Live-Action “Rats of NIMH” One Step Closer to Existence

Rats of NIMH

After nearly a year, there is more movement behind the scenes of the live-action movie The Rats of NIMH. We now have a director attached to the project.

First announced in 2009The Rats of NIMH is a live-action/CGI version of Mrs. Frisby & the Rats of NIMH, the Newberry award-winning children’s book by Robert C. O’Brien that I may or may not have been obsessed with as a child. (Also Runaway Ralph. I apparently really liked stories about mice.) In the book, Mrs. Frisby is a recently widowed field mouse with four children who must move to their summer home before the spring plowing season destroys the garden in which they live. She seeks the aid of a group of former laboratory rats who live in a nearby rose bush; in doing so, she learns the story of the rats, the experiments, their escape from the lab, and how it all connects to her husband, Jonathan.

A traditionally-animated adaptation already exists; the 1982 film The Secret of NIMH was Don Bluth’s directorial debut and is probably one of the scariest cartoons in existence. He went on to make classics like An American TailThe Land Before Time, and Anastasia, among others, so you know he knew how to do creepy animation.

The last news we got about this project was almost a year ago, when it was reported that MGM had acquired the rights to the books and screenwriter Michael Berg (Ice Age) had been brought on to pen the script, while Daniel Bobker and Ehren Kruger would produce.

Now there is more movement, as it was announced that James Madigan will direct. The Rats of NIMH will be Madigan’s first as a director, but he already has some experience as a second unit director. He also comes from a background of VFX supervision, so a project like this – which will rely heavily on CGI – is probably a good fit for him. He even has an Emmy for his VFX work on the HBO show Rome.

I’m one of those nostalgia purists. I generally hate the ideas of remakes and reboots, especially if the existing version is pretty good. I loved The Secret of NIMH, and I have fretted at the CGI remakes that have been made of treasured childhood properties. Something like this, which will be heavily dependent on CGI, runs the risk of coming across as too cheesy – think something like the new Smurf or Chipmunk movies. The story behind The Rats of NIMH has dark overtones, and I worry about how that will play out.

I can hope for the best, of course, but I’ve been horrifically disappointed in the past. We’ll see how things develop in the future.

Author: Jamie Sugah

Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.


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