The Great Mouse Detective is an animated film produced by Disney in 1986 and based on the adventures of another famous detective from London: Sherlock Holmes.
The movie is probably not one of the most famous to come out of Disney, but it was certainly a pleasant surprise for fans of the mystery genre.
Plot – The Great Mouse Detective
Journey through the cobbled streets of 1897 London where Olivia, the coreageous daughter of a toy maker, seeks Basil of Baker Street for his help in finding her missing father. Dr. Dawson, Basil’s assistant, and the loyal dog Toby lend him a paw and a nose while he looks for hints in this fascinating miniature world. The final chase will lead them to Professor Ratigan (originally voiced by Vincent Price), a criminal with a heart of stone. Will Basil, with his cunning intellect, succeed in beating Ratigan and saving Olivia’s father?
Clocking at one hour and fifteen minutes long, The Great Mouse Detective certainly can’t be considered one of Disney’s longer feature-films. It is also, as we already said, not one of the most known. And if we want to be completely honest, it is very likely that the youngest generations have never heard about it.
Basil, as we mentioned above, is based on the character of the much more famous Detective, Sherlock Holmes, who happens to make a series of appearances throughtout the movie due to the fact that Basil’s burrow is located right under Holmes’ apartment. It’s not a coincidence, then, that just like Sherlock has his Watson, Basil too has an assistant in Dawson and an arch-enemy in Ratigan (which definitely reminds us of Moriarty).
Basil’s big adventure
Aimed at a very young audience, the story has some commonalities with the one by Conan Doyle and at the same time it concentrates on a young co-protagonist, the small Olivia, whose father has been kidnapped (mousenapped?) by the cruel Ratigan. The eclectic Basil will find himself in the middle of these two figures, Olivia and Dr. Dawson, with whom he’ll learn to build a strong relationship and who will ultimately make him realise that being alone isn’t always a good thing.
Despite his difficult personality, Basil is inherently good and it is especially obvious when he finds himself face to face with Ratigan. After all, the bad guys in Disney movies, especially back then, were always very blatantly bad. And that’s how Ratigan comes across, too. He’s bigger than the other mice (he is in fact a rat). He has grey and bristly fur whereas the others’ is brown-ish and soft. Like Dawson, who has a generous and kind heart and seems to act as a conscience for Basil, especially when he’s too taken by his own thoughts to remember the people around him.
All in all, this movie is very sweet, it works well for the audience it’s aimed at, especially considering the year it came out, and it can be appreciated by an older audience too, one that’s a little nostalgic for past childhood days. The film can boast an amazing cast, lead by such an astounding voice as that of the iconic Vincent Price. As is usually the purpose of Disney creations, the film tries to teach a moral lesson that in this case is the value of friendship.
Unlike princess stories by Disney, The Great Mouse Detective has a darker atmosphere. Visually, there’s a prevalence of dark shades, especially when the bad guys are on screen, and they contrast against the warmer colors of the toy maker’s house or even those of Basil’s own residence.
I personally still love the look and animation of these older movies. I have a weakness for 2D animation, probably because it is the one I grew up with. And maybe these older films still have a story to tell and feelings to give, and I am sure they can still be liked an appreciated even by the newer generations of viewers.