Disney: The Rescuers
aka: The Rescuers Down Under
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 one or 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
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.
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- Adventure Duo: Miss Bianca and Bernard.
- Adult Fear: Both movies:
- 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.
- Captain Crash: Both Orville and Wilbur.
- Children Are Innocent
- Cowardly Lion: Bernard. He insists he's just a lowly janitor, he stutters and can be a nervous wreck, but if others are depending on him, he's unstoppable.
- Evil Is Hammy: Geraldine Page as Medusa and George C. Scott as McLeach.
- Word of God (in this case Milt Kahl) has it that Geraldine Page nailed every single one of Medusa's lines *in one take*.
- Giant Flyer: Marahute is the closest to the trope, but Orville counts as well, at least compared to the size of the mice protagonists.
- In one scene, Wilbur himself is dwarfed by a trio of massive pink stork-like birds.
- Heroes "R" Us: The Rescue Aid Society.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Especially in the second film, the Rescue Aid Society looks an awful lot like a rodent United Nations.
- Considering the Rescue Aid Society IS underneath the actual United Nations, this is probably not a coincidence.
- Heroic Sacrifice
- I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Devil's Bayou.
- A flurry of these in Down Under:
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.
- Same with Orville, the albatross.
- And in the sequel he is replaced by his brother Wilbur.
- The name Cody is derived from an Irish word meaning "helper".
- Misplaced Wildlife: Albatrosses aren't normally found north of the equator. Why at least two of them are living in New York City is anyone's guess.
- Mouse World
- Nice Hat: McLeach and Bianca.
- 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.
- Pretty in Mink: Bianca in Rescuers as well as Medusa.
- Punny Name: Wilbur and Orville the air service birds.
- Also, Joanna the goanna. (Goanna being the local Australian name for monitor lizard.)
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Brutus and Nero in the first one, Joanna in the sequel. Frank the frilled lizard is harmlessly insane, so he's an exception to the trope.
- Reckless Gun Usage: For a poacher, McLeach does not handle his rifle properly, the first instance of this being when he uses it (already loaded and cocked) to pull Cody out of a trap.
- Medusa is staggeringly careless with her shotgun.
- Scavenged Punk: Much of the equipment in the films is built from human materials, but it's almost purely a background element.
- Speaks Fluent Animal: Penny and Cody
- Suggested By:
- 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.
- Would Hurt a Child: The Big Bad of both films most definitely would. Apparently, this is Wilbur's Berserk Button.
- The Ace: Jake.
- Airplane Arms: Cody doing a Marahute impression.
- All There in the Script: The captive Kangaroo is a Red Kangaroo named Red.
- 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 Marahute, 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).
- Ask a Stupid Question...: When Cody asks Frank the frilled lizard the following question:
Cody: Hey! Where did you come from?
- Awesome Aussie: Jake.
- Ax-Crazy: McLeach, who clearly enjoys being a violent murderous thug even beyond wanting to make himself rich.
(as he lowers a helpless child into a crocodile pit): "Now this is what I call fun!"
- Bald of Evil: A variant; McLeach has notable male-pattern baldness.
- Big "NO!": McLeach gives off one as he plummets to his doom down the waterfall.
- So does Cody the moment he's accidentally swept off the cliff when he frees Marahute.
- And when McLeach says to Cody that someone shot Marahute right out of the sky...
- Book Dumb: Percival "I didn't make it all the way through third grade for nuthin'!" McLeach is quite uneducated, but don't let that ever make you think he isn't cunning or insidiously clever.
- Especially when you consider he probably built that "truck" of his. That's an impressive piece of engineering.
- Can Not Spit It Out: Bernard has a very hard time working up the nerve to propose to Bianca. Jake does not help.
- Code Emergency: The Rescue Aid Society calls a Code Red Emergency Meeting to announce that Cody has been kidnapped.
- Chekhov's Skill: Jake tames a snake through intimidation to get the gang a lift through marshlands. Bernard pulls the same trick on a razorback boar to save the others.
- Close-Up on Head
- Conspicuous CG: The opening sequence.
- 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.
- Cool Car / Cooltank: McLeach's half-track.
- Cute Giant: Marahute the giant eagle.
- Also, to mice, humans are giants, so naturally human children will qualify as cute giants from the perspective of the mice as well.
- Deadpan Snarker: Krebbs the koala, one of the many animals trapped in McLeach's hideout, seems to be one of these.
Cody: Frank, you're free!
Frank: I'm free? I'm free, I'm free, I'm free, I'm free!
Kangaroo: Shhh... Joanna will hear.
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.
- The Dragon: Joanna, almost literally.
- Don't Explain the Joke: Wilbur. "Get it? A fair fare? It's a... a play on... never mind."
- Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: Apparently, feeding Cody to crocodiles is McLeach's idea of fun.
- Evil Poacher: McLeach.
- Eureka Moment: McLeach realizing Marahute's eggs are Cody's weakness.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Crocodile Falls turns out to be well-named.
- The Faceless: Cody's mom's face was never shown in the movie.
- In all other productions based on Down Under (of which, in development), she was completely visible.
- Faux Affably Evil: McLeach often acts in a way that is almost charming, but his true, brutish traits always shine through.
- Fed to the Beast: McLeach tries to feed Cody to crocodiles in the film's climax.
- Follow the Leader: McLeach's role led to a further increase of the Evil Hunter archetype, such as Gaston, Clayton, Lord Victor Quartermaine, and Rookery. The last two are especially notable as the films they're from aren't even made by Disney.
- 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).
- Gale-Force Sound: Wilbur's radio.
- Gilligan Cut: Bernard getting Wilbur to sit on Marahute's eggs.
- Glove Snap: "All right, girls, snap to it!" *snap* Oh! That smarts..."
- Guns Do Not Work That Way: McLeach apparently has a double-barrelled, pump action, side-by-side shotgun with a scope. And a foresight.
- Green Aesop: Anti-poaching.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Cody, who tries his hardest to protect Marahute from McLeach.
- Help Mistaken for Attack: During the scene with Marahute the eagle trapped under rope, when Cody arrives to free her, and takes out a knife, Marahute seems to (temporarily) interpret this as an attempt to wound or kill her rather than to free her.
- I Want My Mommy: Wilbur gets scared in the hospital, and calls for mother.
- Ignoring By Singing: Frank the frill-necked lizard covers his ears and sings "Waltzing Matilda" when Krebbs the koala starts describing what the poacher is going to do to them.
- Inevitable Waterfall: The site of the aforementioned Disney Villain Death.
- 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.
- Land Down Under: Naturally.
- 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.
- The Millstone: Joanna is one to McLeach.
- Misplaced Wildlife:
- 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.
- Never Smile at a Crocodile
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Adam Ryen as Cody and George C. Scott as McLeach. Most of the animals in Down Under as well; only Jake, Krebs the Koala and a handful of kangaroos have noticeable Australian Accents.
- Though McLeach at least could plausibly be from somewhere other than Australia.
- Nothing Can Save Us Now: Jake to Bianca, during the climax.
- 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.
- Parrot Expo-what?:
- The Patient Has Left the Building: Wilbur tries escaping from the hospital in which he was confined after hurting his back, with the Doctor Mouse and his nurses chasing after him, trying to bring him back to the operating room.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "Your spine needs tender! Loving! Care!"
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: McLeach figuring out how to get Cody to hand over the eagle.
- Romantic False Lead: Jake for Bianca.
- Scared of What's Behind You: the Big Bad, McLeach, starts bragging about having "whooped" a bunch of crocodiles...only to turn around and see that they were really trying to avoid the Inevitable Waterfall.
- 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.
- Shark Pool: The waters near Croc Falls, which, appropriately enough, are infested with crocodiles!
- Shoot the Rope: How McLeach tries to drop Cody in with the crocs. He doesn't find it as easy as it is in most movies.
- Something We Forgot: The film ends with Wilbur as an unwilling babysitter to Marahute's newly-hatched chicks.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Wilbur is Orville's previously unknown brother as Jim Jordan, who voiced Orville, died before the second film was produced.
- That Liar Lies
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?
- Took a Level in Badass: Happens to Bernard the moment he decides to wrestle a razorback to the ground.
- Underside Ride: Bernard, Miss Bianca and Jake get under McLeach's truck to follow him when he goes after Cody.
- Wilbur pulls off a variant when he taxis in an airplane wheel compartment.
- Villain Song: McLeach sings his own short one to the tune of Home on the Range without musical accompaniment.
McLeach: Home, home on the range, where the critters are tied up in chains! I cut through their sides, and I rip off their hides, and the next day I do it again! Everybody!
- Wham Line: "I've already got the father."
- 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.
- The World Is Just Awesome: Ahem. Marahute's Flight.