Jun 16, 2014

Review: Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1989)

Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland is one of those movies that haunted me throughout my childhood. When I was a kid, my dad would go to the local Blockbuster and pick up some movies to watch. One for my parents and one for my sisters and I. A lot of the time I guess I wasn't very happy with what my dad got us but he did his best. Father's Day was just yesterday so I can't be too critical. One of these movies was Little Nemo.

I can still remember how scared this movie left my siblings and I at the time. There's some incredibly dark and terrifying moments which are greatly amplified. The movie changes gears from being a lovely and cute anime to being a terrifying nightmare. The animation is colourful and the music joyful before giving way to the dark underbelly of the Nightmare King and his Nightmare Castle. I've gotten over my fear of Little Nemo since then. I do know that if ever I'm responsible for a younger kid who's getting on my nerves, I'll just pop in Little Nemo. That'll team them.

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Genre: family, animation, adventure
Directed by: Masami Hata, William T. Hurtz
Produced by: Yutaka Fujioka, Barry Glasser, Eiji Katayama, etc.
Written by: Chris Columbus, Richard Outten
Music by: Thomas Chase, Steve Rucker
Running time: 95 minutes
Production company: Tokyo Movie Shinsha
Distributed by: Hemdale Pictures, NDP, Eastern Star, etc.
Country: Japan, United States
Language: English
Budget: $35,000,000
Box office: $11,368,212 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Gabriel Damon, Mickey Rooney, Rene Auberjonois, Danny Mann, Laura Mooney, Bernard Erhard, Bill Martin, Alan Oppenheimer, Michael Bell, Sidney Miller, Neil Ross, John Stephenson, Greg Burson, Jennifer Darling, Sherry Lynn, Guy Christopher, Nancy Cartwright, Ellen Gerstell

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Synopsis 

 

Nemo (voice: Gabriel Damon) is regular kid if you don't count his bizarre dreams and the fact that he's friends with a flying squirrel. It's 1905 and a circus has come to town. Nemo goes to the greeting parade and hopes to go the next day with his parents. Neither one is able to bring him unfortunately and it looks like Nemo might end up going circus-less. That night in a dream, Nemo gets a visit from Professor Genius (voice: Rene Auberjonois) who strangely looks like one of the circus performers he saw that day. Prof. Genious invites Nemo to Slumberland where King Morpheus (voice: Bernard Erhard) has extended a royal invitation to also meet his daughter, Princess Camille (voice: Laura Mooney). 

Review


Little Nemo had a bizarre development period to say the least. It's a joint Japanese-American effort that ended up in years and years of development hell. Yutaka Fukioka had a dream to make Little Nemo which traces its origins as a comic strip into an animated feature film. George Lucas, Chuck Jones, Gary Kurtz, Ray Bradbury, Edward Summer, Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, Osamu Dezaki, Sadao Tsukioka, Brad Bird, Jerry Rees, Chris Columbus, Moebius, John Canemaker, and Richard Outten make up the long list of people involved or offered roles in the making of Little Nemo which spanned seven years. Many people listed here just seemed to have varying visions of what Little Nemo should be about and I'm sure that the cultural differences between Japan and the United States didn't help. The film doesn't betray the disaster that the making of Little Nemo was but it's a shame that it was unable to make back its budget of $35 million.

Little Nemo is an anime with what seems to be some American touches. Both styles are well represented and I guess this was done to make a movie that could visually appeal to both audiences. The immediate result pleased no one I guess but Little Nemo still has a unique look. Slumberland is just awesome to look at and it's the total opposite of what Nightmareland is. Nightmareland is as scary a place as has ever been seen in an animated movie with monsters and mean looking mountain peaks everywhere. The Nightmare King himself is also well designed, especially when he's in his black fog/goop form.

Some of the dialogue in Little Nemo does strike me as overly childish though. Maybe that's some unfair criticism for what is a kid's movie after all, but there are loads of children's movies that don't rub me the wrong way in that sense. There's just a little too many "Woohoo's" and "Yahoo's" coming out of Nemo's mouth but I guess it's only really Nemo himself who gets irritating. I'd also have to say that the songs in this film aren't very well-written and are more annoying than actually entertaining. These songs are not the Sherman Brothers' finest work.

Besides those problems, there's nothing else  that I really dislike about Little Nemo, it's aged just fine. I think it's a fantastic adventure/fantasy film that has a wild imagination and some heart too. I love the moments with Nemo and King Morpheus and there tons of fun supporting characters. For all those who were terrified of Little Nemo when they were kids, I hope you all decide to watch it again one day. Personally I want to thank Yutaka Fukioka for creating just a memorable adventure. 

Rating


7/10