Honoring the Heroine: Mrs. Brisby

Who else should kick of this series if not the animated character which has been widely praised as being one of the most compelling animated characters ever – and the best part of her own movie. Is this praise deserved? Hell yes it is!


Just look at the badass movie she is in!

I won’t go into the history behind The Secret of Nimh. The story about Don Bluth’s first (and perhaps best) movie has been told multiple times. Let’s focus on the main character. Why is Mrs. Brisby something special in the word of animation?

1. She is the sole protagonist of her movie

Most movies, animated or not, feature either a male dominated cast or a male/female pair as lead. Thanks to the Disney Animation studios, there is a decent number of animated movies with female leads and secondary male leads. But movies which put a female and only a female character into focus are very, very rare. It is simply refreshing to see a movie which not only does it, but does it well.

2. She is an unexpected heroine

Widow, mother, housewife – those are not exactly the terms one would connect to a heroine. And yet, this is exactly what Mrs. Brisby is. She is just a little mouse being confronted with an insolvable problem. And in order to find a solution after all and rescue the life of her son she tackles one fear after another. Smaller fears like the fear of flying, but also bigger ones like entering the home of a predator. Just watching the scene with the owl makes my heart stop…how would a little mouse feel? This is more inspiring than watching someone trained for this kind of situations facing fearlessly danger. In our normal and boring life, we don’t really want to be confronted with misfortune. But we want like to imagine that, should the need arise, we are just as able to face every challenge and grow with them as Mrs. Brisby.

3.  It is about more than just her goal

Bravery is often born out of desperation. This is not different with Mrs. Brisby. But there is more to her than that. In one of the key scenes of the movie, she volunteers putting sleeping powder into the meal of the farmer’s cat. Up to this point she only did what she strictly had to do. But in this moment she decides to take the risk, not any risk but the one which killed her husband, and do her part for moving her home. It is no wonder that the magic stone reacts to her heart, emphasising that her brand of bravery is something special.

The Secret of Nimh is not a perfect movie. Sometimes it is a little bit unfocussed, throwing magic into the mix is a somewhat odd decision, and the English dubbing is a bit mediocre (this is one of those movies which I prefer to watch in German for that very reason). But it is easy to excuse its weaknesses because it gives us one of the strongest female protagonists ever, not just in animated movies, but in movies in general. It focusses on a plight we can relate to and shows us a fascinating journey of a character nearly paralysed by fear but nevertheless ready to push forward, no matter what.

Quote: “You can unlock any door, if you only have the key.”

So who I think would enjoy this movie?

Animation fans

People who prefer movies without romantic subplot

Actually, I recommend this one to everyone. It is one of those “must watch” movies.  The only people who might really not like it are the ones who want a more faithful adaptation of the book or have a problem with Don Bluth in general.

14 thoughts on “Honoring the Heroine: Mrs. Brisby

  1. Great article. I have never watched the movie, but I have heard some great stuff about it. Apparently, they mad to merge the audio recordings which is why the English version sounds so weird. Brimsby sounds like a nice character.

  2. I don’t think that it’s this alone (the story is that they had to change the name in the last moment from “Frisby” to “Brisby” so they had to redub the “F” into “B”)…the studio just didn’t have the money for an outstanding cast in which every voice is made for the character it speaks. All Don Bluth movies have only an “okay” dubbing in English imho.
    I really recommend it. It also has a very great score, btw.

    • Oh…hi! Thanks for following me here.

      Yeah, she is very awesome. You have to be the first book reader I encounter who does not complain about the changes, though.

  3. I like this pick. I absolutely ADORE this movie, and Mrs. Brisby is one of the many reasons (nostalgia being another).

      • A lot of people share that thought. I can’t share that thought myself, since I haven’t really seen any of Don Bluth’s other films. I might give “The Land Before Time” a watch, though.

      • I recommend watching “Land before Time”, “An American Tail”, “All dogs go to heaven”, “Anastasia” and perhaps “Titan AE”…They are the once on should have seen at least once…the others…eh…..

  4. Such a beautiful movie. Has such heart that make the darker moments work. You feel such love from Mrs Brisby. She is brave but only because she has to be. I love that vulnerability. Definitely one of the best mothers in movies.
    It’s also lovely to look at and the music is great. Even with traitor Don Bluth at the helm it is lovely and a fantastic character 🙂

  5. Pingback: The Swanpride Award: The Best Animated Movie of the early 1980s | Movies and Lyrics

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