The Rescuers

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The Rescuers
Directed by
Produced by
Story by
Based onThe Rescuers and Miss Bianca
by Margery Sharp
Music by
Edited byJames Koford
James Melton
Distributed byBuena Vista Distribution
Release date
  • June 22, 1977 (1977-06-22)
Running time
76 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$7.5 million[1]
Box office$71.2 million[2]

The Rescuers is a 1978 American animated comedy-drama adventure movie. It was produced by Walt Disney Productions. It was first released on June 22, 1978, by Buena Vista Distribution. It is the 23rd Disney animated movie. The movie is about the Rescue Aid Society, an international mouse organization headquartered in New York City and shadowing the United Nations. They are dedicated to helping abduction victims around the world at large. Two of these mice, shy cleaner Bernard (Bob Newhart) and his co-agent, the elegant Miss Bianca (Eva Gabor), set out to rescue Penny (Michelle Stacy), an orphan girl being held prisoner in the Devil's Bayou by treasure huntress Madame Medusa (Geraldine Page).

The movie is based on a series of books by Margery Sharp, mainly The Rescuers and Miss Bianca. The movie was very successful, and later Disney released a sequel called The Rescuers Down Under in 1990. This made this movie the first Disney animated movie to have a sequel.

Plot[change | change source]

In an abandoned river boat in Devil's Bayou, a young orphan named Penny drops a message in a bottle containing a plea for help into the river. The bottle washes up in New York City, where it is found by the Rescue Aid Society, an international mouse organization inside the United Nations. The Hungarian representative, Miss Bianca, volunteers to accept the case. She chooses Bernard, a stammering janitor, as her co-agent. The two visit Morningside Orphanage, where Penny lived, and meet an old cat named Rufus. He tells them about a woman named Madame Medusa who once tried to lure Penny into her car and may have succeeded in abducting Penny this time.

The mice travel to Medusa's pawn shop, where they discover that she and her partner, Mr. Snoops, are on a quest to find the world's largest diamond, the Devil's Eye. They also discover that Medusa and Mr. Snoops are at the Devil's Bayou with Penny, whom they have indeed kidnapped, and whom they guard with two trained crocodiles called Brutus and Nero. With the help of an albatross named Orville, and a dragonfly named Evinrude, the mice follow Medusa to the bayou. There, they learn that Penny was captured to enter a hole that leads down into the pirates' cave where the Devil's Eye is.

Bernard and Miss Bianca find Penny and plan to escape. They send Evinrude to alert the local animals, who hate Medusa, but Evinrude is delayed when he is forced to take shelter from a flock of bats. The following morning, Medusa and Mr. Snoops send Penny down into a pirate's cave to find the gem, with Miss Bianca and Bernard hiding in her skirt pocket. The three soon find the Devil's Eye 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 plans to keep the diamond for herself. She hides it in Penny's teddy bear and holds Penny and Snoops at gunpoint. When she trips over a cable set as a trap by Bernard and Bianca, Medusa loses the bear to Penny, who runs away with it. The local animals arrive at the riverboat and aid Bernard and Bianca by trapping Brutus and Nero, then setting off Snoops's fireworks to make more chaos. Meanwhile, Penny and the mice commandeer Medusa's swamp-mobile, a makeshift airboat. Medusa unsuccessfully chases them, using Brutus and Nero as water-skis, and is left clinging to the boat's smoke stacks as the irritated Brutus and Nero circle below while Snoops escapes.

Back in New York, the Rescue Aid Society watch a news report of how Penny found the Devil's Eye, which has been given to the Smithsonian Institution, and how she has been adopted. The meeting is interrupted when Evinrude arrives with a call for help, sending Bernard and Bianca on a new adventure.

Cast[change | change source]

  • Bob Newhart as Bernard, Rescue Aid Society's shy janitor. He reluctantly tags along with Miss Bianca. He is highly superstitious about the number 13 and dislikes flying (the latter being a personality trait of Newhart).
  • Eva Gabor as Miss Bianca, the Hungarian representative of the Rescue Aid Society. She is sophisticated and adventurous. Her Hungarian nationality was taken from that of her voice actress.
  • Geraldine Page as Madame Medusa, a greedy, redheaded, wicked pawnshop owner.
  • Michelle Stacy as Penny, a lonely six-year-old orphan girl, residing at Morningside Orphanage in New York City.
  • Joe Flynn as Mr. Snoops, Medusa's clumsy business partner. This was Flynn's last role before his death in 1974.
  • Jim Jordan as Orville (named after Orville Wright of the Wright brothers, the inventors of the aeroplane), an albatross who gives Bernard and Bianca a ride to Devil's Bayou. The role was the last for Jordan, who retired after the movie's release. Several of Orville's screams were recycled from Pinto Colvig's performances as Goofy.
  • John McIntire as Rufus, an elderly cat who resides at Morningside Orphanage. He comforts Penny when she is sad. He was designed by animator Ollie Johnston, who retired after this movie following a 40-year career with Disney.
  • Jeanette Nolan as Ellie Mae and Pat Buttram as Luke, two muskrats who reside in a Southern-style home on a patch of land in Devil's Bayou. Luke drinks very strong, homemade liquor.
  • James MacDonald as Evinrude, a dragonfly who mans a leaf boat across Devil's Bayou, giving Bernard and Miss Bianca a ride across the swamp waters.
  • Candy Candido as Brutus and Nero, Medusa's two aggressive pet crocodiles.
  • Bernard Fox as Mr. Chairman, the chairman to the Rescue Aid Society.
  • George Lindsey as Deadeye, a fisher rabbit who is one of Luke and Ellie Mae's friends.
  • Larry Clemmons as Gramps, a grumpy old turtle who carries a brown cane.
  • Dub Taylor as Digger, a mole.
  • John Fiedler as Deacon Owl
  • Shelby Flint as Singer, Bottle
  • Bill McMillian as T.V. Announcer

Production[change | change source]

In 1962, the movie began development with its first treatment developed from the first book about a poet held captive by a totalitarian government in the Siberia-like stronghold. However, as the story grew overtly involved with international intrigue, Walt Disney shelved the project because he was unhappy with the political overtones.[3] The project was revived in the early 1970s as a project for the young animators, led by Don Bluth, as the studio would alternate between full-scale "A pictures" and smaller, scaled-back "B pictures" with simpler animation. The animators had selected the most recent book, Miss Bianca in the Antarctic, with its story focusing on a captured polar bear forced into performing in shows causing the unhappy bear to place a bottle that would reach the mice.[3] Jazz singer Louis Prima was to voice the character named Louis the Bear, and this version was to feature six songs sung by Prima written by Floyd Huddleston.[4] However, in 1975, following headaches and episodes of memory loss, Prima discovered he had a stem brain tumor, and the project was scrapped.[5]

Meanwhile, the "A" crew had finished work on Robin Hood, and was set to begin production on an adaptation of Paul Gallico's book Scruffy under the direction of Ken Anderson. Its story concerned the monkeys of Gibraltar under World War II, which also involved Nazis. When the time had come to approve one of the two projects, the studio leaders eventually decided to go for The Rescuers.[6] When Scruffy was shelved, the veteran team turned the project into a more traditional, full-scale production ultimately dropping the Arctic setting of the story with veteran Disney writer Fred Lucky stating, "It was too stark a background for the animators."[3] Cruella de Vil, the villainess from One Hundred and One Dalmatians, was originally considered to be the main villian of the movie,[7] but Disney animator Ollie Johnston said it felt wrong to attempt a sequel and the idea was dropped.[8] Instead, she was replaced by a retouched version of the Diamond Duchess in Miss Bianca. The motive to steal a diamond came from Margery Sharp's 1959 novel, Miss Bianca. Her appearance was based on animator Milt Kahl's ex-wife, whom he did not particularly like. This was Kahl's last movie for the studio, and he wanted his last character to be his best. He was so insistent on perfecting Madame Medusa that he ended up doing almost all the animation for the character himself.[9] Penny was inspired by Patience, the orphan in the novel. For the henchman, the moviemakers adapted the character, Mandrake, into Mr. Snoops and his appearance was based on animation historian John Culhane.[10] Culhane claims he was practically tricked into posing for various reactions, and his movements were imitated on Mr. Snoops's model sheet. However, he stated, "Becoming a Disney character was beyond my wildest dreams of glory."[11] Brutus and Nero are based on the two bloodhounds, Tyrant and Torment in the novels.[12][13]

The writers had considered developing Bernard and Bianca into married professional detectives, though they decided that leaving the characters as unmarried novices was more romantic.[3] For the supporting characters, a pint-sized swampmobile for the mice – a leaf powered by a dragonfly – was made. As they developed the comedic potential of showing his exhaustion through buzzing, the dragonfly grew from an incidental into a major character.[3] Veteran sound effects artist and voice artist Jimmy MacDonald came out of retirement to provide the effects.[14] Also, the local swamp creatures were organized into a dedicated home guard that drilled and marched incessantly. However, the writers developed them into a volunteer group of helpful little bayou creatures. Their leader, a singing bullfrog voiced by Phil Harris, was deleted from the movie.[3] A pigeon was originally proposed to be the transportation for Bernard and Bianca, until Ollie Johnston remembered a True Life Adventures episode that showed albatrosses and their clumsy take-offs and landings, and suggested the ungainly bird instead.[15]

Animation[change | change source]

Ever since One Hundred and One Dalmatians, animation for theatrical Disney animated movies was done by xerography. It had been only been able to produce black outlines, but had been improved for the cel artists to use a medium-grey toner in order to make a softer-looking line.[16] At the end of production, it marked the last joint effort by veterans Milt Kahl, Ollie Johnston, and Frank Thomas, and the first Disney movie worked on by Don Bluth as an animator, instead of an assistant animator.[15] Other animators who stepped up during production were Glen Keane, Ron Clements, and Andy Gaskill. They would all play an important role in the Disney Renaissance.[17]

Music[change | change source]

The Rescuers
Film score Vinyl LP by Various Artists
ProducerArtie Butler

The songs were written by Sammy Fain, Carol Connors, and Ayn Robbins, and performed by Shelby Flint. For the first time since Bambi, all the most import songs were sung as part of a narrative, instead of by the movie's characters as in most Disney animated movies.

  • "The Journey" (also known as "Who Will Rescue Me?") – Sung during the movie's opening credits, the song follows Penny's bottle as it floats out of the Devil's Bayou and into the Atlantic Ocean.
  • "Rescue Aid Society" – Sung by the Chairman (Bernard Fox), Bernard (Bob Newhart), and Miss Bianca (Robie Lester, filling in for Eva Gabor), as well as the various international mouse delegates (the Disney Studio Chorus) during the R.A.S. meeting. A reprise of the song plays when Bernard and Bianca begin to lose their faith, and are reminded of the song and its meaning.
  • "Faith is a Bluebird" – Although not an actual song, it is a poem told by Rufus and partially by Penny in a flashback the old cat has when he last saw the small orphan girl, and comforted her through the poem, about having faith. The titular bluebird that appears in this scene originally appeared in Alice in Wonderland (1951).
  • "Tomorrow is Another Day" – Sung as Bernard and Bianca travel to Devil's Bayou upon Orville's back. The song plays again at the end of the movie, as Bernard and Bianca, assisted by Evinrude and Orville, set out on a new rescue mission.
  • "Someone's Waiting For You" – Sung as Penny begins to lose her faith, after Medusa meanly speaks to her. During this scene, the star of faith, that Rufus mentioned earlier lights up the night sky. Bambi and his mother appear during this scene. The song was originally called "The Need to Be Loved" and had different lyrics, with recorded versions by Jennifer Paz and Paul Francis Webster.
  • "For Penny's a Jolly Good Fellow" – Sung by the orphan children at the end of the movie, as a variation of the song "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow".

Track list[change | change source]

Side A
01. "The Journey" – Shelby Flint
02. "Rescue Aid Society" – Bernard Fox, Bob Newhart, and Robie Lester
03. "Tomorrow Is Another Day" – Shelby Flint
Side B
04. "Someone's Waiting For You" – Shelby Flint
05. "Tomorrow Is Another Day (Reprise)" – Shelby Flint

Release[change | change source]

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 Down Under, The Rescuers saw another successful theatrical run on March 17, 1989.

Marketing[change | change source]

To tie in with the movie's 25th Anniversary, The Rescuers debuted in the Walt Disney Classics Collection line in 2002, with three different figures featuring three of the movie'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,[18] Bold Bernard, featuring hero Bernard, priced also at $75[19] and Evinrude Base, featuring Evinrude the dragonfly and priced at $85.[18] The title scroll with the movie's name, The Rescuers, from the opening song sequence "The Journey," was priced at $30. All figures were retired in March 2005, except for the opening title scroll which was suspended in December 2012.[18]

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 movie's release year, 1977. The sculpture was priced at $299 and instantly declared retired in 2003.[19]

In November 2008, a sixth sculpture inspired by the movie was released. Made with pewter and resin, Cleared For Take Off introduced the character of Orville into the collection. It featured Bernard and Bianca a second time. The piece, inspired by Orville's take-off scene in the movie, was sculpted by Ruben Procopio.[20]

Home media[change | change source]

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, as a standard edition, which was discontinued in November 2011.

On August 21, 2012, a 35th anniversary edition of The Rescuers was released on Blu-ray alongside its sequel in a "2-Movie Collection".[21][22]

Controversy[change | change source]

On January 8, 1999, three days after the movie's second release on home video, The Walt Disney Company announced a recall of about 3.4 million copies of the videotapes because there was an offensive image in one of the movie's background cels.[23][24][25][26]

The image in question is a blurry image of a topless woman that appears in two out of the movie's more than 110,000 frames. The image appears twice in non-consecutive frames during the scene in which Miss Bianca and Bernard are flying on Orville's back through New York City. The two images could not be seen in ordinary viewing because the film runs too fast — at 30 frames per second on video.[27]

On January 10, 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.[28]

The Rescuers video was reissued March 23, 1999, with the offending image edited out.

Reception[change | change source]

Box office[change | change source]

The Rescuers was successful upon its original theatrical release. It made $48 million at the box office and became Disney's most successful movie to that date.[29] During its initial release in France, it out-grossed Star Wars and became the highest-grossing movie in West Germany at the time.[30] The distributor rentals made $19 million while its international rentals grossed $41 million.[31] The movie broke a record for the biggest financial amount made for an animated movie on opening weekend, a record it kept until 1986, when An American Tail broke the record. The Rescuers was Disney's first major success since The Jungle Book (1967) and the last until The Little Mermaid (1989). The Rescuers was re-issued in theaters in 1983 and 1989. The Rescuers has had a lifetime gross of $71.2 million across its original release and several reissues.[32]

Critical reaction[change | change source]

The Rescuers was said to be Disney's greatest movie since Mary Poppins (1964). It seemed to signal a new golden age for Disney animation.[33] The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes said that the movie received an 83% approval rating with an average rating of 6.6/10 based on 26 reviews. The website's consensus states that "Featuring superlative animation, off-kilter characters, and affectionate voice work by Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor, The Rescuers represents a bright spot in Disney's post-golden age."[34] TV Guide gave the movie three stars out of five, saying that "Four years in the making, costing nearly $8 million, THE RESCUERS is a beautifully animated film that showed Disney still knew a lot about making quality children's fare even as their track record was weakening. [...] Comic relief is provided by a bird named Orville, who transports the mice as they search for the girl. The voices are all well suited to the characters, and the film is a delight for children as well as adults who appreciate good animation and brisk storytelling."[35] Ellen MacKay of Common Sense Media gave the movie four out of five stars, writing, "Great adventure, but too dark for preschoolers".[36]

In his book, The Disney Films, movie historian Leonard Maltin describes 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 calls the movie "the most satisfying animated feature to come from the studio since 101 Dalmatians." He also briefly mentions the ease with which the movie surpassed other animated movie of its time.[37]

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.[38]

Awards[change | change source]

The Rescuers was nominated in 1978 for an Academy Award for the song "Someone's Waiting for You" at the 50th Academy Awards.[39] The song lost to "You Light Up My Life" from the movie of the same name.

The movie is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Sequel[change | change source]

The Rescuers was the first Disney animated movie to have a sequel. After three successful theatrical releases of the original movie, The Rescuers Down Under was released theatrically on November 16, 1990.

The Rescuers Down Under takes place in the Australian Outback, and is about Bernard and Bianca trying to rescue a boy named Cody and a giant golden eagle called Marahute from a greedy poacher named Percival C. McLeach. Both Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor reprised their lead roles. Jim Jordan, the voice of Orville, had since died, so a new albatross character, Wilbur, was voiced by John Candy.

References[change | change source]

  1. Variety Staff. "Review: 'The Rescuers'". Variety. Retrieved February 12, 2016.
  2. "The Rescuers". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 5, 2012.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Koenig, David (January 28, 2001). Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation & Theme Parks. Irvine, California: Bonaventure Press. pp. 153–55. ISBN 978-0-9640605-1-7.
  4. Beck, Jerry (August 15, 2011). "Lost Louis Prima Disney Song". Cartoon Brew. Retrieved December 10, 2012.
  5. "This Day in Disney History – August 24". This Day in Disney History. Retrieved December 10, 2012.
  6. Ghez, Didier (December 17, 2013). Walt's People – Volume 12: Talking Disney With the Artists Who Knew Him. Xlibris. ISBN 978-1-4771-4790-0. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  7. Doty, Meriah (February 10, 2015). "Cruella de Vil's Comeback That Wasn't: See Long-Lost Sketches of Iconic Villain in 'The Rescuers' (Exclusive)". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  8. Beck, Jerry (October 28, 2005). The Animated Movie Guide. Chicago Review Press. p. 225. ISBN 978-1-55652-591-9. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  9. "Madame Medusa". Disney Archives: Villains. Archived from the original on March 2, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2009.
  10. "The Rescuers DVD Fun Facts". Archived from the original on April 8, 2009. Retrieved April 12, 2009.
  11. Johnston, Ollie; Thomas, Frank (November 1, 1993). "The Rescuers". The Disney Villain. Disney Editions. pp. 156–63. ISBN 978-1-56282-792-2.
  12. Sharp, Margery (1959). The Rescuers. Illustrated by Garth Williams. Boston, Toronto: Little, Brown and Company.
  13. Sharp, Margery (1962). Miss Bianca. Illustrated by Garth Williams. Boston, Toronto: Little, Brown and Company.
  14. "James MacDonald". Variety. February 17, 1991. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Thomas, Bob (March 7, 1997). "Carrying on the Tradition". Art of Animation: From Mickey Mouse to Hercules. Disney Editions. pp. 111–12. ISBN 978-0-7868-6241-2.
  16. Deja, Andreas (May 20, 2014). "Deja View: Xerox". Blogger. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  17. Finch, Christopher (May 27, 1988). "Chapter 9: The End of an Era". The Art of Walt Disney: From Mickey Mouse to the Magic Kingdoms. Portland House. p. 260. ISBN 978-0-517-66474-2.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 "The Rescuers". Secondary Price Guide. Retrieved April 12, 2007.
  19. 19.0 19.1 "The Rescuers". Secondary Price Guide. Retrieved April 12, 2007.
  20. "2008 Limited Edition-Orville with Bernard & Bianca". WDCC Duckman. Retrieved November 17, 2008.
  21. Burger, Dennis. "The Rescuers Slated for 2012 Blu-ray Release! (Along with Over 30 Other Disney Flicks)". Technologytell. Retrieved March 23, 2012.
  22. Josh Katz (February 3, 2012). "Disney Teases 2012 Blu-ray Slate". Retrieved June 26, 2012.
  23. "Photographic images of a topless woman can be spotted in The Rescuers". Urban Legends Reference Pages. Retrieved April 12, 2007.
  24. Davies, Jonathan (January 11, 1999). "Dis Calls in 'Rescuers' After Nude Images Found". The Hollywood Reporter.
  25. Howell, Peter (January 13, 1999). "Disney Knows the Net Never Blinks". The Toronto Star.
  26. Miller, D.M. (2001). "What Would Walt Do?". San Jose, CA: Writers Club Press. p. 96.
  27. "Disney Recalls 'The Rescuers' Video". Associated Press. January 8, 1999.
  28. "Disney recalls "sabotaged" video". The Independent (London). Retrieved April 22, 2009.[dead link]
  29. King, Susan (June 22, 2012). "Disney's animated classic 'The Rescuers' marks 35th anniversary". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
  30. Harmetz, Aljean (August 10, 1978). "Disney film far behind schedule". The New York Times. Eugene Register-Guard. Retrieved May 11, 2016.
  31. Thomas, Bob (September 19, 1984). "Walt Disney Productions returns to animation". Lewison Daily Sun. Retrieved May 11, 2016.
  32. "The Rescuers Release Summary". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved May 11, 2016.
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  35. "The Rescuers Review". September 3, 2008. Retrieved May 27, 2012.
  36. Ellen MacKay. "The Rescuers – Movie Review". Retrieved May 27, 2012.
  37. Maltin, Leonard (2000). The Disney Films. Disney Editions. p. 265. ISBN 978-0-7868-8527-5.
  38. Jack G., Shaheen (2001). Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People. Olive branch Press (an imprint of Interlink publishing group). p. 393. ISBN 978-1-56656-388-8.
  39. "Oscars Database". Retrieved June 25, 2011.
  40. "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2016-08-19.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)

Other websites[change | change source]