Disney Marathon: ‘The Rescuers Down Under’


I’ve never put much thought into how much we’ve dedicated to this project…until I realised that this is 50th review in the series. That’s a lot of Disney. Since this is something of a landmark entry we decided to pick something with a personal collection, and since we live in Australia it only made sense to go with Disney’s only outback adventure. Prior to this film’s release, Disney studio did a Disney Down Under tour and visited our city. At 9 years old I got to meet some animators when they held a drawing lesson in the main shopping centre. Pretty exciting stuff for out very out of the way location.

For those just joining us, this is a movie marathon with a twist. Myself (cranky 40 year old blogger), my son Josh (11 year old Nintendo obsessive) and my daughter Amelia (drama llama 8 year old princess) are watching Disney movies in a random order and ranking them. We hope to see interesting differences in how we organise our lists.

Film: The Rescuers Down Under

Released: 1990

Director: Hendel Butoy and Mike Gabriel

Cast: Bob Newhart, Eva Gabor, John Candy, Adam Ryen, George C. Scott, Frank Welker, Tristan Rogers, Peter Firth, Wayne Robson, Douglas Seale

Plot: Bianca and Bernard are dispatched by the Rescue Aid Society to once again rescue a kidnapped child, this time to Australia. They’re looking for a young boy being held hostage by a poacher who wants to reveal the nest of a giant golden eagle.

Review: The 1980s were not a good time for Disney Animation. The whole company seemed to be in a slump, with little interest being shown in their parks and lice action work in addition to their flagship animation studio. When Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg taking the reigns of the company (for better or for worse) they quickly looked to the most successful of their recent films and ordered a sequel, something out of character with for Disney. With a quick glance and the box office numbers, they also decided to capitalise on the interest in the worlds largest island nation generated by Crocodile Dundee and sent their rodent rescuers to the southern hemisphere.

The first and most notable thing about this movie is how well they captured the Australian landscape. It’s clear that they put a lot of work into studying and recreating the unique appearance of outback Australia, and we appreciate the effort that went into getting it right. Even the appearance of the small house Cody (Ryen) lives in with his mother is accurate right down to the elevated floor to keep the snakes from checking the place out and flyscreen doors. We’ll always appreciate the work Disney animators go to when capturing a distinct looking region. All the colours and plant-life are spot on, and the animals aren’t to shabby either. Although they have the the basic appearance right, they certainly haven’t capture the movement of marsupials and just had them tumble about like standard cartoon mammals.

We open with Cody, a young kid living out the middle of nowhere who is very much in touch with nature. We rescues a giant eagle from a trap, only to be captured himself by McLeach (Scott), a cold-hearted animal poacher. McLeach plans on holding Cody hostage until he gives up the location of the eagle’s nest. A message gets delivered to the RAS, who send Bianca and Bernard (Gabor and Newhart reprising their roles) to the rescue. Bernard is planning on proposing to Bianca, but the smooth talking Australian hopping mouse Jake (Rogers) gets in their way.

What we get now is a quick moving adventure with plenty of action sequences to keep things exciting. Cody teams up with captured animals, including a manic frill-neck lizard, to try and secure his escape. Bernard, Bianca and Jake travel across the land in search for Cody encountering a number of animals to use as transport. The albatross who brings them to Australia, Wilbur (Candy), is trapped in a medical centre run by a mad scientist mouse where he provides some slapstick comic relief. By bouncing back and forth between these three plot threads there’s little time for things to slow down, and the tight 77 minute run time flies past.

The casting goes a long way to keep things fun. Gabor and Newhart bring the same old Hollywood charm to the lead roles, and John Candy provides plenty of brevity. Initially Jim Jordan was going to voice Orville again, but with the performers accidental death they introduced Wilbur as his brother. What is odd is the lack of Australian talent involved in the production. George C. Scott and other actors do passable Australian accents, but the only local performer is TV star Tristan Rogers as Jake. Given the setting in the Northern Territory in the area surrounding Uluru the lack of Indigenous figures is quite noticeable. Allegedly the production team pushed for Cody to be played by an Indigenous Australian actor, but Jeffrey Katzenberg shut the idea down insisting on a “little white blonde kid”.

Thanks, Jeff.

That said, the depiction of Indigenous Australian’s created by Disney in 1990 would likely create more problems.

As much fun as this outback adventure is, it doesn’t have a great deal of lasting impact. It’s fun, and has a sense of scale, but it lacks the epic blockbuster feel of Disney at its best. It’s a fine diversion but it’s unlikely to be anyones favourite movie in the canon. We’ll always have a soft spot for it. It was shuffled into the Vault pretty quickly, but seek it out if you get the chance.

Coolest Easter Egg: Russi Taylor, the voice of Minnie Mouse, cameos as a nurse mouse.

Weirdest Trivia: This was Disney first theatrically released sequel, and would remain the only one under Ralph Wrecks the Internet released 28 years later.

Rating: SEVEN out of TEN

THE RANKING

ME

The Rescuers Down Under is better than the first one on my list, sliding easily into the top half of the list.

Click those titles if you want to see what we said about the other movies.

  1. Zootopia
  2. Robin Hood
  3. Aladdin
  4. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  5. The Lion King
  6. Wreck-It Ralph
  7. Alice in Wonderland
  8. Beauty and the Beast
  9. Moana
  10. Big Hero 6
  11. Lilo & Stitch
  12. The Great Mouse Detective
  13. The Little Mermaid
  14. Frozen
  15. Peter Pan
  16. Tangled
  17. The Sword in the Stone
  18. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  19. Enchanted
  20. Mulan
  21. Raya and the Last Dragon
  22. Cinderella
  23. Emperor’s New Groove
  24. The Rescuers Down Under
  25. Fantasia
  26. Ralph Breaks the Internet
  27. The Three Caballeros
  28. The Jungle Book
  29. Fun and Fancy Free
  30. Sleeping Beauty
  31. The Princess and the Frog
  32. Hercules
  33. The Rescuers
  34. Oliver & Company
  35. The Aristocats
  36. Saludos Amigos
  37. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  38. Home on the Range
  39. Bolt
  40. Dinosaur
  41. The Fox and the Hound
  42. Atlantis: The Lost Empire
  43. Pocahontas
  44. A Goofy Movie
  45. Tarzan
  46. Fantasia 2000
  47. Treasure Planet
  48. Meet the Robinsons
  49. The Wild
  50. Chicken Little

AMELIA

  1. Raya and the Last Dragon
  2. Frozen
  3. Moana
  4. Tangled
  5. The Little Mermaid
  6. The Rescuers
  7. The Rescuers Down Under
  8. Peter Pan
  9. Emperor’s New Groove
  10. Zootopia
  11. Lilo & Stitch
  12. Atlantis: The Lost Empire
  13. The Great Mouse Detective
  14. Home on the Range
  15. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  16. Mulan
  17. Hercules
  18. Alice in Wonderland
  19. Cinderella
  20. Wreck-It Ralph
  21. Bolt
  22. Pocahontas
  23. Enchanted
  24. Dinosaur
  25. The Aristocats
  26. The Princess and the Frog
  27. Robin Hood
  28. The Jungle Book
  29. Fantasia 2000
  30. The Lion King
  31. Beauty and the Beast
  32. The Three Caballeros
  33. The Fox and the Hound
  34. The Sword in the Stone
  35. Saludos Amigos
  36. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  37. Tarzan
  38. Oliver & Company
  39. Aladdin
  40. Treasure Planet
  41. Big Hero 6
  42. Fun and Fancy Free
  43. Sleeping Beauty
  44. A Goofy Movie
  45. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  46. Meet the Robinsons
  47. Chicken Little
  48. The Wild
  49. Fantasia

JOSHUA

  1. Zootopia
  2. Big Hero 6
  3. Raya and the Last Dragon
  4. Aladdin
  5. Emperor’s New Groove
  6. Treasure Planet
  7. Moana
  8. Ralph Breaks the Internet
  9. The Three Caballeros
  10. Saludos Amigos
  11. Wreck-It Ralph
  12. The Rescuers
  13. Frozen
  14. Mulan
  15. The Princess and the Frog
  16. The Lion King
  17. Lilo & Stitch
  18. The Jungle Book
  19. Robin Hood
  20. Bolt
  21. The Sword in the Stone
  22. Beauty and the Beast
  23. Oliver & Company
  24. Peter Pan
  25. The Rescuers Down Under
  26. Sleeping Beauty
  27. Tangled
  28. The Great Mouse Detective
  29. Cinderella
  30. The Little Mermaid
  31. Meet The Robinsons
  32. Enchanted
  33. The Hunchback Of Notre Dame
  34. Home on the Range
  35. Pocahontas
  36. A Goofy Movie
  37. The Aristocats
  38. Fantasia
  39. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  40. Atlantis: The Lost Empire
  41. Fun and Fancy Free
  42. The Fox and the Hound
  43. Fantasia 2000
  44. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  45. Dinosaur
  46. Hercules
  47. Tarzan
  48. Alice in Wonderland
  49. The Wild
  50. Chicken Little