The Great Mouse Detective
Released: July 2, 1986
Watched: July 11, 2015
Alright alright, I am falling way behind again. Several weeks ago I watched The Great Mouse Detective. This is one movie that I vaguely remember watching when I was a child, but it wasn't especially my favorite. It was a pretty fresh viewing for me, and I liked it.
The Great Mouse Detective is based on the Basil of Baker Street book series, by Eve Titus and illustrated by Paul Galdone, which in turn were based loosely on the Sherlock Holmes stories. The series consists of five books, published between 1958 to 1982. I've never read the stories, but it seems that the movie was fairly faithful to the books. The characters are more or less the same, just set into a new mystery.
Production on this film began when Ron Clements and John Musker stopped working on The Black Cauldron, and instead decided to begin to adapt a new film. The previous head of Disney Ron W. Miller had been a supporter of the film, but when Michael Eisner took over as CEO in 1984 the film lost a lot of support (something several more films would see from Eisner in the next two decades). Eisner slashed the $24 million budget down to $10 million, making the film even more of a challenge. Fun fact, Eisner also was the one who shot down the title "Basil of Baker Street" because he thought a generic name like "Great Mouse Detective" would sell better to Americans. Who knows.
The slashed budget was a problem, but a solution was found with computers. This was the first Disney film to use computers to sketch layouts, as well as using digital cameras for animation testing. Cutting down on physical tools and materials saved a lot of the cost.
This also is arguably the first Disney movie to animate using CGI (The Black Cauldron was the first released, but the CGI scene in The Great Mouse Detective was the first animated). An important climaxing scene of the film takes place in a clock tower where the hero and villain face off. The interior of the clock tower is filled with gears which were produced digitally, printed, and then traced over to add the characters and colors. The gears are a very simple, unchanging shape to generate but the outcome is pretty powerful. The clock gears contrast with the fluid styles and movements of the characters in a really cool way. I'm going to actually link 2 videos in this post, because this scene is important.
The film was received fairly well critically, but was nothing groundbreaking. It also was a moderate financial success, and the cut budget did help the film to gain a pretty good profit. The film did a good job of making up for the failure that The Black Cauldron had been, and provided some more faith in the Disney animation department.
Overall I felt that this movie was pretty good but not one of my favorites, although I do definitely have a soft spot for mouse movies. The characters are pretty entertaining and heartwarming, and the animation and art style is awfully pleasing to look at.
My favorite scene was probably the showdown in the toy store, but because I can't find it, here is one of the most memorable scenes (and a huge fan favorite), the bar showgirl song.
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