The life-or-death stakes at the core of cult classic, The Secret of NIMH were enough to strike fear in the heart of any child. So news that a rebooted version of the non-Disney movie is coming out strikes an entirely different type of fear into my heart — sometimes you shouldn't mess with an original. Alas, Hollywood loves rebooting our childhood favs, so shortly we will have a new version of the classic based on the 1972 Newberry Medal winner from Robert C. O'Brien, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. I'm going to give this new version the benefit of the doubt (for now) even though Variety reports this version will include both live-action and animation. Benefit of the doubt or not, I can't help but wonder how The Rats of NIMH will make the transition from strictly animation to live-action and animation.
As clarification for those kids reading this who didn't grow up hiding under their pillows during screenings the 1982 film, The Secret of Nimh follows a widowed mouse named Mrs. Brisby (changed from the book's "Frisby") who lives on a farm with her children. Mrs. Brisby must work with the rat population at the farm — who like her deceased husband were made super smart because of scientific experimentation by an agency called National Institute of Mental Health — to keep her home from getting plowed and to keep the rats from geting recaptured by the Institute. It's honestly pretty terrifying for a children's movie.
While the 1982 version was purely animation, Variety reports The Rats of Nimh will contain both live-action and animation elements. It seems one of the ways the series is going to deal with this transition is with the choice of director, James Madigan. Madigan has never directed a feature film before but has worked as a VFX supervisor for television and movies, most notably Iron Man 2, The Da Vinci Code, and the TV series Rome for which he won an Emmy. With his roster of experience it seems like he's the perfect guy to handle the transition.
Another way the reboot might try to make its style a little less jarring for fans is by making the story different from the movie, perhaps even more like the original book? This would mean the film would be slightly darker in some respects, and hopefully give the main character back her literary name, "Mrs. "Frisby." As wary as I am for a reboot, a more truer-to-novel version isn't the worst thing.
Here's hoping that Madigan's directorial debut does justice to one of the '80s greatest children's movies. Those genius rats deserve a reboot as on-point as they are.