The Great Mouse Detective
Release Date: July 2nd, 1986
Inspiration: “Basil of Baker Street” by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone
Budget: $14 million
Domestic Gross: $38.7 million
Worldwide Gross: $50 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%
IMDB Score: 7.2/10
Storyline (per IMDB): In Victorian London, England, a little mouse girl’s toymaker father is abducted by a peglegged bat. She enlists the aid of Basil of Baker Street, the rodent world’s answer to Sherlock Holmes. The case expands as Basil uncovers the crime’s link to a plot against the Crown itself.
Pre-Watching Thoughts: We continue on through this journey as we get to a film that I can honestly say was perhaps one of, if not my favorite films of all times. I don’t know what it was about this film that drew me to it, but it always resonated with me and still ranks high as one of the those films I loved. This also would begin what many consider one of the greatest stretches in Disney film history though I think this film doesn’t completely get the credit for kicking that period off, and hopefully this film will still remain one of my favorites of all time.
Voice Cast: After a long stretch of films that featured a good mix of returning actors and newcomers, we have one of the first films in a long time where we only have a scattering of returning voices and the film is dominated by brand new voices. In that vein, we only have two returning voices as Candy Candido returns to voice Fidget the bat in what would be his final film appearance, and then we have Wayne Allwine who voices one of Ratigan’s thugs and that is literally all of the returning actors. Now moving onto the newcomers as we start with Barrie Ingham who voices Basil in what would be his lone animated appearance, and then we have the iconic Vincent Price who voices Professor Ratigan as he was reaching the twilight of his legendary career. Next, we have Val Bettin who voices Dr. Dawson as well as one of Ratigan’s thugs in a dual appearance, and speaking of dual appearance we then have Frank Welker who voices both Toby the dog and Felicia the cat in a unique performance. We then have Susanne Pollatschek who voices Olivia Flaversham in what would be her only film appearance, and then we have Alan Young who was best known at this time for voicing Scrooge McDuck and he provides the voice of Hiram Flaversham. Up next, we have Diana Chesney who voices Basil’s housekeeper Mrs. Judson and then we have Eve Brenner who voices Queen Mousetoria, and then we have Tony Anselmo and Walker Edmiston who voice two of Ratigan’s guards and then we have singer Melissa Manchester who voices the mouse singer in the bar. Finally in a cool moment, we have a recording of legendary actor basil Rathborne when he played Sherlock Holmes but because Nigel Bruce had passed away, we have Laurie Main voice Dr. Watson. We have seen a bit of a trend of bringing in big names to take part in these films and we will see if that trend continues or if they revert back to just having those best known as voice actors dominate the casting.
Hero/Prince: Once again, we have a pair of heroes to talk about here as we have the team of Basil of Baker Street and Dr. David Q. Dawson who are the mouse equivalents of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Dawson is first introduced to Basil when he agrees to take Olivia Flaversham to him to help her find her missing father, and they learn that he was kidnapped by Professor Ratigan who is Basil’s main rival. Olivia is then kidnapped by Ratigan’s henchman Fidget and he lays a trap for Basil and Dawson which they fall into, and Basil becomes disenfranchised by being kidnapped as Ratigan informs him of his plan to take control of the British Empire. With some help from Dawson, they manage to escape and foil Ratigan’s plan as Ratigan again takes Olivia and they chase him right into Big Ben, and Ratigan and Basil have a final battle with Ratigan being knocked off the clock and Basil manages to save himself. The duo are honored by the Queen and Dawson is offered a chance to be Basil’s partner which he accepts as they prepare to take on a brand new case. Obviously, those who are familiar with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson will recognize the same characteristics with Basil and Dawson, and the two deserve a spot amongst the other heroes in the Disney canon though I am yet unsure as to where they will rank against the rest of them.
Villain: Much like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are the human equivalents of Basil and Dawson, we also have to have someone to embody the spirit of the iconic Professor Moriarty and that is Professor Ratigan. He devises a plan to take over the kingdom from the Queen and kidnaps toymaker Hiram Flaversham to create a robot in the Queen’s likeness, and he has his henchman Fidget steal various items to use in his plan as well as kidnap Hiram’s daughter Olivia as collateral to make him finish the robot. Upon learning Basil is on his trail, he devises a trap for Basil and Dawson and puts them in an elaborate series of death traps before leaving for Buckingham Palace. He captures the Queen and implants the robot in its place as it declares him her new royal consult, but Basil escapes and his plan is foiled though he takes Olivia and escapes. Basil and Dawson chase him as they crash into Big Ben and Basil rescues Olivia, but Ratigan attacks him only for the bell to chime and Ratigan falls to his death though Basil manages to save himself. Ratigan is a classic example of a dashing and suave villain who exhibits this façade though he obviously has a sadistic side, and this is shown as he feeds one of his minions to his pet cat Felicia after he inadvertently call him a rat and he also throws Fidget to his death into the river. But like most villains, his overconfidence leads to his downfall and his real personality comes out as he in essence turns into a rabid rat during his battle with Basil only to then lead to his demise. Ratigan is one of those villains that you don’t think about at first when it comes to great villains in the Disney canon, but he is pretty memorable and it will be interesting comparing him to the more iconic villains. I also must mention Fidget who serves as Ratigan’s henchman and he captures Hiram as well as Olivia along with getting the necessary supplies, but he is nearly fed to Felicia after he lets slip to Ratigan that Basil is on the case. He remains by Ratigan’s side until the very end when he tells Ratigan they should throw Olivia off their ship to lighten the load, but Ratigan turns on him and throws him off the ship into the river. He won’t rank as high as Ratigan because he is just a henchman, but he was worth mentioning since he does play a pivotal role in Ratigan’s plan coming to fruition.
Other Characters: It’s funny because when you watch these films when you are a kid, it seems like there are more characters than there actually are and watching this film back, I realized that as most of the focus was on the main characters with a few other characters being featured. At the top of that list are the toymaker Hiram and his daughter Olivia as he is kidnapped by Ratigan to create his robot, and then Olivia is captured and used as bait to force Hiram to finish it only for Basil and Dawson to foil the plan and reunite Hiram and Olivia in the end. We then have Toby the hound dog that is technically owned by Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, but he is used by Basil and Dawson to find Fidget and then he scares Felicia away to save the Queen. Speaking of which, we then have Felicia the cat that is owned by Ratigan and he feeds his enemies to her though he sometimes sacrifices his allies to them, and they try to feed the Queen to her only for Toby to scare her away and she inadvertently jumps into the pen of the Royal Guard Dogs which supposedly leads to her death. We then have Mrs. Judson who is Basil’s housekeeper and she is at times frustrated with Basil’s experiments, and then we have the Queen of Mousedom who is kidnapped by Ratigan and replaced with his robot replacement though Basil and Dawson save her and she honors them as her way of thanking them. Finally, we have the numerous members of Ratigan’s gang who follow him with stout devotion at the fear of being fed to Felicia, and I guess you can also include the random crowds we see in the bar that Basil and Dawson go to as well as the crowd who appears at the Jubilee and turn on Ratigan. There were definitely not as many characters in this film as I seemed to remember, but that’s fine because those that were in here were important to the story and kept the film moving along.
Songs: So I didn’t mention this in the last review, but we did make history as the Black Cauldron was the first film in the Disney canon to not feature any songs at all and it clearly felt out of place though that film didn’t really need any songs in the end. After a brief respite, we go back to having songs in a film as this film features three songs with the first being the centerpiece song “The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind” that Ratigan and his cohorts sing, and it is a fun song that has some breaks in between including Ratigan feeding one of his goons to Felicia after he called him a rat by mistake and it shows Ratigan’s evil side behind his suave façade. Next we have the song “Let Me Be Good to You” sung by the little mouse in the seedy bar and it is a good song as even the rowdy patrons are entranced by the mouse and her beauty, and finally we have “Goodbye So Soon” that Ratigan records and plays to set up the mechanics that will lead to Basil’s death though it is more of a background song if anything. I thought these songs were just fine for this film and it was the perfect amount to be in this film, and it will be interesting to see as we get to the next wave how those films are treated more as musicals than just regular films.
Plot: As mentioned, these characters are basically just the mouse versions of the Sherlock Holmes stories and those are pretty well-known to everyone, but what I was not aware off was there was a series of children’s book about Basil of Baker Street which this film is based off of. In this story, Olivia Flaversham sees her father kidnapped by a bat and with the assistance of Dr. Dawson, they find Basil of Baker Street to ask for his help which he does after learning that the bat was an associate of Professor Ratigan. They track the bat named Fidget to a toy story where he steals various items and he also kidnaps Olivia, and Ratigan uses her as bait for her father to finish building a robot that he will use to take the Queen’s place so he can rule Mousedom. Basil and Dawson find Ratigan’s lair only for it to be revealed that Ratigan was waiting for them and he leaves them there to die, and he kidnaps the Queen and puts the robot in her place only for Basil and Dawson to escape and foil his plan. He escapes with Olivia and is chased by Basil, Dawson, and Hiram as they crash into Big Ben, and Basil manages to save Olivia only for Ratigan to assault him on the clockface only for the clock to go off and Ratigan falls to his death while Basil saves himself. Basil and Dawson are hailed as heroes by the Queen and Dawson becomes Basil’s partner as they are met by a young lady who needs their help. I wouldn’t be surprised if this same plot was used at some point in a Sherlock Holmes story even with the robot, but the story is a good one and could easily have been passed off as a Sherlock Holmes novel and/or movie.
Random Watching Thoughts: I feel like all these films set in London have to always open with a dreary-looking sky; Again, it’s worth mentioning by having voice actors appear in these films while also appearing in other shows, I wonder how many people hear Hiram talk and realized it was the same actor who plays Scrooge McDuck; I would like to know what happened to Fidget that he can’t fly well anymore and how he lost his leg; Once again, Disney is the true master of the jumpscare as the shot of Fidget coming through the window is legit terrifying; Why would Hiram reveal that he has a daughter to someone trying to kidnap him?; We go back to having the credits at the beginning of the film though it is not the full credits; So I looked it up and if Dawson was stationed in Afghanistan at this time, it was either due to the Tirah Campaign in Pakistan or he was there following the second Anglo-Afghan War which ended in 1880; I always wondered how it would be if humans were to stumble upon these hidden animal worlds where they live just like them; I don’t know if a boot is the best place for Olivia to be; I always wondered if that was actually Sherlock Holmes playing the violin; Dawson saying he doesn’t want to impose yet Olivia has no problem coming in even though Mrs. Judson did invite them in; Basil went so far as to create a machine that can smoke a pipe; Basil’s disguise does not appear to be in good taste watching this in 2020; Dawson didn’t even need to introduce himself as Basil knew all about him just by looking at him; He whispers that to Olivia thinking she would know what he is talking about; I can only imagine how much money Mrs. Judson must spend replacing all the pillows that Basil destroys; The constant theme of this film is Basil never being able to say Olivia’s last name properly; Basil was so close, but alas those bullets couldn’t be the exact same; Basil is completely indifferent to Olivia’s plight until she tells him what took her father and now she has his full attention; The portrait of Ratigan has him smiling in one scene, but then in the next scene he smiles to where we can see his teeth only for it to go back to normal in the next scene; He calls Ratigan the “Napoleon of Evil” which doesn’t make Napoleon sound good; You can tell that this is set in London because when we see the robot being tested, it is shown pouring a cup of tea; It is a bit weird that Ratigan would use a toymaker to make this sophisticated of a robot; Good on Hiram for sticking up for himself though it mattered very little when Ratigan said he was going to go after Olivia; It would’ve helped Fidget if Ratigan actually specified what type of tools to get; I’m surprised Ratigan’s cigarette didn’t burn out quicker given how many of his goons offered to light it; Ratigan’s gang has all mice and yet one lizard; That’s quite the haul that Ratigan has accumulated for himself; That one mouse was so happy when Ratigan started pouring the champagne into the fountain only to get kicked into the fountain; I love how they are able to sing so cheerfully about Ratigan drowning widows and orphans; Of all the instruments Ratigan is able to play, you wouldn’t think it would be the harp; He had a voodoo doll made of Basil but as we saw, it clearly doesn’t work; I feel so bad for the drunken goon as he clearly is not thinking straight when he said that, yet Ratigan feels it necessary to feed him to Felicia; A rat that doesn’t like being called a rat is a clear “pot calling the kettle black” situation; If anything, at least the goon was drunk and his death was in essence quick and painless; It is funny to think that while Ratigan and his goons were having their party that Olivia was telling Basil everything she knows; Olivia goes as far as to copy Basil’s movements as he spins this story around in his head; Jumpscare #2 by Fidget; Did Fidget not realize that Basil lived there and how stupid was he to leave his hat behind?; Olivia had no trouble pocketing all of those crumpets; Basil puts the violin on the chair after he prevented it from hitting the ground, yet he forgets about it when he sits down in the same chair and crushes it; He says that Olivia is not coming with them yet she ends up going with them; Great call to have a scene with Holmes and Watson; Toby is initially cold to Dawson yet he quickly falls in love with Olivia though her giving him a crumpet certainly helps her cause; Did Basil really have to growl along with Toby to get him fired up?; Considering we only see him get the uniforms, are we to assume he had the tools and gears in the bag as well since that didn’t seem like a big bag?; First he loses his hat, now Fidget loses the list; He wouldn’t sit for Basil yet he would for Olivia; Considering Olivia’s father is a toymaker, you’d think she would be more amazed being in this toy store; They are trying to be quiet and yet Olivia can’t help herself from playing one of the music boxes; Dawson reverts back to his army days by standing at attention and Olivia mimics him; How long did Fidget take removing those gears considering he had to be careful not to damage them?; Fidget’s way of causing a diversion is by setting off as many toys as possible; Pretty cool Easter egg of the toy Dumbo firing off the bubbles; Jumpscare #3 by Fidget; I hate to be the owner of that toy store when he comes in the next day and finds gears missing from the toys and the shattered remains of that doll; The obligatory “No Sale” on the cash register; That was quite a nasty fall that Basil took yet he’s lucky that he got tied up on that string; Poor Dawson, he feels so guilty losing Olivia; Basil does some deep thinking yet it is the discovery of the list that is their guide; Ratigan is so great here feigning that he is touched by the reunion of Hiram and Olivia; Ratigan is so proud of Fidget until he finds out Fidget lost the list and Basil was chasing him; I know Fidget screwed up, but feeding him to Felicia was pretty harsh though Ratigan did decide to spare him when he realized he could set a trap for Basil; It is amazing how much Basil was able to deduce from this list and through his convoluted experiment, being able to pinpoint where they could find the entrance to Ratigan’s lair; Of all the disguises they could use, they had to use pirate costumes; If that octopus really wanted to impress the crowd, he would use more than just two tentacles when juggling those balls; Dawson can’t help being a gentleman even when trying to keep up this façade; The piano player with some great foreshadowing because he knew the octopus was in trouble; That frog and lizard never stood a chance with this crowd; Leave it to a tiny female mouse to be the one that the crowd falls in love with; She went from being a singer to a showgirl; Considering Dawson wanted a sherry, he had no trouble chugging that beer even though it was drugged; Of course, Fidget would get his peg leg stuck in a hole in the floor; Can we really blame Dawson for getting on stage, after all he had been away in the army for so long and needed some loving; The obligatory sound of a bowling ball hitting the pins whenever there’s a big crash; The bartender of this bar must get so frustrated whenever fights break out because he loses his profits having to fix the place up; Fidget must’ve moved real fast to get back to the lair, take Olivia out of the bottle, put her clothes on, and get in the bottle himself to fool Basil and Dawson; Considering they had this big plan to prepare for, I’m amazed they had enough time to set up that banner and balloons for Basil’s arrival; The common trope is the villain claiming victory prematurely; Ratigan didn’t know how to kill Basil so he just threw together several methods including a mouse trap, gun, crossbow, axe, and an anvil; Another common trope of villains is them explaining their plan to the hero; I can only imagine what people would’ve thought seeing a cat carrying several mice on her back; Talk about random things, Ratigan goes to the trouble of having a camera set up as well; Basil is so resigned to his fate that he casually comments that the Queen and the Empire are in danger; The Queen should’ve known something was up when Fidget called her “sweetheart”; Even though it is for evil purposes, you do have to give Hiram credit for his work on the robot; How long has this song been playing?; Basil has completely given up on escaping until Dawson makes an offhand comment about setting the trap off now, and then his mind begins spinning and sure enough they manage to escape while also freeing Olivia from the bottle and getting their picture taken in time; Are you telling that not one of those in the audience believed something was amiss when the robot Queen came out and started shaking repeatedly?; Ratigan really spared no expense with that robe; Ratigan says he has a few slight suggestions as he unveils his list and it rolls right out the door; Why was Fidget having to carry the Queen by himself, couldn’t any of the other goons helped him?; Are we really to believe that Ratigan listed off 95 items in that short of time?; Basil really did a number on that robot; The Queen didn’t do a great job in tying Fidget up if he was able to escape that easily; Talk about bad luck for Felicia to narrowly avoid Toby only to land amongst the Royal Guard Dogs; Basil is finally able to say “Flaversham” properly when addressing Hiram; That’s quite the chase going on with Ratigan and Basil; Fidget tells Ratigan to lighten the load thinking he will get rid of Olivia, but instead Ratigan throws him overboard though honestly it didn’t matter since Fidget is so small; How fast was Ratigan going that they were able to break right through the glass of Big Ben?; That was as close as you can get with Basil saving Olivia from being crushed by the gears; This sequence of Ratigan running up the gears while going rabid is not only terrifying, but a great work of cinematography; Unless I’m mistaken, I don’t think Professor Moriarty ever went this rabid on Sherlock Holmes as Ratigan is going here on Basil; A fitting way for Ratigan to meet his end; That was a bit of luck there for Basil that he had the pedals to use to work the propeller; Basil still can’t pronounce Olivia’s last name correctly even though he did it for Hiram; Dawson was ready to walk away from everything until Basil pretty much declared him his associate to the lady that came to the door; I wonder when Dawson was narrating this since this film was in essence a flashback for him.
Overall Thoughts: Overall, this is a pretty fun film and still remains one of my all-time favorites though it is not quite up to the level of some of the other films in this canon. It is a vast improvement from the previous film and showed that the animation studio was still a very viable entity, and little did anyone know that this film would set the stage for what would go down in history as the Disney Renaissance. The 1980s have been a trying time for Disney as they saw an upheaval in their staff and the first films of the decade have not delivered as expected, but they now have to be feeling a bit more optimistic of the future though they still have a ways to go. As for this film, it is a solid film and while it may not be considered amongst the classics in the Disney canon, it is still a fun film and will always be one of my favorites.
Final Grade: 7.5/10