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...
Infinity and Beyond is a regular bi-weekly column documenting the 25-year filmography of Pixar Animation Studios, film by film. In today’s column, writer Josh Spiegel highlights Cars.
In the early days of 2006, the Walt Disney Company made a dramatic change whose impacts are still being felt today. Michael Eisner had once been the CEO of the Disney conglomerate, and while he’d grasped a modicum of the success that Pixar Animation Studios would bring, he’d always been standoffish to the idea of Pixar being fully brought into the fold. For many reasons, Eisner was pushed out of Disney in 2005, when Robert Iger became the new CEO. As Iger wrote in his recent memoir, The Ride of a Lifetime, one of his first acts of business was to do what Michael Eisner refused to do: make Pixar an official part of Disney.
So in January 2006, Disney confirmed a $7.4 billion deal to acquire Pixar Animation Studios. The deal was such, though, that it really felt like Disney was asking Pixar to join them, instead of throwing billions at them. John Lasseter was installed as a creative lead at Walt Disney Animation Studios and Walt Disney Imagineering, too. That same year, Lasseter returned to the director’s chair, for a true passion project. It was technologically as bold and daring as anything else Pixar had done. The studio’s prior film, The Incredibles, had focused entirely on humans, for the first time. For Cars, though…well, Cars was another story.Taking a Drive
The idea for Cars, though, didn’t officially start with John Lasseter. Instead, it was animator Jorgen Klubien who came up with the idea for something called The Yellow Car. This would be a story about an electric car in a world of gas-guzzling vehicles, akin to The Ugly Duckling. Klubien’s script was first reviewed and initially greenlit in the late 1990s, as Pixar was wrapping production on another fable-inspired story, A Bug’s Life. But for one reason or another, Klubien’s version of a world of cars was pushed to the back burners.
And then, much as there had been a fated lunch in advance of the arrival of Toy Story that would lead to ideas for many great Pixar films, there was a road trip. In 2000, Lasseter took his family on a cross-country road trip that would lead him down a Route 66-shaped rabbit hole. He soon contacted automotive historian Michael Wallis, in the hopes of having a consultant lead him and a group of animators on a trip down the fabled, but mostly forgotten Mother Road.
Klubien, for his part, has frustrated feelings about the whole experience. The animator and musician was excluded from Cars’ end credits, pointing out in an interview, “It is also the most bitter experience of mine as Pixar got rid of me…and because I feel John Lasseter has written me out of the story of how the film got made.”...