Elementary, my dear Disney! If it weren’t for Sherlock Holmes, several classic Disney films may never have been made. That’s right, the popularity of the most famous detective of all time is pretty much responsible for all the classic ‘90s Disney animated films, including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin.
This surprising fact comes from a new book called From Holmes to Sherlock: The Story of the Men and Women Who Created an Icon by Mattias Boström. Published last week in the U.S. by Mysterious Press, the book chronicles the entire history of the Sherlock phenomenon. This means that in addition to delving into Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s inspiration for creating Holmes in the first place, the book is also a totally comprehensive guide to many of the adaptations. And while it might not be the most notable entry in the expanded Holmes canon, the animated Sherlock pastiche The Great Mouse Detective saved the animation department of Disney from obscurity in the late 1980s.
In the ‘80s, Disney wasn’t churning out animated hits the way it had been in previous decades. Arguably, its last big animated hit prior to The Great Mouse Detective was another mouse centric adventure called The Rescuers. Prior to that, the more well-known animated Disney films — like Cinderella and Pinocchio — were made in the ‘40s and ‘50s. When Disney CEO Michael Eisner took over in 1984, he wanted to put a minimal amount of resources into an animated film that would produce revenue to see if the department was still worth funding. The movie that came out of that project was The Great Mouse Detective. And because it was successful, the animation side of Disney’s studios was totally revitalized.
“If The Great Mouse Detective hadn’t been made, the Disney CEO Michael Eisner had probably tested his ideas on another animated film,” Mattias Boström tells Inverse. “This happened at a point of time when Disney had almost decided to only produce live-action movies, and if they were going to produce animated films they should be half as expensive, and the production should take half as long. However, no one was sure that another film would have succeeded, but The Great Mouse Detective did — and in that way, we can definitely thank The Great Mouse Detective for Disney’s animation renaissance with The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, and many more.”
Boström feels that the success of The Great Mouse Detective is connected with its obvious love for the Sherlock Holmes source material, a criterion he assets is essential for all Holmes adaptations. “So many productions have been made without the love for Holmes, and they constantly fail,” Boström explains.
From Holmes to Sherlock is in bookstores now.