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The Secret of NIMH (Don Bluth Productions, 1981): Jeremy and Mrs. Brisby
Source: Movie
Layers: 1
No sketches available
Oversize, 12.5W x 10.5H

No Background

Added 6/2/2017
Updated 1/14/2024
Mrs. Brisby has agreed to enter the farmhouse to give the cat Dragon a sleeping potion, but on the way she encounters the maladroit crow Jeremy. The bird is at once fascinated by the magical amulet Nicodemus has just given Mrs. Brisby, and he begs the mouse to get him a similar “sparkly.”

Approximate screencap; a clip of the entire scene is available on YouTube.

The conversation between these two takes a long time, for Mrs. Brisby is asking him to bring her some string the inveterate collector has hoarded away, so the rats can move the block in which she’s made her nest to a safer place. But Jeremy, captivated by the stone, keeps shifting the topic to her “sparkly.”


The Secret of NIMH, based on a children’s novel by Robert C. O’Brian, was the first full-length animated film project produced and directed by Don Bluth, after he and a group of animators left Walt Disney Productions to set up an independent studio. The group had a goal of recapturing the production standards of the Disney “golden age” by returning to older, hands-on animation techniques. Created on a tight budget and a hurried schedule, the film was begun in January 1980, completed in early June 1981, and released the next month. It was an immediate critical and popular success and has since been recognized as one of the finest animated films ever made.

When this sketch showed up on eBay, the expression on my face probably looked a lot like Jeremy. Faint and preliminary as it is, the sketch shows a professional, sure line that captures the two characters’ personalities and the drama of the situation to the dot. The seller could pass on nothing about the sketch’s provenance, but a larger online collection of sketches relating to this project, Living Lines Library, includes two similarly faint sketches from the same scene. These are numbered 20 and 21. The first of these shows a tighter perspective, the second, the wider perspective of most of the scene. They seem similar in style and technique to mine, and they too have registration holes on the bottom.

The sketch is also very close to the screen cap, but not so much so that it could have been traced from it. So I’m confident in identifying it as an authentic piece of the Bluth studio’s production art. The lightness of the touch suggests that it is a first-level draft of a keyframe, perhaps sketched on a light table from the storyboard image and so parallel to the “rough” (or “layout correction”) stage of Japanese anime production.

Most of the original storyboards are housed in the Don Bluth Collection of Animation. Those matching part of this scene are part of Sequence 011A 1, Scenes 2-16. [Jen Library Archives and Special Collections, the Savannah College of Art and Design.] However, for some reason there is a gap between the image labeled “SK 9” and the one marked “SK 17,” so the storyboard matching my sketch is not available. These digital images are no longer available online and can be viewed only by users visiting the SCAD Library.

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Curator: 60something-sensei
Gallery Created: 8/3/2002
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