US/Japanese Animated Movie (1993). Hemdale/TMS. Pr Yutaka Fujioka. Dir Masami Hata, William Hurtz. Screenplay Chris Columbus, Fujioka, Jean Moebius Giraud (credited sic), Richard Outten. Based on Little Nemo in Slumberland (1905-1914, 1924-1927) by Winsor McCay. Concept for screen Ray Bradbury. Story consultants David Hilberman, Oliver Johnston, Koji Shimizu, Frank Thomas, Robert Towne. Conceptual design Moebius. Visual image development John Canemaker. Voice actors Rene Auberjonois (Professor Genius), Gabriel Damon (Nemo), Bernard Erhard (King Morpheus), Danny Mann (Icarus), William E Martin (Nightmare King), Laura Mooney (Princess Camille), Mickey Rooney (Flip). 84 mins. Colour.
King Morpheus sends Professor Genius to summon Nemo to be heir to Slumberland and also a playmate for Princess Camille. Morpheus gives Nemo a key, telling him not to unlock the door that bears the image of the key; so Nemo, spurred on by Trickster Flip, discovers and opens that door, which proves a Portal that allows the Land of Nightmare to invade. Morpheus is seized by the Nightmare King, and Nemo, Camille, Genius and Flip – plus Nemo's cute flying-squirrel pal Icarus – set off on a Quest to the Land of Nightmare to rescue him.
A recurring device is that Nemo wakes up in what he assumes is his own bedroom – i.e., that everything has been "just" a Dream – only to discover that dreamland Reality intersects with ours (see Arabian Nightmare). On his final "wakening" he discovers his previously remote parents to be loving and caring, so we are left with the suspicion that the Story of his dreaming is not over.
The credits line-up for this movie is astonishing (to add to the above, Brian Froud worked on "design development") so it is inexplicable that it was not more widely distributed. Any paranoid suspicion that some kind of Disney stranglehold might have been exerted is banished by the fact than Johnston and Thomas – two of Walt Disney's Nine Old Men, and still good friends of the company – participated. The animation itself is varied: usually brilliantly inventive, visually stunning and technically exemplary, every now and then it lapses. What really impresses is the sense that everyone working on this movie really understands fantasy; it merits repeated viewing, for by no means all of its virtues are on the surface. [JG]