secretofnimh_remake secretofnimh_remake
Feature Film

‘Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH’ To Be Turned Into Live-Action/CGI Franchise by ‘Ice Age”s Michael Berg


Don Bluth made his feature-length directorial debut in 1982 with The Secret of NIMH, which was based on Robert C. O’Brien’s Newbery Medal-winning children’s novel Mrs. Frisby & The Rats Of NIMH. MGM, the distributor of Bluth’s film, believes it’s time for an update, and has re-acquired the rights to O’Briens books for a live-action/CGI hybrid.

The new film, to be developed by Ice Age franchise writer Michael Berg, will be an origin tale, setting up a potential franchise that will be produced by Daniel Bobker and Ehren Kruger.

According to Deadline, it will focus on “an imperiled mouse protagonist [who] befriends a comical crew of lab rats as they turn hyper-intelligent [and] escape a secret laboratory.” Based on this synopsis, Film School Rejects has suggested that the “imperiled mouse” might be Mrs. Frisby’s husband Jonathan, who was never seen in The Secret of NIMH because he’d been killed prior to its events.

  • As long as Kruger honors the story and doesn’t go quick cash-in route, I’m fine with his involvement.

  • Awesome! I hope they do it like the hybrid ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’ and ‘Stuart Little’ films! Who’s currenlty making the most realist CG hair? Hire them! I hope they get recent SNL alumnus and post-expiration date pop stars to do the voices! Will there be a direct-to-Netflix follow-up series? Hope, hope! Let’s one is using Skrillex or Owl City on the soundtracks anymore…a new Fall Out Boy song, maybe? CAN’T WAIT!!!

  • Tony

    I think that if they stick closely with the book there might be a good film or two to be made here, but the description scares me. “Comical crew” gives the impression that it’s going to be a wacky prison escape movie like Chicken Run – which could be fun, but it’s not my Secret of NIMH. Also, a prequel focusing on Johnathan takes away the mystery that made the story so intriguing – “Why does everyone know who my husband is?” Discovering who Johnathan was along with Mrs. Brisby was part of what made the film and book so beloved by its fans.
    What most fans like about Bluth’s film is that it took the story seriously. There were real stakes for the characters. There was real drama. It played as part sci-fi adventure, part political thriller, very unusual for animated films at the time (and today, for that matter), and that was part of the appeal. Making it into just another flippant talking animal comedy would be a big mistake.

  • Matt

    NIMH for all its story flaws still tops my favorite animated films simply for its amazing backgrounds and beautiful animation. It is John Pomeroy at his best. Dorse Lanpher doing amazing EFX work. The Great Owl scene still holds up today. Bluth’s character designs were his best ever. Story, I agree was so so but as far as art and animation it holds up to Pinocchio.

  • As long as the models don’t look hideous and scary like they did in the Alvin and the Chipmunks and Smurfs movies; I’m fine with this.
    Of course, they’ll probably just do that anyway….

  • Timothy McKenzie

    Question: Who killed Jonathon Brisby?

    • Harrison

      In the movie, it stated that he was killed by the farmer’s cat Dragon. I don’t know if the answer is the same in the book.

      • Ann Vole

        yes, he was killed trying to drug the cat to make it safer for the rats to do stuff as presented in the book as well. The fact that his widowed wife follows in his footsteps has deeper significance.

  • Zekey

    “befriends a comical crew of lab rats”


    This kills my hope for a film that sticks close to the themes of the book.

    But then again last time Hollywood tried to stick close to the book of anything, we got johnny depp mad hatter so blech.

  • Axolotl

    As long as the rodents’ sci-fi troubles are fixed with a magical amulet, I’m sold.

  • Harrison

    I really don’t know what to say. Seriously, I really don’t know. Secret Of NIMH is one of my most favorite movies of all time, and now this is happening. By the same distributors no less.

  • Ryoku240

    Given this films obscurity it seems a bit unnecessary to try “reviving” it, I won’t mind CGi if its done right, but what REALLY irks me is this:

    “…it will be an origin tale, setting up a potential franchise”

    I’m genuinely tired of how the majority of todays films have to be hooks to “franchises”, hatever happened to just making a good, timeless film that unintentionally lead into a decent franchise?

    Making a film be a “hook” into some big franchise just makes it feel disposable, its why I have little interest in comic book films…or really any films these days.

    Too many “spin-offs”, “sequels”, “prequels”, “reboots”, remakes”, we live in what I call a “Zombie Cinema”, where nothing but old franchises walk the earth, loosing limbs to “spin-offs” about minor characters.

    The more money these studios dump into the films, the wimpier their ambition.

    • Fried

      Too many spin-offs, sequels, prequels? Are you selectively forgetting that period of animation where every movie/game had a cartoon spin-off?

      The Mask, Back to the Future, Ace Ventura, Beetlejuice, Ghostbusters, Mario, Sonic, Zelda?

      Or what about when TV was just about selling toys?

      Do I need to link you The New Three Stooges? Or how about The Robonic Stooges

      The concept of profiting off an existing piece of work isn’t exactly something people came up with in the past decade you know.

      At least studios are now planning their franchises ahead of time to make each story feel a bit more seamless in transition. Much better than Tim Burton’s Batman being a success and they tried to get him to repeat it a few more times with disastrous results.

      The past does seem better when you selectively choose to ignore all the crap.

      I’d much rather have a planned Man of Steel 2 sequel which I may not find great but has its moments than Superman III and IV which are just terribly obvious cash-ins.

      • Ryoku240

        You’re “selectively forgetting” my point about “hooks”.

        Back in those days you got a lot of trashy tie-ins, but if you saw Ghostbusters it would feel like a complete film, it wouldn’t tease a sequel.

        If you saw Ace Ventura or Mask, you’d get a “complete” experience, there were no “hooks”s.

        If you saw “Food of the Gods 2” you’d see a third film teased like mad, a constant “hook” to a film that was never made.

        My point is that a franchise should sell based on giving quality, complete experiences, not teasing.

        If I give you a haircut do you want me to finish the job? Or do I finish it halfway and ask you pay me another $15 to finish the job?

        If I build a car, should I leave off the doors and demand extra money?

  • Joseph Adorno

    The film had explained that Jonathan was killed (eaten) by Dragon, the housecat at the farm near the Frisby’s home. What made Jonathan interesting was the legacy he left behind, not Jonathan himself.

    “Ratatouile” did too good a job of making you aware that you were watching a film about rodentia…CGI isn’t entirely perfect, and I felt like I was watching a Pixar remake of “Willard”.

  • Harrison

    Horrendous? How so?

    • Hankenshift

      Lack of any character or character development—all one dimensional “types” and plot. Animation that is characterless—they all move and act the same—usually in a spastic, all over the place manner. I enjoy the crow for a bit, but again it gets tiresome because he has little to do. The designs are all over the map, and have details that don’t support character and are just distracting. The characters are colored very grey and desaturated to the point of often not being able to make out their forms. But mainly because the storytelling, character, and development are nonexistent, trite, and amateurish. I know it’s just a cartoon for small children, but as film makers, shouldn’t we expect more? But then again bluth’s entire oeuvre following this film backs up my comments perfectly.

      • storyfan

        Did we watch the same film? Or are you talking about the sequel? ;)

        I won’t begrudge anyone for taking issue with Bluth’s style of animation / design, but I really don’t get the stabs at the story.

        Frequently I’ve seen “one-dimensional” or “bland” thrown at film characters. It seems to be shorthand for “character I didn’t like for personal reasons.”

        I personally think Brisby has a nice character arc — from terrified mother incapable of saving her child to doing whatever it takes regardless of repercussions.

        • Hankenshift

          None of the characters change. They’re exactly the same at the beginning as they are at the end. It’s a terrible film–it was badly reviewed when it came out, and it flopped. And no wonder. don bluth can’t tell a story or create characters. He never could. He’s proven that many times over.

          • storyfan

            I just cited how the main character DID change. Whether it was a change you found interesting or compelling is another discussion, but it’s far from “no one changes.” In addition, the Owl changes his mind about helping Brisby, Justin goes from braggart to sober leader, and cowardly Sullivan turns against Jenner, just to name a few.

            The flop had little to do with the film’s quality and

            Your real argument seems to be that NIMH is bad because Bluth made it (a quick glance at your comment history reinforces this). Axe to grind?

  • Andrew Kieswetter

    Personally,I thought it was perfect the first time. Oh well, I wonder who’ll be voicing Jeremy this time. Btw,the only thing I didn’t like about Bluth’s NIMH was Jeremy having teeth.It destroyed the movies ‘realism’.(or perhaps he found a pair of false teeth and imitated humans by wearing them. Yeah,that’s it!)

  • alias2

    So far, every single live-action adaptation that I’ve seen (And this includes live-actton adaptations of anime) were awful.

    Is not about nostalgia. Is not about Holywood “raping” my childhood. Is just those are genuinely bad movies. Lousy effects, annoying characters, bad jokes, awful CGI…I don’t see the point of making live action adaptations of cartoons, and I don’t know why the fans of shows like “Avatar” or some anime series would want to see a live-action adaptation of those franchises.
    You Don’t See fans of the Godfather, Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones asking for an animated adaptation of those works.

    • Chris

      This one’s a live-action adaptation of a book, not of the cartoon adaptation of that book. If they can completely ignore the precedents set by that cartoon, it might be worthwhile.

  • What impressed me most about the original Secret of Nimh was the atypical protagonist; a widow and mother of three. She’s very naked in the literal and figurative sense, as she rushes blindly into an adventure she is ill-prepared for and only manifests a fighting prowess or special powers in the final moments, instead relying on her plucky determination. The plot they describe for the reboot just sounds very typical, very by-the-book. I guess it doesn’t matter as the existence of one doesn’t negate the other but it’s disappointing nonetheless.

  • Honest_Miss

    I hope I hope I hope I hope this turns out to be a good thing. I loved the children’s novel and I’m always a fan of adaptations. Hopefully they’ll do a fresh take from the book instead of trying to directly adapt the Secret of NIMH, that way the original remains somewhat unscathed and the new film has a chance at being it’s own wonderful take on the novel.

    I hope I hope I hope…