No Mystery About It: The Great Mouse Detective Is A Fun Family Movie

Courtesy: Disney Home Entertainment

Everybody knows the name and face of Mickey Mouse.  The iconic figure has been the face of Disney since his creation.  And he’s still the most famous animal figure in the movie world to this day.  As famous as Mickey might be, he isn’t the only mouse to grace the silver screen in the annals of Disney’s movie history.  Next to Mickey and Minnie, most audiences probably instantly think back to Bernard and Miss Bianca A.K.A. The Rescuers.  There is at least one more mouse whose name is likely less prominent in audiences’ minds when asked about famous Disney figures.  That mouse is none other than Basil of Baker Street.

Basil is the mouse counterpart to author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famed detective, Sherlock Holmes.  He’s the star of Disney’s 1986 animated feature, The Great Mouse Detective.  The Great Mouse Detective has never enjoyed the popularity of The Rescuers or of any of Mickey Mouse’s adventures.  But it’s still a fun movie for any fan of mysteries.  One factor that makes The Great Mouse Detective enjoyable is the understanding of how much work went into bringing this film to life.  While it’s somewhat short, the bonus “making of” featurette contains some information that will make for a new appreciation for this story.  In that same vein, the work that went into bringing The Great Mouse Detective to life included making a believable story and equally believable characters.  All of this combined makes it a movie that deserves more attention and credit than what it has gotten in the almost three decades since its debut.

The new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack re-issue of The Great Mouse Detective includes a short bonus “Making of” featurette pointing out that it took four years for this movie to come to life.  It goes on to point out that a major reason (of not the reason) was the combination of computer based graphics and hand drawn animation.  This movie was the first ever in which Disney actually used computer graphics to any extent.  As viewers will see in the bonus feature, a lot of work was put into making the final conflict between Basil and Ratigan happen.  The feature points out that the clockworks inside Big Ben were created largely by computer.  That meant taking extensive lengths in order to mix the CG and hand drawn animation without losing the film’s integrity.  The animators behind this mix and the rest of the movie’s animation are to be commended for the work put into making this happen.

The animators behind The Great Mouse Detective went into painstaking detail in order to make its animation stand out.  So did the writers responsible for making the story happen.  Viewers don’t have to have read the books on which this movie is based to be able to enjoy it.  It’s a simple story that presents a good guy (Basil), a bad guy (Ratigan) and a mystery.  Even more interesting is that in its own way, the writing staff behind the movie made it even more believable in that they made Basil flawed.  Here is a character that starts out as a pompous, arrogant individual.  But as the story progresses, audiences see him become warmer and more caring towards Olivia Flaversham.  Olivia originally comes to Basil after her father is abducted by Ratigan’s henchman Fidget.  Basil’s personal growth and his relationship to Olivia is a secondary storyline to that of his search for Ratigan.  But it makes the story more heartwarming, and in turn, more enjoyable.

One of the most important factors of any movie script’s success is suspension of disbelief.  The Great Mouse Detective has a story that easily allows audiences to suspend their disbelief.  As a matter of fact, the main story and its intertwining story will pull in audiences with ease.  No story is believable without equally believable characters.  And believable characters are exactly what the movie has.  Basil’s personal growth makes him more relatable and endearing to audiences.  On the other side of the spectrum, Professor Ratigan is equally vile and despicable. If there’s one thing that Disney has always had the ability to do, it’s creating great villains.  And thanks to the voice acting of the late, great Vincent Price, Ratigan jumps off the screen.  He wastes little time establishing himself as an all out bad guy.  That he feeds other mice to his “pet” cat without remorse is itself worthy of the title “evil.”  Audiences will instantly find themselves booing him.  That means from Price to the writers, everyone involved in bringing Ratigan to life did everything right.

As one can see, so much went into bringing The Great Mouse Detective to life.  From making the art to the story to its characters, the work involved in making this movie a reality paid off.  It is a good movie not just for fans of the mystery genre, but for anyone who is a fan of Disney’s history.  The new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack is available in stores and online now.  It can be ordered direct via Disney’s online shop at http://www.disneystore.com/the-great-mouse-detective-special-edition-blu-ray-and-dvd-combo-pack/mp/1319926/1000316/

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Sequel Or Not, The Rescuers Down Under Is One “Wild” Watch

Courtesy: Disney

The Rescuers Down Under, as noted by the staff at Variety, is and isn’t necessarily a sequel.  In the purist sense, it is.  But that’s only because it’s a continued story of Bernard and Miss Bianca.  But in the grand scheme of things, it certainly is not a sequel to The Rescuers because of that.  This is for all intensive purposes, an entirely new story.  It just so happens that it stars Bernard and Miss Bianca again.  Other than that, it has zero links to the original movie that had been released nearly fifteen years prior.  Now keeping that in mind, The Rescuers Down Under would likely be better described as a stand alone movie. 

As a stand alone movie, The Rescuers Down Under is actually a good work.  The grand scenes in which young Cody flies on the back of the eagle are among the greatest in the movie.  No doubt Pixar had a hand in these scenes.  Wait.  You didn’t know about that?  Those who sit through the credits will learn something very interesting about The Rescuers Down Under.  The company that has become one of the biggest names in digital animation today actually played a hand in bringing The Rescuers Down Under to life.  This is true.  Odds are that the flight scenes, along with a handful of others were constructed at least in some part by Pixar.  Whatever role they played, it reminds audiences that at one time, Pixar actually did work in hand drawn animation.  It would be nice to see the company release a hand drawn/CG hybrid on its own one day.

The addition of Pixar to The Rescuers Down Under was a big part of the movie’s success.  It was just one part of what made this movie enjoyable.  The return of both Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor as Bernard and Miss Bianca gave this installment of the adventures of The Rescuers almost as much heart as the original Rescuers.  Given, there is no beating the original.  That’s a rule of movies.  But the partnership of the pair in this movie was just as charming as before.

Speaking of Bernard, the story behind The Rescuers Down Under is really more about him than about Cody trying to save the eagle.  Audiences see Bernard grow as a character in this movie.  Whereas he was this timid little mouse in the first movie, he is forced to overcome his timidity in this movie and man…er…mouse up (ba-dump bump bump).  It shows that no matter how small a man (or mouse) is, what matters is that individual’s heart.  And Bernard definitely showed that while he might have been a mouse, he had the heart of a lion inside him, especially when he took that wild boar and commanded it.

The acting wasn’t all that made The Rescuers Down Under a fun watch.  The bonus making of featurette continues a theme that audiences have come to know from Disney movies that has always made them great.  Rather than simply draw their idea of an outback setting, the bonus making of featurette shows that the crew behind the film actually went to Australia themselves to get an idea of the region.  It shows yet again that those behind the art wanted to be as true as possible for audiences, rather than simply come up with some fantastical setting.  The crew even got a first hand look at animals that were native to the outback, so as to properly draw them, too.  That included the evil lizard Joanna (voiced by veteran actor Frank Welker–Scooby Doo, The Garfield Show, The Real Ghostbusters, etc.)

There are those who for their won reasons have decided to pan The Rescuers Down Under.  Perhaps those people didn’t take time to look into the finer details of how this movie was made.  The bonus making of featurette is one more example of the importance of bonus features on any blu-ray and/or DVD release.  And even watching the story’s end credits adds an extra level of appreciation in learning of Pixar’s involvement in the movie.  Any movie buff would appreciate this little tidbit of extra information.  All of this extra information put together with the cast’s splendid voice acting makes The Rescuers Down Under not so much an underappreciated sequel, but a movie by itself that deserves another watch by those who haven’t seen it in a long time, and a close watch for the new generation that is seeing it for the first time.

The Rescuers Down Under is available now on blu-ray as part of a triple-disc blu-ray/DVD combo pack alongside the original The Rescuers.  It’s available both in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct through Disney’s online store at http://www.disneystore.com.

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The Rescuers Is One Of Disney’s Masterpieces

Courtesy: Disney/Buena Vista Home Entertainment

The Rescuers was one of the last great animated features of Disney’s Golden era.  The real end of that era came in 1988 with the release of Oliver and Company.  So being that it came only months before the fortieth anniversary of the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, it likely had a lot of pressure to succeed.  And succeed it did.  It succeeded in its story.  It succeeded in its art and animation.  And it also succeeded in its music.  All combined, these elements made for a movie that was not just a success close to one of Disney’s big anniversaries, but also came to be of the company’s most memorable masterpieces, too.

 Despite what some people allegedly seem to believe, the writers behind The Rescuers waste very little time setting up the story’s main plot.  Audiences are introduced to Penny—albeit indirectly at first—as she sends off a message asking for help from the side of an old riverboat.  It eventually makes its way to New York City where a mouse counterpart to the United Nations called the Rescue Aid Society has convened.  Both Bernard and Miss Bianca are quickly introduced.  And once they’re introduced to audiences, the reason for the story is revealed through Penny’s note.  In less than ten minutes, the main characters and the plot are both revealed.  The story holds solid through the course of its near hour and a half run time, too.  Whether audiences are seeing the story for the first time or the fiftieth, it’s a story that will keep audiences’ attention without fail.

The story alone makes The Rescuers a success.  But, another of the most noticeable factors about The Rescuers that stands out is its combination of art and animation.  The art and animation used in this work is very similar to fellow Disney classics the likes of 101 Dalmatians, The Jungle Book, and even The Aristocats.  As noted in the special features of other Disney films, much of the films’ backdrops were actually painted onto canvasses.  The Rescuers is no different.  The paintings used for the backdrops are stunning in their style and color.  This goes back to an argument noted in the bonus features of many of Disney’s recently re-issued classics.  That argument is on the topic of hand drawn art and animation versus today’s increasing trend towards CG based “animation.”  While the art and animation is similar to that of other classic Disney works, it still gave The Rescuers its own identity.  Having this old school style animation released once again for a new generation against today’s flood of CG based flicks helps to cement how much better that form of art and animation is and always will be.

The art and animation plays its own hand in making The Rescuers a timeless classic not just from Disney, but overall, too.  It’s just one more part of the whole that makes this movie a success.  The music behind The Rescuers also plays its own role.  Unlike so many of Disney’s classics, The Rescuers wasn’t a musical.  The music in this movie was only a backing element to help set the mood of the scenes.  But even in that backing role, it was successful.  Early on in the movie when audiences are first introduced to Penny as she drops her message in a bottle, the music does so much to help set the mood that she must have felt as she watched it float away.  Combined with the artwork of the dreary bayou, audiences are instantly pulled in to the movie from this moment.  It’s one of many moments when the music is perfectly placed to add an extra emotional push to the story.  When it’s added into the mix of the art and animation, and the story, the music behind the Rescuers goes that extra length to make it one of Disney’s greatest masterpieces.

The Rescuers is one of Disney’s masterpieces.  From the script to the art and animation to the music, everything that went into bringing this movie to life makes it a timeless classic.  Nearly ten years have passed since the last time that Disney released this classic to the masses.  Now, it’s being made available once again in a triple disc blu-ray/DVD combo pack, complete with both the original movie and its 1990 sequel, The Rescuers Down Under.  The combo pack is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct through Disney’s online store at http://www.disneystore.com

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