Posted December 21, 2010 by editor in Retrospectives

Disney: The Great Mouse Detective

So Disney does Sherlock Holmes. It didn’t seem to matter what literary sources Disney turned to in their late 70’s to mid 80’s slump. Every picture came out looking very rushed with dirty smoggy looking animation that causes winces or squints in order to get back what was coming at them onscreen – with little in the way of adventure or joy.

The Great Mouse Detective then, or Basil: the great Mouse Detective as it is also known, did little to aid this. Sure it had a few (and we mean a handful) or characters for writers to toy with. But all connection to Sherlock Holmes is brushed over in aid of doing a kidnap drama that turns into a hatch to take over the British Empire.

Professor Ratigan is gleefully portrayed by Vincent Price and is perhaps the most memorable rodent on screen. His plan is suitably barmy and his hatred for being referred to as the “R” word is perhaps an ego trip too far. Still he has a fairly tuneful song sung about him which we would see reprised in the Gaston song in Beauty and the Beast. In fact there are a few parallels in this flick which would suggest better things to come.

This film then should perhaps be considered an experimental piece that flattened the ground in order to let the likes of The Little Mermaid then pave the way for Disney glory season which started in the 90’s.

Sadly there is very little else to recommend.  Basil is not short on ego either and finds himself dashing around with very little though to the comforts desired by the distressed around him. There is a peg legged bat that acts as second in command to Ratigan. Who honestly looks like a leftover from The Black Cauldron.

The best we get aside from a very long set up is a couple of action beats which sees our heroes track down clues, evade a nasty death trap and then pursue the villain across London’s skies which ends in a high rise fight on Big Ben. Yes Big Ben is the London attraction of choice in this film (If it isn’t that in a film then it is Tower Bridge). But back in the day this was considered quite the action climax. To be fair to the film it is one of the better looking sequences, but is over all too quickly – so relish the pains animators must have gone through to firstly get the gears and cogs moving inside the clock and then the foggy illuminated look of the outer face as basil faces down against his foe.

To be sceptical you could easily say that it was setting itself up for a sequel when the film ends with a partnership firmly established (despite his partner being a bit useless throughout) as they are handed a fresh case. Had “The Great Mouse Detective” done more sterling work at the box office it could very well have been the case. Despite its failings at the box office though it still seems to maintain a fairly high record with critics – which is bizarre as it is a rather clunky film.

Steven Hurst