Paul Shenar as Jenner
  • Aldo Ray as Sullivan
  • Shannen Doherty as Teresa Brisby
  • Wil Wheaton as Martin Brisby
  • Jodi Hicks as Cynthia Brisby
  • Ian Fried as Timothy Brisby
  • Tom Hatten as Farmer Paul Fitzgibbons
  • Lucille Bliss as Mrs. Beth Fitzgibbons
  • Edie McClurg as Miss Right
  • Joshua Lawerence as Billy Fitzgibbons
  • Frank Welker as Dragon the Cat (uncredited)


The Secret of NIMH was the first feature film to be directed by Don Bluth. In September 1979 he, fellow animators Gary Goldman and John Pomeroy, and eight other animation staff left Walt Disney Productions animation department to set up their own independent studio, Don Bluth Productions. The studio worked, at first, out of Bluth's house and garage, but moved to a two-story, facility in Studio City several months later. After completing work on several shorter projects, including a two-minute animated sequence for the film Xanadu, the studio forged a deal with Aurora Productions, a film-making partnership established by former Disney executives.

The rights to the book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH had reportedly been offered to Disney in 1972 but turned down. At Bluth, Goldman and Pomeroy's request, Aurora Productions acquired the film rights, and offered Don Bluth Productions a budget of US$ 5.7 million and 30 months to complete the film, tighter in both budget and schedule than most Disney animated features at the time. The studio set out with the explicit goal in mind of returning feature animation to its "golden era", concentrating on strong characters and story, and experimenting with unusual and often more labor-intensive animation techniques. Bluth believed older techniques were being abandoned in favor of lower production costs, and the only way animation could survive was to continue traditional production methods. Among the techniques experimented with on The Secret of NIMH were rotoscoping, multiple passes on the camera to achieve transparent shadows, and backlit animation (where animated mattes are shot with light shining through color gels to produce glowing areas for artificial light and fire effects), multiple color palettes for characters to fit in different lighting situations, from daylight, to night, to warm environments to underwater. Mrs Brisby had 46 different lighting situations, therefore there were 46 different color palettes, or lists of color, for her. Two modern, computerized versions of the multiplane camera were also manufactured for this production.

To achieve the film's detailed full animation while keeping to the tight budget, the studio strove to keep any waste of time and resources to a minimum. The crew often worked long hours with no immediate financial reward (though they were offered a cut of the film's profits, a practice common for producers, directors and stars of live action films but never before offered to artists on an animated feature); producer Gary Goldman recalled working 110 hour weeks during the final six months of production. Around 100 in-house staff worked on the film, with the labor-intensive cel painting farmed out to 45 people working from home. Many minor roles, including incidental and crowd voice work, were filled in by the in-house staff. The final cost of the film was US$ 6.385M. The producers, Bluth, Goldman, Pomeroy and the executive producers at Aurora mortgaged their homes collectively for $700,000 to complete the film, with an agreement that their investment would be the first money to be repaid.

During the film's production, Aurora contacted Wham-O, the manufacturers of Frisbee flying discs, with concerns about possible trademark infringements if the "Mrs. Frisby" name in O'Brien's original book was used in the movie. Wham-O rejected Aurora's request for waiver to use the same-sounding name to their "Frisbee", in the movie. Aurora informed Bluth & company that Mrs. Frisby's name would have to be altered. By then, the voice work had already been recorded for the film, so the name change to "Mrs. Frisby" necessitated a combination of re-recording some lines and, because John Carradine was unavailable for further recordings, careful sound editing had to be performed, taking the "B" sound of another word from Carradine's recorded lines, and replace the "F" sound with the "B" sound, altering the name from "Frisby" to "Brisby".


The Secret of NIMH: Original Soundtrack contains songs from the film written by Jerry Goldsmith, and performed by Paul H. Williams and Sally Stevens. It was released on July 2, 1982 on vinyl and audio cassette and re-released on March 3, 1995 on CD with a rearranged track listing.

|rev2 = Filmtracks |rev2score = link }}

  1. "Main Title" (3:13)
  2. "Allergic Reaction/Athletic Type" (2:40)
  3. "Flying Dreams Lullaby" (3:45) - performed by Sally Stevens
  4. "The Tractor" (2:58)
  5. "The Sentry Reel/The Story of NIMH" (6:03)
  6. "Escape from NIMH/In Disguise" (4:58)
  7. "Flying Dreams" (3:21) - performed by Paul H. Williams
  8. "Step Inside My House" (4:40)
  9. "No Thanks" (2:01)
  10. "Moving Day" (7:57)
  11. "The House Rising" (4:33)
  12. "Flying High/End Title" (2:38)


The Secret of NIMH was released on DVD for the first time in 1998.

In 2007, Don Bluth and Gary Goldman oversaw a high-definition restoration of the film which was released on June 19, 2007 in a 2-disc DVD set under the "Family Fun Edition" label. Improvements in the transfer over the 1998 DVD include some color correction, and dirt and dust removal from the cels. The blu-ray release was March 29, 2011.

In 2010, The Secret of NIMH and its sequel The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue were released together as a Double Feature double-sided DVD from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (though it carries the 1998 un-restored print).


The film garnered critical acclaim for being one of the most vibrantly animated films of its time and has earned a 95% "certified fresh" approval rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website. Despite good reviews, the film was a moderate success at the box office, making $14,665,733 out of a roughly $7,000,000 budget, but attributed to a combination of poor promotion, regionally-staggered release dates and competition from the Steven Spielberg blockbuster E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

The American Film Institute nominated The Secret of NIMH for its Top 10 Animated Films list.


A direct-to-video sequel called Timmy to the Rescue was released in 1998 and produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Animation. Upon its release, it was widely panned by critics and fans of the first movie.

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "The_Secret_of_NIMH" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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