Disney / The Rescuers
aka: The Rescuers Down Under

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/maxresdefault_15.jpg

The Rescuers is the 23rd entry in the Disney Animated Canon. 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 film was based on a series of children's books by Margery Sharp. The main similarities are with the first two books, where an orphan girl called Patience is kidnapped and held as a cleaning slave by a cruel diamond-obsessed Duchess.

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).

What makes the movie interesting in a Real Life sense is how ir came during a time when Disney was facing changing fortunes. The film 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/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 addition, this helped give rise to Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers due to originally being a series based off the movie until Down Under was greenlit, at which point Tad Stones helped mold the series into what it was.

It was followed up by sequel in 1990. For tropes related to that film, please visit The Rescuers Down Under.


This film provide examples of:

  • Adult Fear: Penny is 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.
  • Adventure Duo: Bernard and Miss Bianca.
  • All Animals Are Dogs: Medusa 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, crocodilians have a very keen sense of smell all on their own.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Bernard and Bianca are deployed at the end of the movie.
  • Animation Bump: ANY scene with Medusa in the original. She was a notoriously difficult character to draw and animate for anyone whose name wasn't Milt Kahl.
  • 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.
  • As You Know: The viewers learn about the Rescue Aid Society's origin when their current head reminds the other members about it. He even starts with "As you know,".
  • Award Bait Song: "Someone's Waiting For You".
  • Battle Butler: Mr. Snoops appears to be this to Medusa, working as both her hired underling and the guy she sends to chase off anything coming after her.
  • Battle Couple: Bernard and Miss Bianca.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": Medusa seems to be fond of yelling this at Snoops.
  • Bitch Alert: The movie lets you know very quickly that you're not supposed to like Madame Medusa.
  • Butt Monkey: Orville and Evinrude.
  • The Cameo: Stock Footage of Bambi and his mother grazing in a field can be seen during "Someone's Waiting For You." Some of the birds seen in that film make an appearance as well.
  • Carnivore Confusion: Hand Waved; Rufus says that he's "too old to be chasing mice".
  • Cats Are Mean: Subverted and lampshaded, again by Rufus. Ironically, Don Bluth worked on this film.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Penny's teddy bear; Medusa puts the Devil's Eye diamond in it to smuggle out of the bayou.
    • Luke's potent "swamp juice" also proves to be strong enough to bump-start the "swampmobile".
  • Creator Cameo: Ollie Johnston modeled Rufus after himself.
  • Companion Cube: Penny's teddy bear.
  • Cool Boat: Madame Medusa's "swampmobile".
  • Covers Always Lie: The 1989 theatrical re-release poster has Rufus in the motorboat. Not once does he set paw in Devil's Bayou. Same goes for the Rescue Aid Society members in the same poster.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Snoops points out the many, smaller jewels Penny found in the cave and it's revealed there's even more in there. Snoops points out that those gems are worth a fortune, but Medusa is not interested in them. She only wants the Devil's Eye. Though to be fair, the Devil's Eye appears to be the size of a grapefruit (the Hope Diamond, for reference, is the size of walnut).
  • Didn't Want an Adventure: Bernard. "Sure wish we'd taken the train!"
  • The Dog Bites Back: Brutus, Nero and Snoops eventually have had enough of Medusa and she is last seen being attacked by Brutus and Nero while Snoops paddles off without her, laughing.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Madame Medusa. In Cruella De Vil's car, even.
    • This becomes a bit of Fridge Brilliance when you consider she was originally intended to be Cruella De Vil.
    • Implied with Bianca. When Bernard grumbles that they just went through a red light, Bianca replies that she does it all the time.
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: Madame Medusa is so terrified at the sight of Bernard and Bianca that she pulls a gun on them. This despite having two pet alligators.
  • Establishing Character Moment: They're all clear as day. Bernard politely greeting ambassadors and staying in his role as a janitor where people can see him but wistfully singing along with them when he's alone; Miss Bianca charming every male ambassador in the room and being so moved by a child's cry for help that she pleads to have the assignment despite the organization's sexist policies; Medusa answering her phone, not letting Mr. Snoops get a word in edgewise and going from squealing with glee when she thinks she's getting her way to screaming and making demands when a delay comes up...
  • Evil Is Hammy: Word of God (in this case Milt Kahl) has it that Geraldine Page nailed every single one of Medusa's lines in one take.
  • Evil Redhead: Madame Medusa.
  • Excessive Evil Eyeshadow: Madame Medusa.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: Penny is surprised, to say the least, that her rescue party is a pair of mice.
    "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. Incidentally, Milt Kahl also based Medusa on his ex-wife.
    • The only song from the movie to show 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.
    • 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 an 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.
  • Foreshadowing: In Medusa's pawn shop there's a small sign that says 'NRA'.
  • Gargle Blaster: Luke's "swamp juice".
  • Giant Flyer: Orville counts, at least compared to the size of the mice protagonists.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Penny.
  • Happily Adopted: Penny at the film's end.
  • Heroes "R" Us: The Rescue Aid Society.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Devil's Bayou.
  • I Have Your Wife: Madame Medusa eventually resorts to this with Penny's teddy bear to get her to retrieve the Devil's Eye.
  • Interspecies Friendship: Involves mice talking to and befriending humans. The film even has a cat talking to and befriending both humans AND mice.
  • Kick the Dog: Madame Medusa's line "What makes you think anyone would want a homely little girl as you?" It's a line almost shocking in its cruelty towards a young child, especially when you remember how Medusa throws it at Penny without even thinking about it.
  • Large Ham: Orville, albeit to a lesser extent than Madame Medusa.
  • Leaf Boat: Bernard and Bianca use a large leaf propelled by Evinrude the dragonfly in order to find and rescue Penny.
  • Light Is Not Good: Mr. Snoops wears a yellow sportcoat and pants.
  • Losing a Shoe in the Struggle: Bianca loses her hat as Brutus and Nero try to catch them in the organ.
  • 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 Ever After: Bernard and Bianca don't explicitly become a couple, but there are clear hints of an attraction between them and they stay working together, while also being very affectionate to each other. They get together in the sequel, although it's implied they have been dating for a while before getting engaged.
  • 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.
    • It would be criminal to forget Madame Medusa's pet alligators Nero and Brutus. Actually, Medusa herself qualifies since she's ostensibly named for a malevolent Greek monster.
  • Message in a Bottle: When Medusa was doing business in New York, Penny would write letters asking for someone to come save her and send them off this way. The R.A.S. discovering one starts all the action.
  • Mineral MacGuffin: The Devil's Eye.
  • Minion with an F in Evil: Mr. Snoops, to his credit, does seem somewhat concerned with Penny's welfare at points - he's not willing to keep her down in the cave when the tide is rising, for instance.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: Albatrosses aren't normally found north of the equator, although they were present in Bermuda in prehistoric times. What one of them doing in New York is anyone's guess.
  • Mouse World: The movies have a secret society of intelligent mice who operate an international organization devoted to save people in trouble.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Madame Medusa and her pet alligators, Brutus and Nero.
  • 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 Bernard stand out even in this company, risking life and limb for total strangers (who aren't even the same species as them!).
  • No Pronunciation Guide: Evinrude's name is interchangeably pronounced "EEE-vin-rude" and "EH-vuhn-rude".
  • Official Couple: Bernard and Bianca.
  • Panty Shot:
    • Penny. Medusa's alligator holds her upside down by her bloomers, then later she shows Bernard and Bianca the tooth-holes in them.
    • Medusa has two: once when she's on the chair screaming about the mice and once when the fireworks are used as a diversion when Penny's starting up the swamp-mobile.
  • Parasol Parachute: Bernard and Bianca employ this after Orville gets shot at with fireworks and spirals out of control
  • Parental Abandonment: Penny is an orphan.
  • Pretty in Mink: Bianca as well as Medusa.
  • Product Displacement: Every home release for Rescuers from 1999-2003 omits the first Buena Vista logo and replaces it for Disney's (by this time outdated) white castle Vanity Plate. The 35th Anniversary Edition Blu-Ray and DVD, released 2012, restore Buena Vista's name to the opening.
  • Punny Name: Orville the air service bird.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: In-Universe. Penny's letter is littered with spelling mistakes like "orfanage" and "trubble."
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out: The alligators have a significant three-tone brass motif, used for dramatic effect. The theme is in fact snitched from The Rite of Spring, used in Fantasia at the dramatic victory of the Tyrannosaurus. A fitting Mythology Gag, come to think of it.
  • 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.
  • Spelling Song: The Rescue Aid Society theme song.
  • Stock Footage:
    • The shots of Medusa driving may have used recycled cels from 101 Dalmatians given that she drives the exact same car as Cruella de Vil. Either that, or they just recycled the rotoscope model.
    • 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!"
    • Some shots of Penny running through the swamp during an unsuccessful escape attempt are re-used from a scene of Mowgli running through the jungle.
    • Bambi can be seen grazing with his mother in the "Someone is Waiting for You" scene.
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!: Medusa demands of Penny after stealing her teddy bear, "You get down there and find the big diamond, or you will NEVER SEE THAT TEDDY AGAIN!!!"
  • Suggested By: The Rescuers suggested by "The Rescuers" and "Miss Bianca" by Margery Sharp.
  • Take That!: Milt Kahl based Madame Medusa on his ex-wife, who he particularly hated.
  • Talking Animal: Watching the movie, it would seem to be left uncertain whether anyone other than 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. Notably, the alligators don't talk, though.
  • 13 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.
  • Umbrella of Togetherness: Bernard and Bianca share an umbrella a couple of times while they are under the rain.
  • Villainous Breakdown: "There goes my diamond!"
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Madame Medusa's fear of mice. Especially since she has pet alligators.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: The protagonists are cute little mice who ally with an albatrosses, a cat, an army of small swamp animals, and a dragonfly. Meanwhile, the animals serving as the antagonists' Right Hand Attack Dogs are a pair of alligators.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Medusa would do anything to get that diamond, even at the risk of Penny drowning in the rising tide.


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Disney/TheRescuers?from=Main.TheRescuersDownUnder