Basil of Baker Street Character Essay
A/N: I wrote this for my English class, but I thought because it had something to do with GMD, I decided to just submit it to deviantART because, well, why not. Heh heh.
The Great Mouse Detective (c) Disney / Eve Titus
Essay (c) Johnny-Ether
With fifty-four theatrical animated feature-length films in a span of more than seventy-five years, itís no wonder than Walt Disney Animation Studios has arguably been one of the most successful film companies in cinematic history, especially lately with a new found success with films such as Tangled and Frozen. However, they were never a company that had consistent success: after the death of Walt Disney, the company went through what is commonly referred to as their ďDark Age,Ē when many of the films released were either not commercially or critically successful. While none of the movies released during that period were bad, per se, some of them fell into the realm of obscurity. One of those films is 1986ís The Great Mouse Detective, undeservedly underrated not just because itís a pretty good film in general, but also in part because of the rather complex and strong personality of the titular main character, Basil of Baker Street.
The Great Mouse Detective is loosely based on a series of childrenís books written by author Eve Titus called Basil of Baker Street, which was based on Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Based on that alone, itís pretty obvious that Basil is based on Holmes: in the film, he lives under the flat of Sherlock Holmes at 221B Baker Street, smokes a pipe, and, when going on cases, dons a similar Inverness coat and deerstalker hat. Also like Sherlock, Basil has a very keen sense of deduction, has a profound knowledge in chemistry, and wears disguises in certain scenarios. But to say that Basil of Baker Street is just a carbon copy of Sherlock Holmes, or just Sherlock Holmes if he were an anthropomorphic mouse, would be unfairly undermining his character.
When we first meet Basil of Baker Street, he is in the midst of conducting what he considers a very important experiment; meanwhile, the two other main characters in the film, Dr. Dawson (the mouse equivalent of Dr. Watson in this movie) and Olivia Flaversham, are asking Basil to help Olivia with a case in which her toymaker father was abducted by a bat. At first, Basil is way too immersed in his own experiment to care, although he does, for example, impress Dawson by explaining how he knew Dawson was a doctor who just returned from military duty in Afghanistan. Otherwise, Basil is shown in this scene to be focusing on himself and his own feelings, and doesnít immediately take the case, until Olivia Flaversham mentions that her father was, in fact, abducted by a bat, which makes him very intrigued in the case because the bat is a minion of his most reviled foe, Professor Ratigan (a rat who is the equivalent of Professor Moriarty).
Another instance of how Basil of Baker Street doesnít always consider the feelings of others is in a scene in which Olivia Flaversham is kidnapped by the bat in a human toy store, and ends up flying off the handle indirectly at Dr. Dawson, whom he appointed to watch over her while he was investigating. This discourages Dawson, who blames himself for Oliviaís kidnapping; when Basil sees this, he feels a bit remorseful for his outburst, and kindly reassures Dawson that they would get Olivia back. This shows somewhat of a growth of character from Basil, especially in regards to social interaction with others. This growth is also shown with the relationship between Basil and Olivia: earlier in the movie, Olivia hugs Basil from behind for offering to help her with the case; at the end, after certain actions like willing to help get her back from the clutches of Ratigan and saving her in a climatic scene, he let her hug him before she left the flat with her father. It showed how he wasnít that willing to let Olivia treat him like a sort-of uncle figure because he never really dealt with children before, but after the case, he was more comfortable with it in a friendly manner.
Even though heís an egocentric figure, he is shown to be very intelligent; as stated before, based on subtle details, he can deduce information about someone or something. Elaborating more on the example with Dr. Dawson, Basil explains how Dawson served as a doctor in Afghanistan used a Lambert stitch to sew a part of his cuff that was ripped, and how the material he used was catgut, which according to him was found primarily in the Afghan provinces. Later on in the movie, when he was examining an important piece of evidence, which was a list that the bat left behind, he determined that the bat was drinking a kind of liquor only served in seedy pubs; he also found coal dust on the list with a microscope, which could be used for sewer lamps, and after burning the list and putting the ashes through a chemistry experiment, determined that the list might have originated near the riverfront because of the reaction to sodium chloride.
Despite his intelligence, he will sometimes feel powerless when he thinks he was defeated, especially in the case of his foe Ratigan, who shares similar intelligence; this is shown in a scene when he and Dawson were put in a death trap after being discovered in Ratiganís lair. The only way he recovered from this feeling of despair was when he realizes that they would have to set off the trap at exactly the right moment to save themselves. Also, unlike Ratigan, who has brawn and strength, Basil only really has intelligence on his side; this is shown in the climatic scene where Ratigan, angered by his plans failing, starts to brutally beat Basil to death on the Big Ben tower. In the end, however, Basil manages to distract Ratigan after he thinks he killed Basil after making him fall off the clock hand, leading him to fall too when the clock hand he was standing on moved.
Throughout The Great Mouse Detective, Basil is shown to be a lot of things: egocentric, focused, intelligent, detail-oriented, but he is also shown to be kind and learns to be considerate of others while still maintaining his emphasis on deduction and searching for clues that the normal person would pass over. Unfortunately, despite his strong and memorable characteristics and traits, he, like the movie he stars in, is vastly underrated: when Basilís English voice actor, Barrie Ingham, passed away in January 2015, Disney did not report this like they normally would; a local Florida newspaper was the biggest source of this saddening news. Itís truly a shame, because Mr. Inghamís performance demonstrated why this character worked so well in the first place, and how Basil of Baker Street is one of those Disney characters that people should appreciate, even if the movie heís in is not that well known compared to some of the other films Disney has done.
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