THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE

(Aka: Basil of Baker Street, The Adventures of the Great Mouse Detective) 

(1986)
Directed by Ron Clements, Burny Mattinson, David Michener, John Musker
With the voices of Barrie Ingham, Val Bettin, Vincent Price, Susan Pollatschek, Alan Young, Candy Candido
Style: Hand-drawn, Computer
Reviewed by JB

     Based on Eve Titus's book Basil of Baker Street, THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE is a loving homage to Sherlock Holmes, especially as played by the great Basil Rathbone in the 20th Century Fox and Universal films of the '30s and '40s.  Not only is the film's mouse detective named after Rathbone (as he was in the book), but Dr. David Q. Dawson, Basil's rotund and lovable sidekick, is clearly modeled after Nigel Bruce, who played Dr. Watson to Rathbone's Holmes in 14 films.  Basil Rathbone himself even makes something of an appearance in this film.  As the mouse detective lives in the same building as Sherlock Holmes on Baker Street, Rathbone's animated shadow is seen several times in the film, and his voice, taken from an old recording, is ingeniously edited into the film for a few moments, allowing the late Rathbone to once again play the character he is most famous for.

    Like THE RESCUERS, THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE features a mouse society that parallels our own, and a dependence of a strong plot line rather than dazzling animation or memorable setpieces to hold our attention.  It succeeds as a story, and the Holmesian touches are all intelligently done, but, with few exceptions, there is little in this film that couldn't have been done as a live action Sherlock Holmes film. 

     But even if it is really just a Sherlock Holmes story featuring mice, it is a fun one, especially with Vincent Price playing Ratigan, mousedom's equivalent to "the Napoleon of Crime" Professor Moriarty.  Hamming it up like nobody's business, Price delivers a fine, funny performance, enhanced by the wonderful character design which has a touch of Ralph Bashki in it.  Barrie Ingham and Val Bettin are a more than acceptable Holmes and Watson, and Candy Candido, as the peglegged bat Fidget, sounds like he may have been an influence on Michael Keaton's creation of Beetlejuice.

     Computers were used in this film in at least one major sequence, in which Basil and Ratigan chase each other around the gears and mechanisms inside of Big Ben.  An impressive scene, to be sure, but it always bothers me when I watch "Making Of" documentaries and hear animators say "We couldn't do that in traditional hand drawn animation."  Although I am not an animator, so I may not know what the hell I am talking about, my answer is "Yes, you probably could, it would just be a lot more work."  4 - JB

Walt Disney     The Secret Vortex