The Great Mouse Detective

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Basil, The Great Mouse Detective in the UK.

A 1986 Disney Animated Canon masterpiece (number 26) with no Medieval European Fantasy setting, no True Love's Kiss, and no princesses (although there is a mouse version of Queen Victoria...) More importantly, the reasonable success of this film after The Black Cauldron debacle was able to convince the new senior management of Walt Disney Pictures that their animation department had a future after all.

This Animated Adaptation of Basil of Baker Street, a series of children's books by Eve Titus, tells a story of Sherlock Holmes in a Mouse World. When toymaker and mechanical genius Hiram Flaversham is Kidnapped Scientist, his daughter Olivia hires the greatest detective in all mousedom, Basil of Baker Street, to find him. On her way, she is found by the Narrator and Dr. Watson's Captain Ersatz, Dr. Dawson, just back in London after serving overseas in the military. Basil is reluctant to take the case until he realizes the bat who kidnapped Olivia's father works for his Arch Enemy, the Diabolical Mastermind Professor Ratigan.

With the help of his trained hound, Toby, Basil tracks the bat to a human toy shop, but he escapes and kidnaps Olivia. Ratigan uses her to force her father to complete a robot duplicate of the mouse queen as part of his Evil Plan to take over the kingdom. After learning Basil is on the case, the Evil Genius decides to use this as an opportunity to humiliate and defeat his rival once and for all. Basil falls for his trap hook, line, and sinker and, with some encouragement from Dawson, narrowly escapes the Death Trap in enough time to save the queen and engage Ratigan in a Chase Scene by air that culminates in a gruesome Monumental Battle at Big Ben.

Oh, and there's a Victorian strip tease in a Bad Guy Bar -- sung by Melissa Manchester, no less -- followed up with a Bar Brawl.


Dawson: Oh, how very thrilling, eh, Basil?
Basil: All in a day's work, Doctor.

Tropes used in The Great Mouse Detective include:
  • Adorkable: Could briefly be used to describe Basil, of all people, after Olivia's My Parents Are Dead moment. He gets very awkward and tongue-tied before snapping back to his usual self.
    • Also the scene where he's awkwardly trying to cheer up Dawson. "I say...Dawson, old chap?" with a nervous smile.
  • Agony of the Feet: "OW! My foot! My only foot!"
  • All There in the Script: Books, actually. The original book series reveals that not only was Ratigan a mouse, but also that his first name is Padraic.
  • Always Night
  • Aside Glance: Fidget gives one when Ratigan frees him from the cat and begins cuddling him.
  • Ax Crazy: Ratigan towards the climax, when he's enraged.
  • Awesomeness By Analysis: Near the end, Basil escapes Ratigan's killer Rube Goldberg Device by setting it off at a very precise moment.
  • Bad Boss: Don't upset Professor Ratigan, or he'll feed you to his Right-Hand-Cat.
    • ...or simply toss you overboard when you're weighing him down.
  • Bad Guy Bar
  • Batman Gambit: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade; when your Arch Enemy is on your trail, let him find you so you can kill him.
  • Berserk Button: Calling Ratigan a rat.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Ratigan's infamous Villainous Breakdown.
  • Big Bad: Professor Ratigan.
  • Big Friendly Dog: Toby.
  • Big No: Basil, when discovering that the two bullets don't match.
  • Big "Shut Up!": Ratigan, after Olivia starts to bad mouth him when he's escaping.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Ratigan.
  • Bizarre and Improbable Ballistics: The idea behind the ballistics test is presented fairly well, but the experiment conducted to determine a match has a fatal flaw. Basil holds the ends of the bullets together, and most of the grooves etched into the bullets by the rifling match, except for few. The problem is, if you turn the bullets around in your head so they're side-by-side as opposed to end-to-end, one would be a mirror image of the other! Thus, a cursory glance at them would be all you need to see that they don't match. Of course, if Ratigan knew Basil would make such a stupid mistake when comparing the bullets, this could be a case of Fridge Brilliance, as it implies almost impossibly good foresight.
  • Blowing a Raspberry: Ratigan's appearance in the Royal Palace elicits Dramatic Gasps from the crowd, except one little kid who just razzes him.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Justified. Ratigan does build a giant death trap that he leaves our heroes in. However, it is explained that he wanted to stay and watch it, but as the heroes arrived 15 minutes later than he planned, he doesn't have the time to stay. So he rigs a camera to capture Basil's dying moment instead.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Fidget has to get "tools, gears, girl, and uniforms".
  • Brick Joke: Right before leaving for Buckingham Palace, Ratigan tells a soon-to-be-dead Basil "Now, you will remember to smile for the camera, won't you?" as he activates his deadly Rube Goldberg contraption which is set to take a picture at the exact moment Basil and Dawson are to die.
    • ...A few scenes later, after Basil's last-minute ingenuity very narrowly lets them escape the trap, he grabs hold of Dawson, catches Olivia and says "Smile, everyone!" as the picture of the three is successfully taken.
  • British Royal Guards: Two guards are very easily beaten by Mooks.
  • Bunny Ears Lawyer: Basil is an undeniable genius who, when we first meet him, comes off as quite possibly insane.
  • The Cameo: Sherlock Holmes himself appears three times in silhouette. In the books, Basil actually lives under Holmes' floor. From his and Watson's dialogue, Holmes is apparently solving the case of the Red-Headed League. And the dialogue is performed by? Basil Rathbone.
    • Dumbo appears as a bubble-blowing toy in the toy shop that Basil and Dr. Dawson go to.
    • Bill the Lizard from Alice in Wonderland also appears in the film.
    • Toby the dog is from the Sherlock Holmes novel The Sign of the Four.
  • Cape Snag: Basil invokes this on Ratigan towards the climax.
  • Captain Ersatz
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Ratigan likes to talk about how his latest scheme is supposed to be "even grimmer" than his previous ones.
  • Cats Are Mean
  • Climbing Climax
  • Clock Punk: The robot double of Queen Mousetoria that Flaversham makes for Ratigan.
  • Clock Tower: The Westminster Clock Tower, home of Big Ben, is the location for the final showdown.
  • Conspicuous CG: One of the first uses of CGI (after The Black Cauldron) in an animated feature, traced from wire-frame graphics onto animation cels and certainly a far more conspicuous user than its predecessor -- where The Black Cauldron mostly limited CGI to special effects and stuff (i.e. glittering stars, chroma-keying smoke into the scenes, etc.), The Great Mouse Detective made extensive and notable use of it in the interior of Big Ben. Very impressive stuff for its time.
  • Cue Card: Mr. Flaversham is forced to read off cue cards while operating the Queen Mousetoria robot.
  • Curb Stomp Battle: The final battle shows that Basil doesn't have any opportunity against Ratigan in a one-on-one wrestle. A good thing that this is a genius battle.
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy: When Ratigan learns that Basil is on the case, he realizes that it is inevitable that the great detective will track him to his lair, so he sets a trap for him there. He also sets up a decoy trap in the bar that fronts his hideout so that Basil will easily avoid it and be lulled into a false sense of security.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Basil.
  • Death Trap: Justified, in universe, by Ratigan.

"I had so many ingenious ideas, I didn't know which to choose. So... I decided to use them all!"


Dawson: If you've given up, then why don't we just set it off now and be done with it?
Basil: Set it off... now? Yes! That's it... we'll set the trap off now!

    • And on the villains' side as well:

Ratigan (angry): Oh, I can just see that insufferable grin on [Basil's] smug face...
Ratigan (smiling): Yes... yes, I can just see it...

  • Evil Brit: Ratigan, albeit with the American voice of Vincent Price.
  • Evil Counterpart: Ratigan is one to Basil, just as Moriarty is to Holmes.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Ratigan. Again, look at who voiced him. It's inevitable.
  • Evil Is Stylish: Again, Ratigan.
  • Evilly Affable: In song, Ratigan professes that he has planned his worst crime yet. His mooks gush "Even meaner? You mean it? Worse than the widows and orphans you drowned?" The thing is that his thugs asked the question with enthusiasm, and Ratigan was simply having fun the entire time.
  • Executive Meddling: Largely averted, as Jeffery Katzenberg had little to no faith the movie would be any good. Most of his attention was spent on meddling with The Black Cauldron; we all know how that film turned out. Katzenberg did, however, demand the title of this film be changed from "Basil of Baker Street" to simply "The Great Mouse Detective". Two of the four directors have since said they've always hated this new title.
  • Exit, Pursued by a Bear: Felicia, Ratigan's cat.
  • Expressive Mask: Basil as a white rubber Chinese mouse during his introduction (also an example of Latex Perfection).
  • Expy: Basil to Sherlock Holmes, Ratigan to Professor Moriarty.
  • Face Palm: Basil during "Let Me Be Good To You" after Dawson starts making a fool of himself.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: Ratigan's brutal beatdown of Basil in the final scene.
  • Four-Fingered Hands: Exceptions being Ratigan (a rat) and Fidget (a bat).
  • For the Evulz: "You don't know what a delightful dilemma it was trying to decide on the most appropriate method for your demise."
  • Frothy Mugs of Water: Averted; the drinks in the Bad Guy Bar are explicitly referred to as beer.
  • Furry Confusion: The movie has anthropomorphic mice, rats, bats, and lizards, but real cats, dogs, and horses, not to mention humans as well.
  • Genius Bruiser: Ratigan prefers to use his brain to solve his problems (if nothing else to preserve his image), but he is vastly stronger than anyone else in the movie.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The stripping mouse named Miss Kitty, with this line "Hey fellas/I'll take off all my blues!" Bearing in mind everything from her bow to her shoes is blue, this didn't sneak past the radar, it buzzed the tower and spilled coffee all over the air boss.
    • "Hey fellas, / There's nothin' I won't do, just for you!"
    • "So dream on, and drink your beer. Get cozy, your baby's here!" Basil also points out his drinks are drugged. The fact that half the bar is smoking seems to be the least of the worries during this scene.
    • "Boys, what you're hoping for will come true / Let me be good to you!"
  • Gilligan Cut:

Basil: (to Olivia) Young lady, you are most definitely not accompanying us, and that! Is! FINAL!
(Cut to Basil on the case, accompanied by Dawson and Olivia)
Basil: And not a word out of you. Is that clear?

  • Good Is Not Nice: Basil comes across as somewhat rude, especially early in the film, which makes him a good contrast to the Faux Affably Evil Ratigan. Fitting, since the original Holmes can be somewhat of a Jerkass Smug Snake himself at times.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: You see the shadow of Bartholomew the mouse getting eaten by Ratigan's cat.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Basil smokes a pipe while Ratigan smokes a cigarette (complete with long stemmed filter a la Cruella de Vil). When Basil disguises himself as a thug, he swaps out his pipe for a cigarette.
  • GPS Evidence: The brandy, coal dust, and salt water on Fidget's list.
  • Heel Face Return: Fidget does this in a sequel comic.
  • Heroic BSOD: Basil after he falls for Ratigan's trap.
  • Homage: "Elementary, my dear Dawson". The entire movie, really, especially one scene where the silhouettes of two men who are obviously Holmes and Watson are visible discussing a case. The Holmes expy even shares a name with probably the most famous actor who played Sherlock. (So would that make this a Holmsage?)
    • In fact, in The Adventure of Black Peter, Holmes mentions he's known as (Captain) Basil around the Sumner area, though that much is coincidence. Of course, there's also Toby the dog, whom Holmes used in The Sign of the Four.
  • I Am Not Weasel: The professor HATES being called a rat; he's actually a "big mouse".
  • Idiot Ball: Basil and Dr. Dawson grab it pretty hard in the toy store by not realizing that someone had to have set off all the toys' mechanisms and that they didn't just wind themselves up. Basil should have instantly realized that whoever turned them on must have done so to provide cover for himself, and Dawson messed up by just letting Olivia wander off by herself.
  • I Have Your Daughter[context?]
  • Insistent Terminology: "I AM NOT A RAT!" [1]
    • Then again, in the original books, he actually is a mouse.
  • Intoxication Ensues: Dawson, after drinking a drugged pint of beer.
  • Ironic Echo: Basil's ringing of Ratigan's little dinner bell (as Ratigan would use to call Felicia) before Big Ben strikes the hour, the bell's vibrations knocking Ratigan off to his demise.
  • Jump Scare: Twice by Fidget; when he breaks into Flaversham's shop, and when he hides in a cradle while inside the human toyshop.
  • Kid Appeal Character: Olivia.
  • Kidnapped Scientist: Flaversham is a toymaker, but he qualifies. His skill with making mechanical toys had applications for chicanery that Ratigan made forcible use of.
  • Knighting: It's certainly implied by the picture in the newspaper article at the end.
  • Large Ham: Ratigan is one of Disney's largest. In fact, Vincent Price said that this was his favorite role, and that he had a lot of fun with it. What's more, he also professed to being "flattered" that all of Ratigan's songs were written specially for him so that he could act as over-the-top as possible.
    • Mr. Price was prone to making wild, over-the-top hand gestures and such while acting, which the animators worked into Ratigan's character as well.
    • There's also the incredibly expressive, hyperactive unless quite visibly depressed, always overdramatic Basil himself.
      • Barrie Ingaham (Basil's voice actor) was also given to dramatic gesturing. The animators had lots of raw material to work with!
    • Basil's most notably hammy moments are:

"Young lady, you are most definitely not accompanying us! AND THAT IS FINAL !!!

    • and...

"Set it off now. Set . (laughs madly) Yes, yes, we'll set the trap off NOW!!".


"Ratigan, no one can have a higher opinion of you than I have... and I think you're a slimy, contemptible sewer rat!"


Olivia: Just wait! Basil's smarter than you! He's going to put you in jail! He's not afraid of a big, old, ugly rat like you!
Ratigan: Would you kindly sit down and shut up!

  1. Ratigan has five fingers on his hands, er, forepaws, while all the other real mice have four fingers.