New Rats of NIMH Franchise Will Begin With an Origin Story

By  · Published on March 5th, 2015

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

If you grew up in the early ’80s, like me, you probably saw The Secret of NIMH a billion times. Don Bluth’s animated feature, his first following his famous departure from Disney, is a classic, as far as I’m concerned, but not one that I’m upset is being redone. It’s based on Robert C. O’Brien’s also-classic, award-winning children’s novel “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH,” which if you grew up in the early ’80s, like me, you were also very familiar with. There’s long been talk of another adaptation, and now according to Deadline, the latest attempt is being made by MGM, who also distributed Bluth’s version.

The plan this time is for a hybrid of animation and live-action, which would seem unnecessary given how few human characters there are in the book. But the idea isn’t to do a straight adaptation of “Mrs. Frisby.” Instead, producers Daniel Bobker and Ehren Kruger (producer and writer of The Brothers Grimm, respectively) and adapting screenwriter Michael Berg (the Ice Age movies) are reportedly aiming for a franchise that will begin with an origin tale of the novel’s rats, who became super-intelligent through experiments at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). So, there’s presumably plenty of room for real actors to play scientists. Meanwhile, if Mrs. Frisby isn’t actually a main character in the initial movie, simply titling it The Rats of NIMH is a good way to go.

Mrs. Frisby could still appear, though, at least towards the end when she would meet husband Jonathan, who isn’t a rat but is a part of the NIMH experiments (he’s likely the “imperiled mouse” mentioned in Deadline’s synopsis, a character never seen in The Secret of NIMH because he’d been killed prior to its events), and acquire that title surname. Speaking of which, I’m curious to see if the new movie will have to change the name, as Bluth did, due to a trademark claim by Frisbee makers Whammo Toys.

It’ll be some time before this hits theaters, but fortunately we still have the original, which you can watch via Hulu below. I think the 1998 sequel, The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue is on there, too, but not worth seeing.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.