The Secret of NIMH

Press Information

Effective June 3, 1982

The Second Age of Animation is here.

"The Secret of NIMH" an action fantasy in the classical style of animation, arrives this summer.

The film, set for release in July, 1982, will mark the first feature from Don Bluth Productions since he and 16 others left Walt Disney Studio more than two years ago.

"The Secret of NIMH," is the story of a widowed mouse who seeks the help of some mysterious rats to save her family, and features the vocal talents of Elizabeth Hartman as Mrs. Brisby, Dom DeLuise as Jeremy, an impetuous young crow who is searching for Miss Right but does everything wrong, and Peter Strauss as Justin, the captain of the guard, destined to inherit the leadership of the rats of NIMH.

Derek Jacobi does the voice characterization of Nicodemus, revered and venerable leader of the rats; John Carradine is the Great Owl, omnipotent and awesome adviser, and Hermione Baddeley is Auntie Shrew, Brisby's bothered neighbor and self-appointed keeper of the field.

In addition, Arthur Malet gives voice to Mr. Ages, a crotchety chemist mouse and Paul Shenar to dastardly Jenner, the evil rat who tries to lead a revolution within the pack.

Production began in January, 1980, and was completed in early June, 1982, with more than 6800 feet of film completed by 120 artists. The Aurora presentation of the Don Bluth production will be released in the United States and Canada by MGM/United Artists Entertainment Co.

The film features many animation methods discarded or ignored by other studios as being too expensive. These include multiplane camera shots and multiple passes of the film through the camera to add depth and dimension to scenes; characters' shadows, reflections and other special effects animation scenes; the orchestration of color throughout the film to achieve emotional impact and, most importantly, an uncompromised story line.

"The Secret of NIMH" was produced by Don Bluth, Gary Goldman and John Pomeroy and directed by Bluth. It is based on the Newbery Award-winning book, "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH" by Robert C. O'Brien, with a story adaptation by Bluth, Pomeroy, Will Finn and Goldman. Jerry Goldsmith composed and conducted the songs and score, with special lyrics by Paul Williams. Mel Griffin is production executive. Rich Irvine and James L. Stewart are executive producers.


Classical animation is full, rich, warm, colorful. The art is of high quality, the characters move fluidly and fully in settings which are meticulous in detail, color and period of furniture, architecture and props. There are shadows and changes in lighting which occur from day to night, from sunshine to shade. When water splashes, the audience sees those splashes and sees through them. When water glistens, we see that too. When a gold necklace is put in a box, the sparkles of some of its links can be seen. Mood changes in a scene are reflected in the color of the backgrounds; when feeling runs high, colors tend to oranges or reds; when action calms down, blues and greens are used. There are more than 600 colors at work in "The Secret of NIMH," nearly 500 of which were developed by Don Bluth Studio. There will also be more than 1000 backgrounds.

In all movies, there are 24 frames of film projected onto the screen per second. In classical animation, there are 24 drawings of each animated character or special effect per second when the camera is moving, as in a dolly shot or a pan. In shots wehre the camera is stationary, there are 12 drawings per second, or one for every two frames of film. Many times the characters or effects are each done on separate plastic cels. In some shots in "The Secret of NIMH," there are 96 drawings in a single second of film. By the time the film is finished, including all the preliminary sketches, key poses and cleaned up art, there will be a million-and-a-half drawings done.

Special effects play an important role in classical animation. 'Special effects' in animation is defined as anything that moves on screen that is not a character. Basically there are two types: natural phenomena, such as trees blowing in the wind and the sparkle of a gold chain; and supernatural phenomena, such as the hologram into which Nicodemus can forecast and even shape the future, the amulet and its pulsating glow, or the laser-like dust that burns Nicodemus's words into the parchment of the 'Great Book.'

Technology in camera work also adds up to the richness of classical animation. Hand-built cameras called multiplanes (Bluth has two), feature a camera about eight feet off the floor and pointed downward. On various levels, or planes, are placed the background, character and special effects cels needed for each scene. Bluth multiplanes are operated electronically, making their operation easier and less expensive than those of other studios. Multiple passes of the same film through the camera are also used extensively. In some scenes there are 12 'passes.' Both of these camera "tricks" add depth and dimension to scenes.

Classical animation stands out from the limited or flat animation found in Saturday morning cartoons, where many times only one part of a character moves in a scene, and from the computer animation or stylized "arty" types of animation employed in other animated feature films.


After nearly a decade of training under the revered animation pioneers who led Disney Studio to the pinnacle of worldwide success, Bluth, Goldman and Pomeroy left that company on September 13, 1979, followed by 14 artists to set up shop full-time in Bluth's garage, where they had worked on a special project during nights and weekends for several years, rediscovering techniques used by Walt Disney in his early films--techniques now abandoned, considered by some to be too expensive for contunued practical use.

Bluth was convinced the classical animation techniques could be resurrected and put back on the screen. It is his desire to "preserve this valiant art form."

Their first featurette, "Banjo, the Woodpile Cat," produced in that garage studio, was presented on ABC-TV earlier this year.

The producers first learned of Robert C. O'Brien's Newbery Award-winning book, "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH" from a highly-respected animation storyman. They read and loved it, and urged Disney to make the film. Although the idea was rejected, the three never lost sight of the project, and together with Aurora, finally obtained rights to it after their departure from Disney in 1979. In January of 1980, now out of the garage and into larger quarters, the new company began production on the ambitious project, scouring television and movies for vocal talent and art houses for potential animators.


Farmer Fitzgibbons' fallow field lies somewhere near a mysterious research institute known only to the animals as NIMH. But Mrs. Brisby, widowed mother of four, doesn't know that. She and her offspring live in a half-buried cinder block near a large rock in the field, wondering when, with the coming of the planting season, The Plow will chase them away--and worrying, because this year young Timmy is confined to bed with pneumonia.

Brisby enters a rusty threshing machine to the secret lab of Mr. Ages, and seeks medicine for her ailing son. She flies on the back of newfound friend Jeremy the crow to the dank lair of the Great Owl. She enters the frightening and mysterious underground civilization beneath the farmer's rosebush to see the rats and ask their help in moving her house. She enters the farmer's kitchen to put sleeping powder in the cat's food so the rats can work undisturbed. And she even braves the most terrifying place of all--her inner fears--to rescue her family.



Hartman won an Academy Award nomination for her performance as the blind girl in "A Patch of Blue," and starred in other films including "The Group," "You're a Big Boy Now," "The Fixer," "Full Moon High" and "Intermission."

She also recently appeared in a television pilot of "Cages" and has done numerous television appearances. Her theatrical background includes "Our Town," "The Glass Menagerie," "The Madwoman of Chaillot," "Bus Stop" and "Becket," among others. After a self-imposed absence from acting, Hartman has now returned to Hollywood to continue her career.

Born in Youngstown, Ohio, she commutes between Los Angeles and Cleveland.

DOM DELUISE is Jeremy the crow.

One of America's favorite funnymen, DeLuise is currently starring in "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" with Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds. His film credits include Mel Brooks' "History of the World, Part I," "Silent Movie," "Blazing Saddles," "The Twelve Chairs," and other films such as "Fatso," "Smokey and the Bandit II," "Cannonball Run," "The End," "The World's Greatest Lover," "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother" and "The Cheap Detective."

He made his directorial debut with "Hot Stuff," in which he also starred, and he directed a stage production of "Same Time, Next Year" at the Burt Reynolds Playhouse in Jupiter, Florida.

His stage apearances include "The Student Gypsy," "Last of the Red Hot Lovers" and "Here's Love," and he spent two seasons at the Cleveland Playhouse where he appeared in such plays as "School for Scandal," "Hamlet" and "Stalag 17."

DeLuise got his introduction to television on "The Garry Moore Show" as Dominick the Great, a bumbling magician. He also had two series of his own, "The Dom DeLuise Variety Show" and "Lotsa Luck," and he has been a regular guest on major talk and variety shows.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, DeLuise now resides with his wife, actress Carol Arthur, and three sons in Los Angeles.

PETER STRAUSS is Justin, Captain of the Guard, loyal proponent of The Plan.

Strauss became an overnight sensation after his performance in ABC-TV's "Rich Man, Poor Man" miniseries, for which he was nominated for Emmy and Golden Globe Awards. A year ago, he starred in "Masada," an eight-hour movie for television, and in 1979 he received an Emmy for his portrayal of an imprisoned murderer in "The Jericho Mile." He is also remembered for his portrayal of "Young Joe: The Forgotten Kennedy."

Born in New York City, Strauss makes his home near Los Angeles.

DEREK JACOBI is Nicodemus, esteemed leader of the rats.

Jacobi, long recognized as one of England's most gifted classical actors, gained his first measure of American fame for his virtuoso title role performed in "I, Claudius," for which he was named best television actor in 1976 by the British Academy of Film and Television Awards. More recent credits include leads in PBS productions of Shakespearean plays, including "Hamlet" and "Richard III," and the role of Hitler in the NBC miniseries "Inside the Third Reich." His film credits include "The Human Factor" and "The Enigma." In 1980, he made his Broadway debut starring in the Russian satirical comedy, "The Suicide," and starred as Burgess in the television docu-drama "Philby, Burgess and MacLean." Jacobi was chosen by Sir Laurence Olivier as one of the eight founding members of Britain's National Theatre Company in 1963.

He lives in London.

JOHN CARRADINE is the omnipotent Great Owl.

Carradine began his screen career in 1936 and has appeared in countless productions including "Stagecoach," "The Grapes of Wrath," "Captains Courageous," "The True Story of Jesse James," "The Ten Commandments," "The House of Dracula," "The House of Frankenstein," "The Three Musketeers," "The Shootist," "The Last Tycoon," "The Sentinel" and "The Howling."

Carradine began on the stage and has appeared in a broad spectrum of roles, from Shakespeare to broad comedy. At one time, he owned a repertory theatre in San Francisco where he produced, directed and starred in numerous productions.

Born 76 years ago in New York City, Carradine now resides with his wife Emily in Montecito, California. Sons David, Keith and Christopher are also actors.

HERMIONE BADDELEY is busybody neighbor Auntie Shrew.

Baddeley, known to millions as the outrageous housekeeper Mrs. Naugatuck on the popular television series, "Maude," has had a show business career that includes singing, dancing, musical comedy and serious drama on stage, screen and television.

Born in Shropshire, England, she made her London stage debut at age 11 and went on to become the Queen of London's musical revues, winning critical acclaim for her American debut on Broadway in "A Taste of Honey." She starred in Tennessee Williams' "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore," and Noel Coward's "Fallen Angel," among many others.

Baddeley won an Academy Award nomination for her role in "Room at the Top." Other film credits include "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," "Mary Poppins," "Harlow," "Marriage on the Rocks" and others.

Although she was told at the age of 12 by George Bernard Shaw, who had just seen her perform, to change her name from "Baddeley" to "Goodeley," she kept her name and became one of entertainment's foremost comediennes.

Baddeley now makes her home in the Hollywood Hills.

ARTHUR MALET is crotchety chemist mouse Mr. Ages.

Born in England and raised in Wales, Malet has made the United States his home since his teens.

Malet's other screen credits include "Savage Harvest," "Heaven Can Wait," "Halloween," "In the Heat of the Night," "Mary Poppins" and "Robinson Crusoe." His Broadway appearances include "Look After Lulu," "Shadow of the Gunman" and "Moonbirds." On television, he has made numerous guest appearances, including "Barney Miller," "Palmerstown, U.S.A." and "Bosom Buddies."

Acting awards he has won include the Vernon Rice Award, the New York Drama Desk Award, an Obie, a Theater Arts Actor of the Year Award, the Village Voice Theater Award, and the Lola D'Annunzio Award from the Circle in the Square in New York.

A gourmet cook and avid gardener, Malet now lives in Santa Monica, California.

PAUL SHENAR is dastardly Jenner.

Shenar gained national and critical recognition in his portrayal of Orsen Welles in "The Night That Panicked America," shown on ABC. More recently he was in "Beulah Land," "Suddenly Love" and "Ziegfeld, the Man and His Woman" for television.

A founding member, actor, director, teacher and student of the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, Shenar has played more than 40 roles, including "Hamlet," "Oedipus Rex" and in "Tiny Alice."

Shenar lives in Los Angeles.

SHANNEN DOHERTY is Teresa, the too-responsible daughter.

Shannen started acting last year at the age of 10 and has already appeared in numerous commercials and documentaries and a two-part segment of the "Father Murphy" teleseries.

IAN FRIED is Timmy, the youngest child who has pneumonia.

Ian started acting at the age of five-and-a-half, when he was "discovered" in a restaurant in Toluca Lake, near Burbank. Now seven, he stars currently as Rocky Jr. in MGM/UA's "Rocky III."

JODI HICKS is Cynthia, the toddler.

Jodi makes her film "debut" in "The Secret of NIMH," and appeared with Timothy Hutton in "The Long Way Home" on television.

WIL WHEATON is Martin, the independent, would-be protector.

Wheaton makes his debut in "The Secret of NIMH."


Also lending their vocal talents to the film are Edie McClurg, Aldo Ray, Tom Hatten, Lucille Bliss and Josh Lawrence in character roles.


JERRY GOLDSMITH, Composer and Conductor.

Goldsmith, Academy Award-winner for his score for "The Omen" and three-time Emmy winner, has composed and conducted the score for the film.

His Emmy Awards were for television productions of "Babe," "QB VII" and "The Red Pony." He has been nominated for 11 other Academy Awards. His most memorable movie scores include those for "Star Trek--The Motion Picture," "Outland," "Alien," "Chinatown," "Papillon," "Patton," "Planet of the Apes," "The Wind and the Lion," "Sand Pebbles," "A Patch of Blue" and "The Boys From Brazil."

A Los Angeles native, Goldsmith was educated at Loa Angeles City College and began his professional career as a music teacher. He began scoring for radio shows and from there made the transition to television with shows such as "Climax," "Playhouse 90," "Studio One" and "Gunsmoke." In the late 1950's, he scored his first film, "The Black Patch" and in 1962, was nominated for the first time for an Oscar with his score for "Freud." In 1969, he made his debut as a concert conductor with the Southern California Chamber Sympony.

For "The Secret of NIMH," he conducts members of the London National Philharmonic Orchestra.

He and his wife Carol live in Westwood, a Los Angeles suburb, with their infant son Aaron. Goldsmith also has four other children.


Williams, most noted as songwriter/singer, won an Academy Award for his song "Evergreen" from "A Star Is Born," and co-wrote eight of the movie's 11 songs. He was also nominated for the song, "The Rainbow Connection" and the score, both from "The Muppet Movie." Though he is well-known for standard tunes like "An Old Fashioned Love Song" and "Out in the Country," his career as a motion picture composer began in 1973 when his song, "Nice To Be Around," was featured in "Cinderella Liberty" and received an Academy Award nomination. Other movie credits include "Phantom of the Paradise," "Bugsy Malone," "The End," "Agatha" and "One on One."


DON BLUTH, Producer, Director, Story Adaptor, Layout Designer, Animator.

Bluth, heir apparent to the throne of Disney animation, left that studio nearly three years ago in a dispute over creative quality. He and partners Gary Goldman and John Pomeroy founded Don Bluth Productions in Bluth's garage, where they and 14 other ex-Disney employees completed work on what had been a training film, "Banjo the Woodpile Cat," a 30-minute television special. It will be aired on ABC-TV this year.

Born in El Paso, Texas, Bluth moved six years later with his parents and six brothers and sisters to Payson, Utah, where he grew up milking 24 cows every morning, picking tomatoes for school money and dreaming of becoming a Disney animator.

He landed a job as assistant animator at Disney in 1956 and worked on "Sleeping Beauty." After a year-and-a-half, he grew restless and left, first to conduct a teaching and recruiting ministry in Argentina for the Mormon Church, then to attend Brigham Young University at Provo, Utah, where he majored in English. He and a brother ran a little theater in Culver City, California for three years.

In 1967, he joined Filmation Studios as a layout man. In addition to humdrum work on Saturday morning "Kidvid" shows, Bluth formed a touring young people's singing group called "The New Generation."

In 1971 he returned to Disney and joined their new training program for animation. He animated on "Robin Hood," released in 1973, and "Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too," released in 1974. He was directing animator on "The Rescuers," released in 1977, and director of animation on "Pete's Dragon," a musical fantasy combining live action and animation released at Christmas, 1977. He produced and directed "The Small One," a featurette released the next year at Christmas, and was animating on "The Fox and the Hound" until September, 1979.

Under his own banner he has produced and directed "Banjo the Woodpile Cat" and the two-minute animated fantasy sequence in Universal's feature film "Xanadu," starring Olivia Newton-John and Michael Beck.

He is a member of the Shorts Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

He currently resides in Culver City, California.

GARY GOLDMAN, Producer, Directing Animator, Story Adaptor, Animator.

Goldman, born in Oakland, California and raised in nearby Watsonville, began developing his artistic pursuits in his early teen years, in addition to being a math whiz at school. He joined the Air Force, during which time he was stationed in Japan for two years and Germany for 18 months. He attended Cabrillo Community College at Aptos, California and graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1971 with a degree in fine arts. After a brief career as an electronic technician using training he received in the Air Force, Goldman came to Los Angeles to investigate a career in animation and joined Disney Studios in 1972 assisting Frank Thomas on "Robin Hood" and animating on "Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too" (1974). He also animated on "The Rescuers" (1977) and was a directing animator on "Pete's Dragon" in 1977 and "The Small One," a featurette released in 1978.

His last assignment at Disney was animating on "The Fox and the Hound." He left Disney with Bluth and collaborated with him and Pomeroy on "Banjo" as producer and animator. He coordinated the two-minute animated segment for "Xanadu" and was responsible for most of the optical work done on that project.

A member of the Shorts Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Goldman resides in Northridge, California, with his wife Jan and their two sons.

JOHN POMEROY, Producer, Directing Animator, Story Adaptor, Animator.

Pomeroy joined Disney as a trainee in 1973 and so impressed his employers that he was animating within six months.

He worked on "Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too" (1974), animated on "The Rescuers" (1977) and was a directing animator on "Pete's Dragon" and on the short subject "The Small One" (1978). His last assignment at Disney was animating on "The Fox and the Hound" before he left with Bluth and Goldman, with whom he collaborated on "Banjo" as producer and animator.

Pomeroy was born in Los Angeles and grew up the middle child of five children. He showed an early interest in marionettes and hand puppets and a gift for sculpture and art. He staged several successful one-man art shows while attending Riverside City College, majoring in architecture, and the Art Center College of Design, majoring in illustration.

He and his wife Lorna, a fellow animator with whom he has collaborated on several projects, live in Glendale. He is a member of the Shorts Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.


In addition to Bluth, Pomeroy and Goldman, WILL FINN also helped adapt the story and animated on the film.

Finn was born in Geneva, New York, and was raised the fourth of six children in Rochester and Auburn. While attending Auburn High School, he wrote for the literary magazine. After graduation, he attended the Art Institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and during his years there, he drew a comic strip and helped pay his way through college by drawing caricatures at college social functions. He also met Eric Larsen, chief Disney recruiter.

In 1978, with an associate degree in commercial art, Finn came to Los Angeles and presented a total of five portfolios at Disney before he was hired. Six months later, in November of 1979, he was fired from Disney and hired by Bluth.

He and his wife Cindy, a color model designer at Bluth, live in Burbank.


ROBERT C. O'BRIEN wrote "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH," a classic children's novel published in 1971, and the following year he won the John Newbery Award, given annually by the American Library Association for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

Born Robert Leslie Conly in Brooklyn, New York, he attended Williams College and graduated from the University of Rochester. He was an editor and writer for Newsweek magazine from 1941 to 1944, for Pathfinder magazine from 1946 to 1951, and for National Geographic magazine from 1951 until his death in 1973.

His other books include "The Silver Crown," "A Report From Group 17" and "Z for Zachariah," which was completed by his wife and one of his daughters after his death.


RICH IRVINE went into partnership with James L. Stewart and formed Aurora Productions in 1978. Irvine, president of Aurora, had been executive vice president and chief operating officer of Talent Payment, Inc., Production Payment, Inc., and Central Casting Corporation, all subsidiaries of IDC Services, Inc., of which he was corporate senior vice president, west coast. These companies provide production services for independent motion pictures, television and commercial producers.

Other positions he's held include vice president of marketing, Trans American Video, Inc.; president and chief operating officer, Straight Arrow Publishing, Inc. (publishers of Rolling Stone Magazine); president of Walt Disney Educational Media Company, which supervises non-theatrical distribution of Disney movies, and director of marketing for the Champion Valley Farms division of Campbell Soup Company.

Irvine attended the University of Southern California.

JAMES L. STEWART, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Aurora, was formerly a vice president and administrative assistant to the president of Walt Disney Productions.

During his 12-year career at Walt Disney Studios, Stewart functioned in a wide range of management administrative activities including corporate, governmental, public and investor relations. Prior to being named a vice president in 1974, Stewart served for seven years as administrative assistant to the executive vice president, then president of the company. He also served as Disney's publicity director.

Stewart was previously a senior publicist with MGM Studios from 1961 to 1965 and was with CBS Radio Network for two years.

He is a graduate of the University of Southern California with bachelor of arts degree in telecommunications and a master's degree in finance.

Other Presskit Items
New Era Begins For Animation.
Steps in Making "NIMH" Are No Secret Here.
Don Bluth Retains Classical Animation In "Secret of NIMH."
Gary Goldman Communicates Through "The Secret of NIMH."
Elizabeth Hartman Knows About Courage In "NIMH."
Peter Strauss Is Hero In "The Secret of NIMH."
Derek Jacobi Is Lead Rat In "Secret of NIMH."
Dom DeLuise Wings Way To Success In "Secret of NIMH."
Goldsmith, Williams Pen "NIMH" Music.

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