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YMMV / The Secret of NIMH

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  • Adaptation Displacement: Book? What is this book you speak of? The film is much more well known than the source novel. Even the poorly received sequel seems to be more famous. This is not helped by the ebook being available only on the UK iTunes Store.
  • All Animation Is Disney: Like most of Don Bluth's work, this mistake has been made, but those who make it are generally a minority. If anything, it's most famous for being one of the best non-Disney animated features ever.
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  • Animation Age Ghetto: On-screen violence, death and other trauma, as well as a casual "damn" thrown in to Avoid the Dreaded G Rating... which it still got. To be fair, this was made before the PG-13 rating had been introduced and ratings were still fairly lenient.
  • Awesome Music: It really says something about how amazing the musical score is when Jerry Goldsmith himself stated this was one of his personal favorites.
  • Base-Breaking Character: Viewers either find Jeremy one of Dom De Luise's most charming and entertaining roles, or they think his comedic antics ruin the film's dark tone.
  • Bellisario's Maxim: Don Bluth's handwave regarding the addition of magic and the amulet to the film without explanation; he simply felt it was unnecessary to explain the Amulet's origins and that its purpose in the film was more important to focus on.
    "With regard to the amulet, it is a metaphor for believing in one's self. Remember the quote, "Courage of the heart is very rare, the stone has a power when it's there." It helps symbolize her courage and the power of the stone to help rescue her children...a miracle, if you will. God stuff. Granted, it isn't in the original novel, but we felt that it was much more powerful. Nicodemus says it was Jonathan's, but really just to get her to accept it. We didn't really think it was necessary to explain it further. Seems like we would eat up too much screen time to tell the history of the amulet, when the story was about an innocent widow mouse, who, thru her journey would find out that she has the courage to rescue her own family. Regarding magic, we really believe that animation calls for some magic, to give it a special "fantastic" quality. The stone or amulet is just a method of letting the audience know that Mrs. Brisby has found 'Courage of the Heart'. Magic? Maybe. Spiritual? Yes."
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  • Complete Monster: Jenner, in contrast to his noble brethren amongst the rats of NIMH, desires nothing but power. When Mrs. Brisby comes to the rats for help moving her family and house to be safe from a farmer's plow, Jenner sabotages the moving so the wise and kind leader of the rats, Nicodemus, is crushed to death, while the Brisby house is sinking in mud with Jenner not caring about the impending deaths of the kids trapped inside. When he sees Nicodemus bequeathed it to her, Jenner attempts to murder Mrs. Brisby for a special stone. Jenner, like all the rats, owes his very life to Mrs. Brisby's deceased husband and the father of her kids, but displays zero remorse or gratitude to Jonathan's memory. After his henchman Sullivan finally has enough with Jenner's lunacy, Jenner fatally wounds him and attempts to kill his rival Justin, declaring his only philosophy in life: Take what you can when you can.
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  • Cult Classic: Regarded by fans as one of Don Bluth's best works for its deep and complex story and three dimensional characters.
  • Designated Monkey: Jeremy. Even regarding how much trouble his clumsiness and quirkiness causes, he's so well-meaning and innocent that it's easy to feel sorry for him, especially since most of the time he is being punished by the protagonists he's trying to help (such as Mrs Brisby's kids he was so convinced would adore him).
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • The Great Owl is in one scene, and is probably the most well remembered part of the movie.
    • Jenner has very limited screen time or characterization, and yet is still a memorable villain thanks to his menacing voice, charisma, and being genuinely scary.
    • Nicodemus due to Derek Jacobi's terrific performance totally selling him as a wise, mystical prophet.
  • Fanon: The Wiki (found here) is one half actual film-based info, and one half World Building Fan Wank that explains all the plotholes in the film through an exploration of the rules of magic and the Rats of NIMH's society.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: Justin and Mrs. Brisby. There's obviously some attraction going on there, but their species difference and the fact that Mrs. Brisby is very recently widowed makes this something of a hot-button subject. Here's what the actual script has to say about their introduction:
    [Justin] notices [Mrs. Brisby]. She has already noticed quite a few things about him.
  • First Installment Wins: Although Don Bluth did plenty of other quality films after this one, many people still agree that this is his most consistently good film. Additionally, the sequel The Secret of NIMH 2 is seen as vastly inferior to the first film.
  • Girl-Show Ghetto: The title was changed from the source material's 'Mrs Frisby & the Rats of NIMH' to avoid alienating viewers who might think it was a movie 'for girls'. And in the 2000s, when this trope really became rampant, DVD sets that featured the sequel had Timothy front and centre on the cover - some of them not even featuring Mrs Brisby at all.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • In one scene Mrs. Brisby jumps out of a bird cage with a string to break her fall. In real life, her voice actress Elizabeth Hartman committed suicide a few years later by jumping to her death.
    • A mild case, but at some point Mr. Ages asks Justin to take Mrs. Brisby to the library (where she can wait before meeting Nicodemus). Yet it's later revealed that she only has very basic reading skills, and thus would probably not be able to enjoy the reading of a book. In the original novel, when Mrs. Frisby is taken to the library, she meets a younger rat, and the two have a conversation before she gets called to see Nicodemus.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Don Bluth once said in an interview that if he came back for a sequel he would make Timmy the villain and Martin the hero out to stop him. When the sequel came out, the exact opposite happened.
    • This wouldn't be the last time Derek Jacobi would play an elderly wise person with a small medallion-sized MacGuffin. He later did so with his role as Professor Yana in Doctor Who.
    • Disney were first approached about adapting the book. They turned it down saying they already had Mickey Mouse as a mascot, and likewise had already done a "mouse movie" in The Rescuers. Since The Secret of NIMH's release, Disney would end up doing both The Great Mouse Detective and The Rescuers Down Under.
  • Hype Backlash: An example of an otherwise underground work being pushed on the general public by its small audience. A great deal of fans, most notably The Nostalgia Critic, have frequently gone on about how it's one of the greatest animated films ever. The result was that some newcomers were significantly disappointed when they felt it didn't meet the incredibly high expectations its fans had given them.
  • Love to Hate: Jenner is the only character in the movie who could be considered evil, and is loved for it.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Jenner crosses this after cutting the rope and causing the brick to crush Nicodemus.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • John Carradine as the Owl. The whole scene on both a technical and emotional level could be considered Bluth's Moment of Awesome.
    • The rat Brutus has only one scene but he's also memorable.
    • Jenner only has about six minutes of screen time but he's so despicable and menacing that he steals every second of it.
  • Padding: After flying Mrs Brisby to the Great Owl, most of Jeremy's appearances are irrelevant to the plot.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Wil Wheaton and Shannen Doherty both got very early roles as child actors in this movie, and this would mark the first of a long line of roles Dom De Luise would play for Don Bluth.
  • Ship-to-Ship Combat: Back in the early days of the NIMH fandom, there was a good amount of battle between Justin x Brisby and Jonathan x Brisby (substitute Brisby for the Fan Nickname if desired); this was fueled by a still image of Justin and Mrs. Brisby kissing, rumored to be a shot of a scene cut from the movie; Word of God killed this notion fairly quickly, but the fandom picks at it from time to time.
  • Special Effect Failure: The bulk of the film has impressive animation and special effects work, but some of the scenes of the Tractor and its plow during the Moving Day sequence are obvious live action footage tinted in brown, which sticks out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of the films art. Even Don Bluth admitted he was dissatisfied with the effect in his book "The Art of Storyboard". note 
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: Between the lightning sparking off Brutus's halberd, the lightshows from Nicodemus' Crystal Ball, the Mind Screw-y visuals during the NIMH flashback sequences, and the amulet coming to life at the end, the light effects are utterly dazzling. Done by a staff of three effects animators, no less!
  • What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: Subverted. It's for families, and not necessarily ones with very young children. Bluth wanted it to appeal to a broad audience, which explains a lot of the scary imagery and the one casual "damn!" thrown in. This was during a brief pocket in time before PG-13 when you could get away with more family-unfriendly content in family movies and before every animated movie had as PG rating that was really just a "hard" G.


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