The haunting 1982 adaptation of the children’s book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, The Secret of NIMH, is famous for traumatising a generation of kids, with the very title no doubt rekindling dark memories long buried. Well, good news, because Fox is bringing the Rats of NIMH back in the form of an animated event series. The studio has already given the project a script commitment, and are now on the hunt for a writer for the project, which has been described as a “complete reboot of the story that is separate from the previous film.”
Released in 1971 and written by Robert C. O’Brien, with illustrations by Zena Bernstein, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH was inspired by the research of John B. Calhoun on mouse and rat population dynamics at the National Institute of Mental Health from the 1940s to the 1960s. The book centers on the plight of a widowed field mouse, Mrs. Frisby, who seeks the aid of a group of former laboratory rats in rescuing her home from destruction by a farmer’s plow, saving her son from pneumonia, and of the history of the rats’ escape from the laboratory and development of a literate and technological society.
The novel won the 1972 Newbery Medal, and was eventually adapted in animated form into MGM/UA Entertainment Co.’s 1982 effort The Secret of NIMH. Helmed by Don Bluth in his directorial debut, the animated movie features the voices of Elizabeth Hartman, Peter Strauss, Arthur Malet, Dom DeLuise, John Carradine, Derek Jacobi, Hermione Baddeley, and Paul Shenar.
The Secret of NIMH follows a similar tale to the source material, introducing audiences to Mrs. Brisby (Elizabeth Hartman), a widowed mouse, must move her children out of their home in a field before the local farmer starts plowing. Unable to leave because her son is ill, Mrs. Brisby seeks the help of nearby rats, who have heightened intelligence after being the subjects of scientific experiments. She receives an unexpected gift from the elder rat, Nicodemus (Derek Jacobi). Soon Mrs. Brisby is caught in a conflict among the rats, jeopardizing her mission to save her family.
The Secret of NIMH received widespread critical acclaim upon release, and holds an approval rating of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie has since become a staple of many a childhood, with The Secret of NIMH telling a dark, evocative story that respects its intended young audiences enough not to tone down its mature themes.
While The Secret of NIMH did spawn a sequel with 1998’s direct-to-video The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue, the less said about that particular animated venture the better. And thus, The Rats of NIMH franchise has lain dormant ever since, with Fox no doubt hoping to tap into the nostalgia felt for both the novel and movie and tell their own dark tale.
While Fox’s animated series tend to be aimed at family-oriented programming, reports state that the studio’s event series will have a darker and more adult tone in-keeping with that audiences expect from a Rats of NIMH adaptation. So, ready yourselves and your children for many a nightmare to come. This comes to us from Deadline.