A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Little Nemo is an animated gem that has nothing to do with the Pixar movie Finding Nemo. Instead, the movie based on an old comic strip, features a boy who visits both Slumberland and Nightmareland. Parents of kids who already visit their own Nightmarelands regularly may want to take note: the king of Nightmareland looks scary, with menacing glowing eyes. He captures Nemo's friends and encases them comatose in glowing pillars. If kids can get past this scary guy, they'll probably be okay with the rest, and even get some great lessons about the importance of taking responsibility for your actions, keeping promises, and admitting mistakes. They'll also catch when the clownish character Flip gets scolded repeatedly for smoking a cigar. Eventually the Princess of Slumberland officially sentences him to no more smoking.
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What's the story?
Nemo (Gabriel Damon) is excited the circus is in town, begs his busy father to take him, and gets a "maybe tomorrow" that sounds much like "probably not." Rather than get disappointed, he sleeps on it and visits a place even more spectacular than the big top: Slumberland. King Morpheus (Bernard Erhard) invites him personally and sends a grand airship to carry him through the clouds and to the palace where he's to not only be the playmate of Princess Camille (Laura Mooney) but also the heir to Slumberland. King Morpheus gives Nemo a special key to the kingdom and tells him he can unlock all doors but one. Nemo gives his promise before running off with his mischief-making friend Flip (Mickey Rooney). Of course they land right in front of the forbidden door and Flip convinces Nemo to take a peek, then shut it again. But this dangerous door is a way to Nightmareland and once it's opened its power is unleashed. Dark forces run off with King Morpheus and it's up to Nemo to brave Nightmareland and save him.
Is it any good?
This is a little animated gem. If you read up on the making of LITTLE NEMO: ADVENTURES IN SLUMBERLAND -- a rocky collaboration between Japanese and American studios that blew through scores of big-name talent and then barely got a U.S. release -- then you'll get why you never heard more about it. It's a shame, because, though it's pretty obvious in its uneven storytelling that too many cooks were in the kitchen, there's so much for fans of fantasy and animation to enjoy here.
Almost all the animation stands out, but especially when Nemo boards the elaborate airship and when his bed grows long legs and walks through the sleeping city (taken straight from the original comic strip). The characters are all appropriately curious for a dream state: the not-scary-enough goblins make especially good sidekicks in Nightmareland. Santa-like King Morpheus and scampish Flip are also a treat and Princess Camille is refreshingly strong-willed. Viewers will be pulling for them all to return safely from Nightmareland before the dream has to end.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about dreamlands. Did you like Nemo's? What would your ideal dreamland look like? Would you like to travel there by bed, airship, or some other means? Who would you invite there?
How loudly were you yelling at the TV for Nemo not to open the forbidden door? Would you have been tempted to take a quick peek, or did you know the whole time it wouldn't end well?
Nemo lets Flip take the blame for opening the door at first. Why do you think he decides to eventually own up to his mistake?
- In theaters: August 21, 1992
- On DVD or streaming: September 20, 2011
- Cast: Gabriel Damon, Mickey Rooney, Rene Auberjonois
- Directors: Masami Hata, William T. Hurtz
- Studio: Eastern Star
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
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