Back in 1971, author Robert C. O’Brien released “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH”, a Newbery Award-winning tale that would inspire two additional stories (penned by his daughter Jane Leslie Conley) and a cult-classic animated film, The Secret of NIMH, directed by Don Bluth in 1982. Now, the rats are back thanks to Rats of NIMH, a hybrid live-action/animated feature film adaptation of the beloved tale.
Variety reports that VFX wiz James Madigan will be making his directorial debut with Rats of NIMH for MGM. Madigan, who recently wrapped directing the second unit on the Jason Statham thriller Meg, comes from a VFX supervisor background in TV and features. His award-winning VFX work includes HBO’s Rome, for which he won a Primetime Emmy and two Visual Effects Society awards, alongside work on Iron Man 2 and The Da Vinci Code. He’ll next tackle the tale of a group of lab rats recruited to save a woodland family of field mice in Rats of NIMH. Daniel Bobker and Ehren Kruger are on board as producers, along with MGM’s Cassidy Lange and Jon Glickman; Michael Berg is writing the script.
For many, the most fascinating aspect of the Rats of NIMH mythology might center around the anthropomorphic rats who possess an unusual understanding of electricity, machinery, and even a little bit of sorcery. For me, however, the really interesting twist on the story was the reveal that NIMH isn’t some sort of mythical talisman or ancient, archaic order, it’s a very real scientific research organization. The fact that the rats were experimented on by scientists of NIMH and managed to escape their cages to start an advanced civilization of their own (under a rosebush) acts as background knowledge to the plight of the field mice and the heroic and villainous actions of the title characters. That’s some top-level world-building. The Secret of NIMH will always remain a classic, but I’m quite excited to see what Madigan can do with the mythology and today’s filmmaking technology.
For the uninitiated, here’s the trailer for the 1982 animated film, The Secret of NIMH: