THE SECRET OF NIMH didn't open nationwide until July 16, 1982, but it was given a limited release in a few markets two weeks earlier. The animated film was much-hyped at the time because it was the debut effort from former Disney staffer Don Bluth. It may be hard to believe now, but there was a time when Disney animation was in decline. The films were getting more expensive and time-consuming to produce, and the focus had shifted to television. By 1980, Bluth decided to leave Disney and took a number of animators with him. In 1982, the independently-produced THE SECRET OF NIMH, based on Robert C. O'Brien's children's book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, was distributed by United Artists to much critical acclaim and moderately successful box office. The film, about widowed field mouse Mrs. Brisby, who encounters a secret society of super-intelligent former lab rats in her quest to move her home and her children out of the path of Farmer Fitzgibbons' field plow, was so expensive to produce for the new Don Bluth Productions that the company ended up filing for bankruptcy despite the success of the film. Bluth and his team quickly rebounded by forming The Bluth Group and designing the animation for the arcade games DRAGON'S LAIR and SPACE ACE, but even that was short-lived when arcade game popularity began to wane shortly after.
|A 1982 publicity shot of Don Bluth|
|A publicity shot of Elizabeth Hartman as Mrs. Brisby|
|Dom DeLuise as Jeremy|
|John Carradine as The Great Owl|
The voice cast of THE SECRET OF NIMH is headed by Elizabeth Hartman as Mrs. Brisby. This was the final film project for Hartman, an Oscar nominee for 1965's A PATCH OF BLUE. She struggled with depression and was just 43 when she committed suicide by jumping out of a fifth-story window in 1987. Other voice actors include Dom DeLuise as a comic relief crow named Jeremy, Derek Jacobi as the wise rat leader Nicodemus, Paul Shenar as the treacherous Jenner, Aldo Ray as his flunky Sullivan, Peter Strauss as the heroic Captain of the Guard, John Carradine as The Great Owl, Hermione Baddeley as Auntie Shrew, and early film credits for Wil Wheaton and Shannen Doherty as two of Mrs. Brisby's children. Bluth had nothing to do with the belated, cheap, and universally-reviled 1998 sequel THE SECRET OF NIMH 2: TIMMY TO THE RESCUE, which went straight-to-video and was directed by veteran TV animator Dick Sebast (FONZ AND THE HAPPY DAYS GANG, THUNDARR THE BARBARIAN, SONIC THE HEDGEHOG). Hartman, Shenar, Carradine, Baddeley, and Ray had passed on by then, and only DeLuise returned from the 1982 film, with other voices being supplied by Ralph Macchio, Eric Idle, Harvey Korman, and William H. Macy.
TOP 10 FILMS FOR THE WEEKEND OF JULY 2, 1982 (from www.boxofficemojo.com)
1. E.T.: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL
3. ROCKY III
4. BLADE RUNNER
6. STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN
8. THE THING
9. BAMBI (re-release)
10. AUTHOR! AUTHOR!