Sunday, January 17, 2010


If you have been following, I’ve been in a “theme” mood lately. I had a couple of posts revolving around baby shit, and since my last post featured an eco-friendly book about the dangers of deforestation, I figured I’d stay in that vein, and write a review on a movie about the unsavory world of animal-testing. I know neither of these things sound like kid friendly material, but you’d be surprised what sources people can mine for children’s books and movies (I’m still holding out for that very special Curios George, where the man in the big yellow hat, contracts ebola from George and bleeds through his eyes and nipples). At any rate, this post is about the animated classic, The Secret of NIMH.
This is one of my favorite movies (children’s or otherwise), and is the brainchild of Don Bluth (one of the truly great animators, as far as I’m concerned). It saddens my heart to know there is a whole generation out their right now, completely unaware of this great visionary. Bluth was originally an artist at Disney (his mark is evident in films like Disney’s Robin Hood and The Sword in The Stone) and he is also the creative force behind the arcade classic Dragon’s Lair, which you are likely familiar with if you ever spent anytime in an arcade during the early eighties (if not, you probably occupy a cave in Afghanistan).

This movie is based on Robert C. O'Brien's award-winning book, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of N.I.M.H. It centers on Mrs. Brisby (a timid widowed mouse) seeking the aid of a colony of super-intelligent rats (that she unknowingly has ties to), to help relocate the Brisby family's home, under emergency conditions when her son Timmy is too ill to move. The movie is suspenseful and somewhat dark, but the in my opinion, the best children’s books often are; including intense scenes of animal cruelty and experimentation. It’s not the often sugar-coated world of a Disney movie princess, but instead a more realistic painting of a person (or mouse rather), dealing with real problems, made even more poignant (in my eyes at least) by our country’s current state of affairs. I think the story is more than capable of standing on its own as a classic, but it’s the animation that makes this movie truly great.

This was Don Bluth’s first movie (and what many consider his great masterpiece) and as such he set out with the explicit goal 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. Among the techniques experimented with on The Secret of NIMH were 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 for her, giving the animation a lush quality lacking in most animation.
If you or your child are unfamiliar with Don Bluth and his work, I feel it’s high time you become acquainted, and what better place to start than The Secret of NIMH. Five out of five beers.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails