#29 The Rescuers: Down Under

#29 The Rescuers: Down Under

It takes two to make a thing go okay at best

This is a momentous week: it’s time to cover the first theatrically released Disney animated sequel, The Rescuers: Down Under! It’s also the last theatrically released Disney animated sequel for the next 30 years, just to give a preview on how things went. Spoiler: this movie is to blame for all the crappy direct-to-video sequels in the years ahead, but I’ll get to that during the performance section. As you’ve probably gathered by the title, this is a follow up to the 1977 film The Rescuers. This time good ole Bernard and Bianca are on their way to save another kidnapped child, journeying to Australia to help out Cody, a young boy on a mission to protect the wildlife of the Outback.

The team started working on this film in the mid-80’s, nearly ten years after the release of the first movie. Wanting to focus on making the film an “action-adventure”, they strayed away from songs/musical numbers (the only Renaissance film to do so). The writers also leaned into a conservation and animal rights focused plot, something that the studio hadn’t done since Bambi, due to society’s rising environmental concerns.

This was Disney’s first attempt at a fully computer animated feature and they strayed away from traditionally animated cels. The CAPS system was brought in and this was considered the “first digital movie in Hollywood.” Members of the animation team ventured down to Australia to study the landscape and wildlife. Glen Keane, the supervising animator for Marahute the eagle, studied six eagles in Idaho. Some were even sent to the Los Angeles Zoo to study other animals.

Both Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor reprised their roles as Bernard and Bianca respectively, and this was Eva Gabor’s final film role. Jim Jordan, who had voiced Orville in the original film, had since passed, so Roy E. Disney proposed creating a new character, Wilbur, who was Orville’s brother. Wilbur was voiced by John Candy. Story Supervisor Joe Ranft wanted to cast an Aboriginal Australian actor to voice Cody, the little boy who the Rescuers are out to help, but the idea was struck down.

Unfortunately for the team, The Rescuers: Down Under was not a success. After a poor-performance on opening weekend, Jeffrey Katzenberg quickly had the company pull the marketing for the film, urging the studio to move on. In the film’s defense, it did go up against Home Alone, which also premiered that weekend, so the odds were not in its favor. Critics, however, didn’t seem to pan it, most giving it an average rating. Famous film critic Gene Siskel called the film “bold” and “rousing”. Other publications/writers praised the voicework and animation, and a couple different reviewers called it better than the original. Some even said that the action was too intense and/or “violent” for children. TV Guide mused that the film was probably written soon after the premiere of the popular movie Crocodile Dundee, which was about an Australian man and started a “fascination with Australia” but “by 1990, the mania had long since subsided.” The same reviewer also pointed out that Bernard and Bianca “don’t have much to do with the main plot until near the film’s end” which makes me feel vindicated in my critiques! Due to the failure of their first attempt at a sequel, Disney decided that they weren’t going to theatrically release sequels anymore. Instead, sequels would be created and animated by a lower-budget studio – which is why all the other Disney sequels were just made for video, with worse animation, songs, and stories. Do I sound bitter and disappointed? It’s because I am. None of the new characters from The Rescuers: Down Under have become staples in Disney culture, and nothing from the sequel has made it’s way into the parks.

I’ve never seen this movie, and usually I’m excited for new watches, but while I really enjoyed The Rescuers as a movie, I wasn’t a big fan of Bernard and Bianca so I’m apprehensive about how this is gonna go. Ah well, crikey, here we go!

My thoughts on The Rescuers: Down Under:

  • Well, wasn’t a fan of the first one and my expectations for the sequel that ended all theatrical sequels (well until recently) are surprisingly not high!
  • The description says “world’s bravest mice” uh i can name like 20 other brave mice in the Disney pantheon that displayed more bravery, as well as more competency
  • Okay I have to say the animation is really good so far (like for 1990)
  • Look at those fancy new computer graphics go
  • Ahaha can’t sneak past mom
  • He’s like a little baby Steve Irwin
  • This boy can talk to animals?!! 
  • Eliza Thornberry-Australia Edition
  • That is a BIG bird oh my goodness
  • Is this a mythological creature?? 
  • THE CHILD! The bird just pushed him off the cliff
  • Good birdie!!
  • Man Disney seriously upped their score game in the 90s
  • This flying sequence is so pretty
  • “You’re a mom!” this is so sweet
  • Is Cody’s voice actor Australian? Cuz he doesn’t sound like it which sounds out of place with everyone else being Australian
  • “Where’s the daddy eagle?…my dad’s gone too” i love both this child and this giant birb protect them at all costs
  • Oh no this poor little boy got trapped just trying to help a mouse
  • It is a bit rude that the mouse just leaves but what was he supposed to do he’s so tiny
  • OH DANG THE MOUSE CAME BACK
  • AND HE BROUGHT A VINE TO HELP CODY UP IM SORRY FOR DOUBTING YOU LITTLE MOUSE
  • Ooh scary snake…iguana….thing
  • Okay WHAT is joanna???
  • “this is a poacher’s trap and you’re a poacher” okay Cody you’re right but you’re also alone with this man so maybe more running and less accusing
  • Is he gonna shoot his animal sidekick in front of this child geez
  • *gasp* he killed the daddy Eagle
  • Why didn’t Cody just say he found the feather on the ground??
  • Gosh another precious child just casually kidnapped why didn’t Disney movies make me more afraid as a kid???
  • I like the detail of showing how the message gets spread throughout the world
  • But also, where is this message going? If they have Rescue Aid people in Australia, why can’t the Australian team help? There’s gotta be a team closer than New York City

Every chapter of the RAS in Australia, Asia, Africa, and Europe hearing about Cody:

  • Oof the buildings looked better in the first one
  • Geez if Bernard and Bianca are like the James and Jane Bond of this organization I’d hate to see what the other fools do
  • They’re not even at the emergency meeting how fantastic can they be?
  • The animation is so different than the last one omg
  • So…are they dating?
  • She called them a “partnership” and he keeps referring to her as “miss Bianca”
  • Well, he’s proposing so i hope so
  • This is gonna be a Kristoff situation with a drawn out process where he keeps trying to propose throughout the movie only for shenanigans to repeatedly ensue isn’t it?
  • Do I win a prize if he decides not to at the end of the second act/start of the third, because I’m putting in that prediction
  • I hate when characters have a conversation where they’re talking about two different things but they don’t know it because they’re not speaking in full sentences
  • She just needs khaki shorts and hiking boots? I’m proud of Bianca packing light and practical this time
  • That bird is is gonna fly in this snow storm?
  • Oh i was so confused i was like “why are they introducing themselves they took him last time” but it’s Orville’s brother, Wilbur
  • Non-stop from New York to Australia? Come on Bianca
  • This kid is fighting I admire it!
  • Cody’s poor mom 😦
  • How did this big ol bird sneak on a plane???
  • Why couldn’t they just sneak on a plane in the first place then? Wasn’t that plan A in the first movie?
  • The TRAIN to AUSTRALIA Bernard??
  • I canNOT tell who has the one (1) braincell in their relationship but my bets on neither
  • So, if the runway’s too short where is he supposed to go?? and he’s a bird not a machine he can adjust right?
  • Ah OF COURSE let’s add in a love triangle because that’s exactly what we need
  • Is this “Wilbur freaks out while getting helped” scene necessary to the plot?
  • Just cuz B&B aren’t married doesn’t mean they’re not together right? They are dating RIGHT? Or is Bernard planning to propose without them dating? Cuz one of them should have mentioned they’re in a relationship to Mouse Dundee so he would back off but even Bernard just says “we’re on a mission”
  • I don’t care about their relationship drama but I NEED to know how they DTR
  • Ah I know Cody isn’t gonna get hurt because kids movie but this poacher and his knives are worrying me
  • Woah Jake just wrangled a snake that’s more than BErnard’s done in two movies #TeamJake
  • Is that one of the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park?
  • Aww all these poor animals
  • The Koala talking about how they’re all gonna end up as clothes/accessories is really sad
  • Ooh Cody is a clever kid
  • They were soo close to getting the key! Stupid Joanna. What an animal traitor!
  • How are these mice able to fly on lightning bugs?
  • Oh good we’re back with wilbur and his time in surgery
  • Why did they wait until he was AWAKE to start operating why put him under??
  • What kind of saw horror show is this??? Why the chainsaw noise??
  • Ugh Cody’s poor mom!!!
  • Joanna does not seem helpful why keep her around
  • He doesn’t even seem to like her
  • Ha! She ate all your eggs!
  • Frank you did it!
  • “double or nothing he’s caught in five minutes” haha this koala is kind of a downer but he’s right
  • Ugh Come on Frank get your life together please
  • And he drops the keys!!!!
  • WOW this movie has less than a half hour left – it’s gone by fast but also i feel like nothing has happened
  • Cody’s free!
  • Once again the child has done more to save themselves than Bernard and Bianca
  • Cody’s gonna be walking out as B&B get there and they’re gonna be like “we saved him!”
  • LOL and here they come now!
  • Oooh this villain is Clever!! Letting Cody run off to go to the eggs so he can follow
  • But wouldn’t Cody wonder why he wasn’t using him to get the defenseless eggs? Well, he is like 9 
  • Does Cody not hear this loud ass tank rolling along ten feet behind him? Will it not catch up to him?? 
  • I just remembered Bianca is not wearing her khaki’s or her hiking boots i take back my comment on her practicality
  • This bird is huge I can’t wait to watch it beat up the poacher because he’s no match for it toe to toe
  • The feather flowing away poetically wow is this forrest gump
  • Oh good B&B finally meet Cody…now what are they gonna do?
  • WHAT McLEach has a MISSILE?!
  • Why can all the other animals talk but not the bird?
  • Is McLEach forcing Joanna to go down and bring back the eggs or eat the eggs?
  • HA you can’t eat the eggs! Cuz they’re just rocks!
  • I can’t believe I’m saying this but good job Bernard
  • How’d Wilbur find this ledge with the eggs?!!
  • WHY is it such a big deal to sit on the eggs like they’re defenseless just help them Wilbur
  • Jake acting like Bernard can’t help like bro who’s the one that got themselves kidnapped?
  • Me? Defending Bernard? A twist I did not see coming
  • Jake would have been a lot more interesting character if his one personality trait wasn’t “wants to get with Bianca” 
  • Wow he’s gonna feed this child right to crocodiles yikes
  • What is it with this franchise and villains and reptiles

The Rescuers actually doing some rescuing 10 years later

  • Bernard with the slight tip over! Go Bernard!
  • Eat up crocs
  • And…the child fell anyway lol
  • No…NO WAY a field mouse pulled a human child to the surface
  • There are really no more crocs to go after Cody? Like I don’t WANT them to but can they all be going after McLeach?
  • Yay Birdie!!! Saving Cody for the second time! The TRUE RESCUER!
  • HOW did Bernard stay holding on to that rope through the rapids, the waterfall, being lifted by the bird…
  • Good thing that ring didn’t fall out of his pocket in the rushing waters
  • Did….did they forget about the babies?
  • Aww Bird Mom didn’t get to see her babies hatch
  • Kinda a sad way to end bu tok

Much like the first movie, I enjoyed the film as a whole – I loved Cody and his love of animals, I thought the conservation messages were great and unfortunately still relevant 30 years later, the story about this child risking his life to save a beautiful animal was fantastic. Yet. I could not force myself to care about Bernard and Bianca’s strange romantic plotline with so many clichés between the proposal mishaps, the love triangle, the miscommunication. I would have preferred this just be a movie about a kid having an adventure in the Australian Outback – I just don’t feel like it needed the Rescuers tie-in. If they had cut the Bernard & Bianca scenes and instead focused on Cody’s story, I think this film could have been a bit more successful and well-remembered. They could have even kept Jake and still made this a “Rescuers” movie, but more of a spin-off about the Australian team (Jake) than a sequel about B&B. This movie was also the cause of so many cheesey VHS/DVD sequels that even as a child I didn’t like because of the drop in quality, so thanks for nothing Rescue Aid Society.

The good news? No more Rescuers! The better news? No more bumps on this Renaissance Road, it’s nothing but great films with bangers from here on out! The best news? Next week’s film is Beauty and the Beast!

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