LITTLE NEMO: ADVENTURES IN SLUMBERLAND
Directed By: Masami Hata & William Hurtz
Screenplay By: Chris Columbus & Richard Outten
Based On: Winsor McCay’s “Little Nemo in Slumberland”
Production Company: Tokyo Movie Shinsha
Distributed By: Hemdale Pictures
When it comes to my personal top three favorite films, it’s really a matter of chance on where they fall for really I can’t honestly pick one over the other as far as being my “number one” favorite film. As such this film as well the film Alice in Wonderland are virtually tied with the film that has currently earned the right to first place.
Seeing as I’ve already done a brief interlude on the background behind Little Nemo in Slumberland with my review of my favorite villain of the film The Nightmare, I’ll simply leave the aforementioned link for those whom are interested in reading the history before going on to the film proper.
As stated in The Nightmare’s review, Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland was a joint project between Japan and America that was, rather unfortunately, a box office flop despite great reception from movie goers and having something of a cult following in the years since. A lot of people were involved in the creation of the film and their contributions are almost blindingly obvious in some cases.
Specifically, in the case of the artist known famously by the name of Moebius whose works are cited as being the inspiration to the likes of Hayao Miyazaki. The same Hayao Miyazaki whose many films contain enough gorgeous backgrounds that one almost wants to shove aside the characters that are standing in the way of such glorious scenery. This is so unbelievably the case for this film I cannot even begin to try and explain it. Instead, here are a few sample shots of some major scenery in the film.
See what I mean? This movie is the only one I have ever seen where I actually want to see more of the scenery than the actual characters involved. Slumberland, and its polar opposite Nightmareland, are the stuff of dreams and as such, are places that no amount of computer rending or real life modeling could hope to duplicate. Even traditional animation is but a small imitation of the splendor that is the realms of dreams and nightmares but even so, I believe that it is the best imitation by far. For after all, what is art but dreams and nightmares put to paper?
Like most animated films of its decade, Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland has its fair share of musical moments. As far as the background instrumental music, man is it perfect, particularly during the segments in the film where Nemo’s once wonderful dreams take a severe nosedive towards and frightening nightmares. As to actual songs though there are, technically, three that are sung as musical numbers while a fourth is done in the background and varies itself with different renditions that go from cheerfully whimsical to slow and heartwarming.
As to the musical numbers though… meh… One of them, aptly named “Etiquette,” pertains to Nemo learning lessons on how to be a proper prince from a variety of instructors who seem to be under the impression that teaching him all this in the span of an afternoon and nearly all at once will actually stick. This one was more fun to watch than it was to listen to.
The other two songs are, unfortunately, short and sweet moments pertaining to the introduction of their respected characters. There is the “Boomps Song & March” that introduces the background and story of the good goblins known as the Boomps, shape-shifters who are trying to escape Nightmareland and The Nightmare’s tyranny. The last song, “Slumberland Princess” is the same theme song that is sung in the background but sung by Princess Camille of Slumberland.
As to the story of the film itself… It is a story of dreams within dreams the likes of which I wouldn’t at all be surprised to learn inspired the creation of the film Inception. Seriously, there are so many moments wherein Nemo wakes up from the dream only to rediscover that he is not only still sleeping but that he must continue on to face the consequences of his own actions.
The short of it, or as short as I can make it anyway, is that Nemo is invited to Slumberland to be the royal playmate to the princess and, by extension, to become the heir to the throne and wielder of the Royal Scepter of Slumberland. Now, admittedly, this does sound like an arranged marriage of sorts but it’ll be explained in better detail in my favorite character’s review so sit tight, readers. Anyway, to go alongside this responsibility/privilege, King Morpheus bestows to Nemo a golden key that can open any door in Slumberland under the condition that Nemo promises not to use it to open the door that bares the key’s symbol, a curling dragon, upon its door.
Y’all can guess where this is going can’t you?
Overall, Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland is a film that tells the story of dreams and nightmares together. It is a film wherein the story, while not one wholly unique, is shown in such a way that makes it so. Stunning backdrops, interesting characters, and music that just enhances the mood rather than derailing it, it’s a movie that I recommend anyone, adult or child, should see. However, if a demonstration of just what kind of movie this is, is needed, than allow me to present one of the two pilot films made prior to the full film being made.