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Ross Family Movie Challenge: 'The Secret of NIMH' vs 'Fantasia'

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Every week EW’s Dalton Ross and his wife, writer Christina Kelly, have a… um, lively discussion about what movie they should watch with their two children (Dale, 12, and Violet, 9) that weekend. Now they make their cases publicly and you get to vote on the choices and decide how the Ross family will be spending part of their weekend. The power is in your hands, people. Last week, Dalton’s selection of ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ throttled Christina’s pick of ‘What’s Up, Doc?’ Read on and then vote for which film they should watch this week.

Dalton’s Pick: The Secret of NIMH (1982)
I’ll be honest: This pick is less about the kids and more about me. I saw The Secret of NIMH when I was a child, but frankly, my memory of it is a big hazy. I remember digging it, though, and have been wondering recently if it holds up. You never know with stuff you loved as a young’un. For example, as a pipsqueak I thought Welcome Back, Kotter reruns were the funniest things I had ever seen in my entire life. As an adult, not so much. (Okay, “Epstein’s mother” is still kinda funny.)

This much I do know — The Secret of NIMH is an animated movie that recounts the tale of a field mouse named Mrs. Brisby. After Brisby’s son falls ill, an owl tells her to go check in with some rats…MUTANT RATS! Ah, now it is becoming clear why I liked this film so much. Anything with mutant rodents is right up my alley. These rats were part of some experiments at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and now are as smart as humans. Long story short, they help Brisby protect her son while also trying to implement something they call “The Plan,” which sounds a lot more dastardly than it actually is. My “Plan” is for you to vote The Secret of NIMH this week’s winner so I can enjoy this blast from the past. And if the kids dig it too…well, all the better.

Christina’s Pick: Fantasia (1940)
The holiday season is the perfect time to view Walt Disney’s ambitious melding of animation, classical music and dance. While it is not a Christmas film, Fantasia includes some pieces from “The Nutcracker Suite,” played by the Philadelphia Orchestra. We’re Nutcracker fans, but we are not going this year, so this part of the movie might be a nice substitute. “The Nutcracker Suite” is one of 8 pieces in Fantasia. Beethoven’s “The Pastoral Symphony” accompanies an interlude about Greek mythology, a favorite topic for our kids since they read Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books. The movie grew out of a short that was being produced to revive Mickey Mouse’s popularity. When costs grew, Disney decided to fold the short into a feature film.

When it was released, Fantasia confused some moviegoers used to the simple antics of Mickey Mouse. However, when it was re-released in the sixties, college students were more receptive to the non-linear aesthetic. I’m really curious to find out how our kids react. They’ve certainly never seen anything like it. Will they be engaged or bored? It could go either way.


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