30. The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

IMDB score = 7.2/10

Holmes and Watson? = Barrie Ingham and Val Bettin

Synopsis = Basil, the rodent Sherlock Holmes, investigates the kidnapping of a toy-maker and uncovers its link to his arch-enemy, Professor Ratigan.

Defense by Rob Nunn:

When rating the best Sherlock Holmes adaptations, placing The Great Mouse Detective anywhere below #5 is reprehensible.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate just some of the greatness that was packed into one movie:

  1. Disney.

  2. Victorian London.

  3. Music by Academy Award winner Henry Mancini.

  4. A peg-legged bat.

  5. The greatest mouse to ever wear a deerstalker.

  6. The many ways to mispronounce Flaversham.

  7. Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce’s shadows.

  8. Dawson dressed up like Smee from Peter Pan.

  9. A bar room brawl.

  10. Toby.

  11. So many ways to kill one detective.

  12. Queen Mousetoria.

  13. The first CGI in an animated movie.

  14. Dawson going full-on Dr. Watson when a pretty lady shows up needing help at the end.

Sure, people will cite that The Great Mouse Detective was based off of a series of books by Eve Titus with some great nods to Sherlockians. But other than the character names, there’s not much else in common with the source material. Disney made a canon of their own when it came time to animate Basil of Baker Street.

Olivia Flaversham’s father is kidnapped in the first three minutes of the movie even before the opening credits roll. That will get you to sit up and pay attention! (Hey, at least Disney didn’t kill him off like they do to most parents!) And can we just take a second to appreciate that Mr. Flaversham was voiced by Duck Tales’ Uncle Scrooge himself, Alan Young? Brilliant!

This movie paved the way for Disney Animation’s revival of the 80’s and 90’s. Without The Great Mouse Detective, there would have been no Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, or Toy Story. And the guys that directed The Great Mouse Detective went on to also direct The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, The Princess and the Frog, and Moana. So, the people calling the shots really knew what they were doing here.

But, let’s talk about the real star of this film: Ratigan. Sure, it’s called The Great Mouse Detective, but just like Jack Nicholson in 1989’s Batman, this movie’s villain steals the show. Ratigan is (gasp) a rat, but don’t let him hear you say that. This guy is so demented that he thinks he’s a mouse that’s just big for his size.

Voiced by Vincent Price in all of his scene-stealing glory, Ratigan has a plan to overtake the ruler of London’s mice. And he already has the sash and ribbons ready to go! Aided by a bunch of drunk lizards and mice, the world’s greatest criminal mind breaks into the queen’s jubilee, ties her up, and tries feeding her to a cat, cementing once and for all just how evil cats really are.

When his plan is thwarted by Basil, Ratigan escapes to Big Ben for one of the most tense scenes in Disney animation. Stop for a minute and just remember that scene where Ratigan, Olivia, and Basil are racing through the gears of the clock. There’s very little music in that scene and the clicking of the gears is almost deafening. Thinking about it now still makes my heart rate increase!

And eventually, Ratigan just loses it, succumbing to his true rat nature. It’s a shame that this movie came out a few years before Disney started making afternoon cartoons based off of their movies. Who wouldn’t love to have seen Basil and Ratigan face off in daily 22 minute adventures?

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. So we will just have to be content with the Disney masterpiece that is The Great Mouse Detective, one of the best Sherlock Holmes adaptations ever made.

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