In the 1980s, Walt Disney Studios was wondering whether animation was worth the effort, with the changing technology. But a little film called The Great Mouse Detective renewed their commitment to animation.
The previous feature by Disney Studios The Black Cauldron had been a major disappointment to the studio financially, so this next film had to make it work.
Based on Eve Titus’ book Basil of Baker Street, the film’s characters are mice and rats living in Victorian London. Based on the story of Sherlock Holmes, the title character Basil was named by author after British actor Basil Rathbone.
Basil the detective is drawn into an evil scheme created by Professor Ratigan (voiced by Vincent Prince) who wants a machine made by Hiram to mimic the Queen of Mice and take over England. And if Hiram doesn’t do it, his daughter Olivia will be harmed.
Dr. Dawson helps Olivia find Basil and the trio help foil the plans of the evil Professor Ratigan, despite the machinations of his sidekick Fidget.
This simple storyline proved to be popular with moviegoers, with the 74 minute film, with a budget of $14 million, taking in almost $40 million at the domestic box office when it was released in July 1986.
Although I was a teenager, I remember taking a bunch of kids I babysat to see this film and got totally sucked into the Sherlock Holmes storyline and the lives of the mice and rats of Victorian London England.
And for Disney Studios, this proved to be a turning point, with the senior executive recommitting to animation and three years later would release one of its best loved films, The Little Mermaid.