40 years ago I fell for Disney's The Rescuers, I recall pushing my baby brother in his pushchair to the local shop while I bought more and more stickers for those elusive few needed to complete the sticker album, and seeing the film more than once at the fabulous Odeon Muswell Hill. In 1990 it was a guilty pleasure to sneak in to see its follow up.
But what has happened since? Why has this charming pair of films fallen out of Disney canon. In celebration of the 40th anniversary of The Rescuers, I thought I'd revisit them!
Prd. Wolfgang Reitherman, Dir. Wolfgang Reitherman, John Lounsbery, Art Stevens. Based on the stories "The Rescuers" and "Miss Bianca" by Margery Sharp, Composer Artie Butler
St. Bob Newhart (Bernard), Eva Gabor (Miss Bianca), Geraldine Page (Mme Medusa), Joe Flynn (Mr. Snoops), Jeanette Nolan (Ellie Mae), Pat Buttram (Luke), Jim Jordan (Orville), John McIntire (Rufus)
Rel. 1977. Run. 76 m.
The Rescuers Down Under
Prd. Thomas C. Schumacher, Dir. Hendel Butoy, Michael Gabriel, Mike Gabriel. Composer Bruce Broughton
St. Bob Newhart (Bernard), Eva Gabor (Miss Bianca), John Candy (Wilbur), Tristan Rogers (Jake), Adam Ryen (Cody)
Rel. 1990. Run. 74 m.
Based on the characters from Margery Sharp’s novels, Bernard and Miss Bianca make an unrivalled double act in the romantic detective genre.
Deep within the bowels of the United Nations building in New York can be found the Headquarters of the Rescue Aid Society. A society of brave and conscientious mice gathered from all over the globe for one purpose, and one purpose only, to right wrongs, protect the innocent and rescue the helpless.
Miss Bianca and Bernard are key members of the society, and in their first outing together in The Rescuers, into their hands falls a message in a bottle, a cry for help from little orphan Penny, who has been kidnapped by the Madame Medusa, to help her search for the world’s biggest diamond. These two brave mice travel to Devil’s Bayou to rescue Penny and vanquish Medusa and her foolish partner, Snoops. Their adventures together result in their making friends with Orville the Albatross, finding new parents for Penny and falling in love with one another.
Thirteen years later, and Miss Bianca’s and Bernard’s unquestionable bravery and loyalty are called for once again. In their adventure Down Under, a wicked hunter in search of a rare breed of Eagle has kidnapped a little boy, Jake, who knows the whereabouts of said Golden Eagle. Although Bernard has other plans, like proposing to Miss Bianca and leading a quiet life, Miss Bianca has other more exciting plans. Together, they enlist the aid of Orville’s cousin Wilbur the Albatross and head down under to battle with the greedy hunter Cody and his slippery pal, the lizard Joanna.
Unlike, many of the villains in Disney movies, those in both The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under hold no magical powers or plans to take over the world, they are just plain mean and corrupt crooks.
As they are not larger than life, Disney has down played the roles of the humans. Medusa, with her angular body, her shock of orange hair, red lipstick and pink dress makes for a crazed crook, her sucker partner Snoops is short and rotund with curling hair and completely under her thumb. Cody is tall, stooped, and intent in capturing all of Australia’s natural wildlife and turning them into ornaments and accessories. The two children Penny in the first, and Jake in the second are just ciphers through whom the real characters are introduced to the plot. Although separated by over a decade, both films feature the same actors in the two lead roles: Miss Bianca voiced by glamorous Hungarian actress Eva Gabor and Bernard voiced by the great comedian Bob Newhart make for a fantastic double act.
The animators have captured facial characteristics and movements of the two actors on a miniature scale, and their relationship which makes for a delightful oasis in what is ultimately a tired and pedestrian pair of films: the themes are familiar (over familiar) and the reliance on cute animals and cardboard villains to maintain any kind of pace and action is somewhat pedestrian.