Over a decade ago, Ray Bradbury, the acclaimed sci-fi writer, conceived the idea of bringing to the screen a feature-length animated version of "Little Nemo," cartoonist Winsor McCay's turn-of-the-century comic strip about an imaginative boy and his many adventures in Slumberland. Despite
all the effort, time and energy lavished on LITTLE NEMO: ADVENTURES IN SLUMBERLAND by the excellent talents involved, it is, finally, a disappointment.
The film opens with the perky title character in his bed, dreaming away the hours. Nemo (voice of Gabriel Damon) is an innocent, pure-minded child blessed with a vivid imagination that plays havoc during his dreams. One day the circus comes to town and that night Nemo dreams about four clowns
wearing cone-shaped hats who, in the company of Professor Genius (Rene Auberjonois) fly in through his bedroom window. The professor tells Nemo that he is the lucky lad chosen by good King Morpheus (Bernard Erhard) to be the official playmate of Princess Camille (Laura Mooney), the king's
beautiful and spunky daughter. In the company of Icarus (Danny Mann), his pet squirrel, Nemo travels, along with Professor Genius, aboard a turn-of-the-century showboat attached to a dirigible. En route to Slumberland, the realm of King Morpheus, the trio make a detour around Nightmareland, an
evil place filled with demons who discharge thunder and lightning bolts.
Nemo finds Slumberland to be every child's dream of candy canes and circus clowns and just about any pleasure imaginable. Though at first cool toward Nemo, Princess Camille succumbs to his unassuming charms once the little commoner gets out of his pajamas and into something more befitting a royal
playmate. When Nemo and Camille aren't making a tour of Slumberland or prancing about in the royal gardens, the boy is busy sharing his love of electric trains with King Morpheus. The King is so delighted with Nemo, he makes him his heir and presents the lad with the royal scepter and a golden key
that opens all doors in Slumberland. However, there is one door that Nemo must promise the King never to open: the door to Nightmareland where all the demons are pent up.
Unfortunately, Nemo falls in with the likable Flip (Mickey Rooney), Slumberland's most notorious con artist. Although it is the cigar-chomping, brightly clad, black crow riding Flip who talks Nemo into taking a peek behind the door to Nightmareland, it is Nemo who chooses to take full blame and
all responsibility for what happens next. Once the door is opened, all the demons escape Nightmareland and swirl and swarm into the palace to kidnap the King, taking him back to the very depths of Nightmareland. In the grand tradition of THE WIZARD OF OZ, the threesome remarkably overcome all
obstacles and finally rescue King Morpheus. Suddenly realizing that there is no place like home, Nemo wakes up to find himself back in his warm bed ... and to learn that a long-promised visit to the circus is now a sure thing.
Besides Bradbury (credited with the film's "concept"), LITTLE NEMO's contributors include co-directors William T. Hurtz and Masami Hata, screenwriters Chris Columbus and Richard Outten, the songwriting team of siblings Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman, and futuristic French illustrator Jean
Moebius Giraud. Though often visually dazzling, the onscreen proceedings are too leisurely paced, unsophisticated and, ultimately, unoriginal to be of much interest to contemporary audiences. Only the youngest, most undiscriminating viewers with be satisfied.
Clearly, the filmmakers followed the path of least resistance when they elected to go with a predictable, tried-and-true formula, rather than attempt any genuine innovations of any kind. Sadly, LITTLE NEMO is an example of what can go wrong when creative forces from two diverse cultures unite.
What should have been an ideal fusion of the more sophisticated Japanese style with the polished character work unique among American animators doesn't occur; the two styles more often clash and tend to undermine, rather than complement, one another.
While the various vocal performers are uniformly adequate, Flip is the only character given any interesting dialogue and veteran actor Mickey Rooney makes the most of it. Unfortunately, the rest of the dialogue is like LITTLE NEMO itself--predictable.
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: G
- Review: Over a decade ago, Ray Bradbury, the acclaimed sci-fi writer, conceived the idea of bringing to the screen a feature-length animated version of "Little Nemo," cartoonist Winsor McCay's turn-of-the-century comic strip about an imaginative boy and his many a… (more)