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The Rescuers / The Rescuers Down Under
BLU-RAY disk
Sep 5, 2012 By: Mathew Plale
The Rescuers / The Rescuers Down Under order
Director:
Wolfgang Reitherman, John Lounsbery, Art Stevens, Hendel Butoy, Mike Gabriel

Actors:
Eva Gabor
Bob Newhart
George C. Scott

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
In these two Disney animated features, members of the Rescue Aid Society (Gabor, Newhart) rush to help kidnapped orphans in both the Louisianan bayou (The Rescuers) and the Australian Outback (The Rescuers Down Under).
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
The Rescuers (1977)

Penny (voice of Michelle Stacy) is in great trubble. Shes been kidnapped by the villainous Madame Medusa (Geraldine Page) and her sidekick Mr. Snoops (Joe Flynn) and held at the mucky Devils Bayou. In dire need of help, she sends a distress message in a bottle, which comes into the hands of the Rescue Aid Society, a mouse-run organization housed inside the United Nations Headquarters.

Hungarian representative Bianca (Eva Gabor) takes the assignment with janitor Bernard (Bob Newhart, always a welcome presence, but not fit for a mouse). They track down Pennys kidnapper to a pawn shop (where else?), where they learn the duo are after a rare diamond, found in--where else?--Devils Bayou. (And in case the wild hair didnt make Medusa seem frightening, she also has two pet alligators.)

So sets off the adventure of The Rescuers, based on stories by Margery Sharp and released in 1977 as Disneys 23rd animated feature. The problem is, theres more stiffness than energy, and so the movie isnt very fun.

The Rescuers was co-directed by two of Disneys famed Nine Old Men--Wolfgang Reitherman and John Lounsbery--and Art Stevens, a character animator since Peter Pan. While other Old Men (Ollie Johnston, Milt Kahl, Frank Thomas) worked on the film, the production also ushered in a newer batch of animators. And while there is some fine animation and a handful of well-executed moments (albatross Orvilles flight out of New York City) that allowed some of the younger guys--including Glen Keane and Ron Clements, key players of the Disney Renaissance--to hone their skills, the overall presentation lacks freshness and excitement.

Its clear Disney had seen better days, and its those days that the crew tries so desperately to cling to. Two major examples are the starring role of likable mice (Cinderella) and the antagonists death (ripped almost directly from Peter Pan). The Rescuers was the beginning of the decline for Walt Disney Animation Studios, which subsequently released The Fox and the Hound (directed by Stevens, which may hint at some of this movies flaws), The Black Cauldron, The Great Mouse Detective, and Oliver & Company. And it wouldnt exactly be unreasonable to lump The Rescuers with any of those.



The Rescuers Down Under (1990)

Set in the Australian Outback (thanks to the rage of Crocodile Dundee), The Rescuers Down Under opens with another child in danger. This time, Cody (voice of Adam Ryen) is kidnapped by poacher Percival C. McLeah (George C. Scott, a spot-on choice) in hopes the young boy will tell him the location of a rare eagle. But, of course, the Rescue Aid Society--namely Bianca (Eva Gabor) and Bernard (Bob Newhart)--are on the case.

This, like its predecessor (The Rescuers Down Under was Disneys first sequel to an animated feature), allows adventure to ensue. And it does--more so than 1977s The Rescuers. Due in large part to the technology then available, the animation of The Rescuers Down Under is richer and more detailed, completely erasing the stiffness that hounded the original.

There are so many errors corrected here, with the inclusion of clean and colorful animation, an intimidating villain with a menacing presence and a fate for McLeah that seems to directly mock the choice to kill off Madame Medusa in the vein of Captain Hook. And though the Rescuers themselves arent in the mix nearly as much as they should be, it all makes to be the energetic and fun adventure that The Rescuers wasnt.

This isnt to suggest that The Rescuers Down Under, released in 1990 as Disneys 29th animated feature, deserves to stand alongside The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, or The Lion King in any way except chronologically. It doesnt near the quality of any of those classics, nor does it fit seamlessly with the sleek, dimensional style of the Disney Renaissance. But its a thrilling effort, a sequel that greatly surpasses the original.
THE EXTRAS
Blu-ray:

Water Birds - A Walt Disney True-Life Adventure (30:42): This 1952 documentary won the Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Two-reel).

The Making of The Rescuers Down Under (10:33): This promotional piece uses interviews, clips and production footage to hype the 1990 sequel.

Also included are a Deleted Song (Peoplitis), a Silly Symphony Animated Short (Three Blind Mousketeers) and a Sing-Along Song (Someones Waiting for You).

DVDs:

The two DVDs (one for The Rescuers, the other for The Rescuers Down Under) include all of the material from the Blu-ray except for the Deleted Song.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Timed to coincide with the originals 35th anniversary, this Disney Blu-ray double feature of The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under offers strong, faithful transfers on both films. Each--especially the sequel--looks better than ever, and so this release will be a must-have for Disney enthusiasts, even if the special features are slim (with only vintage documentaries, a short and a pair of songs for the little ones to enjoy.)
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