After over a decade of releasing financially disappointing animated features, Disney would find its first real success since the days of Walt Disney with 1977’s The Rescuers. The film charmed audiences enough that it ended up being the first Disney animated feature to receive a theatrical sequel, after the years following the original proved to be another slow period for the studio. Although Disney wouldn’t find consistent success again until The Little Mermaid, The Rescuers managed to gain attention during one of Disney’s bleakest periods for being a fun and sweet entry in the Disney library.
The Rescuers tells the story of the Rescue Aid Society, an organization of international mice dedicated to rescuing abduction victims from around the globe. The two main characters are Bernard and Miss Bianca. Miss Bianca is the Rescue Aid Society’s Hungarian agent, and is sent on a mission to rescue a young orphan girl named Penny from the clutches of Madame Medusa, who is holding Penny in Devil’s Bayou to claim a priceless treasure.
Bernard is the Rescue Aid Society’s janitor, whom Miss Bianca selects as her partner for the job. Bernard, being timid and a bit of a pushover, reluctantly agrees to tag along.
The characters all have fun personalities, with the adventurous Bianca and the faint-hearted Bernard having an entertaining relationship that actually feels ahead of its time (how many Disney movies of the time depicted the female lead as the courageous one?). Bernard and Bianca are also aided by a number of other animal characters, most notably Orville the albatross, who provides some good comic relief.
Originally, The Rescuers was going to reuse Cruella de Vil from One Hundred and One Dalmatians as its villain, before the filmmakers decided the film was better suited as a stand-alone feature instead of a sequel. Still, Madame Medusa is a decent substitute, even if she does fall considerably short of Cruella’s memorability. At least she gets a bumbling sidekick in the form of Mr. Snoops.
Even after years of financially-struggling releases, Disney still proved they could deliver high quality animation. The Rescuers was probably the best looking Disney film of its era, with a great attention to detail in the characters’ movements.
The Rescuers is a fun movie. The characters are entertaining and it has some nice action scenes, not to mention the swamp setting gives it a somewhat spooky juxtaposition to add a bit of personality. I suppose on the downside the story lacks any real surprises or depth. What you see is what you get.
Ultimately, The Rescuers is a solid piece of family entertainment, even if it’s a pretty by-the-books affair. It certainly doesn’t stack up to Disney’s more remarkable features, but it’s fun little adventure that stands above a lot of Disney’s other offerings at the time.