80s | Pop Culture | Movies

8 Facts About 'The Secret Of Nimh' That Will Make You Say 'Rats!'

Animation Source

In 1982, a team of highly talented animators blessed the world with the movie, The Secret of NIMH.

The fantasy cartoon classic was adapted from Robert C. O'Brien's 1971 children's book, which follows a field mouse attempting to save her home from destruction. With the help of recently freed laboratory rats, the plot ends in a truly feel good manner.  

While most of us may assume we know everything about the gritty animated film, here are eight facts that'll make even the biggest fans say "rats!"

1. The film was animated by frustrated, former Disney employees

In 1979, several Disney workers left the famous animating studio, including animators Don Bluth, John Pomery, and Gary Goldman.

Dubbed "The Disney Defectors" by the media, the crew were in the middle of producing The Fox & The Hound, but could no longer stand their employer.   This included Disney's bureaucracy and assembly-line attitude, along with its alleged neglect of certain animated skills and techniques.

2. There were significant differences between the movie and the book

Despite the 11 year gap between the movie and the book, it was startling to find out there are significant changes between the two mediums.

For instance, in the film, Mrs. Brisby's magical amulet wasn't included in the book (producers said it would have been difficult to showcase its symbolism on screen), Nicodemus was transformed into a rat from a wizard, Jenner became a main antagonist (instead of just being a mere traitor), and Mrs. Brisby's children are saved by their mother, as opposed to the heroic rats.

3. A toy company forced production to change a main character's name

Originally named Mrs. Frisby in the book, the production company was forced to slightly alter her name to Mrs. Brisby.

This was in order to avoid a potential trademark issue with the Wham-O company, otherwise known as the makers of the Frisbee.

4. John Carradine voiced his character high on painkillers

Carradine, who voiced The Great Owl, showed up to read his lines late and seemingly intoxicated. His agent told Goldman that his client suffered from a severe case of arthritis, and took medication to treat his diagnosis. He also mentioned Carradine may have had a martini at lunch.

Interesting enough, he was able to record all his lines in a single day.

5. The movie's iconic sword fight was inspired by Robin Hood

Justin and Jenner's climatic sword fight was largely based on the Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone duel in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938).  This included some movements like when Jenner was stabbed in the stomach.

Other animations in the scene were inspired by the 1958 movie The Vikings.

6. Goldman and the film's producers had to mortgage their homes to complete the film

Despite being promised a $6.5 million budget, the movie's funding was reduced by the studio when production began. In order to raise the extra $700,000 to complete the film, Goldman and his fellow producers were forced to mortgage their homes. Luckily, it paid off!

7. We only find out what NIMH stands for once

If you're inattentive to the movie for even a split second, you might miss the farmer's wife mentioning what the acronym NIMH means. It stands for the "National Institute of Mental Health," and is the laboratory where the rats were experimented on.

8. It was inspired by horrendous lab experiments

The film's experimental center is based on the real National Institute of Mental Health, which is the world's largest scientific organization dedicated to the study of mental health. However, from the 1940s to 1960s, it was also the site for the most atrocious animal testing experiments in the modern era.

"The one thing they were lacking was space, a fact that became increasingly problematic as what he liked to describe as his 'rat city' and 'rodent utopia' teemed with animals. Unwanted social contact occurred with increasing frequency, leading to increased stress and aggression," Andrew Tarantola wrote for Gizmodo.

"Violence quickly spiraled out of control. Cannibalism and infanticide followed. Males became hypersexual, pansexual and, an increasing proportion, homosexual," he added.

What was your favorite scene in The Secret of NIMH?

[H/T: Gizmodo, IMDB, Mental Floss]

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