With vague, animated memories of certain scenes from Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective dancing through my mind, I slipped the newly released Mystery in the Mist DVD edition into my player to share it with a new generation. This old school Disney film (originally released in 1986) combines classic animation with what was then some of the earliest combinations of computer-graphics with hand-drawn characters in some of it’s most striking scenes.
My children were quickly immersed in the world of Victorian England, where a society of dignified mousies and nefarious sewer rats exists on miniature scale, complete with their own Queen Mousetoria at Buckingham Palace. When the notorious villain (and nemesis of the city’s most notable detective, Basil of Baker Street) Ratigan kidnaps the young Olivia Flaversham’s toymaking father, the mystery begins.
Basil – the Sherlockian deductive genius – combines his efforts with that of the genteel Dr. David Q. Dawson, as they spin through an ever escalating series of madcap adventures that leads to the uncovering of a scheme to unseat the Queen!
Based on the children’s book series Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus, this feature film seemed to be hinting at sequels to come, which unfortunately never materialized. This digitally restored film continues to captivate children with its nefarious plots and dastardly schemes.
Parents of children who are disturbed by separation anxiety should note the abrupt kidnapping of Olivia’s father in the opening scene – a tension that continues throughout the film. A scene in which Basil and Dawson find themselves in a shore-side pub also includes some can-can style dancing and provocative singing (the yesteryear equivalent of a girlie-bar) which parents may want to be aware of.
The original bonus features, a making of segment and a sing-along feature of “The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind” (sung by the villainous Vincent Price, Ratigan’s voice talent) are added to with a brief history of the detective and an introduction to sleuthing in “So You Think You Can Sleuth."
This 74-minute film has been enjoying repeated viewings by my older children (my toddler finds it too dark, it is fairly intense). My seven-year-old in particularly is trying to award it 10 out of 5 stars. Not only can it still excite the imaginations of children, but adult devotees of England’s most popular fictional detective will also find many inside nods to the realm of Sherlock’s London found embedded within the film.