With the help of a smooth talking tomcat, a family of Parisian felines set to inherit a fortune from their owner try to make it back home after a jealous butler kidnaps them and leaves them in the country.
When a bottle containing a plea for help from a little girl named Penny makes its way to the Rescue Aid Society, a mouse organization in the basement of the United Nations building dedicated to the rescue and well-being of anyone in need, it is up to the brave mouse Miss Bianca and her chosen partner, the shy janitor Bernard, to rescue the girl. Searching for clues at Penny's home at Morningside Orphanage in New York City, the two mice discover that the girl has been kidnapped by the evil pawn shop owner Madame Medusa and her companion Mr. Snoops. On the back of Orville the albatross, Miss Bianca and Bernard travel to the terrifyingly gloomy Devil's Bayou where they learn the shocking truth: the innocent young girl is being forced down into a dangerous, dark underground pirate's cave where she must find the Devil's Eye, the world's largest diamond and Madame Medusa's greatest obsession. Before returning safely home, Miss Bianca, Bernard, and Penny will have to combat Madame Medusa's ...Written by
Fans of Walt Disney animation, and animation in general, have often mistakenly referred to the sometimes "sketchy" style in this film, as well as in others such as The Sword in the Stone (1963) and The Aristocats (1970) as "lazy" and budget-cut. In fact, the veteran animators working on these films, particularly Milt Kahl, strongly objected to their drawings being altered in any way and demanded that they should appear on the film's animation cels exactly as they had been drawn. See more »
For a brief moment after Bernard tosses Penny's message from the bottle, the letter says "Morningside Orphanage, New York". After that, it reads "New Yorc." See more »
[reading a pamphlet]
Listen to this - it says here, 'Devil's Bayou is uncharted and hazardous. Each day's operations... '
'... must be-'
Good night, dear.
[falls asleep on his shoulder]
'... planned with care and... '
[he puts his arm around her]
Good night, Bianca.
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The opening credits describe the journey of Penny's bottle through raging ocean waters. The entire sequence is made up of still paintings. See more »
On 8 January 1999, Disney issued a recall of 3.4 million copies of the home video version because two frames included an "objectionable background image", probably inserted without permission during production as an in-joke. The offending frames appear in a scene featuring a pan across an apartment: in one of the apartment windows, a picture of a topless woman can be glimpsed. This scene was intact for the original theatrical release in 1977. However, it was not in the 1992 video version because that was "made from a different print" according to a Disney spokesperson. See more »
The great adventure of Bernard and Bianca: simple but effective...
Finally, I watched "The Rescuers", the oldest Disney animated feature I hadn't seen yet... till today. So this is a fresh review devoid of emotional bias, yet to say that I didn't have any experience with the film wouldn't be totally true. Large excerpts were featured in a Disney TV Special dedicated to villains, and it was before the Renaissance, so the last animated villain was Madame Medusa. The clips gave many parts away, the little girl named Penny (and her dear Teddy bear), Brutus and Nero were there and the sequence was the one when they found the Devil's Eye into the skull before the tides rose. I had the program recorded on VHS so I watched many times, and since it must have covered 10% of the story, I had the feeling I had watched quite a bit of the film.
Then came Disney Renaissance and you could find movies like "Aladdin", "Little Mermaid" and "The Lion King", as for the post-Golden Age films, you could have "The Jungle Book", "Robin Hood" but for some reasons, "The Rescuers" wasn't easy to spot. I watched though the sequel set in Australia and I had the strange feeling I had seen the first film as I was already familiar with the main protagonists. That's just to say, as it's time to conclude this prologue, that my story with the film consists on missed opportunities. And now, that I remember it, I bought the film from my local DVD store three years ago, and it had the sequel on it.
Now, discovering such an old gem, so late in my life, gave me a strange feeling, similar to the times where I was discovering the Disney classics. That alone added to the enjoyment, and it was enjoyable, much more, in a very simple and charming way. It starts in an abandoned steamboat in the Bayou, the darkness making it even creepier. Then a little girl, watched by two malicious crocodiles, drops a bottle with a message on the river. It is, I guess, the first ever prologue featured in a Disney film, it's not much long, but it does two things: it sets the tone of a modern story (no book to be opened) and starts the emotional opening credits. The Oscar-nominated theme song "Someone's Waiting for You" is played while we follow the little bottle in still images during its journey over the ocean. A rather economical opening credit sequence, but effective... and that perfectly describes "The Rescuers".
The prologue says more: the little girl is already held captive, so the story had already started and we're getting through it halfway, no need for exposition or long build-ups, it'll come later through the investigation. When the credits stop, there's another little marvel of animation when we get to the United Nations building, quite an unusual sight when you think of the last Disney film featuring a lion sucking his thumb and an outlaw fox. The human animation seems like made through rotoscoping but it creates the perfect contrast with the following eye-catching oddity: mice from all over the world getting off their owners' luggage to meet in their own organization: Rescue Aid. They're from Austria, Turkey, Pakistan, India, and there's also a fat mouse from Arabia with the sunglasses, that really cracked me up.
Mice are interesting characters for animation I guess, it can be a coincidence that many more mice-centered movies would be made in the 80's ("The Secret of NIMH" or "An American Tail") their size allow them to populate one frame with extremely diverse characters in the same time and give you a bigger picture than with bigger characters. Think of the beautiful entrance of Hungarian representative Bianca and the way each mouse is literally hypnotized by her, starting with the jittery janitor, Bernard (Bob Newhart). Think also of the scene where they visit the Orphanage or Medusa's pawn shop, again their small size is the foil for great artistic setting and it's delightful to have small creatures evolving in an urban world, where you could even bump into a NRA badge.
Disney had small creatures before, but either they evolved in an anthropomorphic world or were in a rural ancient setting à la Cinderella. Modernity, this time, enhances the appeal of the film, you have Orville; a clumsy albatross who plays like an airplane, and Barnard is as uneasy as in a real one, and I can't blame him. You also have Evinrude, a dragonfly who buzzes and moves a leaf on the water like a speedboat. Every element is cleverly used by the animation while we also evolve in a naturally sized world, at least on the scale of little Penny, one of the most endearing characters of the film. And I guess it's time to speak about the great characterization. Bianca, voiced by Eva Gabor, is so daring, sweet and optimistic, she forms a great pair with the timid Bernard, who's never as funny as when he tries to 'play it cool' although it's not his strong suit. And the little touch of romantic mystery between the two characters also adds to the enchantment.
Medusa belongs to the funnier side of Disney villains, but she's effective and the animation helps. Her body language is even more effective than her lines. This doesn't come as a surprise, the film was one of the last the Nine Old Men contributed to before passing the torch to the new generation, including Don Bluth. I don't know if it rather closes the post-Golden Age or foresees the improvement that would lead to the Renaissance, but there's a transitional vibe from the film that leans toward the positive feeling. The animation improves and culminates with the climax, the characters are endearing, and the music features some catchy songs, as I still have this "Rescue" anthem in my head as if I truly had discovered the film, as a kid.
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