Disney Animated Features
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Sequel: The Rescuers Down Under

Release Date: 22 June 1977

This film was a bit of a departure for the Disney studio. Walt had been dead 10 years, but the core of animators he trained continued to make fine films. This film, however, marked the retirement of many of these animators (whom Walt had called his "Nine Old Men"). This was just another step in the long, 20-year transformation Disney underwent after Walt died.

On an interesting note, one of the young animators to work on this film was Don Bluth, who took the knowledge he gained at Disney to create films such as The Secret of NIMH and Anastasia. That's why his films are often compared -- favorably -- to (and often confused with) Disney's.

The story is simple -- a bit dark, perhaps, but with the requisite happy ending. It's not 'scary' dark or 'morbid' dark, but a bit gloomy. The action takes place in a bayou, mostly at night, so the colors used contribute greatly to the mood.

Oh yes, the story. It seems that under the headquarters of the United Nations in New York City, there is a similar organization of mice, one from each country. They are the Rescue Aid Society, and they dispatch their members to answer cries for help that are ignored or not received by law enforcement.

One such missive comes from a little orphan named Penny. She's been taken from her orphanage by Madame Medusa, who wants to use the child to retrieve a valuable diamond from a small cave -- one that regularly fills with water. She uses Penny's teddy bear as incentive to force the girl to do the dangerous exploration.

Miss Bianca, the Society's representative from Hungary (voiced by Eva Gabor (who previously voiced Duchess in The Aristocats)), quickly volunteers when the Society reads a letter from Penny. The elegant and beautfiul mouse recruits the Society's janitor, a shy, stumbling mouse named Bernard (Bob Newhart) to accompany her.

Together, the smitten Bernard and the determined Bianca travel on Albatross Airlines to see if they can help Penny.

The voice work is, as has been one of the few constants since The Jungle Book, excellent. The two leads play tiny rodent versions of their archetypical characters (Gabor the glamorous beauty; Newhart the soft-hearted everyman), and do so in fine form.

The music, what little there is, is mostly forgettable, although the song "Someone's Waiting For You" earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Music, Song (for Carol Connors, Sammy Fain, and Ayn Robbins).

This film was the first Disney Animated Feature to be honored with a sequel: The Rescuers Down Under. Most Disney sequels since then have been direct-to-video, but this one was a theatrical release.

While not exactly the blockbuster animated musical Disney is known for today, The Rescuers is an entertaining film, and it is different enough stylistically to provide some needed variety in Disney's animated oeuvre.

Information for the Disney Animated Features series of nodes comes from the IMDb (www.imdb.com), Frank's Disney Page (http://www.informatik.uni-frankfurt.de/~fp/Disney/), and the dark recesses of my own memory.

Entertaining children's book about an Amnesty International-like club of mice, called The Prisoner's Aid Society and their daring rescue of an unnamed Norwegian poet from the Black Castle, a notorious prison set in what seems to be the Balkans. (Huckleberry Finn fans will appreciate this prison...)

The star of this book is Miss Bianca, a brown-eyed white mouse with a silver chain around her neck, who lives in a Porcelain Pagoda in a diplomat's residence, and travels by diplomatic pouch. The very model of a Society Lady of the time, nowadays, she sounds very much like either Miss Piggy or a female impersonator. Nonetheless, she is incredibly charming...her not-so-secret weapon in any and all circumstances.

This book is interesting to adults for many reasons: its Cold War view of international politics, its witty, sexist dialogue, and last, but not least, its startling illustrations by Garth Williams. Anyone used to his other work, all warm furry animals and gentle people, will be stunned by the nightmarish drawings of Mameluk, the Head Jailer's cat, the drunken, sleeping, guard, and the prisoner's progress from half-mad inmate to good-looking young man. I wouldn't recommend it for children right now, but otherwise...

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