I’m shocked, frankly, that no one has posted anything on this epic kindertraumatizer yet. Of all the animated horror that wreaked havoc upon my childhood, including FERN GULLY, FANTASIA and SNOW WHITE, none was as terrifying as LITTLE NEMO: ADVENTURES IN SLUMBERLAND, the 1992 American release of a 1989 Japanese cartoon film. This movie scared the hell out of me.
LITTLE NEMO is the story of Nemo, a nightmare-plagued little boy, much as I was at the time, who is chosen to become heir of a magical dream kingdom called Slumberland. Once given an ounce of responsibility, Nemo abuses his power and opens the forbidden door to nightmare land, putting himself, and everyone else in the kingdom, in some really deep shit. This includes getting King Morpheus of Slumberland captured by the evil Nightmare King. Way to go, Nemo, you putz.
Now, for starters, let’s just ignore what kind of presently scary lessons this movie might teach kids like a)It’s always O.K. to accept possibly drug-laced cookies from bearded, bespectacled child-molester types who come through your window at night, or b) it’s a great idea to pick fights with policemen, as long as you have the help of a cigar-smoking criminal hobo voiced by MICKEY ROONEY, and let’s concentrate on the stuff that really made you piss the bed.
For one thing: the fucked up nightmares. I think it seems natural that, when animation depicts a helpless boy being whisked away in a flying bed through the clouds to a creepy decrepit city, being betrayed by said bed (which is supposed to represent safety to small children) and dropped like 5,000 feet into some insane vortex that turns into a tunnel where he almost gets run down by an evil choo-choo train, maybe the viewing five-year-olds might not ever want to go to bed again. I mean, seriously, what the hell?!
And those creepy, slimy looking, black, smoky-type nightmare monsters with the red eyes who flood out of evil looking doors in caves? Can you say scared shitless? Even the supposedly “good goblins” were scary as hell. I don’t give a damn how funny or cute you are supposed to think they are, they still have claws and fangs and beady little eyes. And those guys don’t even go away when you wake up! They come out from under your fucking bed!! That’s messed up.
Not to forget the poisoned cherry on top of this horrific sundae, last but not least, is the Nightmare King himself. Giant horns, big claws, glowing red eyes, oh, and did I mention he’s like 50 stories tall? He bears close resemblance to another animated frightener, that big mountaintop Satan guy from the end of FANTASIA (on which I also intend to make a submission, since he scared the living piss out of me too) except instead of just grinning evilly and conjuring up weird skeletal warriors and little naked sprites to play around with, he imprisons your friends in funky little tubes where they’re frozen in odd positions and he shocks them for fun. Combine all that with an impressive basso voice (complete with a slight hint of a theatrical mock-British accent) a lava pit, and claws that can pop up anywhere, you’ve got one wicked, creepy motherfucker who lives in a weird spirally castle and makes you piss the bed for a week.
All in all, we have here a genuine kindertraumatizer that will screw with your mind and keep you up and shaking way past your bedtime. And if you can eventually get to sleep without being convinced that the Nightmare King is in your closet, as soon as you doze off your bed is going to fly out the window and drop you in the ocean. Yeah, that’s right, go jump in bed with mommy and daddy.
On a final note, I can tell you exactly why this movie is screwed up the way it is: because the man who adapted the screenplay is a sicko who’s been frightening grownups for decades. Fucking RAY BRADBURY.
Yours in childhood trauma,