The resurgence of Walt Disney Animation is usually traced (get it?) back to The Little Mermaid, but as with most pop history, that’s not 100 percent accurate — though its efforts weren’t necessarily rewarded at the box office, the studio started its uphill climb years before Ariel longed to be part of our world. Case in point: 1986’s The Great Mouse Detective, which used a nifty voice cast and some early CGI/hand-drawn hybrid work to bring the Sherlock Holmes classics to kids.
Adapted from Eve Titus and Paul Galdone’s Basil of Baker Street books, The Great Mouse Detective uses a neat conceit — a sleuthing mouse named Basil who happens to share an address with Sherlock Holmes — to take advantage of the Holmes mythos without turning human characters into talking animals, a la Disney’s Robin Hood. (In a neat touch, cinema’s most famous Sherlock, Basil Rathbone, voices Holmes here, via some cobbled-together audio from an earlier film.) Detective isn’t a mystery in the traditional sense, given that the audience knows pretty much right away who the bad guy is — but that’s a forgivable sin, since the villain in question is voiced by a perfectly ominous Vincent Price. Nothing against Broadway vet Barrie Ingham, who plays Basil, but this is really Price’s show; it’s a shame there weren’t any sequels, because he could have turned the dastardly Ratigan into one of Disney’s top-tier villains. Continue reading