One of those weird children’s literature staples from the ’80s and ’90s was Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, Robert C. O’Brien’s book about small animals that seemed like a spiritual sibling of Redwall and Watership Down. It was adapted into an animated movie in 1982, The Secret of NIMH, which was Don Bluth’s (An American Tail, The Land Before Time, Anastasia) directorial debut. MGM has had the book rights since 2015, and now the new movie has a director in visual effects supervisor James Madigan.

Much like The Secret of NIMH was Bluth’s first feature, Entertainment Weekly reports that this will be also Madigan’s, who served in the visual effects department of movies like Iron Man 2 and Insurgent. The Rats of NIMH is said to be a CGI/live-action hybrid, incorporating digital rats and mice into the real world of farmers, labs, and scientists. The 1982 movie took more than a few liberties with the material, adding in a magical element that’s completely absent from the book, which is about a field mouse who meets a bunch of hyper-intelligent rats who got their sentience from experiments in a psychology lab. There’s a good chance that the new movie will draw more from the book than from the animated version, more Fantastic Mr. Fox than Black Cauldron.

Both the book and the animated movie have more of a serious tone than other animated animal movies have had in the past, and hopefully that part of the story is kept. It’s more of a Watership Down kind of story, with a built-in lore that sets it apart from a straight comedy like Over the Hedge. One of the writers of the Transformers and Ring franchises is producing it, and Madigan has no previous directorial work, so who knows, really.

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