The Rescuers (Disney film)

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A series of two films in the Disney Animated Canon (#23 and #29). 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 films were based on a series of children's books by Margery Sharp. Loosely, of course--the only things that the movies and the books share are the protagonists' basic traits. Pick them up at the library if you really feel curious.

The first film, titled simply 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).

In 1990, the film was followed by The Rescuers Down Under, which has the dubious honor of being Disney's first animated sequel. Set in the Australian Outback, the Evil Poacher McLeach (George C. Scott) has kidnapped a young boy named Cody (Adam Ryen) in order to snare Marahute, an endangered eagle large enough to ride around on. Naturally, Bianca and Bernard must come to the rescue, with help from Orville's brother Wilbur (John Candy) and Jake (Tristan Rogers), the mouse equivalent to Crocodile Dundee. Down Under was also a pioneer in the use of CGI. Unlike the first film, which was a huge success, Down Under actually failed at the box office, making it the only true failure of the Disney Renaissance.

What makes both the movies interesting in a Real Life sense is how each came during a time when Disney was facing changing fortunes. The first 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 (film). 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). 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 One Hundred and One Dalmatians thanks to improvements of xerography processing technology to allow a softer look.

In the case of the 1990 movie, Disney was facing a future with computer animation rapidly changing the state of the art. They used the movie as a test bed of their new CAPS coloring system -- instead of hand-painting cels, you could now use a computer program to color the animation. This saved a considerable amount of time and hand-drawn animation was now easier to integrate into CGI backgrounds and effects (and also allowed for extensive use of Cel Shading). In Down Under, the test run of this system had mostly decent, sometimes amazing (especially during Marahute's flight), and sometimes mixed results. They had mastered it brilliantly by the time of Beauty and the Beast, the following year.


Tropes used in The Rescuers (Disney film) include:
  • The Ace: Jake in Down Under.
  • Actually Pretty Funny
  • Adventure Duo: Miss Bianca and Bernard.
  • All Animals Are Dogs: Joanna the lizard (a Spenser's Goanna) acts more like a pet dog than anything. She begs, she whimpers, she wags her tail, she crawls through doggy doors, and she watches McLeach's catches like a guard dog. Medusa also 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, alligators have a very keen sense of smell all on their own.
  • Award Bait Song: "Someone's Waiting For You" from the first 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.
    • Both movies were also the first utilize new animation techniques by Disney; Rescuers did away with most of the rough sketching that was used for the frame-by-frame save Medusa, while Down Under was the first in movie history to render 2D animation with computers.
  • Awesome Aussie: Jake.
  • Ask a Stupid Question: When Cody asks Frank the frilled lizard the following question:

Cody: Hey! Where did you come from?
Frank: Um . . . the desert?

  • Battle Butler: Mr. Snoops in the first film.
  • Berserk Button: Talk about Penny and you are doomed!
  • Big "Never!"
  • Big No: McLeach gives off one as he plummets to his doom down the waterfall.
    • So does Cody the moment he's accidentally swept off the cliff when he frees Marahoute.
    • And when McLeach says to Cody that someone shot Marahoute right out of the sky...
  • Big "Shut Up!"
  • Bitch Alert: Penny has done it all, she attempted to run away to the orphanage to diminish everyone's zeal, and uh oh, she has lost her dignity... Madame Medusa and Mr. Snoops picked up her whole distinction and completely mugged it! Hopeless and lost, she figures out a solution to mend it.
  • Blondes Are Evil: Penny
  • Break the Cutie: Poor Penny has been captured and locked in a ship along with old nasty Madame Medusa!
  • Break the Haughty: Penny has been doing way too many streaks of mischievousness and arrogance, people have noticed this and have gotten so caught up with her that they decided to show her a solution to her problematic behaviors by screaming that she's an imbecile that doesn't need to see stardom when she grows up.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: In Rescuers Down Under, Bernard has a very hard time working up the nerve to propose to Bianca. And Jake does not help.
  • Carnivore Confusion: Hand Wave in The Rescuers where Rufus the Cat says that he's "too old to be chasing mice". Played straight in the sequel.
  • Cats Are Mean: Subverted and lampshaded in the first film; ironically, Don Bluth worked on it.
  • Changed My Mind, Kid
  • Chekhov's Gun: Penny's teddy bear.
  • Children Are Innocent
  • Closeup on Head: Down Under.
  • Companion Cube: Penny's teddy bear.
  • Conspicuous CG: Down Under's opening sequence.
    • Even more conspicuous: The scenes where Wilbur is flying over the Sydney Opera House and through New York City in Down Under.
  • Cool Boat: Madame Medusa's "swampmobile".
  • Cool Car / Cool Tank: McLeach's half-track.
  • 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.
  • Media Research Failure: The back cover blurb for one of the DVD releases of Down Under used a male pronoun on Marahute and went right downhill from there.
  • Cowardly Lion: Bernard will always insist he is a lowly janitor; he stutters and can be a nervous wreck, but Bianca knows that if you present him with a challenge where people depend on him, nothing can stop him.
  • Cross-Dressing Voices: Frank Welker voices the female eagle Marahute and McLeach's lizard, Joanna. (Of course, it's less suprising that the actor is a man than it is that the actor is human.)
  • Cute Giant: Marahoute the giant eagle.
    • Also, to mice, humans are giants, so naturally human children will qualify as cute giants from the perspective of the mice as well.
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: Penny
  • Cute Shotaro Boy: Cody.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Krebbs the koala, one of the many animals trapped in McLeach's hideout, seems to be one of these.

Cody: Frank, you're free!
Frank: I'm free? I'm free, I'm free, I'm free, I'm free!
Kangaroo: Shhh... Joanna will hear.
Krebbs: Double or nothing, he's caught in 5 minutes.

Jake: So, which way are you taking, Suicide Trail, Nightmare Canyon, or the shortcut, Satan's Ridge?
Bernard: S-s-suicide Trail?
Jake: Good choice! More snakes, but less quicksand. And once you're past Bloodworm Creek you're scot-free, that is until Dead Dingo Cross.

  • Ignoring by Singing: In The Rescuers Down Under, Frank the frill-necked lizard covers his ears and sings "Waltzing Matilda" when Krebbs the koala starts describing what the poacher is going to do to them.
  • Inevitable Waterfall: The site of the aforementioned Disney Villain Death in Down Under.
  • Interspecies Friendship: Involves mice talking to and befriending humans. The first even has a cat talking to and befriending both humans AND mice. The sequel also has Cody feeling very attached to Marahoute the eagle, though they can't communicate with each other.
  • Ink Suit Actor: Wilbur bears quite a resemblance to John Candy in terms of facial features.
    • Also, George C. Scott seems like the performance model of McLeach.
  • Kick the Dog: Both villains get several such moments, but for Medusa, who kidnaps a young girl from an orphanage and makes her dig for a diamond in a cave and refusing to let her up even when her life is in danger, what really stands out in many people's minds is her trying to convince Penny that nobody would ever want to adopt her.
  • Knife Outline: Done intentionally by McLeach when he's trying to intimidate Cody into revealing Marahute's whereabouts.
  • Land Down Under: The second film, naturally.
  • Large Ham: Orville, Wilbur and Frank, albeit to a lesser extent then the villains.
  • Love Hungry: Madame Medusa.
  • 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".
  • Meaningful Name: Evinrude is a well-known manufacturer of boat engines. It's also the name of the dragonfly that powers the leaf boat the mice use in the first film. Could also be considered a Shout-Out.
    • Same with Orville, the albatross.
    • And in the sequel he is replaced by his brother Wilbur.
  • Message in a Bottle: Sent by Penny to start all the action.
  • Mineral MacGuffin: The Devil's Eye in the first film.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: Marahute is supposed to be a golden eagle, which only occurs in the northern hemisphere (and is a least concern species). The presence of a single breeding pair in Australia suggests they were introduced, and Australia has rarely had good luck with introduced species.
  • Mob War: The Rescuers
  • Mouse World
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: The villainess of The Rescuers is named Madame Medusa and her pet crocs are Brutus and Nero.
  • Nice Hat: McLeach and Bianca.
  • Nice Mice: Bernard and Bianca.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Adam Ryen as Cody and George C. Scott as McLeach. Most of the animals in Down Under as well; only Jake, Krebs the Koala and a handful of kangaroos have noticeable Australian Accents.
  • Panty Shot: Penny. Medusa's crocodile holds her upside down by them, 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 in the first film, after Orville gets shot at with fireworks and spirals out of control
  • Parental Abandonment: Penny is an orphan.
  • Parrot Expowhat:
  • Pretty in Mink: Bianca in Rescuers as well as Medusa.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: For a poacher, McLeach does not handle his rifle properly, the first instance of this being when he uses it (already loaded and cocked, mind you) to pull Cody out of a trap.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: McLeach figuring out how to get Cody to hand over the eagle.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Brutus and Nero in the first one, Joanna in the sequel. Averted with Frank the frilled lizard who is harmlessly insane.
  • Romantic False Lead: Jake in the sequel.
  • Ruined FOREVER: For some weird reason, The Rescuers started to act up, and has put more development on Penny! Now we know that she is lazy and arrogant and because of that, people start to bark at her for her brattiness and bullying, and say that she doesn't need to have a long life.
  • Sequel Goes Foreign: As you can tell from its name, the second movie shifts the action to Australia.
  • 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.
  • Shark Pool: The waters near Croc Falls in the sequel which, appropriately enough, are infested with crocodiles!
  • Sleep Cute: Bianca falls asleep on Bernard's shoulder in the first movie. And heads right into a snuggle.
    • Oddly, that exact same hug is done in the sequel by Jake.
  • Spelling Song: The Rescue Aid Society theme song.
  • Stock Footage: The shots of Medusa driving may have used recycled cels from One Hundred and One 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!"
  • Suggested By:
    • The Rescuers: ..."The Rescuers" and "Miss Bianca" by Margery Sharp.
    • Down Under: ...characters created by Margery Sharp.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Wilbur. Justified in that Jim Jordan, who voiced the previous albatross Orville, died of natural causes.
  • Talking Animal: It's left uncertain whether anyone other than Cody and Penny can actually understand the animals in the series.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil
  • Thirteen Is Unlucky: A reoccurring motif in the first film. 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.
    • Thirteen years passed between the theatrical debuts of the two movies, and Down Under ended up being the least successful movie of the Disney Renaissance.
  • Together Umbrella: Miss Bianca and Bernard in The Rescuers.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Happens to Bernard the moment he decides to wrestle a warthog to the ground.
  • Trouble Follows You Home
  • Underside Ride: In Down Under, Bernard, Miss Bianca and Jake get under McLeach's truck to follow him when he goes after Cody.
  • Urban Legend of Zelda: Rumors have popped up that the first movie is going to be re-released as part of the Platinum Edition line-up in 2013; so far, however, this has only been confirmed for Europe. Then again, that's still a couple of years away, so Disney might announce a Western release by then.
  • Villainous Breakdown: "there goes my diamond!"
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Madame Medusa's fear of mice. Especially since she has pet alligators.
  • Wham! Line: In the second: "I've already got the father."
    • Subverted; according to the Bloopers section of this site, some viewers might have noticed that the feather of the father was in McLeach's hat before he took it out of his jacket and put it in his hat.
  • What Could Have Been: Early drafts of the original movie involve saving a polar bear from a tyrant penguin. Not sure how the finished product would have been.
    • Yet another draft would have been rescuing a depressed poet from a prison.
    • Early drafts of the movie also wanted to use Cruella de Vil as the original Big Bad, but they decided not to as they deemed it would be confusing to use a familiar villain in an entirely different movie.
    • Originally, Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers was supposed to be a Rescuers TV series. Consider the Expies: Chip + Dale = Bernard Gadget = Bianca Monterey Jack = Jake Zipper = Evinrude the dragonfly
    • Had Penny not been replaced with Jenny, Oliver and Company would have instead been Disney's first sequel/spin-off in the canon, preceding Down Under by two years.
  • What Happened To The Australian Fauna?: In Down Under, what happens to the rest of the animals caged up in McLeach's hideout? We never see them again after the second escape attempt, when Cody is taken away. Possibly intended and lampshaded: No-one returned for Wilbur or Marahute's eggs, either.
  • Who Watches the Watchmen?: Penny has been doing way too many pranks that have got people ticked! So they decided to tell the world about her, and now the government... along with their appeal... is on a quest to figure out the true potential of Penny!
  • Working on the Chain Gang: The Rescuers
  • Would Hit a Girl: Subverted
  • Would Hurt a Child