If you grew up in the 80’s, you probably remember The Secret of NIMH. Chances are, it was one of the first movies that kept you up at night. It certainly did me. It’s one of the movies that sticks out the most to me this month, of all the ones celebrating anniversaries, being released on July 2nd, 1982.
If you haven’t seen it, you should. The plot sounds straightforward enough. A young widowed mother mouse faces the destruction of her home, but her son is deathly ill and can’t be moved, so she searches the yard, house, field, and forest looking for someone to help her.
Don’t let the animation or sweet story fool you. This movie is chock full of horrific elements. Remember, you’re looking at a farm and forest from the perspective of a little home-body of a mouse. Then imagine, from her perspective, a tarantula, an owl, a house-cat, a pack of rats, a bulldozer… There is almost literally death around ever corner in this movie, and the elements used, like backlighting, only make it all the more terrifying.
Equally strong is the reveal of what the secret of NIMH is, making this likely to be the first real experience of a plot twist for most kids. Leading up to a finale which is equally terrifying and exhilarating.
I just wish they still made animated movies like this. The animation is top notch, and while they still have many aspects that appeal to kids, there are so many good lessons to be learned in them about the realities of the world. Movies like this, Ferngully: The Last Rainforest, The Black Cauldron, and Watership Down, which deceived adults into traumatizing their kids with ads that featured fuzzy animated animals singing along to catchy tunes.
These animated movies had deep storylines, great music, characters we cared about, and introduced kids to more mature themes in ways that we often didn’t notice until years later. Even as an adult, some sequences are strong enough to give you an occasional shiver.
If you have kids, why not celebrate The Secret of NIMH‘s 35th anniversary by teaching them nightmares can come from unexpected places?