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The Secret of NIMH

The Secret of NIMHStill of John Carradine in The Secret of NIMHStill of Dom DeLuise in The Secret of NIMHThe Secret of NIMHThe Secret of NIMHThe Secret of NIMH


To save her ill son, a field mouse must seek the aid of a colony of super-intelligent rats, with whom she has a deeper link than she ever suspected.

Release Year: 1982

Rating: 7.4/10 (13,404 voted)

Don Bluth

Stars: Elizabeth Hartman, Derek Jacobi, Dom DeLuise

Mrs. Brisby, a widowed mouse, lives in a cinder block with her children on the Fitzgibbon farm. She is preparing to move her family out of the field they live in as plowing time approaches, however her son Timothy has fallen ill, and moving him could prove fatal. Mrs. Brisby visits The Great Owl, a wise creature who advises her to visit a mysterious group of rats who live beneath a rose bush on the farm. Upon visiting the rats, Brisby meets Nicodemus, the wise and mystical leader of the rats, and Justin, a friendly rat who immediately becomes attached to Mrs. Brisby. While there, she learns that her late husband, Mr. Jonathon Brisby, along with the rats, was a part of a series of experiments at a place known only as N.I.M.H. (revealed earlier in the story as the National Institute of Mental Health). The experiments performed on the mice and rats there boosted their intelligence, allowing…

Writers: Robert C. O'Brien, Don Bluth


Derek Jacobi



Elizabeth Hartman

Mrs. Brisby


Arthur Malet

Mr. Ages


Dom DeLuise



Hermione Baddeley

Auntie Shrew


Shannen Doherty



Wil Wheaton



Jodi Hicks



Ian Fried



John Carradine

Great Owl


Peter Strauss



Paul Shenar



Tom Hatten

Farmer Fitzgibbons


Lucille Bliss

Mrs. Fitzgibbons


Aldo Ray



Right before your eyes and beyond your wildest dreams.


Official Website:

Release Date: 2 July 1982

Box Office Details

Budget: $7,000,000


Opening Weekend: $386,530
(5 July 1982)
(88 Screens)

Gross: $14,665,733

Technical Specs


Did You Know?


At the time of release was the largest non-Disney animated film.


After Teresa is done bandaging Mrs. Brisby's hands, she places the ball of gauze to her side. On the next shot the ball is gone.


[first lines]

Johnathan Brisby was killed today while helping with the plan. It is four years since our departure from NIMH, and our world is changing. We cannot stay here much longer. Johnathan was a dear friend. I am lost in knowing how to help his widow. She knows nothing about us or the plan. Perhaps best that I do nothing at present. I shall miss him. Johnathan – wherever you are – your thoughts must comfort her tonight. She will be waiting and you will not return. Farewell… my friend.

User Review

Perhaps the greatest postwar animated film

Rating: 10/10

The short version: 'The Secret of NIMH' isn't just a masterpiece: it's
the best classically animated film since the early 40's. It's up there
with 'Bambi', which is to say, this is about as good as it gets.

I remember walking down the street when I was about 19, and seeing the
poster for 'The Secret of NIMH' up in a theatre, and immediately
thinking "This film is going to blow my mind." A week later, I was
sitting in an empty theatre, watching the last credits rolling down the
screen after everybody else had left, and the house lights were up,
thinking "yep."

A bit of history is probably in order for a film of this importance.
Flashback to about 1980. Disney animator Don Bluth walks out, halfway
through production on 'The Fox and the Hound', taking several other key
animators with him, and declaring that he was going to recapture the
spirit of classical animation, which Disney had forgotten about.

Nearly three years later, NIMH debuts. Critically it is well received,
but lack of distribution and advertising means it's swamped by such an
historical non-entity as Disney's 'Tron'. Accepting an animation award
for best film, Bluth remarked "Thanks. We didn't think anyone had

NIMH is a glorious achievement. It puts to shame anything which Disney
had done for a quarter century, and singlehandedly did exactly what
Bluth set out to do. It revived the spirit of classical animation, and
at the same time it proved that there was room on the block for another
player than Disney – not an unimportant fact when you consider that at
the time there was no Dreamworks or Pixar, and no feature animation
section in Universal or MGM.

As to the film itself: from the first moment you are treated to a
gloriously rich, sumptuous, seamless animation and background art, the
likes of which hadn't been seen since Disney's war years. Particularly
stunning is the movie's use of colour to enhance moods. The dark blues
and blacks of the stunning 'lantern elevator' descent into the rats'
city, and the tractor scene – the background starts out in subdued
tones and ends up flaming red as the action peaks. One reviewer at the
time wrote "I felt as if I was watching the invention of color, as if I
was being drawn into the depths of the screen."

The characters are beautifully conceived and drawn, and the voice
characterisations are spot-on (including the animation debut of Dom de
Luise as Jeremy). And, significantly, there is only one song, and it's
not sung by a character (significantly, 'Balto', one of the few
animated films since which can hold a candle to NIMH, followed the same
principal). Jerry Goldsmith's score supplies the emotional power for
the rest of the soundtrack.

Even more importantly though, the film is incredibly emotionally
potent, and not in a sentimental, kiddy way. It has genuine
choke-you-up power which will appeal to adults.

Bluth ditched the double storyline of the book, relegating Jonathan
Brisby's more substantial role in the novel to a short piece of
background information revealed in an explanatory flashback. Personally
I think this was the right decision. To do otherwise would have been to
take the spotlight off Mrs Brisby, and probably diminish the film's
coherence and power.

So, Don Bluth achieved his goal: his debut feature film was the
greatest animated achievement in 40 years. Sadly, it was also his only
masterpiece. He peaked on his first outing, and afterwards declined
into mediocrity, while Disney picked itself up and overtook him. In
fact, ironically, there were signs of this in 'The Fox and the Hound',
which despite being plagued by Bluth's departure amongst other
catastrophes, turned out to be Disney's best movie since the 60's, even
if it would still be the better part of another decade before they
started hitting their marks consistently.

Today NIMH enjoys the sort of cult following it deserves. It's just a
damn shame that its greatness isn't more widely acknowledged, and an
almost equally great shame that a generation later it was cursed with
one of the most insulting, wretched sequels in cinematic history.

It's an important film, and it's a great film. In the two decades since
it was released, only a small handful of animated films have approached
its stature.