A mystery’s afoot in the animation department at Disney, and it’s going to take a moustermind to solve it.

What we shall call “The Case of the Impertinent Memo” began when Disney’s marketing department invited the animation department to suggest new titles for “Basil of Baker Street,” an animated feature about a famous crime-fighting mouse.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. July 13, 1986 WHEEERE’S JOHNNY?
Los Angeles Times Sunday July 13, 1986 Home Edition Calendar Page 107 Calendar Desk 2 inches; 49 words Type of Material: Correction
Frank Cady of Cambria caught Outtakes sneaking an extra i into its punning headline “Mousechievious Memo Upsets Big Cheese” a recent item recounting some silliness in the land of Disney. Mischievous was the word being dallied with, of course, and now we all know it’s pronounced MISS - chi-vous, not mis-CHEE-vee-us .

According to a little bird, the brass decided that the title might suffer from the same problem that sank Steven Spielberg’s “Young Sherlock Holmes”: “Too British” for American kids.


But marketing eschewed the animators’ suggestions and renamed it “The Great Mouse Detective.” It opens under that title Wednesday.

The animators think the title is as imaginative as retitling “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” as “Seven Little Men Help a Girl.” In fact, one day in February, a memo--the impertinent memo--appeared on the animation department bulletin board announcing that the studio had renamed all of its animated classics. First on the list was “Seven Little Men Help a Girl.”

The memo provoked merriment among the artists, the little bird told us, but the department chief wasn’t as amused. His name appeared on the memo and he was invited by management to explain.

Robert Levin, head of Disney marketing, confirmed this scenario and suggested that management might have been a little more sensitive to the animators.

“ ‘Basil’ was a film they had been working on for a long period of time,” Levin said. “For us to come in late in the process and say ‘We want to change this thing you’ve been working on’ was difficult to take. We have all agreed that on future releases, we’ll work closer together earlier.”

Meantime, the author of the new Disney titles (see if you can match the new ones from List A with the old ones from List B) is still at large.


List A “The Wooden Boy Who Became Real”

“Color and Music”

“The Wonderful Elephant Who Could Really Fly”

“The Little Deer Who Grew Up”

“The Girl With the See-Through Shoes”

“The Girl in the Imaginary World”

“The Amazing Flying Children”

“Two Dogs Fall in Love”

“The Girl Who Seemed to Die”

“Puppies Taken Away”

“The Boy Who Would Be King”

“A Boy, a Bear and a Big Black Cat”

“Two Mice Save a Girl”

“The Evil Bonehead”

List B “The Rescuers”

“Peter Pan”

“Ichabod Crane and Mr. Toad”


“The Lady and the Tramp”


“101 Dalmatians”



“Sleeping Beauty”

“Jungle Book”

“The Sword in the Stone”


“Alice in Wonderland”