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20 Weeks of Disney Animation: ‘The Rescuers’

The Rescuers marked somewhat of an end of an era for Disney animation. The film was released in 1977, a little over ten years after Walt Disney’s death. However, during that last decade, a great many of his collaborators had stuck around and continued to work on movies at the studio. Most notably, several of Walt’s “Nine Old Men” were still around at this point and working on the animated features. The Rescuers marked the final film in which the majority of the “Nine Old Men” contributed. The next film, The Fox and the Hound, showcased some new and upcoming animators, along with a few of the originals. Still, The Rescuers is a culmination of decades of hard work and is an entertaining and worthwhile coda to the careers of several legendary animators.

Read: 20 Weeks of Disney Animation: ‘The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh’

Based on a book by Margery Sharp, The Rescuers follows the story of an orphan girl who has been taken from her orphanage from a pawn shop owner in order to help find a diamond that she wants. Two mice from the Rescue Aid Society are tasked with her rescue from the lady’s clutches.

One of my favorite things about the movie is the voice work, particularly from the mice and the wonderfully wicked Madame Medusa. Bianca is voiced by Eva Gabor, who had already worked with Disney in The Aristocats. Bernard is played by comic legend Bob Newhart. Together, they make for a great team and ultimately, are what make the film work so well. Madame Medusa is voiced by Geraldine Page who was a tour de force of the stage and screen, with five Oscars nominations by the time of this films’ release. Interestingly, the character of Medusa was originally supposed to be Cruella de Vil, and the similarities between the two are obvious. Still, Medusa stands out as a great villain on her own and is one of the more memorable aspects of the movie. Her assistant, Snoops, was modeled after Disney historian John Culhane who called “becoming a Disney character was beyond my wildest dreams of glory.”

Unlike many previous Disney films, The Rescuers is not a musical. Despite this, there are a few background songs that are played and they do an excellent job of adding to the atmosphere of the film and make it stand out among some of the other Disney films of this period.

One of the more interesting things about The Rescuers is the controversy that took place after the film was first released on VHS in 1999. Because of the ability to freeze frame, numerous parents were concerned when they found a brief shot of a topless women in the background of one of the scenes. This was so brief that it had gone unnoticed during all the times it had been played at the theaters and even after its first home video release in 1992. Though it was never revealed exactly who or why it was placed in the film, it was removed for subsequent copies and never seen again.

My fondness for the film is because I am admittedly biased. Not only did I grow up watching The Rescuers, but it was one of my favorites. Along with Pete’s Dragon, it was a Disney film that I watched on repeat, never growing tired of the humor, the music, and the story. I still love it to this day, despite its imperfections.

Live-action remake: There is no live-action remake planned for The Rescuers at this point.

The Rescuers in the theme parks: Unfortunately, The Rescuers almost never appears in the theme parks. There is the rare occasion when Bernard and Bianca show up, but these appearances are few and far between.

Sequel: The Rescuers Down Under, Disney’s 29th feature film, was released 13 years after The Rescuers, in 1990.

The Rescuers is available to stream on Disney+.

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