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Western Animation / The Rescuers

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"Who will rescue me...?"

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 it came during a time when Disney was facing changing fortunes. The film was almost a reflection of what the Disney company was facing following 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 this film ("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. 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 an upgrade in the studio's xerography inking process, enabling the use of softer colored linework on finished animation. The film's crew likewise reflects the studio's increasing integration of new talent, marking a more distinct break with its Walt-produced output than The Aristocats or Robin Hood. While members of the "Nine Old Men", such as Wolfgang Reitherman, Milt Kahl (animating the lion's share of Madame Medusa before his retirement in 1976) and John Lounsbery continued to helm much of the film's storyboarding and animation, this film nonetheless features some of the earliest Mouse-released animation by later Disney Renaissance juggernauts such as Glen Keane and Ron Clements, marking the earliest foreshadowing of the studio's later upswing. Similarly, this film 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, Don Bluth, 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. Most importantly, it was the last film Walt Disney himself had even the smallest bit of involvement in whatsoever, as the earliest plans for it began two years before his death.

It was followed up by a theatrical sequel in 1990, becoming the only non-anthology Disney animated film to receive a sequel in the Disney Animated Canon until Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen thirty years later. For tropes related to that film, please visit The Rescuers Down Under.

This film provides examples of:

  • 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.
  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • The Chairman is annoyed when Bernard keeps swinging his comb ladder around, but the whole Rescue Aid Society is laughing goodnaturedly as they're dodging it. Bernard is one of them, after all.
    • Likewise, Penny does an impression of Medusa when she, Bernard and Bianca are plotting their escape. Bernard starts cracking up as she imitates Medusa's booty-shake, saying it's pretty accurate.
  • Adaptational Explanation: Some picture books give the additional reason to the Rescuers' inability to deliver Penny from peril before the fateful trip to the Black Hole of Medusa taking Teddy hostage that night, and Penny not wanting to leave him. Bernard and Bianca then agree to help her find the Devil's Eye so as to get Penny home safely.
  • Adaptational Location Change: In the original Rescuers books the Prisoner's Aid Society is headquartered in Paris. In this movie its sequel, the Rescue Aid Society appears to be headquartered in New York City.
  • Africa Is a Country: All the mice in the Rescue Aid Society represent their individual countries, except for the African mouse, who represents...Africa.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Bernard and Bianca are deployed at the end of the movie.
  • Alcohol Is Gasoline: Played With. At the climax Luke's "swamp juice" is used as to start Madame Medusa's swamp mobile (which previously wasn't getting any gas) so the heroes can escape with Penny.
  • Angry Fist-Shake: The spider does this when Evinrude and the bats destroy its net.
  • Animation Bump: ANY scene with Medusa. She was a notoriously difficult character to draw and animate for anyone whose name wasn't Milt Kahl.
  • Ankle Drag: When Snoops makes a run for the teddy bear with the diamond in it, Madame Medusa grabs him by his leg and he falls.
  • Answer to Prayers: Orphan waif Penny is in the clutches of the wicked Madame Medusa, made to search a small cave to find a diamond. She has tried getting help by launching messages in bottles, but her keeper Snoops caught her doing this. Penny then gets on her knees and prays for rescue, "because sending messages in bottles isn't working." As it turns out, one bottle does come to the attention of the Rescue Aid Society, which dispatches Bernard and Bianca to rectify her plight.
  • Artistic Licence – Geography: A small case of political license on account of 1977, the year of release: Latvia has a separate delegate to the Mouse Convention, although the country was a part of the Soviet Union at the time, and thus couldn't send separate delegates to the regular UN. There's a question as to whether the mice of the USSR even bothered with a central committee of their own, as there is another quite Russian-looking mouse in the back row (Russian, not very communist-looking). Also, there is a single delegate representing the entire African continent, while all the European and Asian countries (including Turkey and Pakistan) have their separate delegates. Scotland has its own representative. Besides Austria, there is also one mouse representing Vienna (being the capital of Austria). As this particular delegate seems to be a copy of Sigmund Freud, he is probably Played for Laughs.
  • 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.
  • Artistic License – Physics: The air pressure generated by the home organ would not suffice to catapult a mouse into the air.
  • Ash Face:
    • While attempting another take-off, Orville is sucked through the engine of Medusa's swampmobile. He emerges from the exhaust pipe relatively unscathed, though with his feathers burnt and coughing on the smoke.
    • Evinrude makes a desperate dash down Ellie May's stove to escape the bats, leaving him totally exhausted and blackened all over by soot, until a drop of Luke's "swamp juice" revives him.
    • A lit firecracker is jammed down the barrel of Medusa's shotgun, blowing the gun to pieces and giving her an Ash Face.
    • Bernard is left with an Ash Face after Luke uses his moonshine to kick-start the swampmobile, as he was peering into the gas tank at the time.
    • When the riverboat is ultimately destroyed by Snoop's fireworks, Brutus and Nero's green scales are charred black by the explosion, which sends them rocketing sky-high before splashing down into the swamp.
  • 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".
  • Awesome by Analysis: Bianca looks at Penny's watered-down note from the bottle, which has a lot of ocean water stains and bad spelling. She deduces that since it's a letter to Morningside Orphanage, that Penny must be a little girl, and that she's in "terrible trouble". Later on, when she and Bernard inspect Penny's box of items at the orphanage, they figure out that she isn't there because of the note that says "hold on until further notice" and that she wasn't adopted because she didn't take her stuff with her.
  • Big Shadow, Little Creature: The opening scene shows the shadow of an adult figure cast on the door until we see little Penny walking through it.
  • 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.
  • Bowdlerization: In two frames of the movie in its theatrical release, when Bernard and Bianca are riding Orville, going down from the building they were on, one building next to them has an image of a live-action naked woman in one of the windows. Disney found this out prior to the film's initial VHS release and had the images removed (all subsequent home video releases, except the early prints of the 1999 VHS and Laserdisc, feature the edited version). According to animator Tom Sito, on his Facebook page, the image was put in by background artist Annie Guenther. A late-70s/early-80s episode of The Wonderful World of Disney about flight featured an excerpt from the scene in question, complete with a topless woman. This episode aired when VCRs were starting to take off, and was rerun in syndication in the late-80s after VCRs became common, so the fact that it took nearly 20 years for the public to find this out is an oddity. Then again...
  • Brawn Hilda: The German representative to Rescue Aid Society is broader and taller than the other mice, and also female. A bonus when she turns the R.A.S song into an aria...
  • Brick Joke: When bringing Penny back to the riverboat, Brutus holds her upside down by her underwear. During her first meeting with Bernard and Bianca, Penny shows the mice a few tooth holes on the seat of her underwear and says "look what they did to my pants."
  • The Cake Is a Lie: Madame Medusa never intended to hand the teddy bear back to Penny or return her to the orphanage.
  • The Cameo: Recycled Animation 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.
  • Compact Infiltrator: The Devil's Eye diamond resides in a cave that is too narrow for Madame Medusa and Snoops to get through themselves, so they kidnap the much smaller Penny and have her get it instead.
  • Chariot Pulled by Cats: The Rescuers get an express ride to Madame Medusa's derelict steamboat in the bayou courtesy of a leaf-boat powered by the dragonfly Evinrude. It is taxing on this insect to go any meaningful distance, but he diligently does his job. It is charming to hear Miss Bianca call him "Even-rude".
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Bianca's perfume. She and Bernard have an Oh, Crap! moment when Brutus and Nero follow the scent and find their hiding spot in Medusa's boat, but later on they realize that they can use it as bait to lure them in a cage, so that they won't chase after Penny for trying to escape. It works like a charm in the climax to take Brutus and Nero out of the fight.
    • 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".
  • Children Are Innocent: Penny is a sweet little girl, who doesn't understand the value of the diamond. She just wants to go back to the orphanage so she can get adopted. She also doesn't realize that adults can't hear mice when at the end she thanks Bernard and Bianca on live TV for helping her.
  • Children as Pawns: Madame Medusa kidnaps Penny so she can fetch her the Devil's Eye, a huge diamond inside an underground cave in the bayou, since only a small child like Penny can enter the opening to the cave.
  • Chimney Entry: Evinrude escapes the bats by flying down Ellie Mae's chimney stack and landing, blackened and wheezing, in her stove.
  • Close-Call Haircut: Madame Medusa accidentally gives Snoops a free haircut when hammering on her jammed shotgun.
  • Collapsing Lair: At the end, the riverboat explodes and sinks.
  • Company Cross References: A Mickey Mouse watch can be seen in the Rescue Aid Society's meeting room.
  • Convenient Cranny:
    • When Bernard and Miss Bianca are fleeing from the alligators, they find refuge in a system of organ pipes where the two big animals cannot follow.
    • While being chased by the bats, Evinrude escapes into a bottle that gives him temporary safety.
  • Convenient Misfire: Madame Medusa's shotgun jams up, giving Bernard and Miss Bianca a chance to escape from the boat.
  • Cool Boat: Madame Medusa's jet ski, or "swampmobile".
  • Copycat Mockery: Penny mocks Medusa behind her back by copying her mannerisms.
  • 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.
  • Creator Cameo: Ollie Johnston modeled Rufus after himself.
  • Culture Equals Costume: The delegates of the conference early on all wear national costumes of their country of origin.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: The Black Hole is full of bucketfuls of precious gemstones in addition to the Devil's Eye Diamond. Whilst none of them are individually as valuable as the Devil's Eye, their sheer quantity more than compensates. Snoops even lampshades that they don't have to keep looking for the Devil's Eye, they could be wealthy ten times over with the jewels that Penny has already unearthed for them. Justified in that Medusa is obsessed beyond the limits of sanity with the Devil's Eye; she wants the diamond for itself, not for the money, so she doesn't care about the fortune in gems that she's ignoring.
  • Cutting the Knot: Penny attempts to do this; when she can't get the diamond out of the skull's eye socket, she tries to remove the entire skull with the diamond inside of it. Unluckily for her the skull seems to have fused with the rock wall behind it, forcing her to instead prise the jaw open with a sword.
  • Didn't Want an Adventure: Bernard. "Sure wish we'd taken the train!"
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: 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.
  • 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. Though given the latter is paddling off on a flimsy wooden floorboard, with the clothes on his back virtually burned off, and in the middle of a dangerous swamp, it's dubious he'll get far...
  • Drives Like Crazy:
    • Madame Medusa. In Cruella De Vil's car, even. This is possibly an artifact of when 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.
    • Justified with Penny who has never driven before; when the group gets the swampmobile jumpstarted, her first concern is getting as far away from Medusa as possible and gaining control over the motorboat. She spins in large circles for a while as Medusa clings onto a rope tethered to the back, only getting the hang of it once that snaps and they lose the extra weight.
  • 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...
  • Exit, Pursued by a Bear: We last see Medusa clinging to some wreckage and whining about her lost diamond, while her pet alligators keep trying to bite her, making you wonder if she eventually lost her grip and became gator food.
  • 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?"
  • Exit, Pursued by a Bear: As the riverboat sinks from the fireworks' damage, Medusa crashes and is left clinging to the boat's smoke stacks. Mr. Snoops escapes on a raft and laughs at her, while the irritated Brutus and Nero turn on her and circle below.
  • Fantastic Fireworks: After Penny is recaptured following her escape attempt, Mr. Snoops sets off fireworks that spell out the message "GOT GIRL" to alert Medusa.
  • Fast Tunnelling: The swamp mole digs underground as fast as the swamp animals charge in the climax when they all rally to go save Penny.
  • Finger in a Barrel: During the climax, an owl stuffs a lit firecracker 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'.
    • It should be noted that the NRA wasn't as controversial in 1977 as it is now, so it most likely wasn't intended as a Take That!.
    • Ellie Mae is rather put out by Medusa, saying she'd like to give her a few whacks of her rolling pin. During the climax, she hits Medusa not once, but twice. And both times bought their team critical time to escape from danger.
  • Gargle Blaster: Luke's "swamp juice". When Luke pours it down Bernard's mouth, Bernard has a spastic reaction and gasps. It is strong enough to bump-start the "swampmobile" too.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: During the scene where Bernard and Miss Bianca are flying aboard the back of Orville through the city, a small image of a topless woman is visible (for two nonconsecutive frames) pasted in the window of a building in the background. The 1999 Masterpiece Collection VHS tapes containing the image were recalled almost immediately, and all subsequent releases of the film have, of course, have been edited to exclude the image. There have been many urban legends surrounding Disney movies and purported hidden risqué content, but this remains the only incident to have been clearly deliberate and of an unquestionable nature.
  • Greed: Medusa says that she wants the Devil's Eye, no question asked. Snoops points out that cutting it in pieces to sell would make them both rich, but she refuses to honor their previous deal to split it and keeps it to herself. It's implied that Medusa wanted to own the gem, regardless of what she had to sacrifice to get it.
  • Hanging by the Fingers: Both Bernard and Penny wind up hanging by their fingers when they slip over the edge of the blowhole that floods the cave at high tide. Bernard is saved by Miss Bianca while Penny is pushed back into the cave by the advancing water.
  • Happily Adopted: Penny at the film's end.
  • Hillbilly Moonshiner: The Rescue Society's representative in the Devil's Bayou is a hillbilly-styled swamp mouse named Luke, who creates his own Gargle Blaster called "swamp juice".
  • Hollywood CB: When Bernard talks to Orville via CB, the communication happens without him pressing any call button.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Medusa, while driving recklessly down the streets of New York, Medusa calls an unseen diver a "road hog".
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Penny is being held prisoner in a swamp known as 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.
  • I Lied: Madame Medusa confiscates Penny's teddy bear to force her to retrieve the diamond for her, threatening that she will never see her teddy bear again if she doesn't. In the end, having stuffed the diamond into the teddy bear, Medusa goes back on her promise to give it back to her: "I've grown quite attached to him..."
  • Instant Expert: Zigzagged; it takes a while for Penny to start the swampmobile, needing Bernard and Luke's help, and she's spinning around in circles for a while trying to shake Medusa off her tail. Once she loses the extra weight thanks to Medusa slamming into the riverboat pipe, Penny happily drives off to find the authorities.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Michelle Stacy did seem to bear at least some resemblance to Penny when she was a kid.
  • Intentional Engrish for Funny: Penny's letter is littered with spelling mistakes like "orfanage", "New Yorc" and "turible trubble." Justified by her being of early elementary school age.
  • 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?" after pretty much saying she's not going to take Penny back to the orphanage, as she promised. 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.
  • Kids Driving Cars: Penny driving Madame Medusa's swampmobile.
  • Leaf Boat: Bernard and Bianca use a large leaf propelled by Evinrude the dragonfly in order to find and rescue Penny.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Bernard and Bianca in the climax do this to save Penny from a gun-toting Medusa; so do all the local critters. They trip her with a wire and create an opening for Penny to grab teddy and run. Then as the local swamp folk charge, they set themselves up as bait for Brutus and Nero to get them out of the way. As the owl and rabbit set off the fireworks to distract Medusa and destroy her gun, Luke and Bernard get the swampmobile started as Bianca serves as the lookout. The teamwork results in Medusa trapped on the riverboat pipe with her crocs nipping at her, and Penny safely on her way to the authorities.
  • Losing a Shoe in the Struggle:
    • Both Bernard and Bianca lose their hats several times as Brutus and Nero try to catch them in the organ.
    • Orville loses his flight hat and scarf (but not his goggles) when he's sucked into the engine of Medusa's swampmobile.
  • 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". The Japanese title just translates to "Bianca's Big Adventure", not mentioning Bernard or the Rescuers at all.
  • 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, who is named after Orville of the Wright brothers, inventors of the first powered aircraft.
    • It would be criminal to forget Madame Medusa's pet alligators Nero and Brutus.
    • 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.
  • Mickey Mousing: Bernard and Bianca's movements when they sneak around the riverboat.
  • Mineral MacGuffin: The Devil's Eye Diamond, a nearly fist-sized faceted diamond worth an absolute fortune.
  • Misfit Mobilization Moment: The sequence before the climax when the hero's helpers mobilize after being alarmed by Evinrude.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: Albatrosses aren't normally found north of the equator, although they were present in Bermuda in prehistoric times. What one of them is doing in New York is anyone's guess.
    • Depending on where Devil's Bayou is actually located, Brutus and Nero may be misplaced wildlife if they are crocodiles rather than alligators (which is controversial). Technically, most bayous are not located south of the Florida panhandle (though other swampy ecosystems certainly are), and there are no wild species of crocodiles north of the southernmost portions of Florida, while American alligators inhabit everywhere from Texas to Florida to North Carolina in the continental United States. Of course, Brutus and Nero seemingly being domesticated might explain why they are possibly misplaced.
  • Missing Child: Penny's entire situation: Rufus tells the mice that Medusa offered Penny a ride, but Penny wouldn't have been foolish enough to take a ride from a "trashy lady" like her. Which likely means that Penny had to be taken by force. And even though she is a Plucky Girl, she's also small enough for Snoops to drag her around by the arm. The police haven't found any leads and have closed the case, assuming Penny has run away. Then we find out that Medusa and Snoops kidnapped Penny so that she could go into a tide-filled cave, due to being small enough to fit, and seek a diamond. 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.
  • Mouse World: The movies have a secret society of intelligent mice who operate an international organization devoted to save people in trouble.
  • My Swampmobile Hates Me: Played for both Laughs and for Drama. Medusa is not a very patient woman, and when she tries to go after Penny, her Swampmobile has trouble starting. The drama part comes into play when Penny has trouble starting it herself.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Madame Medusa and her pet crocodiles, Brutus and Nero.
  • National Stereotypes: All the mice in the Convention serve as this, except for Africa, who has a continental variety.
  • Near Misses: Madame Medusa, the Big Bad and resident lousy shot, produces this effect whenever she draws her pistol. The bullets ricochet so much or are simply so misaimed in the first place, that the closest she has gotten to hit the good guys is when she inflicted some hat damage on Bernard.
  • Near-Villain Victory: Having stolen Penny's teddy bear to put the Devil's Eye, Medusa threatens to shoot Penny with a shotgun if she tries to resist. When the mice trip Medusa up so that she drops the bear with the diamond inside, Penny grabs them and flees, Medusa murderously pursuing her and trying to shoot her. When Medusa spots Penny in the swampmobile, Medusa draws a bead on her. Penny and the mice see her, Bernard warning her to look out. Had not the owl assisting Penny stuck a lit firecracker in the barrel of the gun, thereby destroying it, Medusa might have succeeded in actually shooting and killing the little girl.
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: Subverted; in the Black Hole, Bernard starts digging for the Devil's Eye in a treasure chest, which is full of diamonds. Penny tells him she looked in all the obvious places for the Devil's Eye such as where the "little" diamonds are. It turns out the Devil's Eye is in a human skull on the other side of the cave; Penny never saw it before because she never found a reason to go near the hole where the tide enters, and it's impossible for her to climb across as we see.
  • Never a Runaway: Rufus the cat initially thinks Penny ran away from the orphanage, but she turns out to have been kidnapped instead.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: Brutus and Nero are pretty vicious alligators. Thankfully, they turn on their abusive owner once they've had enough of her.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Some TV spots and commercials promoting the 1992 video release (as well as the opening trailer of the demo tape) erroneously announce this as the second movie following The Rescuers Down Under (with the announcer often saying that Bernard and Bianca are on a "brand-new adventure").
  • Next Sunday A.D.: Implied, for the ending at any rate. The wall calendar at the Rescue Aid Society at the end of the film says "Friday 13 January". The movie was released on 22 June 1977 and there was indeed a Friday the 13th in January 1978.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain:
    • When one of the alligators has Bernard in his mouth ready to swallow him down, Madame Medusa comes and unwittingly makes him spit Bernard out.
    • Medusa and Snoops impeding each other in chasing after Penny slows both of them down enough for her to get to the swampmobile in the climax.
  • 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!).
  • Off Like a Shot: Bianca assumes this pose before rushing after Miss Medusa, who is leaving the pawn shop with Bernard in her suitcase.
  • Offscreen Airplane Pull-up: Orville is introduced flying in towards the runway of Albatross Air, built on top of a building. As Bernard watches, he sees the albatross dip below the ledge, and frantically yells "Pull up, pull up!" at the radio. Orville then reappears and skids into the runway on his face, which doesn't reassure the acrophobic Bernard one bit.
  • Oh, Crap!: Bernard and Bianca have this moment upon realizing that Brutus and Nero can smell the latter's perfume.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: Averted. Madame Medusa has a pipe organ in her hideout, but the instrument produces a calliope sound. While she is never seen playing it, her alligator pets Brutus and Nero must keep playing the organ in order to catch Bernard and Miss Bianca who are taking cover inside an organ pipe. The alligators chasing the heroes then eventually destroy it.
  • On Second Thought: In the cave, Bernard goes to investigate the water hole as he assumes that is where the treasure must be hidden. Upon taking a closer look at the Bottomless Pit and taking a Loud Gulp, he decides that a pirate would probably not hide his treasure there.
  • Pain to the Ass: When the swamp animals seize the riverboat, Luke shoves his pitchfork into Madame Medusa's butt, who screams in agony.
  • Pest Episode: Subverted — Medusa thinks she has an infestation aboard the ship, so she sends her crocodiles, Brutus and Nero, after Bianca and Bernard.
  • Parasol Parachute: Bernard and Bianca employ this after Orville gets shot at with fireworks and spirals out of control.
  • Plank Gag: Bernard is rather clumsy with the comb-ladder he carries into the R.A.S. meeting and nearly hits the Chairman with it, repeatedly.
  • Police Are Useless: Zigzagged. Rufus says that the police couldn't find Penny because she just vanished; he's the only one who saw Medusa offer her a ride which allows Bianca and Bernard to find out that Medusa spirited off Penny to Lousiana. Obviously, if adults could talk to cats, they would have followed up on that lead. When Penny actually escapes from Medusa, however, offscreen the police closest to the bayou were competent in getting her back to New York and delivering the Devil's Eye to the proper authorities. It helped that the case gained huge publicity on learning that Penny found the largest diamond in the United States.
  • Pretty in Mink: Bianca as well as Medusa.
  • Primp of Contempt: Madame Medusa is at her vanity removing her makeup before going to bed when Penny comes in, asking to be sent back to the orphanage. For most of the scene, Medusa looks more at her reflection than at Penny, especially when she delivers the cruel line "Who'd want to adopt a homely little girl like you?"
  • Product Displacement: Every home release for Rescuers from 1999-2003 omits the first Buena Vista logo (with the "Castle Thunder" sound effect heard underneath) and replaces it for Disney's (by this time outdated) white castle Vanity Plate (however, the 2003 DVD release preserves the "Castle Thunder" sound, heard underneath the white castle logo). The 35th Anniversary Edition Blu-Ray and DVD, released in 2012, restore Buena Vista's name to the opening.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The rescue squad around Ellie Mae and Luke is made up of wacky characters.
  • Recycled Animation:
    • 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's Waiting for You" scene.
    • The shot of Brutus holding Penny in his mouth with Penny angrily saying "Put me down, Brutus!" is reused twice within the film, but in different settings (first on the riverboat, and then near the Black Hole.)
    • Some of the swamp animals' walk/run cycles when charging towards the riverboat, most notably Gramps the turtle, Deadeye the rabbit, and Luke (whose run cycle and position looks very Hanna-Barbera-esque.)
  • Repeating So the Audience Can Hear: Madame Medusa does this when getting the phone call from Mr. Snoops in her pawn shop. It provides exposition for the audience as well as clues for our heroes who happen to be around at the right time. Justified by 70's-era phone systems, which were still analog rather than digital, and long-distance calls could be very scratchy and muffled (especially in an area like the swamp) - she's repeating back what Snoops said to confirm she heard him correctly.
  • 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.
  • Serious Business: The R.A.S. take their cause very seriously and summon mice from all over the world after a Message in a Bottle was found in New York. Lampshaded by the Chairman.
    "Delegates, this is no time for levity. Serious business, you know. Serious business."
  • 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, especially since at the time, dinosaurs were believed to be ancestral reptiles, rather than ancestral birds.
  • Skin Tone Sclerae: Some of the characters, including Bernard and Bianca (less noticeable on her, since she's already white-furred) did not have the whites of their eyes colored in.
  • Sleep Cute: Bianca falls asleep on Bernard's shoulder. And heads right into a snuggle.
  • Smuggling with Dolls: Madam Medusa eventually steals orphan Penny's teddy bear, seemingly to use as a hostage, but ostensibly to use it to smuggle the Devil's Eye away.
  • Squish the Cheeks: Madame Medusa squishes Penny's face with both hands when telling her to find the big diamond.
    • The owl does this to a wheezing, worn-out Evinrude, hoping to perk him up after his sooty escape from the bats down Ellie Mae's chimney. It ends up having the opposite effect.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: Snoops reveals that the pirate cave known as the Black Hole is filled with hundreds of "little" gemstones; since Penny couldn't find the "big" Devil's Eye, she brought as many as she could of the others up. He tells Medusa that even if they don't find the Devil's Eye, they'll make a fortune selling the others on the black market. Medusa's response is to smack them out of his hand and say she wants the diamond, so it will be hers. Bianca even lampshades that Medusa is "insane" to have such a response because any sensible grifter would not treat any diamond as trash.
  • Stock Sound Effect: Evinrude's buzzing "Charge" fanfare is reused from the Queen Bee in Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree.
  • 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.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Medusa verbally abuses Snoops by calling him an "idiot". To add things further, Snoops is more of a Morality Pet who's "too soft" compared to her.
  • Swamps Are Evil: The film is set in a wild, untamed coastal swamp known only as the Devil's Bayou, filled with predatory gators, thick sucking mud, and miles of confusing, flooded undergrowth. Nobody lives here except animals and the half-crazed Madame Medusa, who dwells in a decrepit old paddle-steamer that's been beached on a sandbar in the middle of the water and lives with a pair of half-tame gators called Brutus and Nero. But the real evil part is the Black Hole; a cave inside an island that has largely sunk into the water, leaving the only entry a small hole barely big enough for a child to be lowered down into it via bucket on a rope. The tight, narrow confines are filled with pirate treasure... and the remains of a pirate crew that killed themselves fighting over it. Worse, there's an opening below the tideline, so when the high tide comes, the whole cave floods. And this is where Medusa sends Penny to look for the Devil's Eye Diamond, leaving her scrabbling through the dark, dank depths, constantly wondering if it's getting to the point when the water will come surging in to fill the cave and drown her.
  • Take That!: Milt Kahl based Madame Medusa on his ex-wife, whom 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. Notably, the alligators don't talk, though.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Bernard gives this type of face right before Orville's takeoff on the flight to Devil's Bayou.
  • Toy-Based Characterization: Penny is never without her teddy bear Teddy, fussing over it like it were her child, showing her to be kind and caring. When Madame Medusa tries to force her into the cave where the Devil's Eye diamond is located, Penny claims that Teddy doesn't like it down there. Medusa's response is to take Teddy, threatening to never give it back if Penny doesn't return with the diamond.
  • Trip Trap: Bernard and Bianca stretch a rope across the door sill which makes Madame Medusa trip as she backs out of the room.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: "Tomorrow Is Another Day", playing over the Flight of Romance, goes up in pitch towards the climax.
  • 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.
    • When Orville dives off the building, that's exactly how real-life albatrosses usually take off - they are too heavy to take off from the ground in normal circumstances.
  • Umbrella of Togetherness: Bernard and Bianca share an umbrella a couple of times while they are under the rain.
  • Unplanned Crossdressing: During the organ chase, Bernard ends up briefly wearing Bianca's purple hat.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Zigzagged. Bernard, Bianca, and Penny come up with a plan to bust out and make sure that Medusa and Snoops won't follow them. This includes making sure Brutus and Nero are lured to a cage with the mice as bait, setting off fireworks to distract Medusa, and steal the swampmobile to make a clean getaway. Unfortunately, just as they're about to enact it, Snoops and Medusa make Penny walk to the Black Hole and climb down there for the Diamond. Later, however, the local critters are able to help the plan go off without a hitch when they storm the riverboat to help Penny escape. Each of the steps — the bait, the fireworks and the swampmobile — go off with minimal hitches.
  • Unwilling Suspension: Penny doesn't get tied up, but she does hang upside down whenever Brutus holds her by her panties.
    • "Put me down, Brutus!"
  • Vile Villain, Laughable Lackey: Snoops, with his stammering speech, silly name, softness relative to Medusa, and being the victim of physical comedy, is laughable. Medusa herself is cruel, greedy, intentional, emotionally manipulative, not above attempted murder, and has far fewer funny moments.
  • Villain Ball: The moment that entirely undoes Medusa's plan to get the Devil's Eye is when she sews it into Penny's teddy bear. This is despite the fact that she was holding the bear hostage to get Penny to cooperate, and Penny is grappling with her to get it back after she delivers the diamond. When Bernard and Bianca successfully trip Medusa and incapacitate her briefly, Penny runs to grab her teddy bear and make an escape as the swamp animals launch their attack on the older woman, who murderously tries to stop the little girl. If Medusa had just handed off the bear, then she would only have to worry about Snoops potentially following her because Penny would have just escaped with Bernard and Bianca back to New York on the swampmobile. As it is, she ends up trapped on her riverboat's pipe with no diamond in hand and her gators no longer loyal.
  • Villainous Breakdown: The mice having tripped up Medusa's attempt to sneak away with the diamond, she drops it and Penny grabs it, and Medusa murderously tries to pursue her and the animals that accompany her, shooting at them any chance she can. She almost succeeds in killing Penny as she spots her trying to flee in the swampmobile. Even after her gun is destroyed, Medusa resorts to simply chasing after them as they flee in the swampmobile. Medusa fails, of course.
    Medusa: (crying) There goes my diamond...!
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Madame Medusa's fear of mice. Especially since she has pet alligators.
  • What You Are in the Dark:
    • It's really subtle, Bernard singing the RAS anthem by himself just outside the meeting hall. When Bianca sees him doing that, that is enough proof for her of how deeply he values the organization's ideals. Bernard was merely the janitor at the time, and the other representatives/agents who were in the meeting hall were being far less reverent of the anthem.
    • Rufus made it a point to comfort Penny whenever she was upset and they were alone. She in turn sneaks him snacks from mealtime as thanks. Later, when he sees Bernard and Bianca exploring her things, he reassures them that he's too old to chase them but tells them they can't stay or he'll be kicked out.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer…: Villainous example; Medusa's default solution for handling pests or invaders is her shotgun. It's powerful, but her aim is terrible. This is good for the heroes, since she's often aiming at them.
  • Wiper Start: In the finale, when Penny tries to start up Madame Medusa's swampmobile, she activates the horn instead of the spark lever. Justified as she is actually too young to operate such a vehicle.
  • Woken Up at an Ungodly Hour: When Bernard and Bianca are sneaking through the zoo at night, Bernard complains about the "grumpy old lion" who roared at him. Bianca says, "Waking him up in the middle of the night — wouldn't you be grumpy too?". However, Bernard claims he didn't wake him up; the lion just woke up of his own accord.


Bernard's superstition

Bernard is afraid of the number thirteen, which he just can't seem to avoid.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / ThirteenIsUnlucky

Media sources: