There was a movie I used to see a lot sitting in rental stores like Blockbuster when I was a kid that would grab my attention but for some reason I would never actually rent it and watch it. It was called "Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland"
... No. Not THAT Nemo
There we go. I don't know why I never looked at this movie as a kid. Maybe it's because with a few small exceptions I usually avoided animated films not by Disney because it was my opinion that animated films not made by Disney usually sucked. (Again, even when I was little there were exceptions to this. Such as An American Tail) But I decided recently to finally take a look at this little obscure film and you know what? It's not bad.
Based on the comic strips by Winsor McCay, which ran from 1905 to 1914, this film was released in 1989 and tells the story of a young boy named Nemo in a 1905 New York city who travels to a magical fantasy world of dreams when he falls asleep.
The first thing we establish in this movie is that Nemo has crazy dreams. In the beginning he dreams about flying on his bed, then falling in his bed, being chased by a train in the bed, then running to his mother at home warning her that a train is about to collide with the house but she doesn't respond. The train of course crashes into the house, sending him flying and waking up falling off the bed
Poor kid. I've actually done this.
The following morning, Nemo learns that the circus is in town. He sees the circus come in through a parade and from the clowns, a ring master that looks like Santa Claus and the pretty girl tossing him a flower, he gets excited.
... maybe a little... too excited...
Anyway, he rushes home to beg his father to take him to the circus but his father has to rush out to a meeting and tells him "Maybe Tomorrow". We never find out where, but it's not really important. Disappointed, he goes to bed that night. Later that night as he sleeps, he appears to get up and sleepwalk
He "sleep walks" his way to the fridge (or whatever they used in 1905) with this sign attached to it. The way he glances at it seems to imply that he knows exactly what he's doing and snatches a pie and "sleep walks" his way back to his room before he is stopped by his mother. He tries to keep up the act and behaves like he's still asleep and innocent. Then he rushes back up to his room with a big sigh of relief as we hear the mother tell the father that he needs to "Talk to that son of theirs."
Alright, so we've established that he has trouble keeping promises.
So, back in bed and back asleep, Nemo is suddenly visited by various strange people. Most of them appearing to be clowns. But one of which introduces himself as "A professor and a Genius" and says he can call him "Professor Genius."
... wow. Real original there buddy
Professor Genius offers him a royal invitation to Slumber Land by the King where their Princess named Camille wishes to have him over as a playmate. Nemo protests at first, saying that he's "Never played with a girl before." A valid concern for a ten year old. But the clown girl along with Professor Genius says the Princess has offered a box of baked cookies
It is with the offering of cookies that he decides to come with them and meet the Princess. Proving that no matter what age, the best way to a man's heart is his stomach. They travel by blimp and after fighting through a dark red eye glowing cloud simply known as "The Nightmare" they arrive at Slumber Land where he finds everyone there not only knows him, but have been awaiting his arrival.
One of them is a little man named "Flip." Played by Mickey Rooney. Genius tells Nemo to steer clear of him but Flip offers Nemo to "Ditch the sourpuss and come have some fun." But he flies away.
Professor Genius brings Nemo to the Throne Room of the king only to find out that the king is gone. Genius tells Nemo to stay put and goes off in search of him and who should pop back up but Flip?
He offers to help Nemo find the King for him but I for one would not trust any man who not only winks at a 10 year old like this, but puts his arm around him. I mean, he's totally touching him in a way or in a place that makes him feel uncomfortable and you know what that is?
Damn straight, Sonic
So, he brings him to a room where everything is upside down, Nemo falls and slides down a random banister that leads him into a room filled with toys. Where he sees a rather big man riding a toy train. So big that you'd think the train would break if he tried to ride it
Seriously, look at this guy. He's HUGE!!! No way should that itty bitty train be able to hold him without being crushed!
The train breaks down. Surprisingly NOT due to the big fat guy sitting on it. As he examines the train, he's not able to figure out what's wrong until Nemo comes in and points out that it's the Piston Gasket. They fix it together and ride it around the castle. After crashing into Professor Genius, they introduce each other. Turns out this big guy is the King they've been looking for. King Morpheus. Morpheus invites Nemo over and and then goes off to play with his trains. Poor guy must have ADD or something.
The King reveals that he has invited him because he wishes for Nemo to become his sole heir. Why his daughter Camille can't be is beyond my comprehension. Maybe Slumber Land is sexist. And as heir prince, it becomes his duty to carry the golden key
dude, that thing looks awesome!
This key can open any door in Slumber Land. Which begs the question, is there no such thing as privacy in Slumber Land? Can this boy now enter anyone's house? Oh, the possibilities abound and I'm pretty sure none of them are constitutional.
Morpheus warns Nemo however that there is one door he must never open. A door with the same symbol on the key. He never tells him why or what's in the door, or even where the damn thing IS. Just to promise him never to open it. So I guess this makes it a secret door...
So Nemo promises not to open this door. So let's recap, The king has just given a key that can unlock any door in the whole kingdom, including a door with some dark scary secret... to a ten year old boy. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?
Morpheus tells Genius to escort him to meet the princess. Causing a great facial reaction from Nemo
OH NOEZ! I HAVE TO TALK TO A GIRL!!
seriously, I love how expressive this kid's face is.
So he's brought to her room to meet Princess Camille. The girl with the disappearing, reappearing British accent! So, once Genius leaves them alone, Camille examines her new playmate and comments on the fact that he came in his "underwear," and then calls his friend "Icarus" a "little rat." Nemo then tells her off good.
Look out, he's gonna blow!
So after rather loudly telling her that he's not a rat and they're "pajamas" not "underwear" she tells him that he's absolutely right, kinda cute and his "underwear" is kinda cute too
and... I think someone just got their first boner
Camille offers to show Nemo all around Slumber Land through a montage of them riding a carriage rather quickly, flying off the carriage and bouncing around in... these...
All during an absolutely "adorable" song about Slumberland. But then it rains on them and with magical butterfly wings that fly to their aid, they fly away to dry off. While their clothes dry they um... wear these...
And I for one am amused by Nemo's face in these shots. I'm sure he's supposed to be over excited with the day he's had, but his face also says that maybe he saw a little more of Camille than he expected as they changed out of their wet clothes and into their puff balls.
After playfully slapping each other, the kids return to find Professor Genius waiting for them. It is time for Nemo to be schooled in the proper behavior for being a prince. This is in my opinion one of the movie's weak points. The song feels kinda forced and rushed, and seems to only exist because the Book of Disney says "Thou shall not have an animated film without singing." But the montage that we get from it is amusing. Like for example when they teach him how to dance... this happens
The poor kid even has to come up for air!
So, the montage of schooling DOES serve a purpose. Nemo is exhausted from it all and runs into the borderline pedo, Flip. Flip throws his hat and coat on Nemo as a disguise I guess and pulls him away for some "fun" at his "home away from home." A police station. He harasses some sleeping cops that turns into a 3 Stooges/Scooby Doo chase scene. Through a series of constant mischief, Flip and Nemo find themselves in a creepy old cave.
And right now, I bet Nemo wishes he wore pajamas that covered his feet.
He slips and slides into the very door Morpheus warned him about. Flip tempts him to open the door and take a little peek to see what inside. Which again, probably could've been avoided if the king just told him what was in the damn door to begin with!
After climbing up to the keyhole to unlock it and peeking into the door, what do they see?
ZUUL MOTHERFUCKER! ZUUL!!!
A nasty blobby thing reaches out for them and they quickly shut the door. But Flip gets scared and runs off, leaving Nemo alone and unable to reach the key. The door is slammed against and Nemo runs off scared.
Any world with lion drawn carriages is AWESOME!
Some time later, the coronation of Nemo begins and Nemo is late. Once he arrives, he is hastily changed into Prince clothes and throughout the coronation, is very very nervous about it and about what he did.
Morpheus explains how his royal scepter is the sole defense for Slumber Land against "The Nightmare" and how the scepter will be passed down to Nemo when the time comes. He demonstrates its power before the crowd through a incantation that I personally find to be way too long for the sole weapon against "the Nightmare."
Nemo is crowned Prince and the celebration begins but Nemo is still feeling guilty and worried about the key.
Uh-Oh, I shouldn't have had that Grande sized Burrito
Nemo decides he has to get the key back and rushes back to the door. But he arrives too late and the Nightmare within bursts out.
The Nightmare attacks King Morpheus and though Nemo tries, he is unable to bring the scepter to him due to the large, panicking crowd and the Nightmare takes Morpheus away. Professor Genius asks who opened the Forbidden Door and while the crowd points the fingers at Flip, Flip points the finger right back at Nemo. Everyone circles around him, calling his name in disappointment until the everything goes dark and Nemo screams and finds himself back at his bed.
Oh man, I hope this is sweat...
"Phew, only a dream."
OR WAS IT? DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUNN!! He finds the Scepter sitting in his bed and Morpheus' voice calls his name. Nemo gets out of bed and follows the sound of his voice to the kitchen. Remember that pantry with the pie and the "Don't forget your promise" note? Well, it's back. Now with the symbol of the forbidden door on the note. SYMBOLISM ALERT!!! The Pantry grows and burst open with water flowing out of it. The entire place floods leaving Nemo and Icarus on his bed in what appears to be an endless sea. (Insert bed wetting joke here) But he finds Professor Genius floating by and gets him on the bed. Genius explains that King Morpheus has been taken to Nightmare Land and though Nemo blames himself, Genius tries to comfort him because after all, the kid may have let an unspeakable evil loose into the world and threaten the king's very safety but come on...
How can you stay mad at that little face?
Nemo remembers that Flip showed him a map to Nightmare Land in the beginning but they have to hurry for he's about to be banished into space soon.
He makes it just in time, Flip is released and Nemo gets the map but the map is written in Flip's own code that only he can read so Nemo decides that he'll have to come.
And as Flip continues to constantly piss off Camille, what she does next lands her a "Crowning Moment of Awesome!"
I AM A MAN!
So, they set sail for Nightmare Land and...
Okay, what the Hell is Nemo wearing? I know it's 1905 and the fashions were different then and all but seriously, he looks like a Japanese school girl!
But enough making fun of Nemo's outfit, they sail and sail until night comes and everyone goes to sleep... including Flip... who was supposed to be steering. So now, they're heading for a whirlpool. But luckily, they fall through the whirlpool and land on Nightmare Land.
Goblins attack Camille and when the others try to help her, the Goblins see Nemo carrying the royal scepter and run off in fear and then...
CAMILLE: AHHH! HE TOUCHED MY BREAST!!!
FLIP: I "touched her breast." ... she doesn't HAVE any breasts...
... wow, Flip. Just... just wow!
Unfortunately, Flip realizes that the map is wet and all the writing is now gone but does he say anything? Nope. He decides to Bullshit his way through this. They continue on their way unknowing that they're being watched by a... flying... Stingray... thing...
See? I couldn't make that shit up.
Flip leads them to a dead end and ditches them to quickly redraw the map. As he does, he is met with more Goblins
But these turn out to be friendly goblins that don't like the Nightmare and escaped from his castle as they explain in possibly the WORST song in the movie. They offer to be their guides for they know the safest way to the castle. Camille agrees and makes Flip carry the luggage
The gang camps out for the night and as they talk about what the incantation for the scepter is, *Which they so far figure out is Jazama Pajama" they're ambushed by bat monsters that seem rather familiar to me...
Oh yeah, that's right
The bat people kidnap everyone and surround Nemo.
Nemo desperately tries to fight his way through but too many surround him and he... wakes up again. So, he's woken up twice now. Is this dream within a dream? Well, whatever it is, it happened and he breathes another sigh of relief until the scepter lands in front of him. Then the friendly goblins appear from under the bed. But it doesn't stop there. Yet another goblin falls from the ceiling
He turns out to be a friend of the goblins and has a letter from King Morpheus. The letter turns out to be the full incantation to use the scepter and defeat the Nightmare. They head off to Nightmare Castle by way of flying bed. As they sneak into a secret entrance, the Stingray sees them and goes off
The Stingray returns to the Nightmare's castle that looks suspiciously a lot like Hordak's lair in She-Ra as one of the Nightmare's minions gloat about how his bat people beat Nemo and his Scepter. Just as he does, the Stingray comes to make his report and well... the Nightmare is not happy.
It didn't end well...
The Nightmare attacks Nemo but the Goblins lead him to a secret place where they can see him but he can't see them
From here they watch as The Nightmare tries to bluff Nemo and make him surrender the Scepter. In doing so, he reveals Camille, Genius, and Flip trapped in tubes and proceeds to threaten to torture them (particularly Camille). This causes Nemo to react and scream to leave her alone. Nice job Nemo. Now the Nightmare knows where you are. He then reveals King Morpheus causing Nemo to rush out of his hiding place to give Morpheus the scepter but the Stingray attacks, flinging Nemo into the air. The Goblins catch him with the bed and Nemo tries to use the scepter but is unable to remember all the words. Fortunately, he still has the letter
Now, here's my gripe. Why is the incantation to defeat the Nightmare so damn long? Look at that thing! Nemo could be killed like, three times in the time it takes to recite that. And Jazama Pajama? Really? I know we have a theme of dreams and slumber to keep up but was that really the best they could come up with?
Well, it manages to work because after a few tries, they cut the damn Stingray in half!
But the bed gets thrashed, Nemo loses the letter, and they fall on a cliff where they're greeted by the Nightmare. He tries to recite the incantation but without the letter, he can't remember it all. Gee, if only the incantation was, oh I don't know... SHORTER!!!!
Icarus comes back just in time with the letter but the Nightmare begins to absorb everything around him
SERIOUSLY! Who makes incantations this long? It's ridiculous! He's gonna kill me before I get half way through! And who wrote this thing anyway? Dr. Seuss?
But with the help of his little ra... I mean his best friend Icarus, he finally manages to recite this ridiculous incantation and obliterate the Nightmare, freeing his friends and the king!
But all is not well for Nemo is now unconscious.
But with the power of the scepter, Morpheus is able to revive him. Once Nemo awakens, his very first words being that he's sorry for breaking his promise.
We return to Slumberland. Everyone is celebrating and Nemo and Camille are back on the blimp as they wave to everyone. They fly back to Nemo's hometown. Camille tells him that she had a wonderful time with him and...
AHH! COOTIES! COOTIES!!!
WOW! You're not shy, are ya kid? Well, when you live in a dream world, what do you have to lose? What the hell? Go for it, boy!
I sense Toy Shipping!!
... look it up on TV Tropes.
Like any dream where you finally reach the good part... he wakes up
But not before quite possibly having his first wet dream
His mother comes in to wake him up. Nemo apologizes for breaking his promise about the pie and his father comes in
Like he said, his father is going to take him to the circus.
Hey Nemo. You just defeated the physical form of Nightmare itself, became a prince and won the heart of a fair princess. What are you gonna do now?
"I'M GOING TO THE CIRCUS!!"
And... that's how it ends. That's Little Nemo. Kind of a weak ending in my opinion. They pulled a Wizard of Oz and seemed to not only make everything a dream but when you watch it from the beginning, you see that everyone from the circus resembles the people he meets in Slumber Land. That's not a problem but I personally am going for the NES video game ending implying that he'll return every time he dreams.
However, despite this flaw, some lame songs (they weren't all lame but a good number of them were), and a slight pacing issue, I found the movie charming and fantastically animated. It sadly didn't do well in the Box Office when it first premiered but it's gained a bit of a cult following and I personally recommend it. Now if you'll excuse me, it's late and I'm off to Slumber Land. This is the Ninja Pirate signing off!