One of Disney's successes in the 80's calm before the 90's storm ("Lion King", "Little Mermaid", etc), "Great Mouse Detective" works with not only fine material, but also boasts animators capable of creating wonderful tone and atmosphere. Taking place in a foggy, beautifully rendered London, the film opens with little mouse Olivia's father being kidnapped by the criminal Ratigan (voiced by Vincent Price). Lost and crying in the street, she's befriended by a Watson-esque character who takes her to Basil, apparently one of the great mouse detectives and clearly a take on Sherlock Holmes. After a little convincing, Basil finally decides to take the case.
"Great Mouse Detective" is not epic enough in scope or bright or detailed enough to be considered among one of Disney's classics, but it's a smaller effort that I think a lot of people still remember fondly. Similar to "Oliver and Company", which came right after it, it doesn't have stunning animation, but it does have solid voice work, personality, a few solid action scenes and a well-written screenplay.
VIDEO: "Great Mouse Detective" is presented by Disney in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen. The box boasts of an "all new, digitally restored" presentation. While the picture quality is certainly not without some flaws, it does look quite good, considering this picture was originally released in theaters a little over fifteen years ago. Given the fact that the story takes place in foggy London, the animation often has a slightly soft appearance. Still, most scenes presented an acceptably crisp, well-defined image.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the picture - unlike the recent "Oliver and Company" DVD release - was largely free of noticable dirt and print flaws. While some light dirt was occasionally apparent, it was a rare instance to see anything in the way of specks or marks on the print used. Pixelation was not noticed, nor were any instances of edge enhancement. Although the animated feature offered a pretty subdued color palette, occasional scenes boasted warmer colors that were nicely rendered. Overall, a very nice offering from Disney.
SOUND: The picture's new Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack fared less well, if never really displaying any major concerns. Seemingly mostly like mono for the entire proceedings, the soundtrack only occasionally opened up for the music. Dialogue seemed crisp and clear, while the music could sound slightly thin at times. Certainly listenable, but there's little remarkable about the soundtrack.
MENUS: The main menu contains some slight background animation.
EXTRAS: Supplements include: the original "making of" documentary, a sing-along song, scrapbook and two animated shorts: "Clock Cleaners" (which apparently ran before "Great Mouse Detective" theatrically) and "Donald's Crime". Also included: "Sneak Peek" trailers for "The Rookie", "Mickey's House of Villians", "Monster's Inc.", "Beauty and the Beast: SE", another "101 Dalmatians" straight-to-vid sequel; "Inspector Gadget 2" (a direct-to-vid live-action sequel, coming in 2003), "Rollie Pollie Olie", "Schoolhouse Rock" and "Teamo Supremo".
Final Thoughts: "Great Mouse Detective" may not be one of the more widely-known of Disney's feature animation films, but it's still quite a fun little adventure of a picture, with great characters, nice animation and personality to spare. Disney's DVD is on the feature-light side for its $29.99 price tag, but the DVD does offer very good video quality, fine audio and a handful of supplements. Recommended.