16. The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
After the flop that was 1985’s The Black Cauldron, the company was reaching a point of wondering if they could continue on doing what they are doing. the Black Cauldron was beaten last year by The Care Bears Movie of all things. Personally, that would be a sign of a company wide apocalypse. As luck would have it, The Great Mouse Detective would be released the next year and would wind up being a much better movie along with a modest success for the company by giving the audience a fun Sherlock Holmes romp if Holmes was a mouse named Basil (Barrie Ingham). Sure, the concept does sound like a bit of a stretch, but Disney takes this idea first written in Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus and makes it a marvel of action, mystery and adventure. Basil is on the case to find a toymaker named Hiram Flaversham (Alan Young of Ducktales fame) alongside his daughter Olivia (Susanne Pollatschek) and newfound colleague and Watson ersatz Dr. David Dawson (Val Bettin). The trio soon find out that the world’s greatest criminal mind to the mouse world named Professor Ratigan (Vincent Price) is behind the scheme in order to dethrone the Queen with a evil robot duplicate and claim the crown and the monarchy as his own. What follows is a tale that only Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would envy.
It’s a brilliant piece of mystery and heroics with Basil being like Holmes before him deducing and using his wits to get ahead. It follows the basic Sherlock tropes, but set in a smaller universe. The way they play with size and shape is remarkable and captures the scope of the world. A toy doll that can fit in our hands can suddenly become a monster to the mouse. It adds so much more to this world and makes it feel as if someone our size can live in it. On a technical scope of animation, incorporating CGI (computer generated imagery) into the thrilling climax at the Big Ben clock gets the audience going a has a realism to it. the score by Henry Mancini, one of his first scores for animation, is a nice throwback to the sounds of the classic mystery films of yore. The cherry on top of this already perfect sundae is Vincent Price as Ratigan. Price delivers his lines as if he is having a ball and taking the work seriously. His presence is felt in every word he says and in every movement his character makes throughout the film. It is as if Price could very well fit into a live action take of the character. Overall, it’s one of the finest of Disney’s Dark Age of the 80’s and a gem that could very well have helped bring about a certain Renaissance age.
Critic’s Quote: “Many of the new crop of children’s animated movies are so saturated with powdered sugar that one suspects just watching them will produce cavities. What a treat it is to see an animated feature that doesn’t moralize or patronize young children, or drown them in bathos.” – Nina Darnton, New York Times, July 2, 1986
Signature Moment: The fight between Basil and Ratigan in and throughout the clockwork of Big Ben is a sight to behold.