The Rescuers Down Under
|The Rescuers Down Under|
Original theatrical release poster
|Produced by||Thomas Schumacher|
|Music by||Bruce Broughton|
|Edited by||Michael Kelly|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|Box office||$27.9 million|
The Rescuers Down Under is a 1990 American animated adventure film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures on November 16, 1990. Set in the Australian Outback, the film features the voices of Bob Newhart, Eva Gabor in her final film role, and John Candy. The film centers on Bernard and Bianca travelling to Australia to save a boy named Cody from a bloodthirsty poacher in pursuit of an endangered bird of prey.
The 29th film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics, the film is the sequel to the 1977 animated film The Rescuers, which was based on the novels of Margery Sharp. This film was the second released during the Disney Renaissance (1989–1999) era, which had begun the year prior with The Little Mermaid, but was a major under-performer at the box-office compared to Mermaid and the other films of the Disney Renaissance era.
The Rescuers Down Under was the first animated theatrical film sequel produced by Disney; along with Fantasia 2000, and Winnie the Pooh, it is one of the few sequels that are part of the Disney animated features canon.
In the Australian Outback, a young boy named Cody rescues and befriends a rare golden eagle named Marahute, who shows him her nest and eggs. Later on, the boy unknowingly falls into an animal trap set by Percival C. McLeach, a local poacher wanted by the Australian Rangers. When McLeach finds one of the eagle's feathers on the boy's backpack, he is instantly overcome with excitement, for he knows that catching an eagle that size would make him rich because he had caught one before, which was Marahute's mate. McLeach throws Cody's backpack to a pack of crocodiles in order to trick the Rangers into thinking that Cody was dead, and kidnaps him in his attempt to force him to reveal the whereabouts of Marahute.
A mouse, the bait in the trap, runs off to alert the Rescue Aid Society. A telegram is sent to the Rescue Aid Society headquarters in New York City, where Bernard and Miss Bianca, the RAS' elite field agents, are assigned to the mission, despite Bernard's attempts to propose marriage to Bianca. They go to find Orville the albatross who aided them previously, but instead find his brother Wilbur. Bernard and Bianca convince Wilbur to fly them to Australia to save Cody. In Australia, they meet Jake, a hopping mouse who is the RAS' local regional operative. Jake becomes infatuated with Bianca and starts flirting with her, despite Bernard's chagrin. He serves as their "tour guide" and protector in search of the missing boy.
At the same time, Wilbur is immobilized when his spinal column is bent out of its natural shape, convincing Jake to send him to a nearby hospital run by mice. Wilbur, terrified of the surgical equipment the doctor intends to use (including a chainsaw), refuses to undergo surgery and is forced to flee. His back is unintentionally straightened by the efforts of the mouse medical staff preventing him from escaping through a window. Cured, Wilbur departs in search of his friends. At McLeach's ranch, Cody has been thrown into a cage with several of McLeach's imprisoned animals for refusing to give up Marahute's whereabouts. Cody tries numerous attempts to free himself and the animals using various contraptions (a wooden stick, a pot on a metal rod, a vacuum cleaner, a pulley system, and a motorized Erector Set catapult), but every time he is thwarted by Joanna, McLeach's pet goanna. Realizing that Marahute's eggs are Cody's weak spot, McLeach tricks Cody into thinking that Marahute has died, causing Cody to lead him straight to Marahute's nest.
Bernard, Bianca, and Jake, knowing that Cody is about to fall for a trap, jump onto McLeach's Halftrack to follow him. At Marahuté's nest, the three mice try to warn Cody that he has been followed; for just as they do, McLeach arrives and captures Marahute, along with Cody, Jake, and Bianca. Following McLeach's orders, Joanna tries to eat Marahuté's eggs, but realizes they are actually egg-shaped rocks. Frightened that McLeach might be angry with her, Joanna drops the stones over the cliff instead. When she leaves, Bernard crawls out of the nest with the hidden eggs, grateful that Joanna fell for the trick. Just then, Wilbur arrives at the nest, whereupon Bernard convinces him to sit on the eagle's eggs, so that Bernard can go after McLeach. Enraged by Cody's interference, McLeach takes his captives to Crocodile Falls, where he ties Cody up and hangs him over a group of crocodiles in attempts to feed him to them. But Bernard, riding a wild razorback pig, which he had tamed using a horse whispering technique used by Jake on a snake earlier, follows and disables McLeach's vehicle.
McLeach then tries to shoot the rope holding Cody above the water. To save Cody, Bernard tricks Joanna into crashing into McLeach, sending both of them into the water. This causes the crocodiles to turn their attention from Cody to McLeach and Joanna, while behind them the badly damaged rope holding Cody breaks apart. McLeach fights and fends off the crocodiles, but although Joanna manages to reach the shoreline, McLeach is swept over the waterfall to his death. Bernard dives into the water to save Cody, but every time he fails. His actions, however, buy Jake and Bianca enough time to free Marahuté so they can save both Cody and Bernard.
Bernard, desperate to prevent any further incidents, proposes to Bianca, who eagerly and happily accepts while Jake salutes him with a newfound respect. All of them depart for Cody's home. Back at the nest, Marahute's eggs finally hatch, much to Wilbur's dismay.
The Rescuers Down Under features three characters from the first film: Bernard, Bianca, and the Chairmouse, all of whom feature the same actors reprising their roles from the original 1977 Rescuers film.
- Bob Newhart as Bernard, a male grey mouse; the United States representative of the Rescue Aid Society, promoted from his role as janitor to full-fledged agent after proving a success with the previous rescue.
- Eva Gabor as Miss Bianca, a female white mouse; the Hungarian representative of the Rescue Aid Society. This was Eva Gabor's last film role before her death in 1995.
- John Candy as Wilbur, a comical albatross; named after Wilbur Wright. He is the brother of Orville, the albatross who appeared in the first film (named after Orville Wright).
- Adam Ryen as Cody, a young boy able to converse with most animals, the same as Penny in the first film.
- George C. Scott as Percival C. McLeach, a sinister poacher who wants to capture Marahute for money.
- Frank Welker as Marahute, a giant Golden Eagle, also played additional special vocal effects and Joanna, a goanna and McLeach's pet who enjoys intimidating her captives and has a fondness for eggs.
- Tristan Rogers as Jake, a debonair, self-confident and charismatic kangaroo mouse.
- Peter Firth as Red, a male red kangaroo imprisoned by McLeach.
- Wayne Robson as Frank, an erratic frill-necked lizard imprisoned by McLeach.
- Douglas Seale as Krebbs, a koala imprisoned by McLeach.
- Carla Meyer as Faloo, a female red kangaroo who summons Cody to save Marahute. Meyer also voices Cody's mother.
- Bernard Fox as Chairmouse, the chairman of the Rescue Aid Society. Fox also voices Doctor Mouse, the supervisor of the surgical mice who examine Wilbur when he is injured.
- Russi Taylor as Nurse Mouse, the operator of Doctor Mouse's instructions and a competent second-in-command.
The Rescuers Down Under is notable for Disney as its first traditionally animated film to completely use the new computerized CAPS process. CAPS (Computer Animation Production System) was a computer-based production system used for digital ink and paint and compositing, allowing for more efficient and sophisticated post-production of the Disney animated films and making the traditional practice of hand-painting cels obsolete. The animators' drawings and the background paintings were scanned into computer systems instead, where the animation drawings are inked and painted by digital artists, and later combined with the scanned backgrounds in software that allows for camera positioning, camera movements, multiplane effects, and other techniques. The film also uses CGI elements throughout such as the field of flowers in the opening sequence, McLeach's truck, and perspective shots of Wilbur flying above Sydney Opera House and New York City. The CAPS project was the first of Disney's collaborations with computer graphics company Pixar, which would eventually become a feature animation production studio making computer-generated animated films for Disney before being bought outright in 2006. As a result, The Rescuers Down Under was the first animated film for which the entire final film elements were assembled and completed within a digital environment. However, the film's marketing approach did not call attention to the use of the CAPS process. It is Disney's second animated film that does not include any musical numbers, the first being The Black Cauldron (1985).
A team of over 415 artists and technicians were required for the production of the film. Five members of the team traveled to the Australian Outback to observe, take photographs and draw sketches to properly illustrate the outback on film.
With the new Mickey Mouse featurette The Prince and the Pauper as an added attraction, The Rescuers Down Under debuted to an opening weekend gross of $3.5 million: fourth in its opening weekend after Home Alone, Rocky V, and Child's Play 2; and below the studio's expectations. As a result, then Walt Disney Studios chief Jeffrey Katzenberg decided to pull all of the Rescuers TV advertising. The film eventually went on to make $27,931,461 in the United States, making it the least successful box-office performance of Disney's renaissance era.
On Rotten Tomatoes, based on 25 reviews collected, the film has an overall approval rating of 68% "fresh", with a weighted average score of 6.2/10. The consensus states: "Though its story is second-rate, The Rescuers Down Under redeems itself with some remarkable production values -- particularly its flight scenes".
Roger Ebert awarded the film 3 out of 4 stars and wrote, "Animation can give us the glory of sights and experiences that are impossible in the real world, and one of those sights, in 'The Rescuers Down Under,' is of a little boy clinging to the back of a soaring eagle. The flight sequence and many of the other action scenes in this new Disney animated feature create an exhilaration and freedom that are liberating. And the rest of the story is fun, too."
TV Guide gave the film 2½ stars out of four, saying, "Three years in the making, it was obviously conceived during the height of this country's fascination with Australia, brought on by Paul Hogan's fabulously successful "Crocodile" Dundee (1986). By 1990, the mania had long since subsided, and this film's Australian setting did nothing to enhance its box office appeal. Further, the film doesn't make particularly imaginative use of the location. Take away the accents and the obligatory kangaroos and koalas, and the story could have taken place anywhere. Another problem is that "the rescuers" themselves don't even enter the action until a third of the film has passed. And when they do appear, they don't have much to do with the main plot until near the film's end. The characters seem grafted on to a story that probably would have been more successful without them. Finally, the film suffers from some action and plotting that is questionable in a children's film. The villain is far too malignant, the young vigilante hero seems to be a kiddie 'Rambo,' and some of the action is quite violent, if not tasteless."
Josh Spiegel echoes that point and expands on it further, explaining, "The Rescuers Down Under tanked with barely $3.5 million in its opening-weekend take, Katzenberg removed all television advertisements for the film. By itself, that's not the worst possible fate, but it proves that he had zero confidence in its ability to perform at a seemingly ideal time of year. Here's the thing: the more demoralizing fact isn't that Katzenberg yanked the marketing. It's that Disney set The Rescuers Down Under up to fail, opening it on the same weekend as a little film called Home Alone, otherwise known as the highest-grossing film of 1990. He may not have been able to predict its long-lasting impact on popular culture, but Katzenberg likely had enough tracking information to tip him off that Home Alone would be a monster laying waste to everything in its path. The Rescuers Down Under was forced to take the hit, then and afterwards."
The Rescuers Down Under was released in the Walt Disney Classics video series on September 20, 1991, in a pan-and-scan transfer, while The Rescuers was released on VHS a year later in September 1992. Unlike the original film, however, The Rescuers Down Under was not released in the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection. It was re-released on August 1, 2000 as part of the Walt Disney Gold Classic Collection; marking its first time on DVD and the last time it would ever be released on VHS.
|The Rescuers Down Under|
|Film score by Bruce Broughton|
|Walt Disney Feature Animation chronology|
The score for the film was composed and conducted by Bruce Broughton. Unlike the vast majority of Disney animated features, there were no songs written for it (however, "Message Montage" includes a quotation from "Rescue Aid Society" by Sammy Fain, Carol Connors, and Ayn Robbins, the only musical reference to the first film). AllMusic gave the soundtrack a 4.5 out of 5 star rating.
- Main Title (1:34)
- Answering Faloo's Call (1:32)
- Cody's Flight (6:02)
- Message Montage (2:49)
- At the Restaurant (3:06)
- Wilbur Takes Off (1:28)
- McLeach Threatens Cody (1:20)
- The Landing (2:01)
- Bernard Almost Proposes (1:36)
- Escape Attempt (1:30)
- Frank's Out! (3:23)
- Cody Finds the Eggs (1:33)
- Bernard the Hero (3:36)
- End Credits (3:41)
- "The Rescuers Down Under (1990)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved October 23, 2010.
- Solomon, Charles (November 16, 1990). "MOVIE REVIEW : Fantasy, Animation Soar in 'Rescuers Down Under'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 28, 2015.
- Hahn, Don (2009). Waking Sleeping Beauty (Documentary film). Burbank, California: Stone Circle Pictures/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
- Smith, Dave (1996). Disney A-Z: The Official Encyclopedia. New York: Hyperion. p. 414. ISBN 0-7868-6223-8.
- "The Rescuers Down Under". Disney Archives. Disney Online. Retrieved January 20, 2007.
- "Weekend Box Office Results for November 16-18, 1990". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
- Gritten, David, ed. (2007). "The Rescuers Down Under". Halliwell's Film Guide 2008. Hammersmith, London: HarperCollins Publishers. p. 986. ISBN 0-00-726080-6.
- "The Rescuers Down Under". Chicago Sun-Times.
- "The Rescuers Down Under Review". TV Guide. November 3, 2009. Retrieved August 24, 2011.
- Josh Spiegel. "Extended thoughts on 'The Rescuers Down Under' - Movie Review". Soundonsight.org. Retrieved July 16, 2013.
- Ellen MacKay. "The Rescuers Down Under - Movie Review". Commonsensemedia.org. Retrieved May 27, 2012.
- "The Rescuers: 35th Anniversary Edition (The Rescuers / The Rescuers Down Under) (Three-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo in Blu-ray Packaging)". Amazon.com. Retrieved August 21, 2012.
- Jason Ankeny. "The Rescuers Down Under (Original Soundtrack)". Allmusic. Retrieved June 3, 2012.
- Official website
- The Rescuers Down Under at AllMovie
- The Rescuers Down Under at the Big Cartoon DataBase
- The Rescuers Down Under at the Internet Movie Database
- The Rescuers Down Under at the TCM Movie Database
- The Rescuers Down Under at Rotten Tomatoes