Today could also be called “Disney Day,” as the company releases a flood of Blu-ray debuts for various animated films and/or their sequels.
We get “Pocahontas” and “Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World” in one set, “The Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure” and “The Tigger Movie: Bounce-A-Rrrific Special Edition.” There’s also “The Aristocats.”
But the release that had me most excited was “The Rescuers” and “The Rescuers Down Under” 35th anniversary set, the former because it’s one of the first movies I saw in a theater and the latter because it’s a stunningly beautiful film that was Disney’s first to really show what new CGI technology could add a year before Beauty and the Beast waltzed under a golden chandelier.
“The Rescuers” came out in 1977, at a time when Disney’s output looked a little rough around the edges but still had heart. “The Rescuers” had loads of it in the story of two Rescue Aid Society mice, Bernard and Miss Bianca (voiced by the wonderfully cast Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor), who must rescue an orphan girl from the clutches of a madwoman who wants to use her to find the Devil’s Eye Diamond buried deep in a pirate cave in the bayou.
Watching it again, the roughness has a certain charm — the backgrounds look like the paintings they are and add a bit of an ethereal quality to the animation. The story still holds up, and we get one of the great Disney villainesses, Madame Medusa (Geraldine Page). If she ever teamed up with Cruella De Vil, there’d be a lot of trouble. Medusa’s crocodiles are classic Disney hench-animals and can really make a scene.
I’d forgotten just how charming this movie was, so I was glad to see it again.
In 1990, Disney released its first animated theatrical sequel with “The Rescuers Down Under.” Following the familiar formula, Bernard and Miss Bianca are again called into action, this time to rescue a boy from a madman in the Australian Outback who needs the boy to help poach a golden eagle. McLeach (George C. Scott) is a nasty piece of work, too.
This time, Bernard and Bianca are helped by the dashing kangaroo mouse Jake (Tristan Rogers). All this while Bernard is trying to propose.
It’s a wonderful sequel, fully embracing the spirit of the original characters and story while going new places with the technology. From a modern standpoint, it looks a bit clunky at times, but there are also some exquisitely rendered passages, usually any time the boy, Cody, is flying with the eagle Marahute.
Both have a host of fun, nicely rendered supporting characters. Brave dragonfly Evinrude comes to immediate mind in “The Rescuers,” and “Rescuers Down Under” has Frank, a frilled lizard.
It also has a fantastic musical score by Bruce Broughton.
All in all, both made a fun weekend double feature. Thanks, Disney, for the memories.
And on a completely unrelated note if you’ve made it this far. I did a movie theater double feature over the weekend, as well. Of most interest to Geek Watch readers would be “ParaNorman,” which was a terrific movie. I wouldn’t bother with the 3D, but the movie itself is worth supporting in theaters. It was delightful.