The Rescuers Down Under
Release Date: November 16th, 1990
Inspiration: Characters created by Margery Sharp
Budget: $30 million
Domestic Gross: $27.9 million
Worldwide Gross: $47.4 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 69%
IMDB Score: 6.9/10
Storyline (per IMDB): Cody, a 9-year-old boy from Mugwomp Flats responds to a distress call about a trapped giant Golden Eagle called Marahute. Freeing her, he gains a close friendship with the bird. However, Cody is soon abducted by the murderous poacher, Percival McLeach, who is after that bird which is of a highly endangered species and therefore an extremely profitable quarry. In a panic, a mouse Cody freed from one of McLeach’s traps sends a desperate call for help to the Rescue Aid Society in New York City who assigns their top agents, Miss Bianca and Bernard, to the task. With transportation provided by the goofy albatross, Wilbur, the agents arrive in Australia and link up with the RAS’ local field operative, Jake the Kangaroo Rat. Together, the trio must race against time to find Cody, stop McLeach, and save Marahute.
Pre-Watching Thoughts: Our trek through the Disney film canon continues with the first film of the 1990s and also amazingly enough, it is the first official sequel to come out as it is the second Rescuers film. It is a bit funny that of all the films that have come out to this point, it is the Rescuers that is the first film to get a sequel even though by nature of the ending of the film it did open it up to a sequel. This is another film that was always one of my favorites growing up and after being pleasantly surprised by how good the Rescuers was, hopefully this one delivers as well and still remains one of my favorites.
Voice Cast: So as I mentioned, this is the first official sequel in Disney history and as a result, we have a break from tradition as instead of having the same actors come back for multiple films in different roles, we have returning actors reprising the previous roles that they had. Case in point, we have the return of Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor as they once again voice Bernard and Miss Bianca and this would ultimately be Gabor’s final film appearance, and we also have Bernard Fox returning as the Chairmouse of the Rescue Aid Society though he also does a dual role of Doctor Mouse. We do see a return as well in Frank Welker though he is part of the first example where he is in multiple films in different roles as he voices both Marahute the Eagle and Joanna in a dual role. Now moving onto our newcomers in this film, we start off with comedian John Candy who voices Wilbur and it is nice to see him more active in this film than the actor who voiced Orville in the first film, and then we have Adam Ryen who voices Cody in what would be one of his lone film appearances. Next, we have legendary actor George C. Scott who voices Percival McLeach as he was about to begin what ended up being the last decade of his career, and then we have Tristen Rogers who voices Jake in one of his lone film appearances as he was better known for being on the soap opera “General Hospital”. We then have Peter Firth who voices Red the kangaroo as he was hitting the peak of his career, and then we have Wayne Robson who voices Frank the Lizard as he was in the prime of his career as well. Next, we have Douglas Seale who voices Krebbs the koala in what would be one of only two appearances with Disney, and then we have Carla Meyer who voices Faloo the kangaroo and Cody’s mother in a dual role though she would be better known for being a dialect coach for the next three decades. We then have Russi Taylor who voices Nurse Mouse though she is better remembered for voicing another mouse named Minnie, and finally we have Peter Greenwood who voices the airplane captain and radio announcer in a brief dual role. While we did get a nice, fresh group of voices, it was good that at least a few of the actors from the original film came back and it will be interesting to see going forward if this trend continues as we see more sequels pop up over the years.
Hero/Prince: When it comes to sequels, they will usually feature the same characters from the previous film in addition to some brand new characters, and there are certain times where the sequel may feature all new characters and not have any from the previous film. However, that is not the case here as we see the return of Bernard and Miss Bianca as they have grown as a team and are considered the top agents of the Rescue Aid Society, and Bianca volunteers them to take this mission in Australia. After arriving, they meet Jake who is the Australian representative of the Rescue Aid Society and he helps them in their mission, and he is clearly smitten with Bianca much to Bernard’s dismay as he and Bianca have also been dating and he wishes to propose to her. Bernard is separated from them and despite his constant reservations, he finally finds his courage and saves Bianca and Jake along with Cody and Marahute, and in the end he finally proposes to Bianca who happily accepts and he has earned Jake’s respect. Obviously, we know what Bernard and Bianca are about from the last film so the focus here is on Jake who is a strong agent and is not afraid of anything, and he knows the lay of the land very well and has built up an impressive set of skills including subduing vicious animals and making them obey him. He is immediately infatuated with Bianca and does his best to impress her while also putting Bernard down even if it is not intentional, but in the end he shows respect to Bernard for his heroics and is happy for them when they become engaged. The three of them do end up making for a solid trio of heroes and it will be interesting to see where Bernard and Bianca rank when you factor in the two films, but they themselves are a good pair of heroes and may even be slightly underrated.
Villain: When it comes to a series like this, you know that you are bound to get a different villain than from the previous film, and we get that here as our main villain in this film is the poacher Percival C. McLeach along with his pet goanna named Joanna. He finds Cody when he stumbles upon one of his traps and he realizes that Cody has met Marahute, the golden eagle that he is looking for after admitting that he killed Marahute’s mate. He kidnaps Cody and demands he reveal the location though Cody refuses, and finally McLeach releases Cody by telling him that he heard someone else has killed Marahute. He follows Cody knowing he will head to the nest and as Marahute flies back to the nest, McLeach captures her along with Cody, Bianca, and Jake while sending Joanna down to the nest to eat the eggs. She is unable to eat them and she ends up tossing them off the cliff not realizing that Bernard had switched the eggs with rocks, and McLeach takes Cody to Crocodile Falls where he intends to feed Cody to the crocodiles and then sell Marahute. In the end, Bernard gets Joanna to chase him and she knocks into McLeach as they fall into the river, and Joanna makes her way to safety as McLeach fights off the crocodiles only to forget about the falls and he ends up falling to his death. McLeach is your typical poacher in that he is all about making money selling animals either while they are alive or dead, and he sees Marahute as his ticket to becoming a rich man and is willing to do whatever he has to in order to get her. Joanna stands by his side and assists him even though she does more to hinder him than actually help him, and this ultimately ends up costing McLeach his life in the end though Joanna manages to survive. While McLeach does appear to be more of a competent villain as opposed to Madame Medusa in the first film, he is still a fairly generic villain and will probably not rank very high amongst the other villains.
Other Characters: As I mentioned earlier, when it comes to a sequel you can see some characters from the first film return or you will see a bunch of new characters so that the sequel isn’t just seen as a rehash of the first film. This film has mostly new characters aside from the Chairmouse of the Rescue Aid Society who we saw in the first, and we also have the members of the Society who we might have seen briefly in the first film and see even more briefly in this one. We now move onto our new set of characters and the first is Cody who frees Marahute from a trap and becomes her friend, and he is captured by McLeach who wants Cody to lead him to Marahute though he refuses. Eventually, Cody is released unaware that McLeach intentionally did so to be led to Marahute, and Cody is recaptured along with Marahute and McLeach tries to feed him to the crocodiles only for Bernard, Bianca, and Jake to save him and Marahute. We then have the eagle Marahute who is caught in a trap and Cody frees her as they become friends, and she goes away briefly before returning only to be caught by McLeach though she is saved along with Cody by Bernard, Bianca, and Jake. We then have the collection of animals that Cody befriends while under captivity which include Red the kangaroo, Krebbs the koala, Frank the lizard, and others as they try to free Cody only for McLeach to discover this and he takes Cody away while leaving the rest behind. Next, we have Wilbur the albatross who is the brother of Orville from the first film and he meets Bernard and Bianca having heard about them from Orville, and he takes them to Australia only to hurt his back and he is treated by several mice much to his dismay until his back is healed. He is then coerced by Bernard into sitting on Marahute’s eggs as he goes to save everyone, but unfortunately Wilbur is forgotten about and he is left on the eggs as they hatch and one of them bites his wing. We then have the doctor and nurse mice that tend to Wilbur and his back though one might question their methods, but in the end Wilbur ends up having his back taken care of though the doctor in turn gets his back hurt. We then have the various animals that either help Cody find where Marahute is or the ones that relay the message to the Rescue Aid Society, and finally we have Cody’s mother who we only see briefly when Cody leaves the house and then when the Rangers deliver his backpack to her as she believes he has been killed. I always find it weird that there aren’t as many characters in a film than I remember when I first watched the film, but sometimes less is more as it puts focus on the main characters and the others don’t feel extra.
Plot: It is funny because the first film was based off an actual novel as opposed to this one which is just based off the characters, but in a way that allows you to be more flexible with the story though you still have to make sure the characters fit within it. For this film, Cody finds a golden eagle named Marahute that is in a poacher’s trap and he frees her from it, and they become friends as she shows him her nest and three eggs before giving him a feather as a present. Cody eventually falls into a poacher’s trap set up by McLeach and he intends to let him leave, but when he sees the feather he kidnaps Cody and tries to force him to lead him to Marahute. The Rescue Aid Society learn of this and they send Bernard and Bianca to Australia where they meet Jake who leads them to McLeach’s hideout, and after failing to convince Cody to reveal the location he lets him go though Cody is unaware that McLeach intends to follow him to the nest. When Cody returns to the nest just Marahute also arrives, McLeach captures Marahute along with Cody, Jake, and Bianca as Bernard is left behind, but Bernard protects the eggs from Joanna and then he convinces Wilbur to look after them as he goes after everyone. McLeach attempts to feed Cody to crocodiles only for Bernard to intervene and McLeach along with Joanna fall into the river, and McLeach ends up falling over the falls to his death while Bianca, Jake, and Marahute save Cody and Bernard as they fly away into the night. I do feel like this film could’ve been eventually turned into a novel and started a series, but it ultimately does not and basically serves as a standalone that happens to feature these certain characters.
Random Watching Thoughts: It is a bit weird that of all the films that have been released to this point, it would be the Rescuers that gets a sequel especially since it’s been 13 years since the original; It did make some sense to have this film take place in Australia since the Australian culture was still somewhat relevant at this point in history; This continuous opening shot through the Outback might be one of the best openings in Disney history; Cody needs to do a better job in keeping his room organized; Did Cody really think he would be able to sneak away without his mother knowing?; I like how they make it seem like Cody didn’t have to go far and that the Outback is not as vast as it really is; So Faloo blowing into the log makes the same sound as a didgeridoo; They point out Marahute is on a cliff and Cody is the only one that can reach her, but what if Cody was unable to climb up the cliff?; Considering how hard is it for mountain climbers, I wonder how they felt when they saw Cody climb up the cliff with no problems and no proper equipment; How did Marahute end up in that trap?; Cody should’ve realized that she would freak out when she saw his knife; I wonder how many kids actually thought Cody was going to die when Marahute knocked him off the cliff; Of all the places a group of flamingos had to be congregating; I don’t know much about birds, but I feel like Cody shouldn’t be able to stand on Marahute like that while she is flying regardless of how big she is; I know that Cody saved her, but the fact that Marahute was willing to show her eggs to him must mean she completely trusts him; Marahute looks so puzzled when Cody rubs the feather along his face; Classic foreshadowing when we see the villain appear on a wanted poster before we actually see him; McLeach did a lot of work to set up that trap to be wired to his truck via sonar; Cody can climb up a cliff with no issues yet he somehow can’t climb out of a hole; McLeach has no care for the environment as he set his truck up to just plow trees over to make himself a pathway; Joanna jumpscare; It’s not often that you see a shotgun with a scope on it; McLeach throws Joanna under the bus for making the hole, so I guess he would blame her for the beacon in there as well even though she’s an animal; That’s not too smart of McLeach to have Cody grab the muzzle end of the gun when he could accidentally pull the trigger; I remember that scene of McLeach falling into the hole was all over the trailers and I wonder if many thought that would lead to his death, but considering how early it is in the film you knew he wasn’t going to die from that; We hear a gunshot go off yet we don’t see any bullets come out of the hole unless the gun was fired into the sides of the hole; Getting a closer look at the gun, it looks like a combination of a rifle with the scope and handle along with the double barrels of a shotgun; McLeach was ready to finish Joanna off until he sees the feather; Does he keep that eagle’s feather on his person all the time?; McLeach has obviously eluded the Rangers for so long that he is able to mock Cody when he says that the Rangers will get him; The R.A.S. telegraph office is an old milk carton and has the design of a bar with the stools on the outside; So apparently mice are able to do Morse code; So the message went from Australia to the Marshall Islands, then Hawaii before reaching the mainland and bouncing to various cities; That tech looked so worried when the “R.A.S.” letters appeared on the screens; All the mice in Hawaii just also happen to be wearing Hawaiian shirts just in case you weren’t sure where they were; It doesn’t look like the R.A.S. assembly hall has changed much between the last film and this one; The poor Canadian representative was woken up for this meeting as he doesn’t even bother changing out of his pajamas; So in the previous film they take the time to sing their anthem even though they had an emergency with Penny disappearing, yet they don’t do that here; It is snowing pretty good in NYC yet some people were willing to go out to dinner; So cockroaches make pea soup in a thimble over an open fire; I do wonder how long the time was between the last film and this one because if Bernard wants to propose to Bianca, they must’ve been dating for a while in addition to being partners; Why would Bernard just have the ring in his pocket especially if it has a hole in it?; I feel bad for that mouse getting slapped when he did nothing wrong; I mentioned before the classic trope of two characters talking about two different things yet they think they are talking about the same thing as Bernard thinks Bianca wants to marry him while Bianca is talking about taking the mission to Australia; Bernard has come a long way from being the janitor to becoming one of the R.A.S.’ top agents; Bernard says that you can’t fly for 45 minutes after eating though I have never heard that before; I wonder how many people who watched the first film were looking forward to seeing Orville only to realize that he wasn’t in the film; Wilbur definitely is the younger, cooler brother of Orville; So on the weekend this film was released, another film came out that featured John Candy and that film was a tiny film called “Home Alone” so it was a good weekend for Candy; “Albatross Air: A Fair Fare from Here to There”; Wilbur should know that even though they would live in June when it is summer in New York, it would actually be winter when they get to Australia; Wilbur spits his drink out yet only Bernard gets splashes while Bianca stays dry; Wilbur asks if it’s a little kid kind of boy, what other types of boys are there?; It seems like Bernard has gotten over most of his phobias because we don’t see them climbing the steps onto Wilbur and he can’t mention the number of steps; Wilbur causing an accident; Did Bianca actually think Wilbur would be able to fly from New York City to Australia non-stop?; McLeach says the rangers could hear Cody yell as they are pretty much in the middle of nowhere; So I did look it up and there are multiple opal mines throughout Australia; Once again, Bernard mentions taking the train though it’d be hard to find a train to Australia; You have to really be bad at Checkers to lose to a fly; That silhouette of the Albatross was pretty big though Wilbur didn’t seem to be that big; Much like in the first film, they treat the birds like they are airplanes; I wonder if using the bra as a drag line and Wilbur wearing it at the end was a nod to the controversy from the first film involving the picture of the topless woman; Jake is ranting and ranting until he sees Bianca coming down the steps; Wilbur’s back must’ve been really bad if it went out when he tried to grab those small suitcases; It would’ve been even funnier if Wilbur said he was ready to do the polka in a nod to John Candy’s character in “Home Alone”; The doctor is cranky because he missed tea to work on Wilbur; I don’t think it’s smart to shoot those needles out of a shotgun; Ironic that Jake asks them if they are married and Bianca says they aren’t not knowing Bernard wants to propose; So Suicide Trail has more snakes, but less quicksand which makes it the better trail in Jake’s eyes; You do feel bad for Bernard because he loves Bianca and yet Jake is clearly flirting with her; Where did McLeach find a box of animal crackers that big for Joanna?; God forbid McLeach had real bad aim because he was playing with fire throwing those knives at the map trying not to hit Cody; Bernard is willing to look for Jake even though he thinks Jake is trying to woo Bianca; Jake was lucky that he wasn’t pierced by those snake’s fangs; It is still weird that some animals have the ability to talk while others don’t; Krebbs is pretty pessimistic considering he saying that the animals will get out by becoming numerous accessories like a belt and a wallet; Frank needs to stop thinking so hard if it hurts his head like that; That’s quite the contraption they made, and in such short time; Joanna must have super hearing if she heard them getting the keys that easily; Jake, Bernard, and Bianca are using a lot of animals to make their way towards McLeach’s hideout; Wilbur says that his head feels like it’s in a vice and sure enough, it is in a vice; What was Wilbur doing during his X-Ray as he looks like he was in pain?; The epidermal tissue disrupter aka the chainsaw; They must not be that good if they actually have an alarm for if a patient escapes; Wilbur was walking around fairly well despite having an injured back; Wilbur’s back is all better only for the doctor to now have a bad back; You’re telling me that McLeach didn’t notice Joanna had the egg wrapped around her tongue?; McLeach says that his brain is twice as big as Joanna’s yet Joanna was able to eat all the eggs behind his back; Frank was determined to get that lock open using his tail; They tell Frank to get something to stand on and the first he grabs is a slab of wood that does nothing especially where there is a box right next to it; They tell him to be quiet and yet he decides to loudly kick the keys to the ground; He has the keys to unlock the cage yet he decides to throw them away and use his tail instead; Talk about having luck on your side as Frank got shot at by a shotgun yet didn’t get hit at all; Jake was so happy thinking him saying “Open sesame” caused the door to open; If third grade is the farthest you got in school, I don’t think you have much to brag about; I know Cody got a head start, but you’d think he would hear the truck and realize that McLeach is following him; Wilbur is so exhausted from flying until he sees who is beside him and then he is Mr. Big Shot; So we have to believe that Cody ran from McLeach’s hideout all the way to the cliff where the nest is without stopping to rest?; That was a good shot by McLeach to nab Marahute; Joanna was so willing to eat the eggs until she saw she had to go over the cliff and chickened out until McLeach kicked her over; How much time elapsed that Bernard was able to hide the real eggs and put out rocks to throw Joanna off?; You would think after not being able to eat the first one that Joanna would realize immediately something is wrong; Joanna grew her nails back very quickly after scratching them to the knuckle on the rock; I don’t know if Bernard should be rolling those eggs like that; Wilbur was adamant about not sitting on the eggs yet somehow he ends up sitting on them in the end; Again, how far did Bernard end up running without taking a break to follow the tracks?; Bernard was lucky to happen upon a warthog so he could use him to catch up; Here’s the beginning of the end for McLeach as instead of just throwing Cody into the river, he decides to toy with him and becomes extra arrogant that he is about to win; That’s pretty mean of McLeach to call Bernard a rat; You would think Cody would swing back and forth to give McLeach some problems in getting a clear shot; Joanna is so bent on catching Bernard that she doesn’t realize that she was going to cause McLeach and herself to fall into the river; Joanna at least had some sense to find her way to dry land while McLeach just stayed and fought with the crocodiles; It’s a good thing those crocodiles stayed focused on McLeach even when Cody fell into the water; McLeach seemed so happy when he thought he beat the crocodiles only to realize they swam away to avoid the falls; That last little wave from Joanna because she knew McLeach was dead; Poor Bernard was so scared that he wouldn’t let that rope go until he realized they were safe; It’s a good thing Bianca accepted Bernard’s proposal because that would’ve been a major downer if she rejected him after everything they went through; I wonder how shocked Marahute will be knowing that her babies now consider Wilbur their father.
Overall Thoughts: Overall, the film was a solid one and I still like it just as much as I did when I was a kid though I will admit it was not up to the same level as the original was. There is a certain sentiment that the sequel always tends to not do as well as the original though there are some sequels that exceed the original, but this one didn’t and after the success of the Little Mermaid this had to be considered a disappointment. Now that’s not to say it was a complete failure as it did do fairly well and it just seemed like a minor blip on the radar regarding the Disney Renaissance, but the next film does have a bit of pressure on it to see if it can rebound from this one. As for this film, it is still a good film though not quite as good as the original and it is still one of my personal favorites of all time.
Final Grade: 7/10