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The Great Mouse Detective

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Title: The Great Mouse Detective  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Ron Clements, John Musker, The Princess and the Frog, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Val Bettin
Collection: 1980S American Animated Films, 1986 Animated Films, American Animated Films, American Comedy Films, American Films, American Mystery Films, Animated Fantasy Films, Detective Films, Directorial Debut Films, Disney Animated Features Canon, Film Scores by Henry Mancini, Films Based on Children's Books, Films Directed by John Musker, Films Directed by Ron Clements, Films Featuring Anthropomorphic Characters, Films Featuring Anthropomorphic Mice, Films Set in 1897, Films Set in London, Films Set in the Victorian Era, Sherlock Holmes Films, Sherlock Holmes Pastiches, Walt Disney Pictures Films
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

The Great Mouse Detective

The Great Mouse Detective
Directed by Ron Clements
Burny Mattinson
Dave Michener
John Musker
Produced by Burny Mattinson
Story by Pete Young
Vance Gerry
Steve Hulett
John Musker
Ron Clements
Bruce Morris
Matthew O'Callaghan
Burny Mattinson
Dave Michener
Mel Shaw
Based on Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone
Narrated by Val Bettin
Music by Henry Mancini
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution
Release dates
  • July 2, 1986 (1986-07-02)
Running time
74 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $14 million[1]
Box office $38.7 million[1]

The Great Mouse Detective is a 1986 American animated mystery-comedy film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation, originally released to movie theaters on July 2, 1986 by Walt Disney Pictures. The 26th feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics, the film was directed by Burny Mattinson, David Michener, and the team of John Musker and Ron Clements, who later directed Disney's hit films The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. The film was also known as The Adventures of the Great Mouse Detective for its 1992 theatrical re-release and Basil the Great Mouse Detective in some countries. The main characters are all mice and rats living in Victorian London.

Based on the children's book series Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus, it draws heavily on the tradition of Sherlock Holmes with a heroic mouse who consciously emulates the detective; Titus named the main character after actor Basil Rathbone, who is best remembered for playing Holmes in film (and whose voice, sampled from a 1966 reading of "The Adventure of the Red-Headed League"[2] was the voice of Holmes in this film, 19 years after his death). Sherlock Holmes also mentions "Basil" as one of his aliases in the Arthur Conan Doyle story "The Adventure of Black Peter".

After the failure of Disney's previous animated feature film The Black Cauldron, this simpler film proved to be a success upon its initial release in 1986. As such, the new senior management of the company were convinced that their animation department was still a viable enterprise and this set the stage for the Disney Renaissance.


  • Plot 1
  • Voice cast 2
  • Production 3
  • Reception 4
  • Home video 5
  • Soundtrack 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


In London, circa 1897, a young mouse named Olivia Flaversham is celebrating her birthday with her toymaker father, Hiram. Suddenly, Fidget, a bat with a peg leg, barges in, and after a brief struggle, disappears with Hiram. Fidget takes Hiram to Professor Ratigan who commands him to create a clockwork robot which mimics the Queen of the Mice so Ratigan can rule England. Hiram initially refuses to participate in the scheme, but agrees when Ratigan threatens Olivia.

Returning to London after a tour of duty in Afghanistan, Dr. David Q. Dawson stumbles upon Olivia, who is searching for the renowned Basil of Baker Street. Dawson escorts Olivia to Basil’s residence and the two meet the detective. At first, Basil is reluctant, but when Olivia describes Fidget, Basil now realizes his chance to capture Ratigan. Basil and Dawson take Toby, Sherlock Holmes's pet beagle, to track Fidget's scent, where they locate him in a toyshop stealing clockwork mechanisms and toy soldiers' uniforms. Fidget later traps Olivia by ambushing her from inside a toy cradle. Basil and Dawson pursue Fidget, but become entangled and fall behind. While searching the shop, Dawson discovers Fidget's checklist, to which Basil does some chemical tests to discover the list came from a riverfront near the Thames. Basil and Dawson disguise themselves as sailors and go into a tavern called the "Rat Trap" and follow Fidget to Ratigan's headquarters. They are caught, and Ratigan's hooligans tie them to a spring-loaded mousetrap connected with a Rube Goldberg machine laid out to kill them both. Ratigan sets out for Buckingham Palace, where Fidget and his accomplices kidnap the queen. Basil, along with Dawson, deduces the trap's weakness and escape just in time.

At Buckingham Palace, Ratigan forces Hiram to operate the toy Queen, while the real Queen is taken to be fed to Felicia, Ratigan's pet cat. The toy Queen declares Ratigan the ruler of all Mousedom, and he announces his tyrannical plans for his new "subjects". Just then, Basil, Dawson and Olivia save Hiram and the real Queen, and apprehend Fidget (along with Ratigan's other henchmen). Basil seizes control of the mechanical queen, making it denounce Ratigan as a fraud and tyrant as it breaks apart. The crowd, enraged by Ratigan's treason, start climbing on him and defeating his guards. Ratigan frees himself and escapes on his dirigible with Fidget, holding Olivia hostage. Basil, Dawson, and Hiram create their own craft with a matchbox and some small helium-filled balloons, held together by the Union Jack. Ratigan tosses Fidget overboard to lighten the craft, and then attempts to drive the dirigible himself. Basil jumps on to the dirigible to confront Ratigan, causing him to crash straight into the Big Ben clocktower.

Inside the clocktower, Basil manages to get Ratigan's cape stuck on some gears and rescues Olivia and safely delivers her to Hiram. Ratigan, however breaks free and attacks Basil, eventually knocking him to the dirigible, until the clock bell strikes 10:00 and the sound of the bell sends Ratigan falling to his death, taking Basil with him. However, Basil manages to grab the wreckage of Ratigan's dirigible and save himself from falling just in time. Back at Baker Street, Basil and Dawson recount their adventures, as well as the queen's gratitude for saving her life. Afterwards, the Flavershams leave to catch their train. As Dawson tries to leave, a distraught new client solicits Basil's help, with Basil noting that Dawson is his trusted associate, prompting Dawson to remain and assist Basil.

Voice cast

  • Barrie Ingham as Basil: A detective, based on the fictional sleuth Sherlock Holmes. His main goal is to get Professor Ratigan behind bars and rescue Olivia Flaversham's father, while simultaneously preventing a royal assassination. There are a few differences between Basil in the book series and in the film version, such as mercurial moods in the latter. He also plays the violin rather well in the movie, whereas the book series stated Basil's violin playing was atrocious—instead, Basil played the flute.
  • Vincent Price as Professor Ratigan: Basil's archenemy. He is based on Professor Moriarty from the Sherlock Holmes stories. He plots to seize control of the British monarchy. He and Basil are long-established archenemies. In the book series, it is revealed his given name is Padraic and that Ratigan is, in fact, a mouse. At the end of the film, he is knocked off Big Ben and disappears into the fog below, following a fierce battle with Basil, similar to the Sherlock Homes story "The Final Problem".
  • Val Bettin as Major Dr. David Q. Dawson, previously of the Queen's 66th Regiment in Afghanistan. His character is based upon Dr. John H. Watson from the Sherlock Holmes stories. The interaction between him and Basil mimics that of Watson and Holmes, as Dawson is constantly amazed by Basil's deductions. He eventually becomes Basil's associate, friend, and personal biographer.
  • Susanne Pollatschek as Olivia Flaversham: An eight-year-old female mouse of Scottish descent who seeks Basil's help in finding her toymaker father.
  • Candy Candido as Fidget: Ratigan's bumbling bat henchman. He tends to do the dirty work for his boss. He has a crippled wing and a peg leg, and, as a result, he cannot fly. Ratigan throws him off the side of his flying machine near the end of the film, and he falls into the Thames. He survives the fall in the book (how is not explained).
  • Alan Young as Hiram Flaversham: Olivia's loving Scottish father. He works as a toymaker, and is kidnapped by Fidget to make the Queen Mousetoria robot for the evil Ratigan.
  • Frank Welker as Felicia: Ratigan's massive and pompous pet cat. Ratigan calls upon her by ringing a special bell to dispose of traitors or anyone who makes him angry. She is chased by Toby and attacked by Royal Guard Dogs in the final part of the movie and is not seen again. She is presumed dead.
  • Diana Chesney as Mrs. Judson: Basil's housekeeper. She adores Basil, but gets very annoyed when he mistreats her good pillows by shooting them with a pistol. She is based on Mrs. Hudson.
  • Eve Brenner as Queen Mousetoria: The mouse queen of England, whom Ratigan attempts to depose of. She is a parody of Queen Victoria and the setting for this film coincides with the real Victoria's Diamond Jubilee (as can be seen with humans entering Buckingham Palace at the same time the mice are).
  • Melissa Manchester (uncredited) as Miss Kitty Mouse: A singer at a seedy tavern called The Rat Trap
  • Barrie Ingham as Bartholomew: One of Ratigan's henchmen. He meets his end early on during Ratigan's song when he drunkenly calls his boss a rat; enraged, Ratigan throws him outside and summons Felicia, who devours him.
  • Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes: The famous human detective who lives above Basil. His voice is taken from The 1966 Caedmon Records recording of the Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Red-Headed League".
  • Laurie Main as Dr. Watson: The medical associate/partner of Sherlock Holmes, who also lives above Basil. Unlike Rathbone, voice samples of Nigel Bruce were not used for the voice of Watson.


As Disney was toiling with The Black Cauldron, two animators removed from the film, Ron Clements and John Musker, began developing an adaptation of the Basil of Baker Street books. Soon-to-be-removed Disney head Ron W. Miller supported the project. When Michael Eisner came in as Disney's CEO, he insisted on slashing Basil's projected $24 million budget in half (it was greenlit at $10 million).[3]

The layouts were done on computers, and the use of video cameras made a digital version of pencil testing possible. The movie is also notable for its early use of computer generated imagery (CGI) for a chase scene that takes place in the interior of Big Ben. The movements of the clock's gears were produced as wire-frame graphics on a computer, printed out and traced onto animation cels where colors and the characters were added. The Great Mouse Detective is sometimes cited as the first animated film from Walt Disney Pictures to use CGI; in reality, 1985's The Black Cauldron has this distinction.

Olivia was originally intended to be an older character with the potential as a love interest for Basil or even an infatuated Dr. Dawson, before it was decided that she should be a child to better gain audience sympathy. While Basil and Dawson were visually based on Rathbone and Bruce, their voices and personalities were not. Basil's voice was based on Leslie Howard's portrayal of Henry Higgins in the film Pygmalion[2] while Dawson's voice was based on Disney animation legend Eric Larson.[2]

"We didn't want to make them simply miniature versions of Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce," Clements affirmed. "Dawson's not a buffoon. He's a foil for Basil but also a warm and caring person."[2]

Eisner's decision to name the film The Great Mouse Detective and not Basil of Baker Street (he thought "Basil" sounded "too English")[3] was unpopular with the filmmakers. Animator Ed Gombert wrote a satirical interoffice memo, allegedly by studio executive Peter Schneider, which gave preceding Disney films generic titles such as Seven Little Men Help a Girl, The Girl with the See-through Shoes, and Puppies Taken Away.[4][5]


The film was well received by critics during its initial release, including a "two thumbs up" rating from critics Siskel and Ebert.[6] The film also maintains an 81% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 16 reviews, with the site's critical consensus reading, "The Great Mouse Detective may not rank with Disney's classics, but it's an amiable, entertaining picture with some stylishly dark visuals."[7] London's Time Out magazine wrote, "As usual with film noir [...] it is the villain who steals the heart and one is rooting for in the breathtaking showdown high up in the cogs and ratchets of Big Ben."[8]

This film did fairly well at the box office, garnering around $25,336,794[9] over a budget of $14 million[1] during its initial release. Its moderate success after its predecessor's failure gave the new management of Disney confidence in the viability of their animation department. This led to creation of The Little Mermaid, released three years later, which signaled a renaissance for the company.

Home video

After a re-release in February 1992, the film was released on VHS and Laserdisc in July 1992 as part of the Walt Disney Classics series. It was released again on VHS in August 1999 (with a game sheet inside it as part of a contest) and on DVD in 2002 with a short making-of featurette.

A new "Mystery in the Mist Edition" of The Great Mouse Detective was released on DVD on April 13, 2010 and on Blu-ray Disc on October 9, 2012. Unlike previous home video releases, which all used the 1992 reissue title print (The Adventures of the Great Mouse Detective), this DVD restored the original 1986 title card, which had previously not been seen since the original 1986 release. The DVD also has the film in 1.78:1 aspect ratio Widescreen revealing more picture, bringing it closer to its original theatrical aspect ratio. This edition has not been released in Europe, but the Blu-ray edition is region-free and thus can be played in any region of the world.[10]


The Adventures of the Great Mouse Detective (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Film score
Released May 9, 1992
Recorded 1986
Label Varese Sarabande
Producer Henry Mancini

Henry Mancini provided the original score for the film, one of only two animated films he scored (the other is Tom and Jerry: The Movie); he also co-wrote two of the film's three original songs, "The World's Greatest Criminal Mind" and "Goodbye So Soon" (both performed by Vincent Price as the voice of the villain), while Melissa Manchester wrote and performed "Let Me Be Good to You" for the tavern scene. Unusually for a Disney animated feature, there was no soundtrack album released alongside the film; it was released in 1992 alongside the film's reissue under its new title by Varese Sarabande, the only Disney cartoon to have an original soundtrack on the label to date (and the only one not to be issued under a Walt Disney imprint).

  1. Main Title (1:40)
  2. Dawson Finds Olivia (1:20)
  3. Enter Basil (2:12)
  4. Enter Ratigan (2:17)
  5. Crushed Box (1:30)
  6. The World's Greatest Criminal Mind - Vincent Price (M&L: Ellen Fitzhugh/Larry Grossman/Henry Mancini) (5:09)
  7. Unusual Foot Prints (1:40)
  8. Here's Toby (3:53)
  9. Check Mate (2:41)
  10. Reunion (2:38)
  11. Let Me Be Good to You - Melissa Manchester (M&L: Melissa Manchester) (3:01)
  12. Ratigan's Plan (2:01)
  13. Goodbye So Soon - Vincent Price (M&L: Ellen Fitzhugh/Larry Grossman/Henry Mancini) (2:55)
  14. Cat Nip (1:44)
  15. Big Ben Chase (5:33)
  16. Wrap-Up (3:08)
  17. End Title/"Goodbye So Soon" (chorus) (1:51)


  1. ^ a b c "The Great Mouse Detective"Box office information for .  
  2. ^ a b c d "How Basil Saved Disney Feature Animation: Part One".  
  3. ^ a b Stewart, James B. (2005). DisneyWar (pp. 70-71, 84). New York: Simon & Schuster.
  4. ^ "Crew Picture The Great Mouse Detective". Drawn2gether. 2008-03-24. Retrieved February 23, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Mousechievious Memo Upsets Big Cheese". Los Angeles Times. 1986-06-29. Retrieved February 23, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Review of The Great Mouse Detective".  
  7. ^ "The Adventures of the Great Mouse Detective"Reviews for .  
  8. ^ Peachment, Chris (2008). "The Great Mouse Detective (aka Basil the Great Mouse Detective)". In Pym, John. Time Out Film Guide 2009 (17th ed.). Time Out Group Ltd. p. 426.  
  9. ^ "The Great Mouse Detective - Releases". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 3, 2014. 
  10. ^ - The Great Mouse Detective Blu-ray: Mystery in the Mist Edition

External links

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