The 1980’s were lean years for Disney. Sure, the studio gave us The Fox and the Hound to begin the decade and The Little Mermaid to end it (and start a resurgence for Disney animated features), but the near decade in-between produced some very un-Disney-like choices for theatrical features including 1985’s The Black Cauldron and 1986’s The Great Mouse Detective.
The concept may sound a bit goofy (no pun intended), but The Great Mouse Detective centers around Basil of Baker Street (Barrie Ingham), the world’s foremost mouse detective. As the film opens Basil and a doctor recently returned from Afghanistan, Dr. David Q. Dawson (Val Bettin), are approached by young Olivia Flaversham (Susanne Pollatschek) whose father (Alan Young) has been kidnapped by the evil Professor Ratigan (Vincent Price). Ratigan wants the toy maker to create a clockwork version of the Queen (Eve Brenner) which he can use to rule all of England.
Based on the children’s series Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus, The Great Mouse Detective may not play much like your average Disney fare, but it is quite entertaining, especially for Sherlock Holmes fans. Directors Ron Clements, Burny Mattinson, David Michener, John Musker provide an adventurous romp and mystery. Price plays the film’s villain with devilish glee, and although Basil isn’t as anti-social as Benedict Cumberbatch‘s current version of the character on Sherlock, he is certainly more prickly than most Disney protagonists.
Several pieces of the Sherlock Holmes legend make it into the movie including Toby (the dog the detective occasionally uses to help out on his cases), the detective’s loyal housekeeper (Diana Chesney), the violin, the famous coat and hat, a final showdown and fall by the hero and his arch-nemesis, and even a cameo by Holmes himself (voiced by none other than Basil Rathbone). The movie also gives us Ratigan’s bumbling henchman Fidget (Candy Candido) – a bat with a broken wing and a peg leg, a great chase sequence above London and inside of Big Ben, Basil and Dawson’s last-second escape from a death trap, and three musical numbers.
The new “Mystery in the Mist” two-disc collection includes both a Blu-ray and DVD of the movie, “The World’s Greatest Criminal” Sing-Along, and two featurettes including a look back at the making of the film. If you don’t already own the previously released DVD, and are a fan of both Sherlock Holmes and Disney animation, this new collection is certainly worth adding to your collection.
[Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, $29.99]