VIDEO: An American Tail vs. The Secret of NIMH

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It’s the Agony Booth debut of Reel vs. Reel, where your host the Animated Heroine looks at two similar animated films to see which one comes out on top and why! And like any reviewer who focuses on animation, she often delves into the world of Don Bluth. Here, she compares his first feature film, The Secret of NIMH, to his first successful feature film, An American Tail, to see which one is the superior Bluth film.

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  • Muthsarah

    Sweet, papasan!

    These were, near as I can remember, the first two animated movies I ever saw (and Black Cauldron, but I’m not counting that one as I don’t technically remember it).  I like the idea of looking at them back-to-back, and I like that you chose the right winner.  For me, Nimh wins out for two main reasons: no songs (songs are great…IF they’re great, if not, they can ruin a movie, and An American Tail’s were…meh at best), and a better voice cast.  If AAT wasn’t set in an era I find so interesting, and if it wasn’t so well-drawn, it wouldn’t be worth recommending; it doesn’t even register on an emotional level like All Dogs does at times.  The visuals in NIMH were also outstanding, probably my favorite part of the movie and worth the price of admission alone, but early Bluth was always great at that.  Even Silver Age Disney’s didn’t look as good.

    I never understood, though, what was the true significance of the rats having human intelligence.  Do they have any concept of their own intelligence?  They have clothes, medicine, human-like homes, and they talk (in some form or another).  Is being able to think like a human that big of a step up for them?  Is it like a human becoming like a demigod, or just a math professor becoming like Einstein?  Even the humans don’t have magic.  It’s been a while since I’ve last seen it
    (it’s near the top of my Queue, though), but I remember the movie confusing me about that.  I understand that the book didn’t have any magic, and so it probably made more sense, but at least Bluth made much with the pretty and all.  I feel confident in declaring NIMH the best American (at least) animated film between Sleeping Beauty and The Great Mouse Detective.  It’s just a shame it didn’t do better when it came out.  Fickle plebes.

    Sorry to focus on a point you’ve already gone over twice, but…have you ever enjoyed any romance featuring talking animals, or is there just something about LatT (or just dogs) that irritates you so much?  Do you like The Lion King?

    This was a well-made review.  I’ve already bookmarked your site, and I’ll be checking out your backlog in the next week.  Welcome to the site. 🙂

    • Cristiona

      The movie went way into the magic angle that I don’t think the book had.  The big thing with the intelligence was that they were able to do human-like things like use electricity and make elevators and such.  They could also read and write.  So while all the critters could talk, they still couldn’t build a civilization like the rats could.  In the rose bush, they stole electricity from the farmer, but their goal was to move to the valley and be entirely self-sufficient.  Presumably growing their own food and such.

    • TheAnimatedHeroine

      Thank you 🙂
      I love the Lion King although in that case the movie really wasn’t about the romance itself. Kinda depends on the movie I guess.

  • MephLord

    I’m looking forward to seeing more material from Animated Heroine, she’s pretty cool and entertaining to watch.  Good pickup for the Agony Booth.

  • Cristiona

    Nimh is one of my most favorite movies of all time, not just favorite animated movie.  I couldn’t agree more with your analysis of Mrs. Brisby, but I wonder how much of that is Bluth’s work or because of the source book.  I think much of it is from the book, but it’s certainly a wonderful adaptation.  And the artwork on the Owl is simply stunning.

    Don’t feel bad; the only good thing about Lady & the Tramp is the dully named “Siamese Cat Song”.

    • TheAnimatedHeroine

      Yeah, it’s a great movie. Years after I’d seen it as a kid I still remembered parts of it and the animation is beautiful. Yeahh, not big on cutesy animals, so films like Lady and the Tramp, the Aristocats and 101 Dalmatians never appealed to me as a kid.

  • Joseph Tedesco… couldn’t resist! 

    Welcome to the site, and if it makes you feel any better the childhood classic that everybody seems to like more than me is “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Liked the Oompa Loompa songs, but i’d take the Tim Burton remake any day! COME AT ME!!!!

    • Thomas Stockel

      The reason why I think the original Willy Wonka is superior is, well, Willy Wonka.  Gene Wilder is a much more entertaining character.  I think by the time Burton’s remake came out Depp’s act had gotten really stale to me.  It’s like, “Oh, look, it’s a Tim Burton/Johnny Depp team up and Depp is playing another offbeat character”.

      On top of that, I think it was more interesting that Wilder’s Wonka always seems to be in control, whereas with Depp I couldn’t help but wonder how this guy could have ever created a successful business that employed thousands.  Granted, the reconciliation scene at the end of the film between Wonka and his father was very well done, but that was not nearly enough to save the movie for me.

      And okay, I hated the new Mike TV.

      • actor

         To be fair, you’re not supposed to like any of the kids.

    • TheAnimatedHeroine

      I don’t dislike the Tim Burton version as much as some people do, I like both movies, although I do really love Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka.

  • The_Stig

    No question NIMH is the better movie. Tail had Spielberg family film written all over it. NIMH had balls and Bluth’s animation is GORGEOUS…..and for some reason, you couldn’t make an animated family film in the 80’s without having Dom DeLuise involved. Ever notice that?

    By the way, I love your chair. It must be an AB thing for reviewers to have kickass furniture. Porn Critic has that awesome chair and Cinema Slob has that chair that makes him look like Edith Ann.

    • TheAnimatedHeroine

      I agree…well obviously. It has a lot going for it. Yeah, it’s completely impractical furniture and the base cracks ridiculously easy but it’s comfy 🙂

  • Thomas Stockel

    A great intro to the site.  I have never seen An American Tail so I can’t honestly judge, but I saw ‘Nimh a half dozen times on HBO back in the day and loved it.  I’m sorry it was not a box office hit because if I think it was it may have had a chance to give American animation a much needed kick in the ass.

    And I’m not really crazy about a lot of earlier Disney classics, either.  I dunno, maybe it’s a generational thing?

    • Theanimatedheroine

      Possibly. I didn’t get into them until I was older to be honest

  • Sofie Liv

    Hah, I know I all-ready said it, but welcome again! congrats.

    And well.. since I’ve all-ready seen most of your videos.. I probably wont comment to much on them. But that’s only because I like them so much that I have all-ready seen them ^^

    • Dani Bollenbacher

      Thank you again ^^ That’s perfectly all right. I’m flattered.

  • Jason Withrow

    Ah, looks good!  I’m going to have to go pick through your back catalogue now.  Unusual Suspect syndrome.

    • TheAnimatedHeroine

      Well, I hope it doesn’t disappoint 🙂

  • Welcome to the site!

    • TheAnimatedHeroine

      Thanks 🙂

  • Zee Panda

    This was a great video – I loved how thoroughly you got into both films so you were able to consider them both fairly.  I definitely think that The Secret of NIMH was a better movie and have recommended it to many people over the years.  I was a teenager when the movie came out originally and I think that one of the reasons it didn’t do so well at the box office was that it was marketed as a kids movie, which for most movie goers means little kids.  I think more specific targeting of the tween and teen audience, as well as a few ads aimed specifically for adults, would’ve really helped it because while there’s no reason a little kid can’t watch it and enjoy it, I think it helps a lot to be at least a little bit older when you watch it to really appreciate it.  

    You are not alone in your feelings about Lady & the Tramp.  When I first saw it as a little kid back in the 70s I thought it was great but I’m currently working on a personal project where I’m rewatching movies I loved as a little that I haven’t seen since I was a little kid and last week I watched Lady & the Tramp for the first time in 40 years.  I am APPALLED at my five year old self’s crappy taste in movies – Lady & the Tramp blows chunks.