The general consensus is that The Little Mermaid was the game-changer in terms of Disney animation, and with its Oscars and huge box-office receipts, it’s certainly the film that proves a point, but a case could be made that Disney’s animated fortunes began to change actually three years earlier with The Great Mouse Detective. Featuring a delightful variation on the Sherlock Holmes tales and several striking animated sequences, The Great Mouse Detective showed that Disney was once again animating for the entire family: the adults as well as the children.
The Great Mouse Detective: Mystery in the Mist Edition (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Jon Musker, Ron Clements, Dave Michener, Burny Mattinson
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 75 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French
MSRP: $ 29.99
Release Date: October 9, 2012
Review Date: October 1, 2012
Our heroes are Basil (Barrie Ingham) and Dawson (Val Bettin), mouse equivalents of Holmes and Watson, busy on the trail of a kidnapped toymaker named Flaversham (Alan Young). His tiny daughter Olivia (Susanne Pollatschek) comes to Baker Street (221 ½-B, right under Holmes’ lodgings) looking for help, and Basil, always itchy for excitement, is happy to oblige. Helping out our trio are Basil’s landlady Mrs. Judson (Diana Chesney) and Basil’s faithful hound Toby.
All of these characters give Disney’s animators a field day, but their greatest triumph, of course, is their villain, or villains in this case: Basil’s own Professor Moriarty-like nemesis named Professor Ratigan (Vincent Price having the time of his life) and his loathsome assistant Fidget, a peg-legged bat (Candy Candido). Ratigan is a deliciously evil character, and he slinks around and oozes his nefarious charm in the most dastardly manner imaginable. Fidget’s creepy, sneaky aide is alternately vicious and vacuous.
The script for the movie (Ron Clements’ adaptation of Eve Titus’ Basil of Baker Street) isn’t the film’s best feature, and one wishes the mystery had been just a bit stronger or at least more convert. Too much information is given much too early though this was likely a concession for the small fry in the audience. Still, it’s painless to follow even without the usual twists of a mystery (there is one, but it’s fairly feeble) and gets itself down to business with a minimum of wasted time. The animation is the film’s real claim to fame. While it might not have the intricacies of their later instant animated classics to come, there are some terrific set pieces especially a climactic sky chase and the final confrontation amid the clockwork workings of Big Ben where the first combination of computer graphics and hand drawn animation can be found.
The music, always a big component in Disney animated films, is a bit underwhelming here. Henry Mancini provides his first score for a Disney film with this movie, but the background music is a bit characterless and somewhat flat. The movie isn’t a musical, but there are four tunes in the score, none of them especially memorable but one, Ratigan’s ode to his own evil genius, a neat little romp creatively animated in some faint echoes to past Disney triumphs. Melissa Manchester warbles a music hall ditty playing a barmaid, er, mouse in a clever but fairly throwaway scene.
The film has been framed at 1.78:1 and is rendered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The colors are warm and richly hued, very impressive generally speaking with solid lines that never break up. There is some banding glimpsed in some bluish backgrounds in the film’s second half and a couple of odd vertical blotches that come and go in the flash of an eye. Otherwise, it’s a beautiful transfer. The film has been divided into 18 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track doesn’t do much with its rear channels. The mix is generally concentrated on the front soundstage where fidelity is very good and even with some ambient pans across the fronts at various moments. Henry Mancini’s music score provides most of the surround aspect of the mix with some slight bleed into the rear channels. The dialogue is beautifully recorded and has been placed in the center channel.
All of the bonus features are presented in 480i.
“So You Think You Can Sleuth?” is a 4 ¾-minute mini-history of the detective in fact and fiction and then a brief mystery of the missing cookies caper for the viewer to solve.
“The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind” is provided with sing-along lyrics on the screen for viewers to sing along with Vincent Price as he extols the virtures of being Ratigan. It runs 2 minutes.
“The Making of The Great Mouse Detective” gets down to business covering the basics in the four year production of the film in this very brief 7 ¾-minute vignette. We meet voice actors Vincent Price, Barrie Ingham, and Val Bettin, allow supervising animator Glen Keane to talk a bit about the film, allow Henry Mancini a few seconds to talk about writing music for the movie, and have a short look at the use of computer graphics for the first time in a movie.
The second disc in the case is the DVD edition of the movie.
There are promo trailers for Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3 and Cinderella.
3.5/5 (not an average)
The Great Mouse Detective is a somewhat underrated Disney cartoon feature. Strong characterizations and some warm and winning animation prop up a slim story that likely will play better at home than it did in theaters. A lack of extensive bonus material seems to suggest this is a second tier Disney effort, but there is real talent on display here, and it’s worth a look.