There were two cartoon movies I watched as a child that hold a special place in my memory. Nostalgia struck one day and I decided to re-watch both of these movies. I was surprised at the blatant meanings and messages these movies shared.
The Secret of NIMH is based off the book, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. I loved this movie as a child, but it terrified me. It is about a family of mice, the Brisbys, that need to move before the plow comes. One of the children has pneumonia and cannot be moved. Mrs. Brisby must then find a way to stop the plow and save her family. The adventure leads her to visit the Great Owl (definitely the scary part for me). The Great Owl sends her to the rats. The viewer discovers that NIMH is the National Institute for Mental Health, and they have been experimenting on animals. The result? Rats and mice that can read and comprehend. The rats have been stealing electricity from the farmhouse, but their sense of morality drives them to find a new way to live.
As I watched this movie again, I can’t believe I had forgotten about the basic theme of this movie: the harmfulness of animal testing. Though the rats and mice that escaped NIMH were intelligent and mainly “good”, the story implies that they were the lucky ones compared to the other animals in the testing facility.
Fern Gully, a movie that was remembered because it shares an awful lot with the newer movie Avatar. Although this movie is about fairies that live in the forests, the meaning behind it is unmistakable. The movie is about deforestation and the harmfulness of animal testing. A human working for the logging company is magically shrunk to the size of the fairies and joins one of them on the quest to stop the killing of the forest. Along the way, the now shrunken human meets a bat that is less than sane. As it turns out, the bat had been subjected to animal testing and has antennae and wires attached to his head and suffers from incoherent thought (he also was the comic relief). When this human discovers the damage the logging company is doing to the forest, he wants to act to stop them. In the mean time, the villain (not the logging company exactly) is revealed. It is a large ooze that goes by the name of Hexxus that has been trapped by the fairies in a tree. He is voiced by Tim Curry and even has a song or two. The logging company “innocently” cuts into his tree and Hexxus, fueled by pollution, is released. Happy ending, the fairies succeed in trapping him again, and the logging company is stopped.
I had totally forgotten this movie was a musical. Once again, as a child, I can’t believe I missed the meaning of this. I just thought that Batty was hilarious. I didn’t think anything of what he represented. Logging wasn’t exactly a concern of mine at that point in my life. There is no happy ending for Batty, and there is no promise that the logging companies won’t come back.
As someone who appreciates the environment, I am glad I was exposed to these movies when I was younger. They had good messages about causing as little damage to our environment as possible. Perhaps that was what Avatar was trying to accomplish, bringing back the trend of environmental movies. Disney has been making an effort with movies like Pocahontas and Wall-E, but I don’t think they have reached the more extreme level that The Secret of NIMH and Fern Gully did.