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Headscratchers: The Secret of NIMH
  • One thing that bugs me about the movie is that the rats of NIMH aren't really any more intelligent than the other animals in the movie (with the exception of Dragon). Take Mrs. Brisby for example: She wasn't one of the mice that were experimented upon, and yet she is appearantly smart enough to understand the concept of electricity and learn to read. And then there's the Great Owl, who (at least as far as we know) wasn't part of the experiment either, and yet he seems to be at least as wise as Nicodemus. So really, what did the experiment change for the rats of NIMH?
    • The owl is intelligent because... it's an owl and owls are special SO THERE. No really. It's probably that intelligence varies by species.
    • The book gets into animal intelligence a bit more. Mrs. Frisby did learn to read a little bit, but she had to strain her mind nearly to the breaking point to do it, and she managed it only because her husband, who was also part of the experiment, taught it to her. The difference seems to be between wisdom and academic knowledge. The animals can all talk to each other (which takes some suspension of disbelief in itself, I know), and the owl has a great deal of experience and knows all there is to know about the forest. But while it wouldn't have the first clue what to do with a light switch, the rats of NIMH use machinery, electric power, antibiotics and sedatives, and are at least on the edge of surpassing human intelligence (and are still getting smarter all the time).
    • When Nicodemus beckons Mrs. Brisby to read his journal, she remarks that her husband taught her how to read and that the children are better at it than she is. This makes sense as Jonathan's "intelligence" will have passed down to his offspring.
    • Why do the mice and shrews dress up like humans? The other animals don't.
  • Speaking of which, who IS the Great Owl? Is it ever explained what he is or where he fits into the rest of the film's plot?
    • He's just the Great Owl, one of the oldest creatures in the forest and thus very wise. His role is to point Mrs. Frisby to the rats, who she would never contact unless she knew they'd actually help. I'm not sure what more needs to be explained here.
    • In This Troper's opinion, the Great Owl scene is Don Bluth 's proto-Big Lipped Alligator Moment. Nothing about who or what the Great Owl is supposed to be is explained, how the Great Owl knows about the rats of NIMH is never explained, it's never explained if the Owl is some sort of magical being or whether he has any connection to the experiments at NIMH. It's not even really explained why Auntie Shrew thought consulting him was a good idea. She just kind of randomly suggests to Mrs. Brisby that "the Great Owl" would know what to do without really elaborating on who this character is. Is the intended implication that the animals of the forest consult the Owl about their problems on regular basis? Well, that's never really explained either. And of course, the Owl never appears again and is barely even referenced after his scene.
      • Mrs. Brisby tells Mr. Ages she saw the owl and he spends the next flabbergasted minute trying to convey to her that nobody sees the owl and lives to tell the tale. Mrs. Brisby also tells Nicodemus about her visit to the owl and he refers to the owl as a good friend and comrade.
      • While it's not a true BLAM, the scene could have been excised and Mr. Ages could have just told her about the rats.
    • Given the way the owl's eyes glow just like Nicodemus's, I would say it's pretty apparent that he was another of the animals from NIMH (unless he somehow got into the spice).
      • More likely, both their eyes glow because they're both mystics, and Nicodemus knows the Owl because they've compared notes on that subject.
    • Really, it's simple when you realize that the Great Owl is actually filling the part of a Great Wyrm: an ancient, solitary dragon that has a very predatory (and well-earned) reputation but is a store of incredible wisdom for those brave enough to parlay with him in his lair. Like many neutral Great Wyrms of fantasy, he also is aligned with an ancient, powerful mage: Nicodemus. His eyes glowed to make him even more dragonlike, and he had cobwebs on him: something no bird would ever tolerate for long, but a dragon taking a 10-year nap might accumulate. The only thing missing was smoke and brimstone curling out of his nares.
  • I want to know how injecting a rat to give it higher intelligence will suddenly make it know how to read. You have to be taught to read, no matter how intelligent you are.
    • The book, "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH" goes into a lot of detail about how the rats were taught to read. The Institute wasn't a "cruel place" where evil experiments were practiced on a variety of animals. It was strictly rats and mice that were given a "new strand of DNA", plus steroids of some kind. Nicodemus recounts how the rats were placed in a room, shown a picture of a letter while a recording of someone saying the letter played. Justin played quite a large role in the rats' eventual escape; he was the first to figure out how to read; he was the first to actually get out of the cage, etc. The book also explains how the rats developed the Plan, how they were able to obtain rat-sized tools and equipment, how they met the Great Owl, etc.
      • It is implied they learned to read over time ("then, ONE day... ", not "then, the very next day... ") The makers had to choose which scenes to animate and which not. They couldn't afford to make a 2 hour animated movie back then.
  • Even though this is one of my all-time favourite movies, there is one thing that bothers me - the lack of explanation for "moving day". I understand that it's the annual plowing of the field, but how many times has it happened before? Do the family just vacate the house until the plowing is over? Where do they go to? When they return do they have to dig their house out of the dirt? Why is their house there in the first place, when there is a spot safe from the plow several feet away?
    • Maybe it's a discarded cement block wedged in the dirt they fasioned into a house, and it's just unlucky it happens to be in the path of the plow.
      • Maybe they had moved into that particular field shortly after Jonathan died. And in the four years since, that field was... lying fallow?
      • Remember that mice, rats, rabbits, shrews, and all kinds of rodents only live for a few years. Perhaps moving day was once a year as you'd expect, but these animals may have a different perception of time due to their short lifespan. To a mouse that may only live three or four years, a single year between moving days might feel like a decade.
    • This was explained in the book, too. The family only ever expected to use it for a single winter. They knew that it would be destroyed by the plow, but used it anyway because it was a very lucky find-it's much warmer and drier than any other shelter they could expect to find to spend the winter. The conflict comes from Timothy's sickness and Moving Day coming too soon. If Timothy had never become ill, they would have left with plenty of time to spare to their summer house (which is located next to a river and is too open and chilly to use in the winter) and looked for a different place to spend the next winter. As it turns out, Timothy's sickness becomes a blessing in disguise, because it means the block is moved to a secure place and can be used as a permanent winter residence.
  • Where the HELL does the ending come from? Ms. Brisby suddenly 'opens her heart' and the stone gives her the power to levitate her house? Because?
    • Rule of Cool, and the fact that they added a lot more mysticism in the movie that wasn't there in the book. Just compare book Nicodemus to movie Nicodemus.
    • Don Bluth even admits that her pendant is a MacGuffin and the final scene is to give the story a dramatic climax rather than "rats log roll the house two feet."
    • The creator wanted so. No, rly. Mr. Bluth made the change simply because he felt like it. This troper likes the change.
      • I once heard that Mr. Bluth was going on the idea that there was a lot more to this world than simple inteligence can reveal. Nicodemus and Mrs. Brisby tapped into some of these forces with the strength of their hearts and not their brains. Even as a fan of the book I like it.
  • WHY does the Great owl have big glowing eyes?
  • On further questioning of the Great Owl, why does he look so damned much like Nicodemus? This troper, honestly, just thinks of the owl being a shapeshifted Nicodemus. I mean, they both have the crazy mustaches, knobbly hands/talons, glowing eyes... Too similar to be a coincidence.
  • Why was the laboratory the NIMH rats were tested on so flithy in the movie? Unless the movie is set in the 1920's or something it should be spotless, even housing rats.
    • Either (a) the way we saw is how the rats remember it, as a place of horror and torture, or (b) it was the lair of some evil genius who didn't care about things like cleanliness. "My army of super-intelligent rats will help me CONQUER THE WORLD!"
  • Why were there written instructions on the inside of cages containing rats who were being taught how to read, telling them how to open their cages from the inside?
    • There weren't. Justin notices that the instructions are on the outside the cages; he just happened to crane his head out just so to actually notice them. In any case, the researchers never expected the rats to actually be able to read such a complex sentence, much less decipher its meaning and figure it out.
    • Or to understand any human word they hadn't specifically been taught, like "cage" or "latch".
  • Why didn't Nicodemus use his Telekinesis to stop the house from falling on him? It was clearly established that he had the power to make things levitate.
    • 1) Age had gotten to him, he couldn't react fast enough
    • 2)Telekinesis requires concentracion. Not that easy to stop something huge falling down in it's tracks.
    • 3) Uh, exactly where was it established that he had telekinesis?
      • When Nic and Mrs are leaving he summons his staff to him with a gesture, and when he gives her the pendant, the box it was in floats away offscreen.
      • So maybe it wasn't Nicodemus using telekinesis, but rather, those specific possessions of Nicodemus's being enchanted to come when he called.
    • A giant cinderblock filled with dirt is just a touch heavier than a twig. Also, he did get decked pretty hard by the ropes and rigging before the block got him.
    • There's also the fact that Nicodemus is a prophet, and would thus believe in fate.
      • Nicodemus being a prophet is the sequel's invention. He was not called one in the original movie.
  • To rephrase a point brought up by a lot of people, if the rats idolize Jonathan and Timmy so much that they give them statues why the hell doesn't Mrs. Brisby have one as well? She was the one who warned them about NIMH coming to they could leave for Thorn Valley in the first place! If it hadn't been for her, they'd have been recaptured or worse!
    • For that matter, why do the rats idolize Jonathan so much? Yes he helped them escape, and later died while attempting to drug Dragon. It makes sense that they would want to return the favor to his family. But build him a statue and call him their "greatest hero"?
  • I remember in the first movie that Nicodemus said that NIMH's experiments slowed down the aging of the mice and rats, which was why Jonathan never told his wife about NIMH - he and the children would still be young while she got old and died. So it makes sense that she'd be graying by the time the sequel began, but how was she still alive for the ending of the sequel? Furthermore, if that's the case, wouldn't Aunt Shrew be dead by the time of the sequel as well?
    • This bothers me as well. Alongside the fact that Mr Ages is shown in the flashback sequence to be the same age as Jonathan, so his aging should have slowed down at the same rate as Jonathan's but he clearly looks older than Mrs. Brisby. It could be that Jonathan married her when he was quite old and looking a lot older than her already, but I doubt that because Nicodemus says in the past tense "He would have grown old" so he must have been and looked around the same age when they got together. Unless Mr. Ages strain of chemicals is slightly different?
      • Mr Ages is clearly older than Johnathan in the flashback.
    • I never understood why this is the reason Jonathan had to not tell Mrs. Brisby about NIMH. Wouldn't she notice him and the kids not aging as much? Shouldn't such an obvious physical effect make it more important for him to tell her, not less?
      • It would make her sad, so he planned on saving it until she grew older.
  • Where the hell was the Great Owl during the time period of the sequel? Missing? Dead? If he's dead, then that makes Jeremy and Cecil seem ten times more disrespectful for using his image to scam other animals out of their money (I'd complain about them having money in the first place, but I think I've added enough to this page).
    • There's a line dropped by Cecil that implies that The Great Owl is gone because he's molting. A pretty lame excuse, but they at least had an explanation.
  • Why do Brisby's children, Auntie Shrew, and Mr. Ages all have neat, well-kept clothes, while Mrs. Brisby only has that cape/shawl that's torn and ragged?
    • Fridge Brilliance: Mrs. Brisby is likely the most active of them all. She has to feed her children all by herself once her husband is dead, wandering further afield than Auntie Shrew (who seems to confine her life to the field itself). Plus, being a mother, she would have made sure her kids were well-dressed, even if it was at her expense.
  • Where did the necklace come from? Why didn't the movie explain this? It results in a Deus ex Machina, so the least they could have done is told us about it.
    • One could make the case that it's better off as is, a mysterious device sans Techno Babble that is perhaps so old that even Nicodemus has no idea where it came from or how it works.
  • Martin's character design in the sequel when he's evil is nothing like his usual character design other than his eye color. And even then, Martin can somehow control the appearance of his eyes, like the hypno spiral. His fur is much darker. He had a cream colored pelt and a white shape on his chest (you know, the type in every animated show with a talking animal) but now he has dark gray (green in some shots) fur. Who does his dye job? They did a crappy job sense his fur color changes back. He seems (he's wearing a cloak) to have lost weight and grown taller. Fine, I can understand that but these he then shrinks and gains back the weight. And now he has a British accent. Fine, Stockholm Syndrome would explain that if the humans were British. But he becomes American again once he's good and his voice also becomes that of a fifteen year old as opposed to Evil Martin's quite adult voice. How does that work?!
  • Just how did the children survive after the house was completely submerged in mud? It was under there for a while. Not to mention that you only see three kids — Timmy is still in bed.
    • That's a lovely bit of fridge horror, that is. If you want to think about that sort of thing, it could be handwaved that they survived because of the magical amulet. Since Mrs. Brisby used it to save her children, it's possible that it went beyond simply moving the stone, and also resuscitated them/turned back time for them specifically/whatever explanation you'd like.

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