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OnTV Today's Date:

The Great Mouse Detective
Rating: G
Release Date: July 23, 2002
Running Time: approximately 74 minutes
Ten-second Rundown: Literally studying at Sherlock Holmes' feet, Basil of Baker Street matches wits with the criminal mastermind Ratigan - what, "Moriratty" was taken?

  • "The Making of The Great Mouse Detective"
  • "The World's Greatest Criminal Mind" Sing-along
  • The Great Mouse Detective Scrapbook
  • animated short: Clock Cleaners
  • animated short: Donald's Crime

    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 the press.

    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.

    Get The Great Mouse Detective at Amazon

    Derek McCaw


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