Organized Rambling: Bats, Rats, and Basil of Baker Street

Organized Rambling

Last time, I promised you bats, rats, and Basil of Baker Street, and never fear, I will deliver on that pledge.

This month’s post is all about children’s book author Eve Titus’ mouse detective, Basil, as well as Disney’s 1986 animated adaptation of Titus’ written works. A little explanation, a couple of synopses, and a dash of comparison for March 2022.

Eve Titus' "Basil of Baker Street" book and "The Great Mouse Detective" movie box, side by side.
Book & movie side by side.

A critical and financial success according to, The Great Mouse Detective was a box office hit and yet, still remains an oft-times overlooked film. And honestly, it deserves more respect. Sandwiched between the absolute flop The Black Cauldron (1985) and The Brave Little Toaster (1987), which was sad and kind of creepy, The Great Mouse Detective started the domino effect that led to the Disney Renaissance (it actually saved Disney from bankruptcy). Sure, we all think of 1989’s The Little Mermaid as the rebirth of Walt’s legacy, but a solid mouse-based Sherlockian mystery primed the pump three years earlier, and I think, obviously, without any sort of bias, that everyone should give it a watch.

A trailer from The Great Mouse Detective to whet your palate.

To keep it short and sweet, The Great Mouse Detective tells how Basil of Baker Street meets Dr. Dawson and follows their mission to thwart Professor Ratigan. The evil mastermind plans to replace the Queen of England with an animatronic mouse created by a Scottish toymaker. The case is brought to their attention by the toymaker’s daughter Olivia, who, later on, gets kidnapped by Ratigan’s hench-bat Fidget, who, Lord bless him, only has one functional wing and a peg leg. Hands down, this hapless creature is my favorite sidekick/secondary character in an animated feature film.

Bat Tangent Begin: As a child of the ‘90s, I developed a thing for bats, and I’ll partially blame children’s programming. There was Batty Koda from Ferngully: The Last Rainforest, Batly from Eureeka’s Castle, Batman and Man-bat from Batman the Animated Series, Janell Cannon’s Stellaluna, Bartok from Anastasia, Sesame Street’s The Count and his bats, and Fidget–I was inundated by these winged mammals, and thus, a love grew. Bat Tangent End.

Getting back on track, it was brought to my attention during a recent viewing of The Great Mouse Detective that the catchy bar diddy “Let Me Be Good To You,” performed by a showgirl mouse, is definitely not a kid-friendly tune. I mean, yes, I’ve been singing along to it for decades; however, to explain those lyrics to a child would require some top-notch parental finesse. This song almost got the film a PG-rating, *gasp*. Disney ended up getting its desired G-rating, but only because they pointed out that a mouse was singing the song and not a human woman, so it was all good. Never mind that the female mouse was behaving like a human woman in a risqué way. NBD.

After the song, our heroes experience a slight setback. But, due to great intellect, wit, and deduction, Basil and Dr. Dawson defeat Ratigan, saving the queen and all of mousedom, as well as Olivia and her father. After that, the heroic duo embarks on their Holmes-Watson partnership.

Now, switching to the source material, I only learned that the film was based on a book series within the past couple of years. Shame on me. American author Eve Titus wrote a series of five books about Basil between 1958 and 1982 (After her passing in 2002, an author by the name of Cathy Hapka wrote a few more Basil stories, but here, I’m focusing on Eve’s work.). I have read four of the five books, which are Basil of Baker Street (1958), Basil and the Lost Colony (1964), Basil and the Cave of Cats (1971) [formerly known as Basil and the Pygmy Cats], and Basil in Mexico (1976)—somehow, Basil in the Wild West (1982) escaped me.

The written adventures deal with missing twin mice, miniature cats, the stolen “Mousa Lisa,” and the Adorable Snowmouse and the lost colony of mice. The cases take place all around the world and represent diverse subject matter. Basil and Dr. Dawson save their friends and fellow mice time and time again and continually foil Professor Ratigan, who, in turn, continually escapes jail and justice. We can’t have heroes without villains, after all.

Naturally, the film and books have their differences, but foundationally, they are quite similar: the eccentric Basil is logical and zany in his methods, and sometimes a jerk, while Dr. Dawson is a down-to-earth mouse of medicine; they live beneath 221B Baker Street; take note from Holmes and Watson, and battle the lord of the mouse underworld. The animated adaptation stayed true to the main characters and setting while taking bits and pieces from each book to craft a more high-stakes story for viewing audiences. Other similarities between the two include the employ of sea captain and first mate disguises; Ratigan kidnaps a monarch (a maharajah, not a queen) and threatens the good mice of London and beyond.

In the movie, we witness the origin story of Basil and Dr. Dawson, whereas the books show them as well-established friends. It is also overtly clear on-screen that Professor Ratigan is, well, a rat, but the books don’t ever affirm that assertion. And Hiram and Olivia Flaversham are the toymaker and his daughter, who Ratigan kidnaps, while the Faversham sisters assist Basil in one of the books. Numerous aspects of the individual books were rolled into the film’s plot to make use of many of Titus’ story elements, and I really love that.

Fidget the Bat from Disney's "The Great Mouse Detective"
Fidget the Bat

But, the most egregious difference/omission between book and film is that there was no Fidget in Titus’ stories, just like there was no Bartok in the Anastasia Broadway musical I saw a few years back. Nevertheless, both the books and the live performance were terrific, even if I did miss the presence of bumbling bat henchmen.

Now that you’ve learned much (maybe too much?) about my unabashed love for these *tails* of bats, rats, and mice called Basil, I shall leave you with two hopes and a final thought.

Hope #1

I pray that Disney doesn’t ever attempt a live-action remake of The Great Mouse Detective with humans or CGI mice and bats. I think we can all agree that some things are better off left un-remade. Besides, how would anyone even dare to replace the irreplaceable and villainous voice actor Vincent Price as Professor Ratigan? Exactly, no one would.

Fabulous actor Vincent Price
The ever-dastardly and dramatic Vincent Price.

Hope #2

Even though the animated movie The Black Cauldron was a complete dud, I recommend reading The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. It’s a five-book series in which The Black Cauldron is the second book. I hope you consider turning its pages.

Final Thought

They say the act of comparison leads to unhappiness, but I’ve just spent roughly 1200 words rambling on and comparing two things I love, and I’m no worse off, having not incited a bit of unhappiness in myself. And hopefully, not in you either. Comparison can lead to despair, but not when you’re discussing fictional bats and rats.

Coming up next:

It’s all about children’s books!


3 responses to “Organized Rambling: Bats, Rats, and Basil of Baker Street”

  1. Dang, I remember loving The Great Mouse Detective as a kid but, like basically every movie from my childhood, I can’t really remember anything about it. Except for Charlotte’s Web; that one I probably remember word for word lol. And speaking of rodents, my favorite character was Templeton (I know, you’re shocked hahaha). Have you ever heard of a young adult book called Time Stops for no Mouse? It’s actually a series, but I forgot what the other 2+ books in it are called. They might be your kinda read, not sure.

    • Templeton! Solid choice for favorite fictional rodent 😉 And this is the first I’m hearing of “Time Stops for no Mouse” — I’m gonna have to look into it…even though my TBR stack is up to *here*…

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