The original film trailer, which emphasized the more family-friendly aspects of the film. I suspect that if the film had been promoted to a somewhat older, more sophisticated audience, it might have fared better at the box office.


Just found this courtesy of A YouTube clip of Ralph Bakshi and Don Bluth back in 1982, discussing the (then) future of animation on Nightcap, a literary roundtable hosted by journalists Studs Terkel and Calvin Trillin.


July 2012 -- Recent news:  In celebration of NIMH's 30th anniversary, the website TRADITIONAL ANIMATION has featured an extensive interview with Gary Goldman about the making of the film.  This includes some extraordinary behind the scenes photos that I've never seen before, and a lot of insightful information behind the specifics of the film's remarkable animation.

This past Spring, Bluth and Goldman also donated two storage rooms filled with art from their films to the Savannah School of Art & Design -- including pencil tests, concept art, backgrounds, sketches, painted cels, and even deleted scenes.  Looks like I'll need to trek to Savannah someday!

Photo credits: Les Carpenter & Lavalle Lee, Traditional Animation


Secret of NIMH movie still - Brisby + Nicodemus

Considered by many to be the finest, if not one of the finest animated films made outside of the Disney banner, Don Bluth's The Secret Of NIMH (1982) was a welcome return to the classical style of animation when American cinema needed it most. Though powerhouse successes such as The Little Mermaid and The Lion King saw the mouse house reign triumphant in the craft of 2-D animation from the late 1980s through the 1990s, there was a near two-decade-long "dry spell" following Walt Disney's death in 1966 when the studio placed a greater priority on developing live-action films, and made extensive budgetary cutbacks to its animation departments.

Don Bluth and a dozen other animators grew so disenchanted that they left Disney in the late 70's to embark on their own projects. NIMH was Bluth's first and most satisfying film.

With a domestic gross of only $14 million, its initial theatrical release was a heartbreaking commercial disappointment. Dwarfed by the now legendary movie marketplace of the summer of '82 (with E.T., Star Trek II, Poltergeist, Blade Runner, Rocky III and Conan The Barbarian among them), NIMH also had the misfortune of a poor marketing campaign thanks to misguided studio politics.

Don Bluth imageStill suffering insurmountable losses from its Heaven's Gate debacle, United Artists had fathered NIMH before MGM bought out the company -- they, in turn, acquired control. Having little interest in an animated film of its own, and wanting to place greater emphasis on its "tentpole" release (Poltergiest), MGM dropped the ball, giving NIMH release little, if any, fanfare.

Yet The Secret of NIMH has endured over the years, thanks largely to positive word of mouth from television screenings and home video and DVD sales. (The latter even bringing in more than the film's box office.) Ask anyone who was a child during the eighties, and they've likely seen and loved the film.

For their part, critics received the film warmly, with most reviews ranging from positive to superlative (Newsweek, Rex Reed). But in a year already stuffed with so many memorable films -- a happy problem to have, I guess -- NIMH was unfairly, tragically cast aside.

Ah, but how time has a way of shaping things...and with each passing year, critics and audiences have looked back on NIMH with more and more reverance, better appreciating the film's darker, more mature sensibilities. Not to mention it's stunning beauty.

But it is with the advent of the internet that the movie's popularity has reached its widest audience; literally scores of NIMH-related fan pages exist -- featuring love shrines dedicated to the movie's characters, extensive fan art and original writings, games, and even an internet webring. They have propelled it to the status of modern classic.

Based on Robert C. O'Brien's Newberry Award-winning novel, "Mrs. Frisby And The Rats Of NIMH," the movie combines a dark yet awe-inspiring view of nature while adding fantasy elements. It's a rather liberal view of the book, but faithful in its spirit -- evoking the same feelings as Richard Adams' "Watership Down." (Itself made into an under-appreciated animated film a few years prior.)

The images deliberately used the old fashioned style of animation, utilizing extremely detailed paintings with deep, vivid, dreamlike colors and rich blacks.

Expertly voiced by a fine cast (including horror film legend John Carradine, comedian Dom DeLuise, Shakespearian actor Derek Jacobi, and Oscar-nominee Elizabeth Hartman), NIMH still holds up against today's CGI-aided features.  It still feels fresh, as it avoids many of Disney's usual traits; NIMH's NOT a musical, and presents some rather intense scenes for a G-rated film. Like The Wizard Of Oz or The Black Stallion, it is one of the few family films that adults may enjoy every bit as much if not more than younger audiences. Jerry Goldsmith's score (his first for an animated film) remains one of his best.

Gary Goldman photoA lifelong fan of Don Bluth's work, I wrote to Mr. Bluth shortly before the release of ANASTASIA in the fall of 1997. Not asking for a reply, I simply wanted to pay tribute to his achievements and thank him for their inspiration. Much to my surprise and delight, less than two weeks later a letter from Mr. Bluth arrived on my doorstep, along with a signed sketch of Mrs. Brisby.

It's clear to me that Mr. Bluth does not only love animation, but feels a geniune sense of gratitude and appreciation toward all those who enjoy his work. No where is this more evident than his website,, where he and his team provide internet users a first-hand showcase of their films, their art...and their love of the drawn image.

Over the last few years I've posted several questions to their chatroom, to which they replied with many insightful answers.

Actually, "they" isn't an accurate word to use. Let me give credit where credit is due (now that I finally know); it's none other than animating director Gary Goldman (pictured at left) who personally responded to my every question, one after the other, in all our online exchanges over the years. For his courtesy and kindness, my hat's off to him.

Great interview with Bluth and Goldman at the Fantasia Festival, 2010.

How wonderful it is to receive compliments from those whose work has inspired you.

In early 2008, I sent Mr. Bluth and Mr. Goldman a glicee print of some "NIMH" inspired artwork I'd done (right). I was told that when Mr. Bluth saw it, he said, "Ah, very nice!" Mr. Goldman later informed me that they were having the artwork framed, and would hang it in a prominent place in their offices. This particularly touched me, as I had a small collection of original NIMH cells prominently displayed in my living room!

After years of email exchanges, I finally had the chance to meet Mr. Bluth and Mr. Goldman while at Comic-Con in the summer of 2008. Ready to introduce myself, I barely opened my mouth when Mr. Goldman exclaimed "Adam McDaniel!"... :)

Not only did they honor my request for a photo op -- even offering to come out from behind their booth to stand by my side -- but when my camera's batteries had unexpectedly died (oh, the embarassment!), an assistant was kind enough to take a picture with his camera and email it to me.

So, after all these years, at last I have a signed SECRET OF NIMH poster, a photo with two of my creative heroes, and a great, goofy little memory to smile back on.

Movie stills © MGM/UA & Mrs. Brisby Ltd. Photo of Don Bluth from Tribute article © Adam McDaniel 2003, 2012.
This website is for educational purposes only, an not intended to infringe on any copyrights.