What is the Great Mouse Detective?
Directed by Burny Mattinson, Dave Michener, John Musker, and Ron Clements,
The Great Mouse Detective was the 26th animated feature film
released by Walt Disney Animation Studios after a small groups of animators
wanted to pull out of the production of The Black Cauldron
(1986). Based on the popular children's book series by Eve Titus
about a little mouse detective named Basil of Baker Street living the
life and career of Sherlock Holmes and, with his loyal friend and biographer,
Dr. David Q. Dawson, they investigate the crimes of London. Taking
place in Victorian London, England, the film is centred on a little
girl [mouse] named Olivia Flaversham, who seeks the help from a famous
detective, Basil of Baker Street, to find her toy-maker father who was
kidnapped by a peg-legged bat. As the case expands, Basil and
his new friend Dawson uncover a dastardly crime's link to his archenemy,
Professor Ratigan, plotting to take over the Crown.
First released in 02 July 1986, its US theatrical release title was
The Great Mouse Detective; in the UK, it was released as Basil
- The Great Mouse Detective. For some odd reason, audiences
seemed confused by the name-switch. In 1992, the film was re-released
on video and laserdisc under a new title, The Adventures of the
Great Mouse Detective.
When did the idea of the film
first come to Disney?
Ron Clements, co-director and co-writer on The Great Mouse Detective,
was quite the Sherlockian fanatic; he, in fact, achieved his career at Disney
due to a fifteen-minute short on Sherlock Holmes on his portfolio reel.
The idea for a Sherlock Holmes animated project was first kicked around during
the production of The Rescuers (1977). Conceptuals for a "Sherlock
Bones" were drafted but nothing solid until Clements suggested the idea based
on Eve Titus' popular Basil of Baker Street books, however the idea
didn't stick because it was simply too close to the Rescuers.
Between the release of Fox and Hound (1981) and the production of
Black Cauldron (1986), Clements returned to the idea of Basil of
Baker Street, teaming up with fellow animator, John Musker, desiring it
to be very different from Rescuers: The main difference
is "there are no humans involved in the story at all," quoted
Ron Clements; "It's an adventure that takes place in a miniature
world hidden away from our own. The characters have their own
reality; they are quite real and menacing in their own world.
The animators haven't been limited to drawing talking animals in clothes."
Why is the film considered
After so much failure since the death of the great Walt Disney, the
family management of the Company ended in June 1984 when then-president
and CEO, Ron Miller, Walt's son-in-law, resigned under fire after fending
off corporate raiders take-over attempts from financier Saul P. Steinberg.
Disney executives voted Michael Eisner, former Paramount president,
as chairman of the board and CEO; Frank Wells, former Warner Bros. vice
president, as president and COO; and Jeffrey Katzenberg, a long-time
associate of Eisner's, as studio chairman. To make matters worse,
the future of animation was being threatened: The majority of
Disney's talent, time, and money — $25 million, in fact, the world-record
sum at the time for an animated feature — were concentrated on
an epic animated film, The Black Cauldron (1986) for ten years;
at the same time, the Disney Animation Department were moved to a run-downed,
ugly warehouse, as the Animation Building was being confiscated by the
As the new management team and a new animation team was faced with
the immediate task of completing The Black Cauldron, which
was long overdue and long over-budget, the Animation Department had
nothing to do and passed the time with chair races, cel sliding contests,
and Trivial Pursuit games. However, a smaller crew smuggled
away from the fiasco of Black Cauldron and had been working on a different
feature with a much smaller budget, headed by two animators,
John Musker and Ron Clements. Roy E. Disney (Walt's nephew), the
company's top shareholder and vice-chairman of the board at the time,
dragged Eisner, Wells, and Katzenberg to the empty Animation Building
where over forty storyboards for Basil of Baker Street were
lined a wing, down a few halls and through several rooms. Miller
had been the film's producer until he was abruptly dismissed and the
project was left idle for six months awaiting a decision, yet neither
Eisner, Wells, nor Katzenberg knew what they were looking at, as they
never had experienced an entire film told in cartoony sketches pinned
to boards. (Eisner had been familiar with storyboards when he
was in charge of children's programming at ABC Television; Katzenberg
had seen one storyboard for action scenes in live-action movies; and
Wells was used to scripts.) Nevertheless, Basil of Baker Street
was "okayed" and history was in the making:
It was the first feature that tested the "new" generation
of the Disney Company. And, historically, it was the feature-length
animated film to use computer-generated imagery (CGI) and it was the
first time traditionally-animated characters were put inside a computer-generated
background. This was, also, one of the longest fight sequences
in a Disney animated feature, clocking about four minutes. On
02 July 1986, under the enormous shadow of its more expensive processor,
which was a critical and colossal box-office failure the previous year,
the re-titled The Great Mouse Detective would receive warm
reviews and excellent financial success. The movie grossed $18
million in the United States in the first month after its release —
an astounding feat by any standards — and talled $26 million;
it was able to get Disney Animation Studios out of the bankruptcy hole
that the Black Cauldron left behind. The Great Mouse
Detective shone with magic colours and proved that a good film
requires a good story and interesting characters rather than money.
Hollywood could learn from this! Disney refers to GMD
as "a creative experiment" for the new executive, the second-generation
animators, and caused a great innovation in the future. The story,
design, and development took four years in pre-production, but the actual
animation took only one year. Because of GMD's success,
Disney started to spend more time on the "developing" track.
This greatly assisted in creating better stories, arranging ideas, and
planning production. It was also the film that began splitting
the Department into several projects, instead of one, like Black
Cauldron, thus allowing an animated feature to be released about
every eighteen months than every four years.
Who are the voice talents?
The British veteran actor, Barrie Ingham, brilliantly
voiced Basil of Baker Street and the drunken Bartholomew. Mr.
Ingham is well-known, multi-award-winning personality on stage, television,
and film on both sides of the Atlantic. After military service
as a Royal Artillery officer, Mr. Ingham spent a year with the Manchester
Library Theatre Company, followed by two years at London's prestigious
Old Vic Theatre, graduating through several Shakespeare productions
to leading roles in London at the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal
National Theatre, the English Stage Company, and the Mermaid Theatre
Company as leading man in many West End musicals, plays, and revues.
He recently starred on the Broadway hit, Jekyll and Hyde, as
Sir Danvers Carew, performing from 28 April 1997 to 07 January 2001
at the Plymouth Theatre, New York City. He has made over two hundred
appearances in American and British television and motion pictures,
combining his career as an actor with that of director and producer.
He was among the finalists who auditioned for the role of Headmaster
Albus Dumbledore for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
(2004). Mr. Ingham was professor at the University of Texas in
Austin, theatre consultant to Baylor University, and is artistic advisor
to the Shakespeare Society of New York. His two one-man shows
have played world-wide. Sorry girls, yes, he is happily married
with his wife, Tarne, whom he met during their first theatre job, and
together they had four beautiful daughters, and too many grandchildren
Originally, Musker and Clements wanted to cast actor Ronald Colman as Professor
Ratigan, but animator Glen Keane was determined to cast another for the part
after watching the film comedy, Champagne for Caesar (1950), starring the late,
great veteran actor, writer, art connoisseur, raconteur,
lecturer, chef, gourmet, critic, and something of a 20th-century Renaissance
man, Vincent Price. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Price travelled
through Europe, and studied at Yale and the University of London.
He made his screen debut in 1938; after many minor but
memorable roles as handsome, suspicious characters, and he began to
perform in low-budget horror movies, such as House of Wax (1953),
as a wheelchair-bound, disfigured sculptor out to seek revenge on the
man who murdered his "children," achieving his first major
success with House of Usher (1960), as an incestuous brother
obsessed with the tragic history of his family and his sister.
Known for his distinctive, steely, creaky, atmospheric voice and his
quizzical, mock-serious facial expressions, he became an international
star in a series of acclaimed gothic horror movies during the 1950s
and 1960s; although, he also remembered for his corny but "egg-static"
role as the villainous Egghead in the 1960s Batman, and was
said that he mischievously started an egg-throwing fight in the studio
while making his episodes. Mr. Price would later abandoned films
in the mid-1970s, concentrating his talents on mouth-watering cooking
programs for television. He was a friend to horror-film greats,
such as Boris Karloff, Béla Lugosi, Peter Lorre, Christopher
Lee, Peter Cushing, John Carradine, and Basil Rathbone. He died
of lung cancer in 1993, at the age of eighty-two, just six days before
Halloween and, eerily, just three days before his biography was aired
on A&E. He had long suffered from emphysema and Parkinson's
disease, which had forced his final film role as the kind-hearted inventor
in Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands (1990) to be much smaller
than intended. Price proclaimed Professor Ratigan as his favourite
The late comedian, actor, singer, musician, and gravel-tone voice talent
Candy Candido, who entertained audiences for sixty-six
years, voiced Fidget, the peg-legged bat, as well one of the barroom
patrons that booed, "Get off you eight-legged bum!"
Born in 1913, he was a bass player and vocalist for the Ted Fiorito
Orchestra in the 1930s and 1940s, but was sadly placed in only minor
roles on film, unable to shine his great talent. That is, until
his talent as a "trick vocalist" provided him with the opportunity
for voice acting; his first experience was the voice of the grumpy Apple
Tree in the 1939 MGM box-office smash, The Wizard of Oz.
He also did the voice of the Crocodile Constable in Robin Hood
(1973), Goon in Sleeping Beauty (1959), and the Indian Chief
in Peter Pan (1953). Mr. Candido appeared in a couple
of Westerns during his long and varied career, such as the 1938 film,
Cowboy from Brooklyn, starring Dick Powell and Ronald Reagan,
and the 1959 Republic gem, The Plunderers of Painted Flats,
with John Carroll, George Macready, and Joe Besser, and filmed in the
unique "Naturama" widescreen. He briefly teamed with
Bud Abbott for a personal appearance comedy tour in the early 1960s
after Lou Costello died. Candy Candido died in his sleep in 1999
at the age of eighty-five.
Renowned Grammy-winning singer, songwriter, musician, and actress Melissa
Manchester, was born in the Bronx, to a musical family of Jewish
descent; her father was a bassoonist for the New York Metropolitan Opera.
At an early age, she learned to play the piano and the harpsichord at
the Manhattan School of Music and Arts, started a singing career by
singing commercial jingles at the age of fifteen, and becoming a staff
writer for Chappell Music while attending New York City's High School
of the Performing Arts. She studied songwriting at New York University
with Paul Simon, later appeared on the Manhattan club scene, where she
was discovered by Bette Midler and Barry Manilow, who took her on as
a backup singer in 1971. Her debut solo album, Home to Myself,
was released in 1973. Two years later, her album, Melissa,
was her first top ten hit, with "Midnight Blue," and she collaborated
with singer Kenny Loggins to co-write his 1978 hit duet with Stevie
Nicks, "Whenever I Call You Friend." In 1979, Miss Manchester
made the top-ten with her own single "Don't Cry Out Loud."
The next year, Manchester became the first singer to have two movie
themes nominated for an Academy Award: "Through The Eyes
of Love" from Ice Castles (1978) and "I'll Never
Say Goodbye" from The Promise (1979). In Great
Mouse Detective, she wrote the song "Let Me Be Good To You"
and even sung the song as Kitty, the showgirl at the Rat Trap Saloon;
she also wrote the theme song from the Disney direct-to-video sequel,
Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure (2001).
Val Bettin is a fairly elusive actor on film and television,
doing the voices of Dr. David Q. Dawson and a cameo as a thug guard,
but is no stranger to the theatre. He has done several voice talents
for the Aladdin films and television series as the Sultan of
Agrabah, as well as Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles as the
devious Egon Pax. Then-eight-year-old Glaswegian Susanne
Pollatschek voiced the Scottish "every-child," Olivia
Flaversham. It is comparatively rare that American moviemakers
use a genuine Scottish actor to provide a Scottish voice, but judging
by the performance and the fact she was nominated for the Young Artist
Award, the US ought to do this more often! Sadly, Great Mouse
Detective is Miss Pollatschek's only known industry credit.
Veteran voice-actor Alan Young, who did the voice of
Hiram Flaversham (Olivia's father, the toymaker), is perhaps most famous
for the near-perfect Scottish accent for Scrooge McDuck in the animated
hit series, DuckTales. Diana Chesney
was Basil's long-suffering landlady, Mrs. Judson; Eve Brenner
was Her Majesty Queen Moustoria; Ellen Fitzhugh, a
well-known librettist, was the tough barmaid from the pub; Shani
Wallis was the Lady Mouse from Hampstead at the end of film;
and an assortment of thugs and guards were voiced by Walker
Edmiston, Wayne Allwine, and Tony
Anselmo. Mr. Allwine and Mr. Anselmo are also well-known
veteran voice talents of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.
Do you know who did the great Sherlock Holmes' voice in the movie —
even though the dialogue was barely five seconds? It was none
other than the Basil Rathbone, who had portrayed Sherlock
Holmes for over thirty-five years on film, television, and stage!
He had been dead for nineteen years at the time; nevertheless, Disney
used a sound-clip of "The Red-Headed League" from the radio
show, The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939-1947).
However, instead of Nigel Bruce, the voice of Dr. John H. Watson was
Laurie Main, who performed the Doctor in a horrible
short-film, The Clue According to Sherlock Holmes (1980), opposite
Keith McConnell, but perhaps he is best known for hosting and narrating
the children's series, Welcome to Pooh Corner (1983-1996).
Who were the supervising animators to which characters?
Responsible for some of the most memorable characters in the "New
Golden Age" of Disney Animation, Winsor McCay Award and Annie Award winner Glen Keane was
supervising animator for Ratigan; he designed all the GMD main
characters, except Basil. The son of Bill Keane, an illustrator
best known for the daily comic-strip, The Family Circus, had
left Disney officially for over fourteen months, working as a freelance
artist on Ratigan in GMD. His debut work was featured
in The Rescuers (1977) as the character animator for little
orphan Penny, and Elliot the Dragon in Pete's Dragon (1977).
He was supervising animator for the Bear in The Fox and the Hound
(1981); Fagin, Sykes, and Georgette in Oliver and Company (1988);
the Beast (and the Prince) in Beauty and the Beast (1991);
and Long John Silver in Treasure Planet (2002). Currently,
Keane returns, this time, as animation director of Disney's upcoming CGI film,
Also playing a part in some of the most memorable characters in the
"New Golden Age" of Disney Animation, Silver Gryphon winner
and two-time Annie Award nominee Mark Henn
was supervising animator and designer for Basil. His debut work
was in Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983). He is best known
as the supervising animator for Ariel in The Little Mermaid
(1989); Belle in Beauty and the Beast (1991); Jasmine in
Aladdin (1992); Young Simba in The Lion
King (1994); and the title heroines in Mulan (1998) and
The Princess and the Frog (2009).
Hendel Butoy was supervising animator for Dawson.
His debut work was in The Fox and the Hound (1981). Most
recently, he was the supervising animation director for the segments
Ottorino Respighi’s "Pines of Rome" and Dmitri Shostakovich's
"Piano Concerto #2, Allegro, Opus 102" in the epic, Fantasia
From animator to live-action director-producer, BAFA's Children's
Award nominee Rob Minkoff
was supervising animator for Olivia. His debut work was The
Black Cauldron (1985) as an in-between artist. He was director
of two Roger Rabbit shorts, Tummy Trouble (1989) and
Roller-Coaster Rabbit (1990); he was co-director of The
Lion King (1994). He became a live-action director of Stuart
Little (1999), Stuart Little 2 (2002), The Haunted
Mansion (2003), and The Forbidden Kingdom (2008), as
Winsor McCay Award winner Andreas Deja was the supervising animator for Queen
Moustoria. His debut work was The Black Cauldron (1985),
where he worked together with animator-turned-director, Tim Burton.
He was the supervising animator for the title character in Who Framed
Roger Rabbit (1988); King Triton in The Little Mermaid
(1989); Gaston in Beauty and the Beast (1991); Jafar in Aladdin
(1992); Scar in The Lion King (1994); the title character in
Hercules (1997); Lilo Pelekai in Lilo and Stitch
(2002); and Mama Odie in The Princess and the Frog (2009).
Anne Award winner Ruben A. Aquino was the supervising animator for Mrs.
Judson. His debut work was The Black Cauldron (1985).
He was the supervising animator for Ursula in The Little Mermaid
(1989); Maurice in Beauty and the Beast (1991); Adult Simba
in The Lion King (1994); Chief Powhatan in Pocahontas
(1995); Shang and Fa Li in Mulan (1998); David Kawena and Agent
Pleakley in Lilo and Stitch (1997); Denahi in Brother
Bear (2003); Mildred and Willerstein in Meet the Robinsons (2007);
and frog-ified Tiana and Prince Naveen in The Princess and the Frog (2009).
Mike Gabriel was the supervising animator and designer
for the big animals, such as Toby and Felicia. His debut work
was The Black Cauldron (1985). He served as one of the
storymen, character designers, and supervising animators in Oliver
and Company (1988). Gabriel made his feature directing debut
co-directing the animated sequel, The Rescuers Down Under (1990),
which was notable as the first Disney feature to use the Oscar-winning
technology known as CAPS (Computer Animation Production System), a digital
post-production process that allowed for unusual camera positioning
and a wider array of art direction options. He was a story artist for Pocahontas
(1995) and the CGI film, Bolt (2008).
How was the Big Ben sequence accomplished? Who were the supervising
animators of the sequence?
Historically, GMD was a technological achievement in early
animation, as the first feature-length animated film to use computer-generated
imagery (CGI) and it was the first time traditionally-animated characters
were put inside a computer-generated background. With the "new"
invention of the first commercial (film-less) electronic camera, it
was the first time digital pencil tests were possible and may not have
been without it. The two animators responsible for the achievement
of the famous Big Ben sequence were:
Computer graphics consultant Tad A. Gielow (or Tad Gielow)
created and animated fifty-four
moving gears, winches, ratchets, beams, chains, and pulleys in the interior
of Big Ben, produced as 3D wire-frame graphics on a computer, which
were later transferred onto animation cels via pen attached to a robotic
arm. The characters of Basil and Ratigan were created and animated
separately, working the challenge of ever-changing perspectives and
unusual angles, by animator Phil Nibbelink, and the
characters were later composited onto the background cels.
Gielow, also, served as the computer graphics
engineer for Oliver and Company (1988) and Pocahontas
(1995), software developer for Mulan (1998), and head of the
computer graphics department for The Iron Giant (1999).
Nibbelink's debut work was in The Fox and the Hound (1981)
as a character animator. Nibbelink was a character animator for
The Black Cauldron (1985), supervising animator for Who
Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), animation director for Casper
(1995), co-director of An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991)
and We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story (1993), and was the director,
writer, editor, animator, and voice-actor of Romeo and Juliet: Sealed with
a Kiss (2006) through his own company, Phil Nibbelink Productions.
How many times was the film theatrically
released? What was the gross total?
Twice, the original theatrical release was in 02 July 1986 as The
Great Mouse Detective, with a US gross of $25,336,794. The
second theatrical re-release was on St. Valentine's Day 1992 under the
revised title, The Adventures of the Great Mouse Detective,
with a US gross of $13,288,756. That's a total of roughly $38,600,000.
The making of the Black Cauldron over-budgeted at $44,000,000
and only grossed in the US a low $21,000,000 in early-1984. That
meant Disney was — $23,000,000 in red debt. With the premiere
of GMD in summer 1986, Disney finances up with $2,336,794 to
Is another theatrical re-release planned?
So far, no.
Which awards and nominations did it receive?
The film has been graced by some very prodigious awards and nominations:
- Golden Reel Award (1987) for Best Sound Editing
- Young Artist Award (1987) for Exceptional Young Actresses in Animation,
Series, Specials, or Feature Film to Susanne Pollatschek
- Edgar Allan Poe Award (1987) for Best Motion Picture
What are the other foreign
titles for the Great Mouse Detective?
The film GMD went by the following titles:
Did Jeremy Brett's portrayal of Sherlock
Holmes influence the film?
No. Pre-production of the GMD started in 1981, when
production on Black Cauldron was already in full swing.
After everything was ready and set, the actual animation started non-stop
by autumn 1984. The Granada Sherlock Holmes TV series,
starring actor Jeremy Brett as the title role, premiered in American
television until 14 March 1985 on PBS, which is less than two months
before GMD was released. Therefore, the famous Granada series could not possibly
have been an influence on the film.
The Holmes actors who did influence the film were Basil Rathbone, Ronald
Howard, Peter Cushing, and Robert Stephens.
Where does Basil of Baker Street lives?
The address, in the film, was 221½ Baker Street, the basement
(or cellar) of Sherlock Holmes' building.
What is the name of the waterfront
Ironically, the Rat Trap Saloon, located directly above Ratigan's sewer