Great Mouse – Great Movie
Brian Sibley reviews the Disney Company’s latest animated feature, Basil – The Great Mouse Detective.
The mice are back in Disneyland and everything’s bibbidi-bobbidi-boo! With the release of Basil – The Great Mouse Detective, the Disney company has rediscovered those skills that once made them pre-eminent among animation studios, but which some of us of late, feared they had lost for ever.
After the unfulfilled promise of The Black Cauldron, it is heartening to be able to acclaim Disney’s newest animated feature not only as being highly entertaining (which it certainly is), but as a modern classic worthy to stand alongside the best to emerge from the Disney studio.
Although only one year in the making, The Great Mouse Detective was four years in the planning, and that pre-production work has clearly paid off. The film has a tightly-paced story and a well developed plot-structure: qualities always considered hallmarks of the Disney features, but which were singularly lacking in The Black Cauldron.
Based on the book Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus, The Great Mouse Detective tells the story of an elegant, egocentric mouse-sleuth who lives under the floorboards of 221B Baker Street, London, home of the legendary Sherlock Holmes. In fact, Basil – named, perhaps, after the most famous screen-Holmes, Basil Rathbone -seeks to emulate the great man upstairs: wearing a dressing-gown around the house and a deerstalker when out, smoking a meerschaum, playing a violin and conducting elaborate experiments with cigar-ash and dubious-looking liquids.
The film, which recounts one of Basil’s most extraordinary cases, begins with the mysterious disappearance of Flaversham, a mouse toy-maker who designs and builds life-like automata. Flaversham has been abducted by the dastardly Professor Ratigan – a rat masquerading as a large mouse – in order to construct a robot replica of the Mouse Queen (who naturally lives beneath Buckingham Palace), with which Ratigan hopes to rule all mousedom.
The Professor is aided in this nefarious scheme by Fidget, a broken-down, peg-legged bat who looks like a cross between Creeper from The Black Cauldron and the nasty Stripe in Gremlins. Like all Disney’s comic grotesques, Fidget is a thoroughly unpleasant character whose one saving grace is his total incompetence.