THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE
BASIL OF BAKER STREET; BASIL THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE
It is unlikely that Arthur Conan Doyle in his wildest imaginings and if one reads about some of the spiritualist beliefs that Doyle had, believe me they were wild imaginings would have produced a version of Sherlock Holmes with cartoon mice. Based on Eve Tituss popular series of Basil of Baker Street childrens books, consisting of five books written between 1958 and 1982, The Great Mouse Detective is a surprisingly good effort. It is packed with a dazzlingly madcap battery of visual gags that leave it one of the best, most overlooked Disney films made during these lean years.
The Great Mouse Detective conducts the period style and Holmesian familiarities with such aplomb that it is as much a knowing nod to its adult audience as it is kiddie entertainment. The characterizations are a delight the kind and gentlemanly Dawson; the eager bloodhound; and Fidget, the bat that seems to be modelled as a cast-off gremlin, who has an hilarious scene trying to escape the mouth of Rattigans cat; but especially the refreshingly uncute, dourly Scots-accented ragamuffin Olivia. Basil, the Holmes counterpart, is played with a manic lunacy, more like Nicol Williamsons characterisation of Holmes in The Seven Per Cent Solution (1976) than any traditional Basil Rathbone incarnation. There are some charmingly absurd scenes with him trying to tame a bloodhound and charging into battle on a toy horse. The film has a pace that spins like a rollercoaster not only running out of control but taking in the rest of the circus too with helter skelter chases through a toyshop and a climax in and around Big Ben that are both more exciting than one could believe possible for a cartoon. And there is that absolutely delectable moment where Basil escapes from Rattigans trap that combines everything from axes to arrows and heavy weights just in time to pose for the camera. There is also an excellent score, particularly a sassy dance number Look At Me, performed by a Melissa Manchester-voiced singer in a pub. This is one Disney film where the ending comes far too soon.
Disappointingly, The Great Mouse Detective was not a huge success. Co-directors John Musker and Ron Clements went solo on their next outing The Little Mermaid (1989), which began the new Disney renaissance of the 1990s. In the 1990s, Musker and Clements became one of Disneys most successful directing teams, making the likes of Aladdin (1992), Hercules (1997), Treasure Planet (2002), The Princess and the Frog (2009) and Moana (2016).