Tag Archives: Jenner

My Thoughts on: The Secret of NIMH (1982)

*I’m really sorry I’ve been slow with blog posts in recent days, life has been crazy this past week but I’m going to work hard to get back on track this week, that includes reviewing Dodgeball no matter what. Thanks for being so understanding!

Animated films were practically my entire world when I was growing up. I have fond memories of most of them, but The Secret of NIMH (along with most of Don Bluth’s animated films) holds a distinct place in my memory. I must have been pretty young the first time I saw this film, since it’s in my memory as far back as I can remember.

The story is based on the book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (the name was changed to prevent any possible disputes with the makers of Frisbees) and follows Mrs. Brisby, a mouse, as she tries to keep her home safe from a farmer’s plow. Normally she’d just pack the family up and move, but her youngest son is sick with pneumonia and can’t leave the house. That’s the motivation for this dark fantasy story, and it quickly gets darker from there.

The word “dark” to describe this film a lot, because that’s exactly what The Secret of NIMH is: dark! Even the anthropomorphic rats and mice are drawn with a…a sharp grittiness that you just don’t see in Disney (observe the less than welcoming mouth of Auntie Shrew for a case in point, and she’s mean to be a GOOD character). Jenner, the primary villain, is an even bigger example, since he practically oozes menace, even when he’s pretending to be nice. Don’t misunderstand, the animation is exquisite throughout, but there’s no way you’ll mistake this for a Disney film, it’s far too dark (even the colors seem to come from an overall darker color palette).

Brisby_Jenner.jpg

Don Bluth, as I’ve said several times before, had a unique viewpoint when it came to animated films. He believed that children could take just about anything in a story so long as there was ultimately a happy ending. That explains why The Secret of NIMH has creatures being brutally squashed underfoot (like the Great Owl killing the spider), stabbed in the back, and even a gruesome example of a throat being cut (that’s what I’m sure the animators were going for, even though the cut looks like it’s in the chest, it feels like it’s meant to be a throat slash). All of these things were burned into my brain from a very young age, but it took me years to understand that what I was feeling was a mild form of trauma, since I was seeing things I shouldn’t have known about for a number of years.

I could honestly go on forever about how traumatizing The Secret of NIMH is (that’s why I created the Disturbing Bluth series), though thankfully the trauma doesn’t stop me from continuing to enjoy it today. However, for the rest of my life, I will always wonder how a film like this was able to be made and marketed for children, containing the dark visuals that it does (only Disney’s The Black Cauldron is darker in my opinion).

If you endured The Secret of NIMH as a child, what did you think about it? Let me know your thoughts about the film in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Disturbing Bluth

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Disturbing Bluth #4: Jenner in The Secret of NIMH (1982)

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Given that The Secret of NIMH is 36 years old, I sometimes get the feeling that people have forgotten just how disturbing Jenner (the primary rat antagonist) really is. From the moment Mrs. Brisby arrives in the rats’ secret home under the rose bush, she hears about Jenner and how he keeps challenging Nicodemus for leadership of the rats. But there’s so much more to the villain that makes him deeply and truly disturbing.

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The Secret of NIMH (1982): Jenner before the Council

For starters, look at the picture above: this is when Jenner is putting on his ‘nice’ facade for Mrs. Brisby. Even when he’s trying to appear good he looks terrifying. Second, Paul Shenar, Jenner’s voice actor, gives the character a rich, deep voice. This makes Jenner a good speaker and also serves to partially hide how savage he can be. Part of what makes Jenner so disturbing is that he genuinely has no sense of long term consequences and his empathy is non-existent (making him something of a sociopath).

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Even when confronted with the news that NIMH is coming to the rose bush in the morning (and deep down Jenner has to know there’s no reason for Mrs. Brisby to lie), Jenner decries her news as lies simply because it ruins his plans to stay in the rose bush. Third, Jenner is a master manipulator as can be seen in his interactions with Sullivan, a not-so-smart rat who finds himself roped into Jenner’s plans. Jenner openly mocks Sullivan, which is in itself cruel but not disturbing. He convinces the weak-willed rat to go along with him and that everything will be better once Nicodemus and Justin are dead (it’s implied that Jenner will kill the latter as well).

The Secret of NIMH (1982): Jenner’s Plan

Jenner: With Nicodemus out of the way, what’s to stop us from taking over?

Sullivan: Jenner, you can’t kill Nicodemus.

Jenner: No taste for blood, eh? They’ve taken the animal out of you.

The disturbing part comes at the climax of the film when the Brisby home is being relocated by the rats using complex machinery. Jenner wants to sabotage the equipment so that Nicodemus will be killed in the ensuing collapse but Sullivan doesn’t want to do it. This prompts Jenner to hold Sullivan at sword point, implying that if he doesn’t go through with it, he’ll kill him.

Jenner: [Holding a sword to Sullivan’s throat] Don’t get any ideas, my friend. You’re in this up to your neck.

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The Secret of NIMH (1982): Jenner vs Justin

Despite this threat, it’s genuinely shocking when Jenner actually goes through with it in brutal fashion, slicing Sullivan’s throat with his sword when he throws Justin (Jenner’s rival) a weapon to defend himself. It’s one of the most graphic things I’ve ever seen happen to an animated character, but the best is saved for Jenner himself. After a lengthy sword fight, Jenner is wounded in the stomach by Justin, but not fatally. As Justin mobilizes the rats to get ready to leave, Jenner sneaks up from behind to deliver a killing blow…only to be literally stabbed in the back by a dying Sullivan, falling to his death in the mud.

Jenner is a character that gave me nightmares for years and he still remains one of the more disturbing aspects of The Secret of NIMH. What do you think of Jenner? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Disturbing Bluth #1: The Secret of NIMH (Overview and Trivia)

Disturbing Bluth #2: The Secret of NIMH: Dragon the (Demon) Cat

Disturbing Bluth #3: The Great Owl in The Secret of NIMH (1982)

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Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂