I wanted to ask you about how you cast the film. Though the likes
of Elizabeth Hartman, John Carridine, & Peter Strauss were
respected figures at the time, only Dom DeLuise was "the
name" star to filmgoers... I always wondered how you went
about finding and casting the film, as all of their voices were
so wonderfully, wonderfully realized. After all, the direction
of an animated film not only pertains to images and movement,
but -- and this point is often overlooked, even by movie fans
-- working with actors and helping them to develop realistic characters
when they face the challenge of not knowing what their characters
and the world around them are like.
DBS: We really tried to analyze the characters in the film,
then relate each character's personality to an actor or actress
or a role that they had played before. Dom DeLuise was chosen,
unanimously, when Don, Gary and John Pomeroy were all watching
the movie THE END on TV. They tried to call each other on the
phone, thinking that Dom was the perfect voice and could do
the personality of Jeremy. Each of their telephone lines were
busy because they were all calling each other at the same time.
thought of Peter Strauss from his work in the "Rich Man,
Poor Man" mini-series and the telefilm The Jericho Mile.
None of the actors had ever worked on an animated motion picture.
Peter was a method actor and was fairly uneasy about just working
with a microphone. He was used to feeding off other actors,
knowing his motivation for every line was extremely important
Hartman was very shy and insecure at the first couple of recording
sessions. Don (Bluth) was able to guide her through it. She
was very excited about the script and her role as the mother,
voice of Mrs. Brisby was provided by actress Elizabeth
Hartman, who won a Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination
for her performance in A PATCH OF BLUE (1965) opposite
Sidney Poitier and Shelley Winters. Alas, NIMH was her
final film; she died in 1987. Don Bluth's company published
an issue of TOON TALK, dealing with a NIMH retrospective.
In it, Bluth provides a moving description of his experience
in working with Hartman. You can buy this issue through
their website, www.DonBluth.com.
choice for the Great Owl was similar. We all felt that John
Carradine had a great voice and his background was as a Shakespearian
actor. That, and with all the movies he had done, gave us a
terrific actor with great experience in both acting and with
arrived at Parmount Studios about an hour late. We rented their
recording facility to record Mr. Carradine's voice. When he arrived,
he appeared to be intoxicated. We called his agent. His agent
told us the Mr. Carradine suffered from acute crippling arthritis
and that he was on pain killers. Since the recording session was
in the afternoon he may have stopped for lunch. And, if he had
a Martini, the combination of the drug and the drink would cause
him to appear pretty much "sloshed". His agent was right.
we spent an hour and a half providing him with black coffee
and asking him questions about his old Hollywood experiences.
All of a sudden, he became dead serious and very sober. "Well,
we better get on with this. You're not paying me for an interview."
He delivered every line in one take. If we wanted alternates
he would inform us that we have gotten the best that he had.
No retakes, no alternates. Wow! Good thing he gave a great performance.
thing of particular interest, John's hands really showed the
pain of his affliction. His knuckles were over-sized and looked
gnarled in the pose he assumed as he read his lines. When he
shook your hand, he could not really clasp your hand properly.
He joked,"If you think my hands are bad, you should see
my feet". We all looked down at his neatly polished dress-shoes,
imagining the condition of his feet and his discomfort in the
confinement of the shoes. John Pomeroy used this fact about
Mr. Carradine in the final design of the Great Owl's feet and
the way that the owl walked (with a limp). We also used a cracking
sound effect as the owl rotated his head, before he spoke to
as you know was one of Shannon Doherty's first roles in film,
long before "Beverly Hills, 90210". Paul Shenar just
has a great villain's voice and, he was very strong at the recording
session. Like Carradine, we got everything in one session. Wil
Wheaton was a regular little professional. He wanted to please
and took every direction from Don, very seriously.
The crew did some of the crowd voices. We even brought in the
Chairman of UA , Europe, Norbert Aurbach and the then L.A. Times
Film Critic, Charles Champlin, to record two of the the incidental
voices in the film. Naively thinking that we would get more
support from studio marketing by having the Chairman of the
company vested in the film. Also, we secretly hoped that Charles
would be given the assignment to review the film. Whoa, what
were we thinking?
One of our favorite choices was Mr. Ages' voice, Arthur Malet.
He had been in Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
We just thought he was a great character actor. His stammering
line-delivery helped sell the cranky, absent-minded scientist
character. It was, overall, a great experience. All of the actors
took a very serious approach to this film and gave it their