Tech Specs: Widescreen anamorphic, aspect ratio 1.66:1,
English, Spanish, and French Dolby Digital 2.0, close-captioned
Type of disc: Dual Layer Format
Pity The Great Mouse Detective. Disney has put
it through three name changes in its relatively short
life, evidence even remaining on the DVD. (The actual
print bears the unwieldy title The Adventures Of The
Great Mouse Detective.) Two weeks ago, Disney put
all its time and energy into selling you a direct-to-video
sequel, Tarzan & Jane, releasing this DVD with
a minimum of fanfare, not even really trying to remind
It's a shame, really. Though the movie came out of Disney's
dark period of the late seventies/early eighties, The
Great Mouse Detective stands as a rough gem. The musical
numbers may not be particularly memorable, but the story
is fairly clever. No well-known celebrities lend their
voices to the characters; instead, voice actors get to
ply their craft masterfully. Well, except for Vincent
Price as the evil Ratigan, whose screen presence is a
perfect match for his character.
If nothing else, the movie should be notable for its
early utilization of computer animation. Many fans forget
that, even after Walt, the Disney Studios worked hard
at pioneering techniques that have become standard for
the industry. A clocktower confrontation between Basil
(the mouse detective) and his nemesis Ratigan stands up
surprisingly well, though the coloring could use some
clean-up. But it was off in its initial release, too.
Based on a series of children's books by Eve Titus and
Paul Galdone, The Great Mouse Detective works as
a riff on the Sherlock Holmes legend. (Disney even goes
so far as to include Basil Rathbone's shadow and voice
in a scene.) A young girl's toymaker father is kidnapped
by a crippled, twisted bat in Ratigan's employ, all part
of an evil scheme to overthrow the Mouse Queen. Any resemblance
to Queen Victoria, of course, is purely coincidental.
As a film, it's surprisingly tense, moves at a great
clip, and never insults its audience. While not particularly
memorable until its third act, it works well for fans
of the mystery genre without turning off kids. I really
cannot believe that Disney has not assaulted us with a
variety of Basil products, or at least a TV show. Unlike
some of their series, this concept would easily lend itself
to episodic television. Far more easily, anyway, than
things like The Little Mermaid or Cinderella.
The DVD has few extras. Though the behind-the-scenes
look is briefly fun, listening to people like Roy E. Disney
is more valuable on their major releases. As always, the
included production art is interesting for fans of animation.
The two included short cartoons are classics, and it is
cool that Disney thought enough of this film to include
them. Clock Cleaners may owe a debt to Harold Lloyd's
Safety Last, but Mickey, Donald, and Goofy make
the concept their own.
A slight malaise has settled over every marketing effort
on this movie, and it reflects in the print. As I stated
above, it could do with some color correction. Because
the print is a digital re-master, I suspect the problem
lay in the original.
Obviously, fans of Disney films will buy this regardless.
But The Great Mouse Detective does deserve some
honor of its own. It just might surprise you.