A series of two films in the Disney Animated Canon (#23 and #29). Two mice, Miss Bianca (Eva Gabor) and Bernard (Bob Newhart), travel around the world to "R - E - S - C - U - E" cute human children while dealing with their own unresolved sexual tension. The films were based on a series of children's books by Margery Sharp. Loosely, of course—the only things that the movies and the books share are the protagonists' basic traits.The first film, titled simply The Rescuers, was released in 1977. The flamboyantly evil Madame Medusa (Geraldine Page) is trying to get her hands on the world's largest diamond hidden in a gloomy swamp. Needing someone who will fit in a tiny grotto, she kidnaps a disconsolate orphan girl named Penny (Michelle Stacy). Penny sends out a Message in a Bottle asking for help, which is intercepted by the all-mouse Rescue Aid Society, who for some reason, do not put it somewhere the police might find it while they send out their own agents. Bianca (Eva Gabor) and Bernard (Bob Newhart) are then sent out to save her, with help from an albatross named Orville (Jim Jordan) and a dragonfly named Evinrude (James MacDonald).In 1990, the film was followed by The Rescuers Down Under, which has the dubious honor of being Disney's first animated sequel. Set in the Australian Outback, the Evil Poacher McLeach (George C Scott) has kidnapped a young boy named Cody (Adam Ryen) in order to snare Marahute, an endangered eagle large enough to ride around on. Naturally, Bianca and Bernard must come to the rescue, with help from Orville's brother Wilbur (John Candy) and Jake (Tristan Rogers), the mouse equivalent to Crocodile Dundee. Down Under was also a pioneer in the use of CGI. Unlike the first film, which was a huge success, Down Under actually failed at the box office, making it the only true failure of the Disney Renaissance.What makes both the movies interesting in a Real Life sense is how each came during a time when Disney was facing changing fortunes. The first was almost a reflection of how the Disney company was facing up to the death of its founder — the late '70s Disney movies tended to be considerably darker than their forebears, reaching a nadir with the next movie, The Fox and the Hound. These movies both contained utterly gut-wrenching examples of Parental Abandonment. And Madame Medusa's casual nastiness towards Penny in the first movie ("What makes you think anyone would want a homely little girl like you?") comes up against the more outlandish behavior of any Disney villain in history simply because as a verbal shiv, to a freaking child, it has no equal (well, maybe oneor two). On the technical side, this film was the first Disney animated film to move away from the hard scratchy outline look that was the norm for Disney animation since 101 Dalmatians thanks to improvements of xerography processing technology to allow a softer look. It was also one of the few box office successes for Disney in the post-Walt/pre-Renaissance era, being the highest grossing animated film of all time until one of its directors challenged Disney with An American Tail nearly a decade later.In the case of the 1990 movie, Disney was facing a future with computer animation rapidly changing the state of the art. They used the movie as a test bed of their new CAPS coloring system — instead of hand-painting cels, you could now use a computer program to color the animation. This saved a considerable amount of time and hand-drawn animation was now easier to integrate into CGI backgrounds and effects (and also allowed for extensive use of Cel Shading). In Down Under, the test run of this system had mostly decent, sometimes amazing (especially during Marahute's flight), and sometimes mixed results. They had mastered it brilliantly by the time of Beauty and the Beast, the following year.
The first features Penny in danger of drowning or even being sucked out to sea through a hole in the cave, as well as running through a dangerous swamp on at least one occasion.
Down Under features a powerful scene. Cody is shown as having parents (off-screen at that) and one scene shows his house while his mother cries "Cody!"
All Animals Are Dogs: Joanna the Goanna acts more like a pet dog than anything. She begs, she whimpers, she wags her tail, she crawls through doggy doors, and she watches McLeach's catches like a guard dog. She also is as sneaky - and smart about it - as any hound dog. Medusa also seems to have both her alligators, Brutus and Nero, on leashes, ordering them to retrieve Penny (who is trying to escape their clutches), and the two gators are seen sniffing Bernard and Bianca out with their noses.
That said, alligators have a very keen sense of smell all on their own.
Amplified Animal Aptitude: Even animals that can't talk, such as Evinrude or Joanna, still tend to understand speech and act with human or near-human intelligence.
Animation Bump: Both movies were also the first utilize new animation techniques by Disney; Rescuers did away with most of the rough sketching that was used for the frame-by-frame save Medusa, while Down Under was the first in movie history to render 2D animation with computers.
Butt Monkey: Orville and Evinrude from the 1st movie, and Wilbur from the 2nd.
Jake: So, which way you taking? Suicide Trail through Nightmare Canyon, or the shortcut at Satan's Ridge?
Bernard: S-s-suicide Trail?
Jake: Good choice! More snakes, less quicksand. And once you cross Bloodworm Creek you're scot-free, that is until... Dead Dingo Pass.
Interspecies Friendship: Involves mice talking to and befriending humans. The first even has a cat talking to and befriending both humans AND mice. The sequel also has Cody feeling very attached to Marahoute the eagle, though they can't communicate with each other.
Kick the Dog: Both villains get several such moments, but for Medusa, who kidnaps a young girl from an orphanage and makes her dig for a diamond in a cave and refusing to let her up even when her life is in danger, what really stands out in many people's minds is her trying to convince Penny that nobody would ever want to adopt "a homely little girl" like her. Ouch.
Large Ham: Orville, Wilbur and Frank, albeit to a lesser extent than the villains.
Market-Based Title: Some international versions of both films either have "Bernard and Bianca" either replace "the Rescuers" or have it as a subtitle. You might also see the title preceded by "the Adventures of".
Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It's not clear whether humans can't see the mouse civilization living practically underfoot, or simply aren't paying attention.
Meaningful Name: Evinrude, the name of the leaf-propelling dragonfly in the first movie, is a well-known manufacturer of boat engines. Could also be considered a Shout-Out.
Nice Mice: In this world, mice are so nice that they run a planet-wide, clandestine search-and-rescue agency just so they can help people. Miss Bianca (and, by the second film, Bernard) stand out even in this company, risking life and limb for total strangers.
The Rescuers: ..."The Rescuers" and "Miss Bianca" by Margery Sharp.
Down Under: ...characters created by Margery Sharp.
Talking Animal: Watching the movies, it would seem to be left uncertain whether anyone other than Cody and Penny can actually understand the animals in the series. However Word of God ("Disney's Wonderful World of Reading", 1977) states that the only reason Rufus the cat never told another child or adult at the orphanage about what had happened to Penny was that nobody asked him.
Thirteen Is Unlucky: Thirteen years passed between the theatrical debuts of the two movies, and Down Under ended up being the least successful movie of the Disney Renaissance.
Humorously, Bernard has a fear of the number thirteen, such as complaining when a stepladder has thirteen steps.
What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: The protagonists are cute little mice who ally with a pair of albatrosses, a cat, an army of small swamp animals, a kangaroo rat, and a dragonfly. Meanwhile, the animals serving as the antagonists' Right Hand Cats are a pair of crocodiles and a Laughably Evil monitor lizard. The crocodiles that appear in the second film are portrayed as mindless, savage beasts.
Artistic License - Geology: As the mice and Penny try to salvage the diamond, they are nearly drowned by a rising tide, even though, during the film's production, one animator pointed out that there is hardly ever any tide in the bayou.
Didn't you bring somebody big with you? Like the police?
Expy: One early draft of the film cast Cruella de Vil as the villain. Consequently, Madame Medusa bears more than a passing resemblance to her in both appearance and mannerisms, and she even drives the same car... just as insanely as Cruella did too.
The only song from the movie to be shown up in Cruella's Bayou was "Someone's Waiting For You"
It's said that Penny was going to be in Oliver & Company to show how she turned out after getting adopted, but they decided against it and renamed her Jenny. Once Upon a Time in New York City and Good Company (two songs from Oliver and Company) are later being shown up in Rufus and Company, but with Rufus and Penny from the movie instead.
Interestingly; you can notice that Ursula in The Little Mermaid has some scenes with similar animation to Medusa, and like Ursula, she has a pair of dragon-like pets.
Faux Affably Evil: Medusa puts on a facade of being sweet and kindly to Penny, apparently in an attempt to make the girl willing to listen to her.
Finger in a Barrel: During the climax, an owl stuffs a lit rocket down Medusa's shotgun, leaving her with Ash Face and tearing the gun to shreds.
Flight of Romance: Flying on the back of an albatross brings Bernard and Bianca closer together, but it takes until the sequel for Bernard to confess his feelings.
Parasol Parachute: Bernard and Bianca employ this after Orville gets shot at with fireworks and spirals out of control
Sequel Hook: The first movie ends with them setting off on another mission; however, an actual sequel had not been planned at the time. When one did finally come out, it featured an almost identical departure scene, from the weather to Wilbur's, er, vertical takeoff.
Skin Tone Sclerae: Bernard and Bianca (less noticeable on her, since she's already white-furred).
Sleep Cute: Bianca falls asleep on Bernard's shoulder. And heads right into a snuggle.
Several voice clips are repeated throughout the movie, two notable clips by Medusa and Bianca respectively being "Snoops? Snoops, get down here!" and "Help! Bernard!"
Thirteen Is Unlucky: A reoccurring motif. Bernard is afraid of the number thirteen, especially when it came to the number of steps on a ladder or stairs. The movie also ended on a Friday the 13th if you look at the calendar shown.
Truth in Television: The Devil's Eye ends up on display at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History - exactly where the Real Life Hope Diamond was donated, and is displayed to this day.
Animation Bump: The thirteen years between movies helps out a lot, obviously. Most of the animals avoid the "dots for eyes" thing, and the Skin Tone Sclerae thing is avoided with the main characters.
Artistic License - Biology: Under no circumstances would a modern-day eagle grow to the dimensions of Marahoute, whose head is larger than most of Cody. Her wingspan could easily be estimated at well over twenty feet long in some shots (the biggest eagles would be a stretch to reach ten feet).
Even more conspicuous: The scenes where Wilbur is flying over the Sydney Opera House and through New York City.
Continuity Nod: Orville's flight number is 13 in the first movie, where Bernard makes a big deal out of it. Even though the superstition never comes up in Down Under, when Wilbur is attempting to land, he identifies himself as Albatross One-Three.
Krebbs: Double or nothing, he's caught in 5 minutes.
Digital Destruction: Some prints of the movie edit the knife throwing scene by replacing the shots where the knives come within inches of hitting Cody with cuts to Joanna in her bathtub, eating animal crackers... probably because the knives were too scary for children.
Disappeared Dad: Cody mentions that his dad is "gone" and empathizes with the unborn eagles whose father was shot pre-movie.
Disney Villain Death: McLeach narrowly avoids being eaten by crocodiles only to fall off the edge of a waterfall.
Free-Range Children: Cody lives in a very sparsely inhabited area of Australia, and his mom doesn't have any problem with him running around. It's pretty viciously deconstructed when he walks into McLeach.
Friend to All Living Things: The opening scenes establish Cody as somebody who has many friends among the local animals and goes out of his way (and puts himself in danger) to rescue animals in trouble. At age eight (see Free-Range Children, above).
Gilligan Cut: Bernard getting Wilbur to sit on Marahute's eggs.
Ink-Suit Actor: Wilbur bears quite a resemblance to John Candy in terms of facial features.
Also, George C. Scott seems like the performance model of McLeach.
Knife Nut: McLeach throws, flourishes, or menaces Cody with a variety of large, unpleasant skinning knives. Of course, as a professional poacher he's got to be skilled with such implements, but does he have to enjoy it so much?
Knife Outline: Done intentionally by McLeach when he's trying to intimidate Cody into revealing Marahute's whereabouts.
Lyrical Dissonance: Mc Leach's version of "Home On The Range" mentioned below. The melody is still cheerful, but the words... well, don't ask.
Mad Doctor: The unnamed mouse doctor that is assigned to cure Wilbur's back problems is clearly a few eggs short of a dozen. Who else but a Mad Doctor would load syringes in a double-barreled shotgun and use a chainsaw in surgery?
Match Cut: Marahute returning Cody to the ground, after they visit her nest.
Although Australia does have a large native eagle species (the wedge-tailed eagle), she's referred to in the film as the 'great golden eagle', which is either a conflation with a (much smaller) North American species or - more likely - a species made up for the purposes of the film.
A downplayed example - the presence of crocodiles clearly indicates being set in the Northern Territory, but wombats, only found in the southeast of the continent and Tasmania, are shown among the wild animals early on.
Mundane Utility: Though not fully shown, McLeach intends to use a blowtorch to cook his dinner during the "eggs" scene.
Musicalis Interruptus: Bernard and Bianca can't get Wilbur's attention until Bernard turns off his stereo.
Musical Nod: When the delegates are summoned, a snippet of the Rescue Aid Society's theme (from the first film) features in the score.
One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Happens to Bernard and Bianca the first time he tries to propose. Bernard tries to propose to Bianca, but misplaces the ring. While he looks for it, Bianca receives word of the mission to Australia, and when Bernard returns and tries to propose again, she thinks he's talking about the mission and accepts. He is delighted, but is perplexed that she wants to do it now, and that she only needs to wear khaki shorts and hiking boots.
Parental Abandonment: Cody mentions to Marahute that he 'lost' his father. There are strong implications that he was another victim of the notoriously dangerous Australian Outback, but it could have been actual abandonment.
Seldom Seen Species: Australia - it's not just for kangaroos! Tons of seldom-seen species are present, but they're all extras: the three prominent Australian animals are Marahoute (of a fictional species), Jake (who could be a member of any of several small hopping mouse-like species), and Joanna (a monitor lizard).
Sequel Goes Foreign: As you can tell from its name, the second movie shifts the action to Australia.
McLeash: It's over boy, your bird's dead. Someone shot her. Shot her right out of the sky! [makes a shooting gesture] BANG! [Joanna pretends to be shot and falls dead on Cody's lap] Cody:[backs away]NO! McLeash: What do you mean "no"? Calling me a liar?
What Happened to the Mouse?: No, ironically, in this film we know what happened to the mice: it's a bunch of other creatures that drop off the movie's radar. What happened to the rest of the animals caged up in McLeach's hideout? They get plenty of screen time, names and personalities start getting established, and then... we never see them again.
Possibly intended and lampshaded example: No-one returned for Wilbur or Marahute's eggs, either.