In 1964, Warner Brothers brought a whale of a tale to the big screen called The Incredible Mr. Limpet. Starring funnyman Don Knotts, the film combined live-action with animation to create a memorable undersea adventure that continues to win the hearts of viewers, old and new.
There’s something fishy about mild-mannered bookkeeper, Henry Limpet, he just doesn’t realize it yet. All he knows is that his career is floundering and he wants to follow his true calling, as a member of the US Navy. With the nation on the verge of war, you might think the Navy would scoop him up in a heartbeat. But, unlike his best friend George, poor Mr. Limpet just isn’t quite what the Navy is looking for.
Down on his luck, Henry heads out for a stroll with his wife Bessy along the pier at Coney Island. In true Barney Fife fashion, he clumsily slips and falls into the sea. While his distraught wife assumes he has drowned, Henry’s fate is a little more bizarre – he’s been instantly morphed into an animated fish – gills, fins and all. The only part that manages to remain human-like is his face. Always a fish-lover at heart, Henry isn’t displeased at his new persona or surroundings, and even manages to make a new friend with Crusty the hermit crab. He proceeds to win the affection of a pretty ladyfish who helps him assimilate into his new aquatic surroundings – and get over his human wife, who he never much cared for anyway.
If that weren’t amazing enough, the previously cold-shouldered Navy has a renewed interest in Henry, after his old buddy George makes some inter-species introductions. He is the perfect weapon against the infamous German U-Boats and with his help, the Navy might just be able to turn the tides and bring an end to this war. Henry, poised to have everything he ever wanted in life, valiantly serves his country. He brings two weapons to the battle, stealth and, more importantly, “thrum” – an intense noise he has discovered he can make, and one that has the ability to disable enemy weapons systems and other underwater activities.
The combination of his nervous facial features and bumbling lovability made Don Knotts the perfect actor to star in the 1964 classic, The Incredible Mr. Limpet. His unique bug-eyed expressions translated perfectly into animation form, which was ably handled by longtime Disney associate, Jack Rose, under the animation direction of Warner Brothers cartoon legend, Robert McKimson. With a catchy score by Frank Perkins, including songs like “Be Careful How You Wish,”’ Hail to Henry Limpet” and “I Wish I Were a Fish,” the film had all of the elements necessary to become a classic, and that’s exactly what it became.
If you harbor fond memories of The Incredible Mr. Limpet, we hope you’ll share your recollections of this beloved film in our comments section.