A sequel to The Rescuers (1977), The Rescuers Down Under was released on November 16, 1990 as the 29th full-length animated feature in Disney history. It was the second film released during Disney’s Animation Renaissance after The Little Mermaid (1989), and it clocks in at 77 minutes.
What began as a fun day playing with animals in the Australian outback for young Cody turns disastrous when he falls into the trap of Percival C. McLeach, a poacher. Cody is a strong child, and he remains positive, but to have any realistic chance of escaping, he will need help.
Where will this aid come from, though? Superman? Batman? Condorman? Nope; nope; and definitely not! If Cody is to be saved, a pair of mice from the New York City-based Rescue Aid Society, Miss Bianca and Bernard, will be doing the honors.
Bianca and Bernard are small, but they succeeded in rescuing a young girl named Penny in The Rescuers. Can they save Cody too?
While Bianca and Bernard are more or less the same as they were in the original Rescuers—they are even played by the same voice actors, Eva Gabor and Bob Newhart, respectively—the other characters are somewhat different, albeit comparable to their counterparts in the original.
Relative to Penny, Cody is a more confident and assertive child. These traits are probably the effect of Cody having a loving mom; Penny was an orphan.
As for the villains, I think Medusa was crueler than McLeach. That’s not to say McLeach is a nice guy, because he’s quite the opposite, but Medusa’s use of psychological torture on the helpless Penny makes her worse for me.
Like Medusa, McLeach employs an animal sidekick as a guard. All of these critters are bizarre and nasty, but Medusa seemed to love her crocodiles, Brutus and Nero, more than McLeach cares about his lizard, Joanna. The latter relationship strikes me as the ultimate love-hate pairing.
In The Rescuers Down Under, Albatross Air Service is under new management as Orville has handed the business to his brother, Wilbur. I’ll just say that, for better or for worse, Wilbur is more energetic than Orville. Actually, Wilbur is downright hyper.
The Rescuers Down Under features much suspense at various points.
The camera dash through the grass towards Cody’s house at the beginning provides an adrenaline rush, as does the boy’s encounter with Marahute, a giant golden eagle. Freeing a huge bird with a knife at the edge of a huge cliff isn’t pedestrian work. It’s scary stuff!
Additionally, many of Cody’s interactions with McLeach provide suspense. The line between life and death is frequently razor thin for the boy.
Jokes and visual gags are included throughout the flick, and you’ll be hard pressed to not laugh at least a little.
Wilbur is amusing in his mannerisms. He dances to rock and roll music, and he has an uncanny ability to make historical references. In addition to his name, which is a play on airplane co-inventor Wilbur Wright, our pilot sarcastically asks, “What do I look like, Charles Lindbergh?” when Bianca ponders if the flight to Australia will be “nonstop.” Lindbergh made the first solo transatlantic flight in history, from New York to Paris, in 1927.
Dramatic irony adds humor to the film. Thinking that Bianca is talking about a possible wedding as opposed to the rescue mission for Cody, Bernard suggests waiting until “next April” to embark on the journey. Sorry, Bernard; I don’t think Cody can wait that long!
As for funny visuals, Jake the rat is forced to extend the airport “runway” with umbrellas and portable rooftops when Wilbur refuses to believe the original space is too short for him to safely land on.
I find Joanna hilarious. She makes quirky facial expressions and strange maneuvers, especially when she’s trying to steal eggs from her master.
Finally, I think the doctors who “cared” for Wilbur are amusing in their ineptitude. Randomly using chainsaws and medicine guns to heal the bird’s back, these physicians need to improve their bedside manner!
Music isn’t among the film’s strong points in my opinion. Though the background music solidly complements the plot, no feature songs are included. This omission is disappointing because all of the other movies from the Animation Renaissance, not to mention the original Rescuers, contained several solid, if not outstanding, numbers.
Aside from the dearth of music, I have a couple of other problems with The Rescuers Down Under.
First, I think the movie possesses too many main characters and storylines for its own good. Especially toward the middle of the film, the plot abruptly rotates between Cody, the various rodents, and Wilbur such that we don’t get to fully relate to any of them. For me, this lack of relationship hinders my emotion during the rescue sequence at the end.
Additionally, I find the ending to be a cliffhanger. I think the film would’ve been better with an additional scene featuring Cody’s mother and perhaps a honeymoon for Bianca and Bernard to provide full closure.
In the Parks
No attractions or regular character meets based on The Rescuers Down Under currently exist at Walt Disney World or Disneyland.
Though I think The Rescuers Down Under pales in comparison to its counterparts in the Animation Renaissance, it’s nonetheless an enjoyable watch because of the suspense and humor.
What do you think of The Rescuers Down Under? Let me know in a comment!
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