Friday, January 13, 2012

It's Film Strip Friday! The Great Mouse Detctive

It’s Film Strip Friday!
The Great Mouse Detctive
Release Date July 2th, 1986

Olivia, the brave daughter of a beloved London toymaker, turns to Basil of Baker Street for help with her father's disappearance. Basil's jolly assistant, Dr. Dawson, and loyal dog Toby lend a hand ... and nose ... as they sniff out clues through their charming miniature world. The final chase leads to Professor Ratigan (voiced by Vincent Price), a hard-hearted criminal whom Basil must outwit to save all of Mousedom
The Great Mouse Detective is a 1986 animated feature produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation, originally released to movie theaters on July 2, 1986 by Walt Disney Pictures. The twenty-sixth animated feature in the official canon, the film was directed by Burny Mattinson, David Michener, and the team of John Musker and Rom Clements, who later directed Disney's hit films The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. The film was also known as The Adventures of the Great Mouse Detective for its 1992 theatrical re-release and Basil the Great Mouse Detective in some countries. The main characters are all mice and rats living in Victorian London.
Based on the children's book series Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus, it draws heavily on the tradition of Sherlock Holmes with a heroic mouse who consciously emulates the detective; Titus named the main character after actor Basil Rathbone, who is best remembered for playing Holmes in film (and whose voice, sampled from the Red-Headed League was the voice of Holmes in this film, 19 years after his death). Interestingly, Sherlock Holmes also mentions "Basil" as one of his aliases in the Arthur Conan Doyle story "The Adventure of Black Peter".
After the failure of the Disney animated feature film The Black Cauldron, this simpler film proved to be a success upon its initial release in 1986. As such, the new senior management of the company were convinced that their animation department was still a viable enterprise and this set the stage for the Disney Renaissance.

In London, circa 1897, a young Scottish mouse named Olivia Flaversham (Susanne Pollatschek) is celebrating her birthday with her toymaker father, Hiram (Alan Young). Suddenly, Fidget (Candy Candido), a crippled bat with a peg leg, kidnaps Hiram. Fidget takes Hiram to Professor Ratigan (Vincent Price) who commands him to create a clockwork robot which mimics the Queen of the Mice so Ratigan can rule England. Hiram refuses to take part in the scheme, whereupon Ratigan orders Fidget to capture Olivia so he can feed her to his pet cat, Felicia.
Olivia searches to find Basil of Baker Street (Barrie Ingham), a world-famous detective and Ratigan's archnemesis. Returning to London after a tour of duty in Afghanistan, Dr. David Q. Dawson (Val Bettin) stumbles upon Olivia, and helps her find Basil's residence. At first, Basil is reluctant, but when Olivia mentions Fidget, Basil realizes his chance to capture Ratigan. Basil and Dawson take Toby, Sherlock Holmes's pet dog, to track Fidget's scent, where they find him in a toyshop stealing clockwork mechanisms and toy soldiers' uniforms. Fidget later traps Olivia by ambushing her from inside a toy cradle. Basil and Dawson pursue Fidget, but become entangled and fall behind. While searching the shop, Dawson discovers Fidget's checklist, to which Basil does some chemical tests to discover the list came from the riverfront near the Thames. Basil and Dawson disguise themselves as sailors and go into a tavern called the "Rat Trap" and follow Fidget to Ratigan's headquarters. They are caught, and Ratigan ties them to a spring-loaded mousetrap connected with a Rube Goldberg machine. Ratigan sets out for Buckingham Palace, where Fidget and his accomplices kidnap the queen. Basil, along with Dawson, deduces the trap's weakness and escape just in time.
Back at Buckingham Palace, Ratigan forces Hiram to operate the toy Queen, while the real Queen is taken to be fed to Felicia. The toy Queen declares Ratigan the ruler of all Mousedom, and he announces his tyrannical plans for his new "subjects". Just then, Basil, Dawson and Olivia save Hiram and the real Queen, and apprehend Fidget (along with Ratigan's other henchmen). Basil forces the mechanical queen to denounce Ratigan as an impostor and tyrant while breaking into pieces. The crowd, enraged by Ratigan's treason, start climbing onto him and defeating his shanty guards. Ratigan frees himself and escapes on his dirigible with Fidget, holding Olivia hostage. Basil, Dawson, and Hiram create their own craft with a matchbox and some small helium-filled balloons, held under the Union Jack. Ratigan throws Fidget (who can't fly) into the Thames River presumably to his death, and then attempts to drive the dirigible himself. Basil jumps on to the dirigible to confront Ratigan, causing him to crash straight into the Big Ben. Inside the clock, Basil rescues Olivia and safely delivers her to Hiram. Ratigan fights Basil until the clock bell tolls and Ratigan plunges, taking Basil with him. However, Basil manages to save himself just in time.
Back at Baker Street, Basil and Dawson recount their adventures, as well as the queen's gratitude for saving her life. Afterwards, the Flavershams leave to catch their train. As Dawson tries to leave, a distraught new client persuades both Basil and Dawson to help her. Finally, Basil proclaims Dawson to be his "trusted associate, Doctor Dawson, with whom I do all my cases".
• Barrie Ingham as Basil: A detective, based on the fictional sleuth sherlock Holmes and the primary protagonist of the film. His main goal is to get Professor Ratigan behind bars and rescue Olivia Flaversham's father, while simultaneously preventing a royal assassination. There are a few differences between Basil in the book series and in the film version, such as mercurial moods in the latter. He also plays the violin rather well in the movie, whereas the book series stated Basil's violin playing was atrocious— instead, Basil played the flute.
• Vincent Price as Professor Ratigan: Basil's archenemy and the primary antagonist of the film. He is based on Professor James Moriarty from the Sherlock Holmes stories. He plots to seize control of the British monarchy. He and Basil are long-established archenemies. In the book series, it is revealed his given name is Padraic and that Ratigan is, in fact, a mouse. At the end of the film, he is knocked off Big Ben and disappears into the deep chasm below, following a fierce battle with Basil, similar to the Sherlock Homes story "The Final Problem".
• Val Bettin as Major Dr. David Q. Dawson, previously of the Queen's 66th Regiment in Afghanistan. His character is based upon Dr. John H. Watson from the Sherlock Holmes stories. The interaction between him and Basil mimics that of Watson and Holmes, as Dawson is constantly amazed by Basil's deductions. He eventually becomes Basil's associate, friend, and personal biographer. In the film, the animators modeled the character after Nigel Bruce in both appearance and character.
• Susanne Pollatschek as Olivia Flaversham: A young female mouse of Scottish descent who seeks Basil's help in finding her toymaker father.
• Candy Candido as Fidget: Ratigan's bumbling bat henchman. He tends to do the dirty work for his boss. He has a crippled wing and a peg leg, and, as a result, he cannot fly. Ratigan throws him off the side of his flying machine near the end of the film, and he falls into the Thames. It is revealed (though in the book, not in the movie) that he survived the fall (how is not explained). Perhaps he does not survive in the film.
• Frank Welker as Toby: Basil's trustful Basset Hound. He technically belongs to Sherlock Holmes, who lives above Basil.
• Alan Young as Hiram Flaversham: Olivia's loving Scottish father. He works as a toymaker, and is kidnapped by Fidget to make the Queen Mousetoria robot for the evil Ratigan.
• Frank Welker as Felicia: Ratigan's massive and pompous pet cat. Ratigan calls upon her by ringing a special bell to dispose of traitors or anyone who makes him angry. She is chased by Toby and attacked by Royal Guard Dogs in the final part of the movie and is not seen again. She is presumed dead.
• Diana Chesney as Mrs. Judson: Basil's housekeeper. She adores Basil, but gets very annoyed when he mistreats her good pillows by shooting them with a pistol. She is based on Mrs. Hudson.
• Eve Brenner as Queen Mousetoria: The mouse queen of England, whom Ratigan attempts to depose of. She is a parody of Queen Victoria and the setting for this film coincides with the real Victoria's Diamond Jubilee (as can be seen with humans entering Buckingham Palace at the same time the mice are).
• Barrie Ingham as Bartholomew: One of Ratigan's henchmen. He meets his end early on during Ratigan's song when he drunkenly calls his boss a rat; enraged, Ratigan throws him outside and summons Felicia, who devours him.
• Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes: The famous human detective who lives above Basil. His voice is taken from clips of the original Sherlock Holmes films.
• Laurie Main as Dr. Watson: The medical associate/partner of Sherlock Holmes, who also lives above Basil. Unlike Rathbone, voice clips of Nigel Bruce were not used for the cameo part of Watson.
The layouts were done on computers, and the use of video cameras made a digital version of pencil testing possible. The movie is also notable for its early use of computer generated imagery (CGI) for a chase scene that takes place in the interior of Big Ben. The movements of the clock's gears were produced as wire-frame graphics on a computer, printed out and traced onto animation cells where colors and the characters were added. The Great Mouse Detective is sometimes cited as the first animated film from Walt Disney Pictures to use CGI; in reality, 1985's The Black Cauldron has this distinction.
The film was well-received by critics during its initial release, including a "two thumbs up" rating from critics Siskel and Ebert. The film also maintains a 80% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 15 reviews. London's Time Out magazine wrote, "As usual with film noir [...] it is the villain who steals the heart and one is rooting for in the breathtaking showdown high up in the cogs and ratchets of Big Ben."
This film did fairly well at the box office, garnering around $38,625,550 over a budget of $14 million during its initial release. Its moderate success after its predecessor's failure gave the new management of Disney confidence in the viability of their animation department. This led to creation of The Little Mermaid, released three years later, which signaled a Renaissance for the company.
After a re-release in February 1992, the film was released on VNS and laserdisc in July 1992 as part of the Walt Disney Classics series. It was released again on VHS in August 1999 (with a game sheet inside it as part of a contest) and on DVD in 2002 with a short making-of featurette on how the film was made.
A new "Mystery in the Mist Edition" DVD of The Great Mouse Detective was released on April 13, 2010. Unlike previous home video releases, which all used the 1992 reissue title print (The Adventures of the Great Mouse Detective), this DVD restored the original 1986 title card, which had previously not been seen since the original 1986 release. This edition has not been released in Europe.
• "The World's Greatest Criminal Mind", Music by Henry Mancini, Lyrics by Larry Grossman and Ellen Fitzhugh, Performed by Vincent Price.
• "Let Me Be Good To You" Music, Lyrics and Performed by Melissa Manchester.
• "Goodbye So Soon" Music by Henry Mancini, Lyrics by Larry Grossman and Ellen Fitzhugh, Performed by Vincent Price.

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