In the mid 1980s, it was a film starring mice that captured the hearts of kids at the box office: The Great Mouse Detective.
Based on a series of books by author Eve Titus, Basil of Baker Street, this creature version of the classic Sherlock Holmes tale was made for the big screen by Walt Disney Studios.
The film, set in Victorian London, starts with Hiram and Olivia, a father and daughter, who make toys. Hiram is taken forcibly to Professor Ratigan and told to create a robot that looks like the Queen of Mice so he can take over England. If he doesn’t, the Professor will kill Olivia.
Olivia goes looking for Basil of Baker Street to help her father, assisted by Dr. David Dawson. Basil and David disguise themselves to discover the lair or Ratigan, rescue the Queen of Mice after being kidnapped by Ratigan and exposing Professor Ratigan and his nefarious schemes.
Well-known voice actors worked on this project – and one very well-known stage and screen actor: Vincent Price, who was the voice of Professor Ratigan.
With a new head of studio, the budget for this film was cut from $24 million to $10 million and later came in at $14 million. The production team knew they had a lot to prove as the previous animated feature, The Black Cauldron, had been a financial flop.
Released in July 1996, The Great Mouse Detective made almost $24 million in its initial run at the box office. The simple story was a hit with kids and critics, pushing the box office total to almost $39 million.
And thanks to the success of this film, Disney Studios was back in the game again with animation and two years later released one of its major successes of the 1980s – The Little Mermaid.