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July 16, 2018 12:39 pm

Rewind Review: Unappreciated Disney Classics – The Rescuers (1977)


By Joe Brandeis, G+ profile.


For the next few Rewind Review posts, we wanted to touch about some great animation work. We couldn’t narrow it down to one — and we thought, there are a bunch of classic Disney movies that are just forgotten, unappreciated, or pushed aside by the bigger hits like The Lion King, Cinderella, Aladdin, and so on. Sure, those hits are awesome (That is why they are hits, right?) but you might not know what you’re missing..


The Rescuers!


Two fantasy novels by Margery Sharp were combined for in the Disney animated feature The Rescuers. The title characters are a pair of mice, Bernard and Miss Bianca. A little girl named Penny has been kidnapped by Miss Medusa. When the human law enforcement officials fail to locate the child, Bernard and Miss Bianca take over with the help of several colorful animal companions. In classic Disney tradition, the comedy element is offset by moments of genuine terror. Voices are provided by Bob Newhart (Bernard), Eva Gabor (Miss Bianca), Geraldine Page (Madame Medusa), Jim “Fibber McGee” Jordan, John McIntire, George “Goober” Lindsay, Joe Flynn (who died in 1974, not long into the four-year production), and a host of others. It scored at the box office, more than compensating for the $8 million investment and the half-decade of work it took to complete the film. In fact, The Rescuers remains one of the most popular of the Disney cartoon films produced after the death of Uncle Walt. A heavily-computerized sequel, The Rescuers Down Under, appeared in 1990.

~ Hal Erickson, Rovi



The Rescuers is a 1977 American animated adventure film produced by Walt Disney Productions and first released on June 22, 1977 by Buena Vista Distribution. The 23rd film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, the film is about the Rescue Aid Society, an international mouse organization headquartered in New York and shadowing the United Nations, dedicated to helping abduction victims around the world at large. Two of these mice, jittery janitor Bernard (Bob Newhart) and his co-agent, the elegant Miss Bianca (Eva Gabor), set out to rescue Penny (Michelle Stacy), an orphan girl being held prisoner in the Devil’s Bayou by treasure huntress Madame Medusa (Geraldine Page).

The film is based on a series of books by Margery Sharp, most notably The Rescuers and Miss Bianca. Due to the film’s success, a sequel entitled The Rescuers Down Under was released in 1990.

The Rescuers was four years in the making with the combined talents of 250 people, including 40 animators who produced approximately 330,000 drawings; there were 14 sequences with 1,039 separate scenes and 750 backgrounds.

Contrary to popular belief, Walt Disney was involved in early development of the film. Though actual production did not begin until about 1973, the suggestion of considering Margery Sharp’s “Miss Bianca” novels was made in 1962 (at this time, only the first two had been published). However, Walt Disney disliked the idea of a faithful adaptation of Sharp’s The Rescuers (1959), in which Miss Bianca, Bernard, and a third mouse named Nils rescued a Norwegian poet from imprisonment, and suggested that the subject of rescue be changed to a polar bear named Willie held captive in a zoo. Following his death in 1966, Sharp’s second novel in the series was selected as the primary source for adaptation.


When I was younger, my brother and I would always watch Disney movies. I mean, that’s what kids did, right? Well, we were also huge fans of Chip and Dale on saturday cartoons, so The Rescuers was a quick favorite. I remember just being enveloped in the dark colors and story of these little mice. There is one scene in particular where Penny is being lowered down a well or mine shaft, to retrieve jewels and diamonds for her captor. Shivers!

The Rescuers was successful upon its original theatrical release earning $48 million at the box office and becoming Disney’s most successful film to that date. The film broke a record for the largest financial amount made for an animated film on opening weekend, a record it kept until 1986, when An American Tail broke the record. The Rescuers was Disney’s first significant success since The Jungle Book (1967) and the last until The Little Mermaid (1989).

The Rescuers was said to be Disney’s greatest film since Mary Poppins (1964), and seemed to signal a new golden age for Disney animation. The film holds an 85% “Certified Fresh” rating at Rotten Tomatoes. TV Guide gave the film three stars out of four, saying that “Four years in the making, costing nearly $8 million, THE RESCUERS is a beautifully animated film that showed Disney still knew a lot about making quality children’s fare even as their track record was weakening. The story concerns two mice, Bernard and Miss Bianca (their voices provided by Newhart and Gabor), who set out to rescue a girl named Penny (Stacy) from the evil Mme Medusa (Page). The girl is held captive in a swamp, which offers the setting for some genuinely frightening action. Comic relief is provided by a bird named Orville, who transports the mice as they search for the girl. The voices are all well suited to the characters, and the film is a delight for children as well as adults who appreciate good animation and brisk storytelling.” Ellen MacKay of Common Sense Media gave the film four out of five stars, writing, “Great adventure, but too dark for preschoolers”.

In his book, The Disney Films, film historian Leonard Maltin refers to The Rescuers as “a breath of fresh air for everyone who had been concerned about the future of animation at Walt Disney’s,” praises its “humor and imagination and [it is] expertly woven into a solid story structure […] with a delightful cast of characters.” Finally, he declares the film “the most satisfying animated feature to come from the studio since 101 Dalmatians.” He also briefly mentions the ease with which the film surpassed other animated films of its time.



The Rescuers Trailer on Disney Video



Sources: Wikipedia, IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes

Joe Brandeis

Blogger for Film Forecaster. Sharing, writing, and reading about all the big move buzz! Writing reviews and giving props to independent films.