Thursday, September 15, 2011

Day Three - The Great Mouse Detective

Movie: The Great Mouse Detective
Released: July 2, 1986
Director: Ron Clements, Burny Mattinson, Dave Michener and John Musker
Formats Released: 2 VHS Editions, 1 Laserdisc Edition, 2 DVD Editions
Format Watched: Original 1992 VHS Release
Watched With:
Woody, but he slept through most of it
Snacks: Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-tart and Diet Sunkist
Personal Fact: When you put in a tape and the preview is for Aladdin "in Theaters this Fall", there might be some issues with the tape

The Great Mouse Detective
is one of those Disney movies that has always stuck with me. I don't remember seeing it in the theater but I know I've watched the VHS tape a number of times. Like Dumbo this film came at a critical time in the studio and helped shape the films to follow.

This is the film that came right after The Black Cauldron which, while it is one of my favorites, was a box office and critical bomb. The Great Mouse Detective made over $25,000,000 at the box office on a budget of around $14,000,000. To prove that nothing creates success like success two of the directors, Ron Clements and John Musker, we given the green light on The Little Mermaid because of there work on this film, and that is the film responsible for the Renaissance of the 1990's.

This movie also saw the first large scale use of computer graphics, mostly in the Big Ben scene, but also in other places. Computer graphics had been used before, like in The Black Cauldron but not on the scale of this film. The fun fact about the CG is that they used the computer to create the wire forms of the gears, printed them out, traced them onto cels then painted them. A bit of a round about process, but they would improve on it in films to come.

My thoughts on the film:

The Great Mouse Detective is a fun, light-hearted movie that you can't help but enjoy. It's a simple story that almost everyone can relate to, but it is delivered in style. Since it's based on Sherlock Holmes (well really based on a book that's based on Sherlock Holmes) there are many winks and nods to the source material.

The lead character Basil of Baker Street, is named after Basil Rathbone, the quintessential Sherlock Holmes. The snippet of dialog that you hear from Holmes in the movie is from a recording of Rathbone as Sherlock from the 1960's. The dog Toby comes from the Sherlock Holmes story "The Sign of Four". Even the disguise the Basil wears into the pub is from one of Rathbones Sherlock Holmes movies.

These details, along with nods to other classic Disney movies (Dumbo in the toy shop, the lizard from Alice in Wonderland, The dog catchers' wagon from Lady and the Tramp), add a layer to the movie that makes it fun to watch as an adult.

Favorite Part of the Movie:

While this movie also has a scene with feathers, and they last a lot longer that in Snow White, my favorite scene is undoubtedly the escape scene. If you ignore the fact that there is a record player in 1897, this Rube-Goldberg-esk machine is way over the top. The fact that they were going to get clipped by the mouse trap, shot, chopped with an axe and flattened by an anvil, but only after listening to a song recorded by the villain because he does not have time to do it himself because they were running 15 minutes late just kills me. The fact that he wanted a photo at the end is almost priceless. Basil and crew posing for the photo after escaping is what makes it truly priceless.

Things I never noticed before:

- Mr. Flaversham is Scrooge McDuck! (I LOVE Scrooge)
- "Castle Thunder" (a famous sound effect) is all over in this film
- Basil keeps an oil painting of his arch-nemisis over his fireplace
- You can run a complex machine with two levers
- Super evil Ratigan keeps a prima donna cat as his muscle

Final Thoughts:

I don't remember the first time I saw this film, but I remember the gears in Big Ben. I think I saw this film during the 1992 re-release, and seeing those gears on the screen was like nothing I had seen before. Disney would master this type of animation in Beauty and the Beast during "Be Our Guest", but seeing it for the first time during the climax of this movie blew my socks off.

This movie can be looked at as a placeholder in Disney films. This film has issues (you should see Waking Sleeping Beauty for a full look at the 1990's Renaissance and this films place in that) but it set the stage and the tone for the movies to follow (Oliver and Company does not count, it was in production at the same time). I know I've said this about every film so far, but this film deserves as second look.

No comments:

Post a Comment