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Directors: Ron Clements, Burny Mattinson, Dave Michener & John Musker
Release Date: July 2, 1986
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

The Great Mouse Detective © Walt DisneyIn the dark ages of animation that were the 1970s and most of the 1980s, the Disney studio produced two animated features that shone just more brightly than the others: ‘The Rescuers’ (1977) and ‘The Great Mouse Detective’, coincidentally both about mice.

Thirty years later ‘The Rescuers’ has gained some kind of classic status, whereas ‘The Great Mouse Detective’ has not. That’s a pity, for it’s a surprisingly entertaining film, far outshining all other Disney features between ‘The Rescuers’ and ‘The Little Mermaid’ (1989).

Based on the children’s book series ‘Basil from Baker Street’ by Eve Titus, ‘The Great Mouse Detective’ tells about the Sherlock Holmes-like mouse Basil, who – indeed – lives in the same house as his far more widely known human counterpart.

The story is propelled by an intro, a story device also used in ‘The Rescuers’, in which the father of little mouse Olivia Flaversham is kidnapped. Enter Dr. Dawson, a Watson-like mouse, who, like Watson, is the narrator of the story, and who teams up with Olivia to find Basil, the famous detective. Soon the plot directs to the film’s supervillain, Professor Ratigan, brilliantly voiced by Vincent Price, who had collaborated with Disney before in the Tim Burton short ‘Vincent’.

Although all characters are voiced and animated well, Ratigan, animated by Glen Keane, arguably the best animator of his generation, stands in a class at his own: every single frame of his screen presence is a delight. He even gets the first of only two songs in the movie, and his pompous screen persona, both enjoyable and threatening, is comparable with the other classic Disney villains Hook (‘Peter Pan’, 1953), Shere Khan (‘Jungle Book’, 1967) and the later Jafar (‘Aladdin’, 1992).

In its final scene ‘The Great Mouse Detective’ introduces one novelty: computer-animated backgrounds, which blend surprisingly well with the hand-drawn characters. It’s an impressive piece of work, and it shows the possibilities of computer animation. Needless to say, more was to come later.

‘The Great Mouse Detective’ covers much more familiar ground than the erratic ‘The Black Cauldron’ did, and indeed the studio feels clearly more at ease with this picture. It doesn’t really look forward, except for the stunning computer animated clockwork backgrounds of the final scene, but who cares? It is the first film by the new young team to show sheer joy. ‘The Great Mouse Detective’ is a delight from the introduction scene to its grand finale. By now, the studio could leave its lowest point behind.

Watch an excerpt from ‘The Great Mouse Detective’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Burny Mattinson
Release date: December 16, 1983
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Scrooge McDuck, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy, Jiminy Cricket, Pete, Willie the Giant
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Mickey's Christmas Carol © Walt DisneyMickey’s Christmas Carol’ is one of countless cinema versions of Charles Dickens’s classic tale, this time using Disney characters.

Star of the film is Scrooge McDuck, which of course comes natural to the old miser as the character was actually named after Dickens’ main protagonist. Unlike the other characters Scrooge McDuck was mainly a comics hero, created by Carl Barks, and he had appeared on the screen only one time before, in the educational film ‘Scrooge McDuck and Money’ (1967). However, only four years later he would be animated extensively, in the highly successful televison series, Ducktales.

Most people however will remember ‘Mickey’s Christmas Carol’ as Mickey’s return to the screen for the first time since his retirement in 1953. But it also marks the return of Donald (as Scrooge’s nephew Fred) and Goofy (as his former partner Jacob Marley) to the screen after a 22 year absence. The film has an all-star cast in any case, reviving many other classic Disney stars, like Jiminy Cricket (as the ghost of Christmas Past), Daisy (as Scrooge’s former love interest) and Pete (as the ghost of Christmas future). Also featured is Willie the giant from ‘Fun and Fancy Free‘ (1948) as the ghost of Christmas present, and several characters from ‘The Wind in the Willows‘ (1949). Apart from these we can see glimpses of the Big Bad Wolf and the three little pigs, Clarabella Cow, Horace Horsecollar, Huey, Dewey and Louie, Minnie Mouse and some characters from ‘Robin Hood‘.

This all-star cast gives the film a nostalgic feel that fits the story. Indeed, with hindsight, one can see ‘Mickey’s Christmas Carol’ as an early example of the Renaissance that was about to happen, in which the classic cartoon style was revived after ca. twenty dark years.

‘Mickey’s Christmas Carol’ is no ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit‘, however, and it only looks back, not forward. For example, the rather uninspired score is by Irwin Kostal, who had been composing for Disney since ‘Mary Poppins’ (1964). Moreover, the film’s design, using xerox cells and graphic backgrounds, is firmly rooted in the tradition of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

‘Mickey’s Christmas Carol’ is a nice and entertaining movie, but it would take another five years for the Renaissance hitting Disney in full glory, with inspired and innovative films as ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ (1988) and ‘The Little Mermaid’ (1989).

Watch ‘Mickey’s Christmas Carol’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 126
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Simple Things
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Prince and the Pauper

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