film & game reviews, the retro way.
Based on Eve Titus' "Basil Of Baker Street" books, The Great Mouse Detective is a Disney animated feature from 1986 about a mouse detective, who is not unlike Sherlock Holmes, taking on a kidnapping case that might lead him to his arch-nemesis Professor Ratigan.
When her toymaker father is taken one night by a maniacal peg-legged bat, little mouse girl Olivia seeks the help of Basil of Baker Street. With the help of Dr. Dawson, who shows her the way to Basil's home, Olivia convinces the latter to take on the case. Evil mastermind Professor Ratigan, Basil's Moriarty, is thought to be behind the nefarious plot. Sherlock Holmes with mice may not sound like the most inspired concept but The Great Mouse Detective makes the most of it by presenting a very different type of adventure than Sherlock himself would have ever taken part in. The film was well received both by audiences and critics alike and it gave Disney more motivation to keep making animated features every year after the disappointment that was The Black Cauldron.
Released the same year as Don Bluth's An American Tail, also a significant mouse-themed animated hit, the movie boasted some beautiful animation worthy of Disney's Golden or Silver Age and felt appropriately old-fashioned in its approach. With a voice cast including the likes of Barrie Ingham, Val Bettin, Alan Young, Candy Candido and, of course, Vincent Price, this was like 1960's Disney movies coming back for one last project and that made the film feel pretty cosy. Price's performance as Ratigan is one of the main things this movie is remembered for and rightly so: he is on top form here and clearly has a great time embodying such a sadistic, unhinged character.
Plot-wise, there's not much to this one as it keeps things simple enough with Basil's investigation hitting some pretty big speed bumps before he finally gets his act together and faces Ratigan once and for all. The latter's plan, it turns out, was to create a robot version of the Queen in order to replace the real Queen, thereby appointing himself leader. The climax, which is set in and around Big Ben, is genuinely suspenseful and the animators, who used computers for parts of it, do a terrific job at making it all gel perfectly. There's no denying that the film would have benefited from one or two more songs, perhaps a few more twists and turns in the story itself but it definitely works well enough as it is.
The Great Mouse Detective may not have made as big a splash (sorry) as The Little Mermaid but it certainly reminded people how good a Disney animated movie could be. This is a gorgeous-looking film with a lot of heart, a dark sense of humor and one heck of villain.
Very good, indeed.