The 23rd full-length animated feature in Disney history, The Rescuers was released on June 22, 1977. It is based on a book series by English novelist Margery Sharp and is 77 minutes in length. A sequel, The Rescuers Down Under, was released theatrically on November 16, 1990.
In New York City, a kind and witty orphan girl named Penny is kidnapped by an evil pawn shop owner named Medusa. This villain is desperate to find the valuable Devil’s Eye diamond, which is hidden deep inside an underground cave on the uncharted Devil’s Bayou island, and she will do anything in her power to get Penny to retrieve it for her.
All realistic hope seems to be lost for Penny. The only chance she has of escaping Medusa’s grasp comes in the form of two mice, Miss Bianca and Bernard, who were dispatched by the International Rescue Aid Society—a rodent version of the United Nations—to help her. Being tiny animals, though, Bianca and Bernard obviously have no chance of actually rescuing the girl; right?
The protagonists in The Rescuers are a pair of mice, Miss Bianca and Bernard.
Bianca is the Hungarian ambassador to the Rescue Aid Society. From a practical standpoint, she holds this position because her voice actress, Eva Gabor, was originally from Hungary. Gabor’s accent is distinct, and viewers who have seen The Aristocats (1970) will likely recollect Duchess, the mother cat played by Gabor in that film.
As in The Aristocats, Gabor’s character in The Rescuers falls in love. Upon volunteering to undertake the mission to save Penny, Bianca asks Bernard, the Rescue Aid Society’s janitor and not a representative, to join her. Bernard is as hesitant as Bianca is outgoing, but the two rodents nevertheless support each other. Sometimes opposites just attract!
I found it interesting that Gabor voiced a mouse in this film after playing a cat previously. Furthermore, I was fascinated that, like in The Aristocats, the cats and the mice actually get along. To this end, as Duchess and her kittens were friends with Roquefort the mouse in The Aristocats, Bianca and Bernard are amicable with Rufus the cat, the pet at the Morningside Orphanage, in The Rescuers. What has become of the animal world?
Once the setting shifts from New York to the Devil’s Bayou, several additional mice join the film. The most notable of these new rodents, in my opinion, is Luke. Though his role is no greater than that of his wife, Ellie Mae, Luke’s voice immediately struck me as familiar. Indeed, his actor, Pat Buttram, previously played the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood (1973) and Napoleon the dog in The Aristocats.
There are two main antagonists in The Rescuers: Medusa and Mr. Snoops. If they weren’t villains, I’d tell this duo to visit a Disney theme park because they seem to like fireworks.
Though she’s not one of Disney’s most recognizable villains, Medusa is arguably one of the company’s cruelest characters. In addition to kidnapping Penny, Medusa puts the girl under both physical and psychological duress. She forces Penny to work in the underground cave, which features tidal hazards, and rhetorically asks her why anybody would want to adopt a girl like her.
Mr. Snoops, Medusa’s sidekick, comes across as an incompetent fool. Snoops was voiced by Joe Flynn, who, among other roles, played Dean Higgins in all three installments of Disney’s live action Medfield College trilogy: The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969), Now You See Him, Now You Don’t (1972), and The Strongest Man in the World (1975), respectively. Mr. Snoops proved to be Flynn’s final role; the actor drowned on July 19, 1974, three years prior to The Rescuers’ release.
As The Rescuers features mice in a human world, there are a plethora of interesting things to look at. For example, the podiums in the Rescue Aid Society are created out of everyday objects such as a bandage box and a match box. Ah, yes; for better or for worse, mice are resourceful critters.
The airport scene is interesting. Here, Bianca and Bernard catch a flight to the Devil’s Bayou on Albatross Air Service, a name that is both literally and metaphorically accurate in describing the “airline.” As an aside, the location of the airport among Manhattan’s skyscrapers isn’t accurate in terms of real-world geography. Both of New York City’s airports, LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport, are situated in Queens.
The scenes featuring the villains are perhaps the film’s most visually appealing segments. Medusa, in particular, engages in some bizarre behavior such as waterskiing on her pet alligators. She’s not having fun, but many of her situations are amusing for the audience to behold.
The music in the film is excellent, especially when one considers the context of the plot.
Played during the opening credits, “The Journey” is both beautiful and suspenseful. It serves as a wonderful introduction to the movie.
The music doesn’t deteriorate thereafter.
“Rescue Aid Society” is a catchy chant, which I couldn’t get out of my head for several hours after the film. Its rendition in The Rescuers proper is almost comical because some of the representatives are awful singers; Bianca is probably the best vocalist in the group.
“Tomorrow is Another Day” is performed during the flight scene. The lovely lyrics are augmented by great visuals of both diverse locales and affection between Bianca and Bernard, respectively.
Finally, “Someone’s Waiting for You” serves as a solid transition at a time when all hope seems to be lost for numerous characters. It’s arguably the film’s most heartwarming number, and that’s saying something.
In the Parks
Unfortunately, no attractions or regular character meets based on The Rescuers exist in Disney’s theme parks.
Though The Rescuers isn’t among Disney’s most heralded films, it’s nonetheless a solid effort. The story is heartwarming, the music is excellent, and an assortment of visuals and gags provide eye candy, which lends itself well to repeat viewing.
What do you think of The Rescuers? Let me know in a comment!
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