After the disastrous premiere of The Black Cauldron the previous year, the new Disney management, with Jeffrey Katzenberg and Roy E. Disney at the helm, took it upon themselves to rehabilitate the ailing animation studio. Instead of aiming for a big, ambitious and costly endeavour, they set their goal on a smaller but still entertaining film. Mice have always been a staple for the Disney Studio, so it's not a surprise that this film would feature another one of the studio's most famous animal. Based on the children's book series "Basil of Baker Street" by Eve Titus, the film tells the story of Basil (a mouse version of Sherlock Holmes) a very clever and astute mouse who solves the most difficult and puzzling mysteries. When a toymaker is mysteriously kidnapped, Basil sets his sights on his arch-nemesis Professor Ratigan (a rat version of Professor Moriarty) and, with the help of a veteran mouse, Major Dawson (Watson), they start unravelling a crime which could put the whole British Empire in jeopardy. The Great Mouse Detective may not be a particularly remarkable film, but it features an excellent cast of characters. The film boasts excellent character animation and top-notch vocal performers (Vincent Price is particularly stellar as the villainous Ratigan) and is also an early showcase of the talent of some of the young animators who would become legends in later years by creating some of the most famous Disney films in recent memory. A particular stand-out is Glen Keane's animation of Ratigan which makes him such an interesting personality. This is also the first film directed by the legendary duo of Ron Clements and John Musker who later created iconic films like The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. All in all, The Great Mouse Detective may not be a cherished Disney classic (and the fact that is sandwiched between two disappointing films may be one of the reasons for that) but it offers clever entertainment and wonderfully animated characters; it's a showcase of early talent from some of the studio's top animators. Rating: 3.5/5.
Next Week: Animated Classic #27 Review: Oliver and Company (1988)