I am very, very pleased with my re-watching of this film. It’s one of those films that I loved as a kid and still love now! We open on toymaker Scrooge McDuck and his daughter Olivia, with the opening moral that Scottish people talk funny. He makes her a dancing doll for her birthday and things are going swimmingly until a jive-talking bat comes in to ruin things. (I recall every time the bat pops out in surprise scared the crap out of me as a kid.)
Olivia is come across by Dr. Dawson (subtle) who looks a lot like my grandfather. He takes her to find Basil of Baker Street, who is immensely full of himself and hard at work at trying to compare bullets the old fashioned way. (And doing it in a much more entertaining way than CSI. Burn!)
After coming up short and (somewhat ironically) stewing in his melancholy with a violin, Olivia said that her father is kidnapped and she wants Basil to find him. After some pleading and the dreaded puppy dog – er – little mouse eyes, he gives in. Dawson naturally comes along for the ride.
Apparently, Scrooge has been kidnapped by Ratigan, who wants him to make an animatronic Queen so that he can take over Buckingham Palace. Scrooge vehemently says that they don’t care what they do to him, but he won’t do it. However, Ratigan, in typical villain fashion, goes “Who said anything about YOU?” Indicating that he’d better get it done or its curtains for Olivia. (On a little side note, the threatening of spouses/family members is a time-tested villain tactic, but it works, and I guess that’s why it’s lasted as long as it has. It’s sorta truth in animation, because even the battle-hardened hero who is impervious to torture is only too eager to cough up the secret code if the villain suddenly shows him his wife with a gun to her head.)
The reason I went into that tangent is because I LOVE Ratigan as a villain. He’s voiced by the immortal Vincent Price, who is perfect for the role, and I love the villains who look more threatening when they smile. Like when he gets angry for a brief second and then smothers it under a grin, showing that underneath he’s seething but can charm you into a false sense of security. That’s terrifying. Also, it’s a blink-and-you-miss it type thing, but in one scene where he does that and then raises his hand to touch the bat’s wing, the bat cringes as if he’s going to be hit. It definitely shows just how good of a villain he is.
Not to mention the fact that he has one of my favourite villain songs EVER. It’s just so catchy! It was on my Sing-Along-Songs album, with the line “more than the widows and orphans you drown” casually snipped out, and thankfully without Garfield’s parallel universe twin. (That cat is disgusting.) Toby, however, is not, and is also quite striking in resemblance to certain dogs from Lady and the Tramp, Fox and the Hound, etc. I wonder why…
Olivia ends up getting kidnapped by the bat, and the robot Queen (which everyone is too stupid to see is fake, of course) goes on to host her Jubilee. But naturally, Basil shows up to save the day! It all leads up to a fight scene on Big Ben, which is actually a great sequence. I love how Ratigan gradually loses his gentlemanly demeanor and turns into a teeth-baring, hairy, rage-filled rat. It’s definitely just as threatening as his smothered charm before. The film ends with Basil teaming up with Dr. Dawson to take on any case that might come to their door.
This film is great! It’s so underrated and I’m glad it recently got a DVD release, because more people need to see this film. It’s a definite prelude to the Disney Renaissance and it can only get better from here. At least for the next couple of films. (Looking at you, Pocahontas.)