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The Rescuers is a 1977 animated feature produced by Walt Disney Productions and first released on June 22, 1977. The twenty-third film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, the film is about the Rescue Aid Society, an international mouse organization, headquartered in New Yorkmarker and shadowing the United Nations, dedicated to helping abduction victims around the world at large. Two of these mice, a hesitant Bernard (Bob Newhart) and the elegant Miss Bianca (Eva Gabor), set about rescuing Penny (Michelle Stacy), a kidnapped girl, who is being held against her will by treasure seeker Madame Medusa (Geraldine Page).

The film was based on Margery Sharp's "The Rescuers" children's novels, most notably, The Rescuers (1959) and Miss Bianca (1962).

Plot

Orphan Penny throws a message in a bottle from an abandoned luxury river boat. The bottle washes up in New Yorkmarker and is taken to the Rescue Aid Society. The Hungarian representative, Miss Bianca, volunteers to take the case and chooses the janitor Bernard as her partner. The two set out to the orphanage where Penny lived and there meet an old cat named Rufus, who tells them that Penny had been worrying about not being adopted by any family; he had attempted to re-assure her, but that she is assumed to have fled of her own accord despite her upbeat attitude at the end of the conversation. He then mentions that an ill-meaning woman named Madame Medusa had tried to lure Penny in to her car earlier that week, and this may be the woman responsible for Penny's disappearance.

The mice travel to Medusa's pawnshop and search for clues. They overhear Medusa talking via telephone to her assistant, Mr. Snoops, whom she reprimands for being unable to find the "Devil's Eye" diamond and for failing to prevent Penny from sending her message in a bottle. Angrily, she tells Snoops that she will take the next flight to Devil's Bayou, where Penny is being held against her will, and leaves in her car.

With the help of an albatross named Orville, the mice fly to the Bayou, and meet a dragonfly named Evinrude, who speeds them in a leaf to the ship where Penny is held. Eavesdropping on Madame Medusa and Snoops, they learn that Penny was captured to enter a hole that leads down into the pirates' cave where the "Devil's Eye" Diamond is located.

Soon Miss Bianca and Bernard attract the attention of Medusa's pet alligators, Brutus and Nero. Bernard and Miss Bianca escape, and find Penny. The arrival of the two mice raises her morale. Together, the three devise a plan, which is put into action on the following day.

The next morning, Madame Medusa sends Penny down into the cave to find the gem, not knowing that Miss Bianca and Bernard are hiding in her skirt pocket. The three soon find the stone within a pirate skull; as Penny pries the mouth open with a sword, the mice push it out from within, but soon the oceanic tide rises and floods the cave. Miss Bianca, Penny, and Bernard barely manage to retrieve the diamond and escape.

Medusa, taken over by greed, takes possession of the diamond, rather than share it with Snoops as she had evidently promised. She then hides it in Penny's teddy bear. As she is backing away from Penny and Mr. Snoops, Bernard and Miss Bianca trip her and she loses her grip on the bear. Before she can recover it, Penny grabs the bear and runs away. Medusa retaliates with gunfire, causing the mice to flee until they are met by Brutus and Nero. Bernard and Miss Bianca trick them into entering a cage-like elevator, trapping them.

Snoops' flares and fireworks are set off into the riverboat's living quarters, while Penny and the mice commandeer Medusa's "swampmobile," a motor-boat used by Medusa to travel in the swamp. Medusa attempts pursuit, but is thwarted. The flares and firecrackers cause the ship to explode and sink. Medusa is left clinging to one of its smokestacks while Brutus and Nero attack her from below.

The Devil's Eye is given to the Smithsonian Institutionmarker, and Penny is adopted by a new father and mother. Bernard and Miss Bianca remain partners in the Rescue Aid Society's missions and soon after depart on Orville, accompanied by Evinrude, to a new rescue mission.

Production

The film 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.

It was the first Disney film that combined the talents of Walt Disney's original crew of story writers and animators (including Walt Disney's "Nine Old Men") with a newer, less experienced crew that Walt Disney Productions had recruited in the late 1970s.
The film marked the last joint effort by veterans Milt Kahl, Ollie Johnston, and Frank Thomas, and the first Disney film worked on by Don Bluth as an animator, instead of an assistant animator. Other animators who stepped up during production were Glen Keane, Ron Clements, and Andy Gaskill, who would all play an important role in the Disney Renaissance of the eighties and nineties.

The Rescuers was also the company's first major animated success since The Jungle Book and the last until The Little Mermaid. The film marked the end of the silver age of Disney animation that had begun in 1950 with Cinderella. This also marked the first successful animated film that Walt Disney himself had not worked on.

During the 1960s and early 1970s Disney films took on the trend of comedy, rather than story, heart, and drama. The Rescuers marked the return of the animated drama films the studio had previously been known for, such as Bambi and Dumbo. Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston stated in their website that The Rescuers had been their return to a film with "heart" and also considered it their best film without Walt Disney. Also unique to the animation was the opening credits: this film marked the first time that practiced camera movements over still photographs were used to make the opening credits. Prior to this, the studio had used the cels with the credits motionless over different still backgrounds, sometimes over one single background, as was done in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).

The film marked the end of the studio's so-called "sketchy" animation period of the 1960s and 1970s. The new xerographic process restored a softer outline that previously was not possible with the technology, which so far only had been able to produce black outlines. This allowed the use of a medium-grey toner and even a purple toner for outlines, such as for Miss Bianca.

Cast and Characters

  • Miss Bianca: (voiced by Eva Gabor) She is an adventurous, sophisticated white mouse. When Eva Gabor was chosen to play the role of Miss Bianca, Gabor's Hungarian nationality was given to the character, making her Hungary's representative at the Rescue Aid Society.


  • Bernard: (voiced by Bob Newhart) The mouse janitor at the Rescue Aid Society. Bernard is not as brave as his partner; he strongly dislikes flying and suffers from triskadekaphobia.




  • Penny: (voiced by Michelle Stacy) She is the lonely orphan girl abducted from Morningside Orphanage by Madame Medusa. She is attached to her Teddy bear.


  • Mr. Snoops: (voiced by Joe Flynn) He is Madame Medusa's clumsy business partner. He obeys his boss's orders in order to share the diamond. This was Flynn's final role before his death in 1974.


  • Brutus and Nero: They are Madame Medusa's two pet alligators who guard the riverboat and prevent Penny from escaping. Brutus is somewhat darker in color than Nero, as shown in the scene where they pursue Bernard and Bianca.


  • Orville: (voiced by Jim Jordan) An albatross, named appropriately after Orville Wright. He serves as Bernard and Bianca's transport from New York City to Devil's Bayou and other locations. This role was the last film performance for actor Jim Jordan.


  • Evinrude: (with vocal effects by James MacDonald) A dragonfly who aids the rescuers by serving as the motor of a boat in the bayou. His name is an allusion to the famous Evinrude Outboard Motors company.


Inspirations

Bernard was inspired by the character of the same name in Margery Sharp's The Rescuers series and much of his personality and character were kept. In this film Bernard's role is more significant, as opposed to in the novel, Miss Bianca in which Bernard has a very minor role and the rescue was left almost entirely to Miss Bianca herself.

The motive to steal a diamond originated in Margery Sharp's 1959 novel, Miss Bianca. Penny was inspired by Patience, the orphan in the novel.

Mr. Snoops is a version of Mandrake, a character of the book. His appearance is a caricature of animation historian John Culhane. Culhane claims he was practically tricked into posing for various reactions, and his movements were imitated on Mr. Snoops' model sheet. However, he stated, "Becoming a Disney character was beyond my wildest dreams of glory."

The Brutus & Nero characters are based on the two bloodhounds, Tyrant and Torment in the novels. They are most likely named after Brutus, the Roman senator who stabbed Julius Caesar, and Nero, the Roman Emperor.

A pigeon was originally proposed to be the transportation for Bernard and Bianca, until animator Frank Thomas remembered a True Life Adventures film of albatrosses and their clumsy take-offs and landings, and suggested the ungainly bird instead.

Madame Medusa's name was most likely inspired by Medusa, a character of Greek mythology. Her character, however, was inspired by a Margery Sharp character called the Diamond Duchess. Her appearance was based on animator Milt Kahl's ex-wife, whom he didn't particularly like. Kahl was so demanding perfectionism of the character that he ended up doing almost all the animation for the character himself. This being his last film for Disney studios, Kahl wanted to leave with a creation that would stand without equal.

Release

The Rescuers was re-released to theaters on December 16, 1983 along with a new Mickey Mouse featurette, Mickey's Christmas Carol, Mickey's first theatrical appearance after a 30-year absence. In anticipation of its upcoming theatrically released sequel in 1990, The Rescuers saw another successful theatrical run on March 17, 1989.

The Rescuers premiered on VHS and Laserdisc on September 18, 1992 as part of the Walt Disney Classics series. It was re-released on VHS as part of the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection on January 5, 1999, but was recalled three days later and reissued on March 23, 1999 (see "Controversy"). The Rescuers was released on DVD on May 20, 2003.

Marketing

To tie in with the film's 25th Anniversary, The Rescuers debuted in the Walt Disney Classics Collection (WDCC) line in 2002 (not to be confused with the Walt Disney Classics video series) with three different figures featuring three of the film's biggest stars, as well as the opening title scroll. The three figures were sculpted by Dusty Horner and they were: Brave Bianca, featuring Miss Bianca the heroine and priced at $75, Bold Bernard, featuring hero Bernard, priced also at $75 and Evinrude Base, featuring Evinrude the dragonfly and priced at $85. The title scroll featuring the film's name, The Rescuers and from the opening song sequence "The Journey," was priced at $30. All figures were retired on March 2005, except for the opening title scroll which is still widely available.

The Rescuers was the inspiration for another Walt Disney Classics Collection figure in 2003. Ken Melton was the sculptor of Teddy Goes With Me, My Dear, a limited edition, 8 inch sculpture featuring the evil Madame Medusa, the orphan girl Penny, her teddy bear "Teddy" and the Devil's Eye diamond. 1,977 of these sculptures were made, in reference to the film's release year, 1977. The sculpture was priced at $299 and instantly declared retired in 2003.

In November 2008, a sixth sculpture inspired by the film was released. Made with pewter and resin, Cleared For Take Off introduced the character of Orville into the collection and featured Bernard and Bianca a second time. The piece, inspired by Orville's take-off scene in the film, was sculpted by Ruben Procopio. 750 copies of this sculpture will be produced and priced at a retail price of $399.00.

Reception

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, an animated film directed by Rescuers animator Don Bluth, broke the record. The Rescuers was Disney's first significant success since The Jungle Book and the last until The Little Mermaid.

The film was received with praise from critics and was also well-received by audiences. The Rescuers was said to be Disney's greatest film since Mary Poppins in 1964 and that it seemed to signal a new golden age for Disney animation. The film was ranked twentieth out of the forty-eight canon Disney animated features in a 2009 countdown at Rotten Tomatoes, where it holds a "fresh" 84% rating.

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 film received an Academy Award nomination for the song "Someone's Waiting for You", which was nominated in 1978 at the 50th Academy Awards.However, the song lost against "You Light Up My Life" from the film of the same name.

Jack Shaheen, in his study of Hollywood portrayals and stereotypes of Arabs, noted the inclusion of delegates from Arab countries in the Rescue Aid Society.

Soundtrack

The songs in the film were composed and written by Carol Connors, Ayn Robbins, and Sammy Fain; Shelby Flint's voice was used for three of the songs. The musical score was composed by Artie Butler. For the first time since Bambi, the most significant songs in the film were not sung by a film character, but as part of the narrative.

  • The Journey is the opening song, played during the credits and sung from the perspective of the travelling bottle containing Penny's plea for help.
  • Rescue Aid Society is the pledge song of the international mouse organization. The song is reprised in the background later in the film.
  • Tomorrow is Another Day occurs as Bernard and Miss Bianca travel by albatross. The song is reprised at the conclusion of the film when the duo is once again flying to another adventure.
  • Someone's Waiting for You is a slower-tempo song, played while Penny is comforted by a shining star in the night sky.
  • For Penny's a Jolly Good Fellow is sung by the orphan kids at the end of the movie, a variation of the song "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow".


Controversy

On January 8, 1999, three days after the film's second release on home video on January 5, the Walt Disney Company announced a recall of about 3.4 million copies of the videotapes because there was an objectionable image in one of The Rescuers background cels.

The image in question is a blurry image of a topless woman that appears in two out of the film's more than 110,000 frames. The image appears twice in nonconsecutive frame during the scene in which Miss Bianca and Bernard are flying on Orville's back through New York Citymarker. The two images could not be seen in ordinary viewing because the film runs too fast - at 30 frames per second on video.

In 1999, two days after the recall was announced, the London press site The Independent reported:
A Disney spokeswoman said that the images in The Rescuers were placed in the film during production, but she declined to say what they were or who placed them...The company said the aim of the recall was to keep its promise to families that they can trust and rely on the Disney brand to provide the best in family entertainment.


The Rescuers was reissued on video on March 23, 1999 with the offending image edited out. On May 20, 2003, the new DVD release, which reused the 1999 VHS cover, was released on DVD format. However, the film has yet to be released under a special edition two-disc like other Disney animated features.

Sequel

The Rescuers was the first Disney animated feature to have a sequel. After three successful theatrical releases of the original film, The Rescuers Down Under was released theatrically in 1990.

References

External links




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