Cover designers take note
Bad DVD (and VHS, and HD DVD, and Blu-ray, and…) cover art tends to be the exception rather than the norm, so I wouldn’t normally go out of my way to make a post dedicated to a single example of this dubious trend, but I’ve come across a cover so hideous that I felt the need to make an exception to the rule. I’m talking about Don Bluth’s The Secret of NIMH, recently re-released as a 2-disc “Family Fun Edition” (god, how I hate that term) through 20th Century Fox, who have taken over the home video distribution of most MGM/UA titles. The cover art used for the old non-anamorphic UK release wasn’t exactly out of this world, but at least it was faithful to the tone of the film contained inside the case. By contrast, the open matte US DVD from 1998 received an eye-searingly bad design, and it is this same odious piece of artwork that has made it on to the latest release.
Take a look at the image opposite. The Secret of NIMH was, on its release in 1982, one of the darkest animated features ever released, along with Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings and Martin Rosen’s Watership Down. It may have come from former Disney animator Don Bluth, and it may have featured talking animals and moments of slapstick humour, but it was an altogether bleaker and more mature animated feature than those raised on Snow White and Cinderella would have been used to. The DVD cover, by contrast, gives the impression that the film is intended for pre-schoolers, with bright colours, big smiles and an abundance of airbrushing. The crow, black in the film, has even been painted blue, presumably because black is a verboten hue in la-la land.
This may all seem trivial, but I really think distributors should take more care to market their output appropriately. Warner did exactly the same thing with Watership Down, going for bright colours and cute bunnies for their cover art, despite the fact that the film features said cut bunnies having their gizzards ripped out in graphic detail. Not wanting to sound like a bleeding-heart “think of the children” crusader, but isn’t there something a bit morally suspect about effectively wrapping a title that is known to have traumatised many young children in a pink ribbon and selling it as if it was babysitting fare along the same lines as the Disney cheapquels? Even this film’s co-producer, Gary Goldman, has got involved in the debate, slating the cover art and decrying the fact that he and Bluth were not consulted by Fox when it came to marketing.
I’ve got a review copy on its way to me from DVD Times, courtesy of our good friends at DVD Pacific, and I’m genuinely curious to see this most unusual film again. I’m just glad I’ve seen it before, because I wouldn’t have given it a second look based on that sickening cover art.
By the way, you should definitely read the article featuring the aforementioned Gary Goldman quotes. It provides a very interesting retrospective on a film that clearly has significantly more of a following than I’d previously realised.