DirectorRon Clements/Burny Mattinson/David Michener/John Musker
Release Date(s)1986 (October 9, 2012)
Studio(s)Walt Disney Pictures (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B
The Great Mouse Detective was released in 1986 by Walt Disney Pictures. It was a charming tribute to the character of Sherlock Holmes, being based upon the book series “Basil of Baker Street” by Eve Titus, but also pushing animation technology forward and securing the confidence of the new management at Disney to produce more animated films, resulting in what has become known as the “Disney Renaissance.”
Purely and simply, The Great Mouse Detective is a charming animated film, and one that doesn’t cater to just children but people of all ages. It’s hard to imagine animated films today having things like smoking and garter belts in them, but they’re there and on full display in this film. It’s nice to see Disney leaving things like that alone for a change when it comes to today’s p.c. world. I also commend Disney for releasing the film to home video in its original theatrical format, and with its original title. It was re-released to theaters and later on home video as The Adventures of the Great Mouse Detective in the full screen format, so this is definitely a step in the right direction.
The one thing that I’ll count as a strike against The Great Mouse Detective, story-wise, is the fact that it doesn’t really feature much of a mystery plot in the vein of a Sherlock Holmes story. To be fair, this is a film that keeps the younger ones in mind and doesn’t want to lose that audience because of a complicated plot that they don’t understand, but Basil doesn’t seem to do a whole lot of detecting. He uses chemistry and deduction a bit, but there’s not much of a mystery to unravel, especially when you have a witness and you know who’s behind it all right up front. Again, this isn’t a major flaw, but it would have been nice to have a little bit of a mystery going on to keep things more interesting. As is, it’s still an enjoyable film. It’s not in my top tier of favorites as far as Disney animated films go, but it is charming nonetheless. I mean, come on. How can you dislike an animated film with Vincent Price voicing the villain? I thought not.
For the Blu-ray presentation of The Great Mouse Detective, I’m much happier than I was with one of Disney’s lesser and more recently released titles: The Sword in the Stone. Whereas that Blu-ray was plagued with Digital Noise Removal out one end and the other, The Great Mouse Detective has a lovely and healthy transfer that is perhaps one of my favorite that Disney has done so far. To be fair, it isn’t a presentation that will wow you. It has the original grain structure with all of the vertical lines and scratches still intact, but that’s part of the reason why I like it. They chose NOT to tamper with it, and because of that, you get a much richer presentation because of it. The colors aren’t really robust, but they’re very healthy, and you can spot some flicker in there as the color between animation cels isn’t always even. Black levels are surprisingly deep as well. Brightness and contrast are very good too, although I think they could have pushed the latter up a notch or two. For the film’s soundtrack, you get three options: English 5.1 DTS-HD and both French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. The tracks have been culled from the original film’s soundtrack, which is usually not a good thing, but in this instance, it’s actually pretty good. There isn’t an enormous amount of surround activity and LFE impact isn’t incredible, but it is there. Dialogue is mostly clear and accurate, the music and sound effects carry over the speakers well and the overall upconverting from the original soundtrack is much better than I expected. It isn’t amazing, but very good. There are also subtitles in English SDH, French and Spanish for those who need them.
Extras include the So You Think You Can Sleuth? featurette, a Sing-Along for “The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind,” The Making of The Great Mouse Detective featurette and an insert with a Digital Copy code. On the DVD that’s included, you get soundtracks in English, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. Everything else is the same, but you’ll also find the Fast Play option that Disney DVDs usually carry, and two featurettes on Blu-ray and Digital Copy. Missing from the previous DVD release are the shorts Clock Cleaners and Donald’s Crime, as well as The Great Mouse Detective Scrapbook (an art gallery). Overall, it’s a sparse set of extras, but thankfully, most of the extras from the previous DVD release has been carried over, so one should be thankful for that.
Overall, The Great Mouse Detective hits Blu-ray with a satisfying release, and without the folks behind the scenes at Disney’s tampering with its content or its look. This one’s a winner in my book, especially if you have small children and you’re eager to introduce them to the classic animated films that Disney has to offer. Or if you’re just an adult looking for a fun animated adventure. Either way, you can’t really go wrong.
- Tim Salmons