Voiced By: Bill Martin
Featured In: Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland
Now I’m sure a good many of you are confused as to my choice of number one villain in my top ten countdown. As I said previously, for those who’ve skipped those characters and went straight to this one, my final five came down to random chance and happenstance. Yet, I suppose it is rather ironic that The Nightmare should end up as my top choice in the end because of his premiere and sole film, Little Nemo in Slumberland, was the first non-Disney animated film I had ever seen as a child and has always held a special place in my heart.
To those who are unawares of just who Little Nemo is, allow me to shed some light on a character whom is entirely responsible for anything and everything that is animation as a whole. Little Nemo was a character of one Winsor McCay who penned, illustrated, and wrote a weekly Sunday comic strip that ran from 1905 to 1911 in the New York Herald, then from 1911 to 1914 for the New York American and returned again from 1924 to 1926. Each strip was, essentially, a very strange dream of Little Nemo’s that would always end with the boy waking up in his bed.
As to how Little Nemo is responsible for animation… well, who do you think was the first true animated cartoon character in history? Yes, it can be argued that Gertie the Dinosaur was the first true-inked cartoon but considering that Gertie was also a creation of Winsor McCay, that point is arguable at best.
In concerns to the film that features The Nightmare though, now there’s an interesting story to tell. A joint project between America and Japan, the film was, sadly, a box office bomb despite having a positive reception and something of a cult following in the years since its release. What made it truly interesting though is the people whom were involved in its creation. Some of the top names involved in contributing to the film include Ray Bradbury, Chris Columbus, and Moebius.
The first, an acclaimed author who penned The Halloween Tree and Fahrenheit 451, the second a film director famous for such works as the first two Harry Potter films and Gremlins, the last an artist of such renown that he is cited by the likes of Hayao Miyazaki and Stan Lee as direct inspiration for their own works. Last, but certainly not least, the music was done by the award winning Sherman Brothers, the same duo who created the iconic songs from such films as Mary Poppins and The Jungle Book.
Holy Sugar Honeyed Iced Tea…
Ahem, now that the “brief” history lesson is out of the way, onto The Nightmare, which is just one of many names and titles attributed to the entity responsible for the creation of nightmares and all that dwell within them. The Nightmare in the film is… hard to describe like any true nightmare really is. The Nightmare is described as a place, an individual, and even a horrific storm straight out of a… huh… A nightmare.
The storm in question was one seen briefly as Little Nemo is on a dirigible flight towards Slumberland and though it looked like nothing more than a lightning storm, there was far more to the sudden change in weather than meets the eye. The biggest and sole clue of there being a malevolent force behind the storm is the pair of gleaming red lights shining out from its heart. Do any of you have any idea how terrifying a thought that is to a kid who grew up in Florida, the state where not a single building is without a lightning rod? I was already frightened of The Nightmare then and there but that was the tip of the iceberg.
Yes, the true Nightmare, at least as far as the most dire threat to both Little Nemo and the entirety of Slumberland, is the one known as the Nightmare King and was locked away deep in the heart of King Morpheus’ palace. He was unleashed back into the world by Little Nemo whom had been given a dragon-shaped key that would open any door in Slumberland to him and though he promised to never open the door bearing the key’s symbol upon its surface… Well, Little Nemo broke his word and The Nightmare was loose once more and boy was it a sight to behold!
Appearing as nothing more than a sentient mass of slime and ooze intertwined into some sort of demonic miasma, The Nightmare was nothing short of disgusting and frightening to my child self when I first saw it. The Nightmare looked like black ooze that sparked with crimson veins of lightning as it made its way to the party held within the palace and straight for King Morpheus who was far and away from the one thing the Nightmare and all that dwelled within it feared most.
The Royal Scepter of Slumberland, a staff bedecked with a large sapphire blue pearl that, upon uttering the proper incantation, can unleash a blast the likes of which make a nuclear bomb look like a firecracker by comparison. No, I’m not exaggerating either, King Morpheus, upon naming Little Nemo as his heir to the throne (and unknowingly the prince consort to his daughter Camille) the King of Slumberland demonstrated the Royal Scepter’s danger to the young boy and the crowd of spectators by blowing up a freaking star!
Moving on from The Nightmare of ooze and muck, there is the Nightmare King true and proper, an actual living entity that is conformed to the body of a goblin like creature standing over a hundred feet tall and bedecked in a robe of pure blackness.
Being the King of Nightmare Land, and likely its heart and soul as well, the Nightmare King holds dominion over all creatures that call the wicked place their home. These creatures include flying gremlins, water goblins, a massive demonic stingray that I think is more of a personal pet than anything else, and one surprisingly rebellious group of shape-shifting goblins known as the Boomps who don’t want to scare anyone but make them laugh instead.
Though, as I said, the Nightmare King doesn’t hold any of his so-called subordinates in any true regard and is more than willing to wipe them out at the slightest provocation. He actually devoured his entire army of winged gremlins simply because of the chief gremlin lied about Little Nemo and the Scepter were both taken care of.
Between the three, I’d honestly say that The Nightmare ooze was the most frightening but dang if the Nightmare King isn’t a close second. He is cold and malicious liar willing and capable of torturing anyone who gets in his way and his voice… His voice actor is the same man who voiced Samhain, the Spirit of Halloween, in The Real Ghostbusters cartoon and it shows with every uttered word he speaks! He sounds so delicious vile and condescending when he talks to Little Nemo, trying to convince him to hand over the Scepter so the boy can go him to his mother…
In the end, when the Nightmare King attempts to devour Little Nemo as he had his army by way of a powerful inhale to make Kirby green with envy, the lad manages to successfully recite the incantation for the Royal Scepter and it unleashes a blast straight into the Nightmare King’s heart. The resulting devastation was both amazing and unbelievable for while the Nightmare King himself was vaporized from the inside out, Nightmare Land as a whole was turned into a beautiful land of crystals, light, and… snow?
Yeah, not to sure about that last one but whatever! It might have been quick and over-the-top devastating but blast it all if it wasn’t a memorable exit for a villain, any villain, to take!