Tuesday, April 13, 2010

THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE - MYSTERY IN THE MIST EDITION

One of Disney's most underrated animated features returns to DVD in a new, remastered edition. Considering that THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE (1986) has been criminally neglected by the studio since its original release, I have to assume that this new disc owes its existence solely to the popularity of Guy Ritchie's SHERLOCK HOLMES. Despite the new transfer, very little additional effort appears to have been expended on it.

Based on the children's book series, Basil of Baker Street, by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone, DETECTIVE pits the heroic crime-fighting duo of Basil (Barrie Ingham) and his friend Dawson (Val Bettin ) - both mice, 'natch - against the evil machinations of arch-fiend Ratigan (voiced by Vincent Price, HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, WITCHFINDER GENERAL) and his gang, in a battle of wits and derring-do both above and below the streets of Victorian London.

THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE was produced during a period in the studio's history where nothing it released seemed to be hitting with audiences. Part of this was due to studio mismanagement, part to poor marketing, and part was due to some genuinely mediocre animated efforts such as OLIVER & COMPANY, et al.  It wasn't until THE LITTLE MERMAID in '89 that the studio's fortunes really turned around, and it seemed to become company policy to ignore the "disappointing" features that had directly preceded it.

But DETECTIVE, directed by Disney veterans Ron Clements, Burny Mattinson, David Michener and John Musker, is a charming adventure story, with some marvelous character animation and voice performances - especially from legendary screen villain Price. The movie also introduced computer-generated imagery to Disney 's animation, a technical innovation that was much-heralded at the time.

Note for Sherlockians: fans of the Great Detective will especially enjoy the cameo appearances of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, voiced by Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. The filmmakers cleverly appropriated a bit of dialogue from an episode of the duo's long-running Holmes radio program and deftly incorporated it into the film.

Disney's "Mystery In The Mist Edition" does boast a remastered digital transfer that is a substantial improvement over the previous 2002 DVD release. The 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation (although the package claims that it is 1.78:1, it is not) is noticeably superior to the previous DVD release with no evidence of dirt, print damage or age-related wear. The colors are stronger and brighter and detail is sharper. The Dolby 5.1 audio is crystal clear.

For supplements, the new DVD recycles the "Making of" and "Sing-Along" featurettes from the previous edition, but does not include the two mystery-themed classic Disney shorts from that disc. In their place are promos for Disney Blu-Ray and Digital Copies (THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE is not offered on either format, incidentally) and a trivia game. There are also a few "Sneak Peeks" for other Disney products.

Fans of the movie who already own the 2002 DVD release may want to pick up the new edition for its improved transfer, but hold on to their old copies for the additional shorts. Now, I know that most Disney consumers won't care about the bonus features anyway, but in my case, DETECTIVE is a personal favorite, and I would have liked to seen Disney revisit the title with a bit more enthusiasm. A high-def Blu-Ray edition would also have been nice. As it is, we get a fairly standard catalog release instead, albeit with an improved, remastered transfer.

BUY: The Great Mouse Detective (Mystery in the Mist Edition)