- Directed by Masami Hata and William Hurtz
- July 15, 1989 (Japan) / August 21, 1992 (US)
- Nemo-Gabriel Damon
- Flip-Mickey Rooney
- Professor Genius-René Auberjonois
- Icarus-Danny Mann
- King Morpheus-Bernard Erhard
- The Nightmare King-Bill Martin
- Princess Camille-Laura Mooney
- Nemo’s father, Flap-Greg Burson
- Nemo’s mother-Jennifer Darling
- Oompa-Neil Ross
- Oomp-Alan Oppenheimer
- Oompo-John Stephenson
- Oompe-Sidney Miller
- Oompy-Michael Bell
- The Dance Teacher-Kathleen Freeman
- The Woman-Bever-Leigh Banfield
- The Dirigible Captain-John Stephenson
- Goblin-Bert Kramer
- Policeman-Beau Weaver
- Bon Bon-Sherry Lynn
- Courtier, Cop-Guy Christopher
- Page-Nancy Cartwright
- Page-Ellen Gerstell
- Elevator Creature-Tress MacNeille
- Etiquette Master-Michael McConnohie
- Teacher-Michael Gough
- Fencing Master-Michael Sheehan
- Librarian-June Foray
- Equestrian Master-Gregg Berger
Young Nemo adventures in the world of Slumberland each night but when he accidentally discovers Nighmareland things take a serious turn.
Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland was a movie that never registered in my youth and I was darn close to the target audience when it came out. Somehow this completely slipped by me (and a few others based on earnings). Then again Disney was the unchallenged king of animation so anything without the Disney name attached tended to get ignored back then. In this case it is a bit unfortunate. This is a visually imaginative animated feature with a message. That message? Be honest and do the right thing. If you fail to do that, own up to your mistakes and fix things.
The moral is to be honest and own up to what you have done. Nemo opened the door and let the nightmares out and initially blames Flip whom people are all too ready to believe actually did it. But to set things right Nemo must step up and admit his wrongs and do the right thing.
The story itself is very child friendly. And even though it has a moral point to it and presented in a way acceptable for children, it doesn’t talk down to the audience. But more importantly, even if you don’t see the lesson, you can still enjoy the movie. It’s not one long lecture. It’s just a fun entertaining film on the surface. Story first. If you do not entertain you cannot teach.
Nemo’s mistake is not listening to King Morpheus, the King of Slumberland, about not opening the mysterious door with the mysterious symbol on it with the mysterious key he was just given. This brings up an issue with me that is all too common. Somebody will say not to do something because it is apparently very dangerous but the person they’re telling to not do something gets no context on why and they do it anyway. “Here is this dangerous thing unguarded and easily accessible that you can’t touch individual I barely know. Be good.” Would it kill writers to stop doing that? I know the action needs to get rolling but it is just lazy writing.
Adventures in Slumberland quickly establishes its fantasy elements by blurring the lines between dreams and waking early on. With Nemo one bleeds into the other. I guess that makes him an ideal candidate to become a prince in Slumberland. Maybe I missed it, but they never really give a reason that he gets tapped for the role. Admittedly this is a children’s film and it is meant to have a whimsical quality (perhaps dreamlike) but you cannot escape giving a reason in a film.
The voice cast we get is prime talent for the time that this was made. Mickey Rooney as Flip sounds a great deal like Alvy Moore did as Grandpa Little in The Littles. Until I took a look at the credits, I really thought it was the latter and not the former. He was a talented actor but so was Alvy Moore. But we also have such performers as René Auberjonois, Michael Bell, Alan “Skeletor” Oppenheimer, Nancy “Bart Simpson” Cartwright, Tress “You’ve Definitely Heard Her In Something” MacNeille, June “Rocket J. Squirrel” Foray, and Gregg “Grimlock” Berger. Great talent of the era.
The story we get is only okay up until they meet The Nightmare King and then it takes a really dark turn and gets really good. The ‘80s knew how to produce great villains in animation. This guy just comes off as pure unadulterated evil. He is quite frightening in design as well. And his introduction is what sells this film.
Speaking of designs, I found the character of Flip a little too much like the negative depictions of African-Americans from early in the 1900s. Anybody else noticed that? I know this is based on a much older comic strip but it is one I am unfamiliar with. Did Flip look like that in the strip? Was Flip from the strip or an original creation? Did Flip cause any controversy when this came out?
There’s a childlike feel to all of this. And that should probably be a hint as to the nature of things. This is squarely from the point of view of a child and often follows a child-friendly logic. Yet it manages to avoid being overly simplistic or talking down to the audience. It is safe for families yet not insufferably boring.
Despite the issues with flip, Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland is a good family film that adults can watch as well. There are interesting visuals and a nice moral. This is something I recommend.