THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE: DATING THE DISNEY FILMSECOND EDITION
Written by Diane N. Tran
"The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes" (HOUN).
Entering in the world of the Great Mouse Detective, I have often wondered about historically dating the events in this Disney film, which I fondly call as the Flaversham case, with the use of pure logical deduction, just like Sherlock Holmes, to learn the truth from the clues the film gives us.
One Day and Two Nights:
With a dark, overcast sky, the streets have obvious signs of recent rain and it downpours by the climax of the film, which makes dividing day and night hours difficult, but not impossible. The film's main events span about two nights. Consider the facts addressed:
- Flaversham toyshop was closed for the night and Olivia's birthday was that evening: "You know, Daddy, this is my very best birthday!"
- Plus, Dr. Dawson, after the beginning credits, introduces the audience with "the eve of our good Queen's Diamond Jubilee."
- In Ratigan's lair, where Hiram Flaversham was taken prisoner, the Napoleon of Crime states that Flaversham must have everything done "by tomorrow evening," which verifies that this was the night before the Jubilee, and he repeats this fact to the group of henchmen with a newspaper: "Tomorrow evening, our beloved monarch celebrates her Diamond Jubilee."
The second is the day and/or night of the Diamond Jubilee:
- After Fidget returned to the lair, with all the "shopping list" items, including Olivia herself, Ratigan threatens that Flaversham's project had to "be ready tonight!"
The scene of Basil's deductions of Fidget's "shopping list" is placed in-between Ratigan's threat to Flaversham's project for "tonight" and the detective's clandestine visit to the Rat Trap Saloon, all done some hours before the Diamond Jubilee started, hence we can reason that this scene happened around the afternoon or early evening, since it had to take some time to slip into disguises and lay out a plan.
Furthermore, there are the events that happened during the evening of the Diamond Jubilee. The sequence is fast-paced, so try to keep up:
- Basil and Dawson spend seven minutes into the Rat Trap Saloon, with song sequence and bar fight, which is only a few small hours before the Diamond Jubilee begins.
- The "overkill" trap, which Ratigan could not sit and watch since Basil was "fifteen minutes late," and he had "an important engagement at Buckingham Palace."
- Queen Moustoria is kidnapped and replaced with a robot replica.
- Basil escapes the "overkill" trap and rushes to save the Queen.
- Ratigan's ingenious plan fails when the robot goes haywire.
- The balloon chase zooms across the London sky, the climax inside and outside Big Ben, and the clock rings nine o'clock in the evening.
- Ratigan falls off the Clock Tower of the Palace of Westminster.
All the events explained above had taken place in two nights, but what is the exact date precisely? At the beginning of the film, a caption addresses "London 1897," yet what day of 1897? Let us confirm the facts:
- The day before the Jubilee was Olivia's birthday.
- Buckingham Palace was dressed for the occasion in the mouse-world, with patriotic banners, for Queen Moustoria's Diamond Jubilee. (Please note that, in the human-world, the Palace was dressed for Queen Victoria's own Diamond Jubilee that same night).
After of the rescue of the Queen and the death of Professor Ratigan, there is a passage of time: The film returns back to Baker Street to a newspaper article in the Illustrated London Mouse of the film's heroes being "thanked by the Queen herself," waving the royal sceptre above them. The newspaper was dated "Monday, 21 June 1897," under the headline "Queen Praises Detective Basil, Medal to be Given."
The illustration shows Basil's clean clothes (thus, no tears or rips) and Dawson's usual dress (thus, no pirate costume). Sometime, between these events, Basil and Dawson changed their clothes, representing a passage of time. In addition, Basil needs to tend to his injuries from his harrowing "ass-kicking" and the Queen must take some rest to recover from her own ordeal of being kidnapped and nearly fed to a cat.
Audiences with the Queen are usually conducted during the afternoon or the evening. It should be emphasised that the headline on the clipping said that the Queen "praises" the detective and that "medals [are planned] to be given," which means the event in the newspaper was last-minute, taking place after Big Ben (with a little extra time for a wardrobe change), on the (late) evening of the 20th, for saving her life and, in turn, of all Mousedom! One must consider Victorian London's media speed, how long does it take for the newspapers to print and circulate their editions about this ceremony? At the time, most newspapers regularly had early, morning, late morning, afternoon, evening, and late evening editions: The reporters have to write the article; the editor proof-reads and approves it; scriveners have to typeset all the little engraved letters into words and sentences, where they have to be placed in a machine, which will feed paper, ink-print them, then workers tie them into stacks, then they are circulated on by paperboys on busy street corners. However, the "human-world" Illustrated London News, which first appeared in 14 May 1842, was magazine (not a true newspaper) that was published weekly until 1971. The magazine printed special Diamond Jubliee issues on the 21st (early edition) and 22nd (formal edition) of June. It seems that Basil bought the former.
Also, the "medals to be given" are scheduled, obviously, for a latter date. Royalty does not keep of stack of medals tucked away! An honourary celebration takes time: The honoured medals must be made and engraved before its presentation; invitations must be sent to acquire an audience; rooms must be decorated; pomp and circumstances must be planned; and security must be arranged. However, it is very unlikely for Basil to accept it! Sherlock Holmes, after his brilliant work in recovering "the Bruce-Partington Plans," was given an audience at Buckingham Palace (or Windsor Castle) with Queen Victoria, where she presented him an emerald tie-pin that he wore quite conspicuously. In fact, throughout his entire career, Holmes was never awarded any British honours, in fact he refused his name on the Honours List for knighthood. However, he does accept foreign honours, notably France's illustrious Légion d'honneur, but accepts none from his home country. (This may be due to the fact that his brother Mycroft has never received or simply does not care to receive "honour nor title" from the British Empire, despite his important, if mysterious, position in its government.) We can assume, therefore, that Basil would not accept a medal but he probably would love to get his hands on that emerald pin!
A small audience admires this clipping at Baker Street, and Olivia and his father say their bittersweet good-byes to the detective before they are "late to catch our train." What day was this scene? The exact date of this scene leaves some room for imagination. The weather is still overcast; again, it is difficult to acknowledge the time of day. Dawson proudly recalls the ceremony rather vividly, commenting that is was "very thrilling," suggesting that the occasion was recent.
It can be suggested, but not confirmed, that the scene was during the day and/or night of 23rd June, where Basil has just framed the article from the morning paper, as the Flavershams were visiting apparently their last visit. Olivia and her father, at the beginning of the film, lived in London but, at the very end, they needed to catch a train. But why? The Flaversham toyshop must not have been far to walk, as Olivia walked to Baker Street (and got lost) in the rain. Of course, there are a few possibilities:
- The most likely answer is that the Flavershams have decided to move out of London out of safety. We assume Ratigan is dead a 180-foot drop from the clock face would kill a human, let alone a rat and yet, we do not (officially) know if Ratigan is truly dead.
- Or the Flavershams decided to take a holiday.
Also, between the night of the 20th and the morning of the 21st, where did Dawson sleep? He never responded to the newspaper advertisements for let rooms. Most likely, Dawson spent the night at the spare room at Baker Street (which is likely some seventeen steps above the sitting room, as noted in the Sacred Writings). After the Flavershams leave, one bittersweet good-bye comes a brand-new beginning. Dawson readies "to find my own living quarters," instead the occasion is seals a partnership between Basil and Dawson and finds a home at Baker Street!
Here is a simple outline of the events of the film:
- Saturday, 19 June 1897 (night):
- Olivia Flaversham's birthday.
- Hiram Flaversham is kidnapped.
- Olivia meets Dawson; Olivia and Dawson meet Basil.
- Ratigan sings "The World's Greatest Criminal Mind."
- A drunken Bartholomew is executed by the cat, Felicia.
- After Olivia tells her story, Basil fetches the dog, Toby.
- Toby's searches for the peg-legged bat, Fidget.
- Fidget steals tools, gears, and uniforms at a toy shoppe.
- After the daring chase in the toy shoppe, Fidget kidnaps Olivia.
- Fidget returns to Ratigan's lair with supplies.
- The Flavershams' brief family reunion.
- Fidget is nearly eaten by Felicia.
- Basil examines Fidget's "shopping list."
- Basil and Dawson enter the Rat Trap Saloon, with "Let Me Be Good to You" song and bar fight.
- Basil and Dawson are duped, captured, and placed in the "overkill" trap.
- Queen Moustoria is kidnapped and replaced.
- Basil and Dawson escape the "overkill" trap and rush to Buckingham Palace to save the Queen.
- Ratigan's plan is ruined.
- Balloon chase takes place, with the final confrontation at Big Ben.
- Ratigan is defeated and falls 180 feet off the Clock Tower.
- Basil and Dawson receive an audience with the Queen.
- The magazine, The Illustrated London Mouse (News), publishes an article about Basil and Dawson's ceremony, which Basil tacks on the mantelpiece over the fireplace of Baker Street.
- The Flavershams say farewell and catch their train.
- The mysterious lady from Hampstead calls for help.
- Basil and Dawson seal their partnership.
One may consider it as "elementary" when the facts are addressed in clear order, yet I think Holmes said it better:
"The ideal reasoner would, when he has once been shown a single fact in all its bearing, deduce from it not only all the chain of events, which led up to it, but also all the results which would follow from it" (FIVE).