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25th Feb 2014, 8:39 AM Inspirations: Great Mouse Detective Part II

PART 2:

So back to the story, Basil initially doesn’t want to take the case. But he quickly changes his mind when he is made aware that the person responsible for the father’s disappearance is the associate of his arch-nemesis, “The Nefarious Professor Ratigan”.

We then move to a scene where we meet Ratigan as he explains (although not in too explicit detail) his plan to abduct the Queen. This will then allow him to assume the role of ruler… somehow. Like I said, it’s not really explained all that much, which I’m not saying is a flaw in the movie, necessarily. I’m guessing they decided that if they tried too hard to explain how all this stuff worked it might end up sounding too silly (but seriously, what hell were mice doing in Afghanist… well… anyway).

Ok first I want to talk about this villain before moving on. This is probably my favorite over-the-top Disney villain. And that’s saying a lot given the fact that Disney has had so many great ones. Madame Medusa, Ursula, Jafar, and Scar are all great as well. The one thing that makes Ratigan just a little bit better… is Vincent Price.

Anybody who knows me knows I have this weird obsession with Vincent Price. And this movie may be partly to blame. Whether it’s quoting the spoken lines from Michael Jackson’s Thriller, or Tim Burton’s Vincent, Thief and the Cobbler (the good version), and of course the dozens of enjoyably bad horror films he was in, Vincent Price just makes me happy. It’s that voice, that wonderful, maniacal voice that I just can’t get enough of. I can’t even describe it; you just have to hear it for yourself.

So yeah, the amount of scenery chewing in this vocal performance is truly something to behold. In fact, this movie might have been responsible for the over-the-top villains to come. Over the next decade, the only movie that didn’t have one was Rescuers Down Under, all the rest do up until Hunchback’s Frollo (who is also great but in a completely different way).

It would be kind of unfair for me to talk about this character and only mention the voice talent. Of course, more goes into the making of an animated character than just the vocals (or at least that’s how it should be). So I have to bring up another name: Glen Keane.

If you don’t know who Glen Keane is, I’m sorry. I am truly, deeply sorry. Unfortunately, I don’t have too much time to go into all his accomplishments here, but basically, he’s the one responsible for Ariel, The Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Tarzan and other characters as well.

You see, on an animated film (or at least, when this movie was made) generally each character would be assigned an animator who would be responsible for that character’s design and overall animated performance. Of course, he doesn’t animate every scene the character is in because that would be too much work. So usually he has a team of people who also work on that character. The characters that have less animation in the movie may have just one person handling them, and in some cases, one animator may handle several characters (such as the three hyenas in Lion King which were all supervised by one person).

Occasionally, the films may be handed out in sequences rather by character, so each supervisor has a chunk of the movie and handles all the characters in it. Neither of these approaches is necessarily right or wrong, and great films have been produced both ways. The films of this period (80s-90s) tended to favor the character supervisor system over the sequence system.

This is what I mean when I say that Glen Keane was responsible for Ratigan. He finalized the design and oversaw any of the scenes the other animators might have done to make sure it all felt consistent with his own scenes to make a wholly realized performance (P.S.  I know he also worked on Basil, but I’m not sure how involved he was with the character).

Anyway, the animation of Ratigan is still one of the most enjoyable pieces Keane has produced. Later on, he tended to favor the straighter characters like Ariel, Aladdin, and Pocahontas etc. And of course, these are stellar performances with great depth, humanity, observation and heart and blah blah blah.

BUT!

Ratigan is one of the few of Keane’s characters who are the opposite of that. He doesn’t have a big emotional arc or a revealing back-story that sheds light on why he’s evil. He’s just a mustache-twirling villain who wants to, for lack of a better term, take over the world (OF COURSE!).

Okay, so back to the story:

Ratigan, after expositing his evil plan to his henchmen, sings a songs about, well, how evil and clever he is: The world’s greatest criminal mind. I’ll talk about Henry Mancini later so as to not hold up the story any more.

Part 3