I asked a question with the tag. The answer turned out to be that the movie I was thinking of was Disney's The Great Mouse Detective. For some reason, it became a popular network question. After a day or so, it has gathered 4 close votes for being "off-topic". As someone points out in the comments, it involves a plot to replace the Queen with a robotic duplicate (and the only person who disagreed deleted their comment). Others agreed that this was related and on-topic. However, I am concerned that the popularity will result in it getting closed, despite being no less on-topic than other questions. Given my experience with other SE sites, 4 close votes almost guarantees a close. Is this question on-topic? Should I flag it for moderator attention, or just ask for it to be re-opened when it gets put on hold?

My memory of the movie is very hazy, but I do recall many scenes which focused heavily on the robotic duplicate, which seems very distinctly sci-fi.

EDIT: A comment here pointed out that this Meta question points to this being on-topic.

An answer should not make a question off-topic, if the question without the answer seems on-topic.

At the time of asking the question, my memory pointed to it being SFF due to the steampunk robot. Clearly, this movie is far more SFF than an Axe commercial.

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    Robots don’t make something sci-fi, we have very capable robots nowadays. Anthropomorphic animals also =/= fantasy. – Edlothiad Mar 14 '18 at 6:10
  • @Edlothiad The Wikipedia page lists it under the category "American animated fantasy films". – forest Mar 14 '18 at 6:11
  • I haven’t seen or heard about the film ever, I was however stating our rules. That may be good for making a case for its on-topic-ness, but from a quick glance, no it is not. – Edlothiad Mar 14 '18 at 6:15
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    In this comment you say: That is because I did not remember it well enough to describe things like the clockwork robot (all I had in memory was some vague visual scenes that I could not pinpoint). yet in the above post you say At the time of asking the question, my memory pointed to it being SFF due to the steampunk robot. So which one is true? – Edlothiad Mar 15 '18 at 6:57
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    @Edlothiad Describe != remember. I vaguely remembered that the robot existed but was not sure (as with several other facts about the movie) and so only posted the details which I could clearly remember. So they are both true. I do not like having to defend my own state of mind, and clearly I did not expect having to do so, so I omitted details which may or may not have been correct (I vaguely recalled the scene from falling off the clock as well, but omitted it as I thought it may have been something I read in a visual novel recently). – forest Mar 15 '18 at 6:59
  • From a mod's comment, This site doesn't have a rigorous definition of exactly what fantasy is; we tend to play it by ear, going by users' gut instinct of what makes something fantasy or not, and resolving edge cases by meta posts like this if need be.. Do I really have to add a disclaimer in my post that my "gut instinct" was that the movie was SFF? – forest Mar 15 '18 at 7:01
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    I don't see why you would omit details when trying to identify something? Seems counter-productive. No you should provide evidence that is was SFF – Edlothiad Mar 15 '18 at 7:02
  • @Edlothiad I explained why above. I only wanted to provide details that I knew I remembered correctly, not details that may or may not be accurate (in which case I would throw off the answerers). I could have given a dozen memories about the movie, and about half of them would be completely incorrect (one of which I realized came from a totally different media, an anime called Last Exile. If I had described pressurized guns, I would be misleading people). However I knew that there was a fight in a large clock tower, so that was a detail I added. – forest Mar 15 '18 at 7:03
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    I am really rather amazed that my state of mind and honesty is the subject at hand, what with you calling my edits in response to the requirement you gave that I mention that I remembered it as SFF "fishy" and "appearing out of nowhere". Given that your answer here was so heavily downvoted that you deleted it, I really think this is not a cut-and-dry case where everyone agrees with you. – forest Mar 15 '18 at 7:14
  • I didn't delete it because it was heavily downvoted. As I outlined in the comments, I deleted it because I didn't answer the question above. I answered whether the work itself was on-topic, however your meta post was asking whether or not the question was on-topic. It is not an answer and I therefore deleted it. Although I appreciate your speculation :) – Edlothiad Mar 15 '18 at 7:49
  • My apologies for assuming your motives. I guess my point was that a number of people disagree with your conclusion, not that your deletion itself is indicative of anything supporting my claim. – forest Mar 15 '18 at 7:51
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    @forest Without expressing an opinion on whether or not your question is on-topic, I just wanted to apologise on behalf of the site for you getting so much grief over it. I promise not all questions lead to this much debate, and I hope it won't put you off posting here more in the future :-) – Rand al'Thor Mar 15 '18 at 12:03
  • @Randal'Thor Thanks. I wasn't expecting my first post here to fall into the hot network questions which explains the higher amount of drama. I just don't want the question to be closed and reopened and closed over and over. – forest Mar 16 '18 at 3:43
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    @edlothiad "Robots don’t make something sci-fi, we have very capable robots nowadays. Anthropomorphic animals also =/= fantasy." - citation needed, I'd say. We're also talking about robots capable of replacing heads of state, which is a little beyond current capabilities unless Boston Dynamics is up to its usual shenanigans... – tardigrade Mar 21 '18 at 13:39

On the narrow question of whether The Great Mouse Detective is on-topic for SFF:SE, I'd argue that it probably is. The setting, scenes and overall conceit are all intended to present the audience with a fantastical environment in which a fairly straightforward Sherlock Holmes parody can take place.

Sci-fi/Fantasy elements

Basil is set in a universe with clockwork creations that border on the magical. The opening scene shows a wind-up ballerina that is far beyond (in terms of elegance and smooth movement) anything that we could make today. Later we see a (literal) steampunk steam-operated robot being used to serve tea and finally our antagonist creates a perfect replica of The Queen to use to take over the country.

These aren't simply background items (setting up the character as a "crazy inventor") but are integral to the plot. The entire film is about the search for the toymaker and the evil use that his creations can be put to, specifically the fact that he's the only person in the world that is seemingly capable of creating a mechanical mouse that is of sufficient quality to be mistaken for a real mouse.


The film is set in a world where humans evidently exist/ed (note all the oversized items and dolls) but no mention is made of the reason for their absence, nor do we learn why talking animals now run the country or even whether they existed alongside humans or in a post-apocalyptic environment. Anthropomorphic animals aren't per-se fantasy, but this intriguing world clearly has fantasy implications that go far beyond simply containing animals that act like people.

  • The question has finally been re-opened, so I'll mark this answer as accepted. – forest Mar 15 '18 at 8:55
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    Just as a point of information, accepted answers are meaningless on meta, it is the vote count that determines the best answer (just so you know). Although at the time of writing, this answer also has the highest net score. – Edlothiad Mar 15 '18 at 9:28
  • @Edlothiad I am aware of that. I accepted it because it seems to be the answer that the community agrees with (both in upvotes and re-open votes). – forest Mar 16 '18 at 3:40
  • Is the queen steam powered? She seems to be electrically powered clockwork, no steam involved. If you look at this clip, there doesn't to be any steam produced in her powering, but rather a cable coming out from behind her. All the sounds are also clock-work, not steam. (Second link – Edlothiad Mar 16 '18 at 6:39
  • @Edlothiad: Does it make a difference? Between this comment and your comments on the question, I don't understand what you are trying to accomplish here. Robots are a standard genre trope of SFF, going back literally thousands of years, and the fact that our technology has advanced since this film was made (1986) does not alter its genre. Otherwise we'd have to yank I, Robot out of the SFF genre too. – Kevin Mar 22 '18 at 6:15
  • @Kevin whether or not robots existed or not is completely beside the point. The point is whether the question is on-topic. No it is not, sure we could use the benefit of the doubt argument, but there is nothing in the question that suggests it's a work of SFF as defined in our help centre. Here is the question in it's original state, when closed. – Edlothiad Mar 22 '18 at 6:27
  • @Edlothiad: The question as currently written mentions fantastical elements in general and robots in particular. Robots are an SFF genre trope. Therefore, it is on-topic now. Perhaps it was not at some point in the past, but that is moot. – Kevin Mar 22 '18 at 6:29
  • @Kevin are you really arguing my reason to close vote the question before any edits, and the comments I made before any edits with the state of it now? Seems a bit counter-intuitive does it not? – Edlothiad Mar 22 '18 at 6:30
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    @Edlothiad: No. I am arguing against your bizarre insistence on arguing over whether the robot was steam-powered or electrically-powered. It does not matter, because the question as currently written is on-topic, as is the answer. There is nothing to discuss here. – Kevin Mar 22 '18 at 6:31
  • @Kevin So you're arguing about my desire to ensure the answer to the meta with the highest up-votes is technically accurate, even when they've made no opinion on the stance of the question. I find that quite bizarre... – Edlothiad Mar 22 '18 at 6:32
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    @Edlothiad: I am arguing that you are wasting everyone's time with these comments, including your own. In recognition of that fact, I will not further reply to you, because you are now wasting my time as well. – Kevin Mar 22 '18 at 6:34
  • @Kevin, that's ironic, because you're the one who decided to raise this issue again, :D. Fair the well, young master. – Edlothiad Mar 22 '18 at 6:35
  • @Kevin - He's right though. She appears to be electrical in the final iteration which means that there's a progression in the films; Clockwork, steam-powered, electrically-powered. – Valorum Mar 22 '18 at 7:49

Although I don't know the exact time frame of when the close votes started, when you received an answer, and when you posted this meta; I would say the question is off-topic not because of what the answer ended up being, but because the question itself shows no sign of the story being Science Fiction or Fantasy.

Your question mentions only two key features; animated and a fight in a clock tower. Neither of which really scream "SFF". I would say that not containing enough details to relate it to the genre might have been a factor in the closing.

But with story-id questions, an answer can make the question on-topic. So, as you put forth, is The Great Mouse Detective on-topic? Unfortunately, I don't think so. The books the film is based on are in the same theme as Sherlock Holmes (which are not on-topic here). The wiki page I bring up describes the film as an "animated mystery comedy".

The relevant "policies" that come into play here have been brought up in the previous answer and comments, :

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    Our policy has been that non-SFF-Looking ID questions that turn out, on greater inspection, to be SFF (or vice-versa) are generally on-topic. – Valorum Mar 14 '18 at 13:39
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    Note that the film contains a fantastical element toward the end – Valorum Mar 14 '18 at 13:39
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    @Valorum and I mentioned that (about answers making a question on-topic). It is just my opinion that there is not enough SFF elements to make the work on topic. – Skooba Mar 14 '18 at 14:09
  • There are two answers here that say the work is off-topic, both with down-votes. I would challenge one of the down-voters to write an answer providing argument that the work IS on-topic. I love this film myself, but I don't think it fits here. – Skooba Mar 14 '18 at 14:11
  • What possible Fantasy element shows up at the end? The pedal helicopter? – Edlothiad Mar 14 '18 at 14:12
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    @Skooba It was re-opened at least once, then re-closed, so clearly the opinions are split. Since this was from so long ago, I didn't remember exactly how much sci-fi/fantasy the movie had. It felt like it was more fantastical, but of course I wouldn't put in the question description "btw it felt like a fantasy, what movie is this?". I only described what I concretely remembered. – forest Mar 14 '18 at 23:05
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    Also worth mentioning: Is the story-ID question that turned out to be about the Axe commercial, on-topic?. If there is fair reason for the OP to assume a work is SFF, it's on-topic. In this case, OP remembered bits about robots, leading them to believe it was SF. From previous discussions, this should have been left alone. – phantom42 Mar 15 '18 at 3:00

The answer

The Great Mouse Detective itself should be on topic, if just barely.
Two properties make it so.

  1. Anthropomorphic animals living in the regular human world
    Anthropomorphic animals by themselves don't make a work on topic. However, the animals here aren't just anthropomorphic, they're clearly living in and interacting with the human world. In other words, it's not just a story where all humans are replaced by humans.
    Another example of this idea is Ratatouille.

  2. Sufficiently advanced technology
    The clockwork robots give it a steampunk feel, although the influence it has on the storyline is about the same as for spy-fi such as James Bond or any other "adventure with some advanced thechnology".

These two points make it The Great Mouse Detective on topic, at least enough when it comes to identification or questions about the Science Fictional or Fantastical aspects of it.

The Question

The question however, as it was presented initially, did not show any signs of being on topic. As its first revision reads:

Animated movie with fight scene in Big Ben

I vaguely recall a movie from my childhood (so probably some time in the 80s or 90s). It was an animated movie (not anime) and it culminated with a fight inside Big Ben or another huge clock, among large gears and other mechanical objects. Unfortunately I remember little else about it.

Although this isn't much information, it seems specific enough that there are probably very few movies matching this criterion. Could anyone enlighten me as to what movie I am remembering?

(Weak) justification for its topicality was added in later revisions.

The verdict

Would it be just the unanswered question, even with the weak justification, I would vote it to be off topic. It may very well have a steampunk feel, but I'd like to see just a little to go on than "trust me, it was steampunky". I'd want to see at least one steampunk element pointed out by the querent.

However, it has been answered now. And its answer is on topic "enough". I like to consider all available information and when doing so, I come to the conclusion that the question and its answer taken as a whole, make it on topic.

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    Point 1, Stuart little isn't on-topic, you've misinterpreted the policy. Point 2, steampunk isn't itself on-topic, we could do everything that robot is shown doing, if it was autonomous I'd give it the benefit of the doubt, but it isn't so really primitive. In that case, I must disagree with your verdict. I do however strongly agree with your opinion of the question. – Edlothiad Mar 15 '18 at 12:11
  • Maybe I just missed a bunch of comments that were deleted, but for ID questions that don't immediately seem to be SFF related, there is usually someone who asks if there were any explicit SFF elements, which may have helped stem this issue earlier on. – phantom42 Mar 15 '18 at 12:35
  • @phantom42 indeed, that should've happened here. I can't tell if there were that have been deleted. – SQB Mar 15 '18 at 12:37
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    @Edlothiad kindly read IMHO where needed. I happen to disagree with that policy on this point. I have no opinion on Stuart Little, other than that it should be on topic. Talking animals interacting with humans are not a part of the normal world. Examples of works that I think should be off topic because of the "merely anthropomorphic animals"-policy are Peter Rabbit and The Wind in the Willows (with the notable exception of "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn"), since there (anthropomorphic) animals take the place of human beings. [1/2] – SQB Mar 15 '18 at 12:47
  • @Edlothiad [2/2] Another example would be Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, and the rest of their ilk, were it not that most of their adventures contain other fantastical or science fictional elements. – SQB Mar 15 '18 at 12:48
  • I agree with you, although that's not what the policy states and we do have to be applying the policies. The people voted for that interpretation and that's, unfortunately, how it is. – Edlothiad Mar 15 '18 at 12:51
  • @SQB - Stuart Little is an edge case because he's not really a mouse, he's a person who happens to be a mouse. Aside from actually being a mouse he has zero mouse attributes. – Valorum Mar 15 '18 at 17:28
  • @Valorum just like Paddington? – SQB Mar 15 '18 at 18:33
  • @SQB - Exactly like Paddington. Possibly even more so. Also, why doesn't Paddington have a Peruvian accent? – Valorum Mar 15 '18 at 18:35
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    @Edlothiad We could do everything that the robot is shown doing, really? You think you could make a sophisticated robot out of spare parts and bits of junk, powered by steam? – forest Mar 16 '18 at 3:45
  • @forest It really isn't very sophisticated, and isn't steam powered, as I commented above: She seems to be electrically-powered clockwork, no steam involved. If you look at this clip, there doesn't to be any steam produced in her powering, but rather a cable coming out from behind her. All the sounds are also clock-work, not steam. (Second link. Could I build something like that, likely, although with difficulty. It is definitely something that could exist (See automatons from centuries ago) – Edlothiad Mar 16 '18 at 6:41
  • @Edlothiad Ah my bad, someone else mentioned it using literal steam and my memory of the movie failed me. Regardless, it is a rickety but sophisticated machine designed from scrap, so whether or not it literally involved steam is irrelevant. – forest Mar 16 '18 at 6:43
  • @forest, far less sophisticated than you might think. Automatons were programmed to write over 100 years ago, building one attached to controls with a mouth piece wouldn't be terribly difficult, especially if one could put a voice synthesizer in. Now while that would make it reasonably SF-nal (although only the voice synthesizer) for it's era, I don't think that's how we deal with things. Although like we'd discussed before, It's now open and so be it. Stick around and ask some more question (hopefully surrounded in less controversy ;) – Edlothiad Mar 16 '18 at 6:46

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