Welcome to Out of the Disney Vault, where we explore the unsung gems and forgotten disasters currently streaming on Disney+.
With recent global events, plenty of people are resorting to nostalgia and comfort when it comes to their movie watching. Whether it’s that comedy you love or a family-friendly movie you loved as a kid, few things can help calm you down when the world seems chaotic quite like a good movie. That’s why for this week’s Out of the Disney Vault column, I decided to re-watch one of my favorite Disney animated movies, which is usually ignored when discussing the Disney Renaissance: The Great Mouse Detective.
What do you get when you combine Disney animation magic, a Sherlock Holmes-like mystery, film noir aesthetic, and one of the most deliciously diabolical and elegant Disney villains, voiced by none other than Vincent Price? One hell of a good time to get you through these social-distancing times.The Pitch
As we’ve mentioned in this column before, the ‘80s was a dark period for Disney, infamous for the string of financial flops for the company. When it became obvious that Disney executives, particularly Jeffrey Katzenberg, weren’t happy with how The Black Cauldron was turning out, an adaptation of Eve Titus’ book series “Basil of Baker Street” was approved as an alternative. But when Cauldron became a huge financial flop, Disney CEO Michael Eisner slashed the production budget in half, from $24 million to around $10 million, and moved the release date up, giving the production year a single year to complete the film.
Because of the short time for production, The Great Mouse Detective features five different directors, including the directorial debuts of two future prominent Disney animation figures: Ron Clements and John Musker. The film follows the titular great detective, Basil of Baker Street voiced by Barrie Ingham. He’s pretty much a stand-in for Sherlock Holmes, and lives in the famed detective’s flat Holmes himself makes a quick appearance, and works with Dr. David Dawson Val Bettin, who just like a certain Watson, is returning from service in the Middle East.
Together they’re hired to solve the case of a toymaker that was kidnapped by the henchman of criminal mastermind, Professor Ratigan Price.The Movie
In many ways, The Great Mouse Detective feels like a better version of what The Black Cauldron tried to do – it takes a genre usually aimed at a slightly older audience, and make it accessible for everyone. But unlike the latter, The Great Mouse Detective very much feels like a dark detective noir, but it’s a film kids can still see and enjoy. The visual palette feels straight out of a classic detective film of the ‘50s and ‘60s, with gloomy greens and grays that bring the melancholic and grim Victorian Era London to life...