Ranking Disney: #30 – The Rescuers (1977)
The Rescuers is a film I’d guess a lot of people hold near and dear. One that would be ranked a lot higher on most lists.
Unfortunately, I did not grow up with this film, and didn’t see it until about a month or two ago. Which does two things — allows me to be objective about it, and doesn’t allow for nostalgia to enter into my ranking. You’d think that second part is basically the same as the first part, but it’s not. Sometimes nostalgia is a good thing, even if it is subjective.
While I really liked the movie, and totally get why it’s a classic — I just can’t rank it any higher than this because, to me, it’s just not as good as the rest of the movies that are higher on the list. I just didn’t enjoy it as much as those other ones. Now, with the sheen of nostalgia and having grown up with it laid on top of it, I’m sure I’d have had this about six or seven spots higher. But I didn’t, so, here it is:
The film begins on a broken down old riverboat. A young girl goes off and sends a message in a bottle for rescue.
Over the opening credits, the bottle floats all the way to New York (she’s being held in New Orleans), where it is taken to the Rescue Aid Society, run by an international group of mice who meet inside the U.N. They never ignore a call for help.
(Note the Mickey Mouse on the watch on the wall. I wonder if it’s Fagin’s watch…)
They read the note, which is very wet. They can only decipher that the note is for Morningside Orphanage in New York, and was written by a girl named Penny. Miss Bianca, a Hungarian mouse, asks for the assignment, wanting to help the poor girl. All the male mice offer to go with her (she’s apparently a sexy mouse), but she chooses Bernard, the janitor of the society, who is a pretty clumsy (and superstitious) mouse, all told.
They go to the orphanage, and find Penny’s belongings. They also meet an old cat, who tells them about Penny. He says she ran away, and tells of the last time he saw her, which was when a couple came to the orphanage to adopt someone, and didn’t choose her. He consoled her, and she seemed happy, but then all of a sudden, she was gone the next day. He also mentions that a weird lady who runs a pawn shop downtown wanted to give Penny a ride one day. Bernard and Bianca go to the pawnshop to check it out.
The place is Medusa’s Pawn Shop, which seems abandoned when Bernard and Bianca arrive. There, they find Penny’s book, and overhear a phone call to Medusa from her henchmen, Mr. Snoops, who has kidnapped Penny and are looking for a diamond. She says she’s taking the next flight down to Devil’s Bayou to join them.
They hop into her suitcase as she drives to the airport. Only with her crazy, erratic driving (a lot like Cruella De Vil), the suitcase is thrown from the car. So Bernard and Bianca must find alternate transportation to Devil’s Bayou.
They go to Albatross Air, and are taken to Devil’s Bayou by Orville.
Meanwhile, at Devil’s Bayou, Penny escapes while everyone is asleep. Medusa sends her two crocodiles, Nero and Brutus, to get her back, while Snoops sends up some fireworks to illuminate the swamp.
These cause Orville to crash land and also are seen by Luke, a backwoods, drunken hillbilly country mouse, and his wife, Ellie Mae. They see Penny get recaptured by Nero and Brutus. They go off in a boat (a leaf, actually), run by Evinrude, a dragonfly, and reach the boat where they hold Penny hostage.
There, they find out the plan, which is to have Penny squeeze down into a cave (only a child can fit down there) to get the Devil’s Eye diamond, which is buried somewhere down there. (She’s really a lot like Cruella, the more you watch.) Medusa says she’s going to put Penny down in the cave at low tide, and keep her there until she finds the diamond (even as the tide rises).
The crocs then smell Bianca’s perfume and chase the two into the piano, which leads to a pretty great chase sequence, as the crocs hit keys and the air shoots the mice up. The two end up narrowly escaping, mostly because of the villains’ incompetence (but isn’t that how it always it), and are brought back to safety by Evinrude.
They return to the boat later, as Penny is going to bed and praying for help. They devise an escape plan, first trapping the crocs in a cage and then taking Medusa’s airboat (while also setting off fireworks in her bedroom to stall for time). They send Evinrude back to Ellie Mae and Luke, who have rounded up all the nearby animals to help. Only he is attacked by bats and cannot get there.
Medusa and Snoops send Penny down in the hole (with Bernard and Bianca in her pocket) to look for the diamond. Bernard goes across a pit, where water seeps in through the bottom of the cave, to look for it.
There, he finds the Devil’s Eye.
They get the diamond out from a skull before the water can fill up the cave and drown them, and they are pulled back up by Snoops. Medusa takes the diamond and says it’s all hers.
Meanwhile, Evinrude makes a beeline for Luke and Ellie Mae’s house before the bats can catch him, and they all set out to the boat, where Medusa holds Penny and Snoops at gunpoint, saying that if they follow her, she’ll shoot them. Bernard and Bianca trip her, and Penny runs off with the diamond, which has been sewn into her teddy bear. Medusa is then attacked by all the swamp animals, and the crocs are locked in their cage, just as was planned. Penny then hops on the airboat and they get away, dragging Medusa (waterskiing on her crocodiles, which is just a terrific image) behind them, until she crashes into the riverboat.
We then cut to the Rescue Aid Society watching a news story talk about the Devil’s Eye being placed in the Smithsonian and Penny being adopted. She thanks Bernard and Bianca, just as Evinrude arrives with another call for help. Bianca and Bernard then volunteer for the job (which Bernard is leery about, it being Friday the 13th), and they go off on Albatross Air once again, this time with Evinrude, onto their next mission.
I really liked the film. I do. I think it’s a lot better than the sequel, even though there the animation is better by simple fact that they had 13 years to improve the process. But in terms of story — this is much better. But, overall, when trying to rank it — I kept putting it here. I don’t like that there aren’t songs in it, and I don’t like how boring the non-Bernard and Bianca plot is most of the time. But overall, the film is a nice little classic. Only, like I said — every time I looked at these rankings, it never made it higher than this for me. So, here it stays.
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Official Disney Number: #23
Run Time: 77 minutes
Release Date: June 22, 1977
Budget: $1.2 million
Box Office: I think it made about $29 million in first run, and about $71 million after rereleases and such, as far as I can gather. Huge hit, either way.
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- “The Journey,” performed by Shelby Flynt
- “Rescue Aid Society,” which isn’t really a song, but whatever.
- “Tomorrow is Another Day,” performed by Shelby Flynt
- “Someone’s Waiting for You,” performed by Shelby Flynt
None of these are really songs. They’re performed as narrative and not by the characters.
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- The film was nominated for Best Original Song for “Someone’s Waiting for You.” (It lost to “You Light Up My Life.” Also nominated that year were “Candle on the Water,” from Pete’s Dragon, a superior song, and the song that was royally fucked over, “Nobody Does It Better” from The Spy Who Loved Me.)
- This was the last Disney film to get an Oscar nomination until The Little Mermaid.
- Most people think of this as the first film that made it clear to people that the studio could survive without Walt. (The Aristocats and Robin Hood were not exactly rousing successes.) The National Board of Review even singled the film out for “restoring and upgrading the art of animation.”
- This is the first Disney film that spawned a sequel.
- This is the first Disney film with a prologue before the opening credits.
- This originally had the record for highest opening weekend, until An American Tail broke the record in 1986.
- Apparently Cruella De Vil was going to be the villain in an early version. (No wonder the similarities.)
- Also, they apparently had a scene where Bernard and Bianca receive all the things they’ll need on their journey (kind of like the typical Bond “Q” scene). But it never made the final cut.
- When Medusa runs over Orville in the swamp and at the end when Orville falls off the building in New York, you can hear the Goofy scream.
- Louis Prima had a role in the film and even did songs for it, but died during production and none of the material was used.
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1. Apparently this is how the mice entered the Queen’s palace in The Great Mouse Detective. I wouldn’t doubt it, though I don’t think I have the corresponding shot from that film.
2. Look who cameos in the film:
3. She’s so fucking Cruella De Vil it’s ridiculous.
4. I love this animation. Flying through the pipe.
5. How can this not make you think of West Side Story (which was copied by Gangs of New York, and, to keep it Disney — Oliver and Company)?
6. This is almost the exact same shot as one in The Jungle Book. And probably Princess and the Frog too. I guarantee you I will have the same screenshot from both of those two films. Wait and see.
7. Very Jiminy Cricket.
8. This reminds me of Princess and the Frog. Replace lightning bug with dragonfly and mice and leaf for frogs and lily pad.
9. Reflection in the water. Classic Disney:
10. Well look who it is:
11. Reminds me of how Jiminy Cricket made his entrance in Fun and Fancy Free.
12. Princess and the Frog played the same game with the evening star and the bayou.
13. Fantasia. Don’t even pretend like you don’t see it.
14. I just love fireworks. (But if you need a reference — Mulan?)
15. The Little Mermaid — same colors on the fireworks. Exactly.
16. Negative coloring!
17. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Don’t tell me that’s not immediately your first thought.
18. I just really love this shot. Look at that framing:
19. Kind of like how Captain Hook was last seen (I said kind of), isn’t it?
20. Oh, look, it’s Owl from Winnie the Pooh. Oddly, he’s voiced by the guy who does Piglet’s voice.
Also, this mole looks a lot like the one in Pooh. I’m not sure if it is, but I figured I’d mention it.