Release Date: June 22nd, 1977
Inspiration: “The Rescuers and Miss Bianca” by Margery Sharp
Budget: $7.5 million
Domestic Gross: $71.2 million
Worldwide Gross: $169 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%
IMDB Score: 6.9/10
Storyline (per IMDB): When a bottle containing a plea for help from a little girl named Penny makes its way to the Rescue Aid Society, a mouse organization in the basement of the United Nations building dedicated to the rescue and well-being of anyone in need, it is up to the brave mouse Miss Bianca and her chosen partner, the shy janitor Bernard, to rescue the girl. Searching for clues at Penny’s home at Morningside Orphanage in New York City, the two mice discover that the girl has been kidnapped by the evil pawn shop owner Madame Medusa and her companion Mr. Snoops. On the back of Orville the albatross, Miss Bianca and Bernard travel to the terrifyingly gloomy Devil’s Bayou where they learn the shocking truth: the innocent young girl is being forced down into a dangerous, dark underground pirate’s cave where she must find the Devil’s Eye, the world’s largest diamond and Madame Medusa’s greatest obsession.
Pre-Watching Thoughts: We now come to the last Disney film of the 1970s and the second film released in 1977 as we have the first instance of two films being released in one calendar year. If you ask some people, they will say that this film is still one of the most underrated films in Disney’s history and is one that doesn’t get talked about enough as being one of the best films ever. I’ll be honest, I might have seen this film only once as I was more of a fan of the sequel which we will get to down the road, but hopefully this film will prove those people correct that this is one of the best films ever that doesn’t get the credit it deserves.
Voice Cast: As I mentioned in the last film, we were getting to a point where the number of returning stars for these films is starting to dwindle as a new crop of talent were starting to emerge and fill the gaps. Now unlike the previous film which was mostly made up of returning stars and only a few newcomers, this one has a lot of newcomers while also having a few returning voices. For the returning voices, we have the return of Eva Gabor as she voices Miss Bianca in a pretty memorable role and this is the role I think she is better remembered for as opposed to Duchess, and then we have Pat Buttram making his return as he voices Luke the muskrat. We then have James MacDonald return as he voices Evinrude in what would be his last film role as well as his last film in general while working at Disney, and then we have George Lindsay who voices Deadeye the rabbit in what would be one of his last roles. Finally, we have John Fielder who voices Deacon Owl as he continues to become a familiar voice for the Disney films, and as mentioned the list of returning voices is definitely getting smaller with each passing film. Now moving onto our debuting actors, at the top of the list is comedy legend Bob Newhart as he voices Bernard in a memorable role, and then we have Geraldine Paige who voices Madame Medusa in what would end up being her lone animated film and she makes the most of it. Next, we have child actress Michelle Stacy who voices Penny in her first major role and quite possible her most memorable role, and then we have Joe Flynn who voices Mr. Snoops in what ends up being his final film role as he sadly passed away prior to the film’s release and the film was dedicated to him. We then have Jim Jordan who voices Orville in what was his first film role after retiring 40 years ago and it would also be his final film role overall, and then we have John McIntire who voices Rufus the cat in one of two animated films he would appear in for his whole career. We then have Jeanette Nolan who voices Ellie Mae the muskrat in what was one of her first animated film appearances, and then we have Bernard Fox who voices the Chairman of the Rescue Aid Society in his first animated film appearance as well. Finally to quickly finish things off, we have Larry Clemmons who voices Gramps the turtle, Dub Taylor as Digger the mole, and Bill McMillian as a TV announcer to fill out the remainder of the film. It is going to be interesting as we head into the next decade how many of these new actors return and how much longer the returning ones stick around and continue to contribute to these films.
Hero/Prince: For the third time in the last few films, we have a pair of heroes to talk about here and that is of course the pair of Bernard and Miss Bianca. Bianca is an agent for the Rescue Aid Society and is chosen to go on this mission though she needs a partner and to everyone’s surprise, she chooses Bernard who is working as a janitor. They are sent to investigate the kidnapping of an orphan where they discover the orphan is being used to find a valuable diamond, and with the cooperation of other animals they manage to save the orphan and retrieve the diamond which leads Bernard to being declared an agent and he becomes official partners with Bianca. The pair are about as opposite as you can get as Bernard is overly cautious and very superstitious while Bianca is fearless and is willing to dive head first into this mission, but there is a chemistry between them as Bianca is very fond of Bernard hence why she chose him to join her. Despite being mice, they are able to use their resources along with the help of their fellow animals to thwart the villains and save the day, and they are perhaps the most underappreciated heroes in the Disney canon and could potentially rank high in the list.
Villain: We once again have a film with multiple villains as it will be interesting to see going forward if this is a common theme or if we end up going back to one main villain and some henchmen. But we do have a pair that dominates the majority of the film and the brains of the outfit is Madame Medusa, a pawnshop owner who obsesses with finding the world’s largest diamond called the Devil’s Eye. She enlists her partner Mr. Snoops into kidnapping an orphan and they take her to the Devil’s Bayou where the diamond is rumored to be, and when they find it Medusa betrays Snoops and looks to keep the diamond for herself only for Bernard, Bianca, and the other animals to foil them. Medusa is about as basic a villain as you could get as she wants the diamond to potentially sell and make a lot of money off of it, and she even goes as far as to betray her partner so she can reap the benefits. Snoops is an example of just going along for the ride until he realizes that he is being screwed over, and he is more guilty by association as opposed to being a real villain. I should also call out Medusa’s pet alligators Nero and Brutus who serve as her weapons until the end when even they turn on her and try to eat her in the end. While greed is definitely a strong motivator to do bad things, it can also cloud one’s judgment which it does to Medusa and her ultimate demise, and honestly she will not rank high as a villain when comparing her to the other ones.
Other Characters: Much like the last couple of films that have come out especially in this decade, the majority of the other characters in this film are animals and they dominate the majority of the film aside from a few humans. Aside from Medusa and Snoops, we have one other main human in the film and that is Penny, the orphan who is kidnapped by Medusa and forced to find the Devil’s Eye diamond though she is saved by Bernard and Bianca before being adopted by a family. We then have Orville the albatross who helps bring Bernard and Bianca to New Orleans and then leaves despite being sucked through Medusa’s airboat, and then we have the various animals living in the bayou led by Evinrude the dragonfly who all despise Medusa with a passion and they help Bernard and Bianca save Penny and the diamond. Finally, we have the members of the Rescue Aid Society who we see at the beginning and the end of the film as they support Bianca in her decision to go as well as her choice of Bernard as her partner. This was a clear example of aside from a few of these other characters, a lot of the focus is on the main characters and these other characters are simply there to help move the plot along and fill out the scenes.
Songs: Going into this project, there were a few films that I wasn’t sure if they had any songs in them or not, and this was one of them as I didn’t think there were be songs in it but to my surprise there were a few. Amazingly, all of the songs aside from one are simply done in the background to serve really as transitional songs as opposed to songs that are recognizable to the film. The one song that is sung by characters in the film is the theme song for the Rescue Aid Society, which was simply a chant sung by its members to outline their call to duty. As for the other songs in the film, the one thing they have in common is that they are all sung by singer Shelby Flint, and the first one is the song played during the opening credits called “The Journey” which doesn’t feature much singing and is rather an orchestral piece. The next song is “Tomorrow is Another Day” which is sung while Bernard and Bianca are flying to New Orleans with Orville, and it is a fine piece that showcases Flint’s ability as a musician. The final song is “Somebody’s Waiting for You” which is sung in essence to Penny to let her know that better days are ahead of her, and it is a fine ballad sung by Flint and serves as a solid anchor song for the film. While these are not songs that will rank highly amongst the more recognizable songs from the Disney canon, they are still fine songs and are perfect for the film.
Plot: Going through the catalog of these films, there are a few that legit surprised me that they were actually based on a novel or some sort of short story because I had no idea that there was a children’s novel called “The Rescuers”. I’m also probably going to assume that most of the general public that saw this film did not know it was based off a novel either, especially since the plot had nothing to do with the actual novel. The plot sees a group of mice called the Rescue Aid Society that serve in the shadow of the United Nations, and when they receive a call of a kidnapped girl that needs saving Bianca volunteers to go and chooses the janitor Bernard as her partner much to everyone’s shock. Arriving in New Orleans with their new friend Orville, they learn from the various animals that the girl named Penny is being used by Medusa and Snoops to find the Devil’s Eye diamond. The two mice help Penny retrieve the diamond and Medusa tries to escape with the diamond herself, but with the assistance of the other animals Bernard and Bianca save Penny and recover the diamond as Medusa is left to fend for herself. In the end, the diamond is delivered to the Smithsonian Institute and Penny is adopted by a family, and Bernard is welcomed into the Rescue Aid Society as they receive another call to aid. The plot of the film is pretty solid for this film and it is always fun seeing a group of animals outwit a human regardless if the human is smart or not, and it works well for this film and it also does open the door for a potential sequel which we have yet to receive to this point.
Random Watching Thoughts: We finally get our first film without opening credits, but as soon as I say that here they come; That bottle went through quite the journey to get to New York; I wonder if all these delegates in the UN actually knew that mice were traveling with them; For being the janitor, the delegates seem to like Bernard in that respond to him when he says “hello” to them; It’s a wonder why Euripides Mouse hasn’t appeared in history books for his contributions to society; Considering that they are there for an emergency, they still have the time to sing their theme song; Bernard must’ve been working there for so long if he knows the theme song as well; Only mice would use a comb as a ladder; I don’t know what math Bernard is using because there are way more than 13 steps on that “ladder”; The only way that note could be so worn out is if water got into the bottle, but that cork seemed pretty secure on there; You can tell that Bernard clearly has some sort of affection for Bianca if he didn’t want her to go, but she also sees something in him if she was willing to choose him to help her; Bianca must be pretty popular in the Society if all those men were wanting to be her partner; That is quite a trek to the orphanage and if they could save time by going through the zoo, why not take it?; If that lion is in a cage, why is Bernard so scared when he knows the lion can’t chase him?; Bianca just assumes that Bernard did something to make the lion mad and determines that being woken up at this time at night made him grumpy; Was Penny gone that long that they were willing to put a “hold until further notice” sticker on it?; It’s not often that a cat is wearing glasses; Bernard did make a good point that Penny would’ve taken her stuff with her if she was adopted; One of the rare films where a human can understand an animal talking as Penny has a detailed conversation with Rufus; Is it just me or does Penny’s teddy bear have a striking resemblance to Winnie-the-Pooh?; A fun fact is when Rufus tells Penny the story about the bluebird, the bluebird that we see flying by is from “Alice in Wonderland”; I wonder what happened to Penny to cause her to lose her front teeth like that; Not many cats probably like ginger; The police must not be doing a good job in trying to find Penny if they gave up weeks ago; Penny must know enough not to get into the car with Medusa; That is quite the pawn shop that Medusa owns; Why would Medusa keep Penny’s book in her office?; It’s not often that you hear someone call their pawn shop a boutique; I thought maybe that the Devil’s Bayou was based on a real place, but it turns out it’s not; Medusa is clearly in a rush that she’s not even bothering to pack her suitcase correctly; Fun fact, the original villain for the film was supposed to be Cruella De Vil and if you look closely at Medusa’s car, it is designed the same way as Cruella’s; Medusa didn’t do a good job in securing everything if her suitcase went flying out of her car that easily; At least Bianca was honest in saying that a lady has to pack a lot of things; So this must be set prior to the invention of the airplane since the airport is a standard building and they use helicopters; For all the people that come and go at that airport, you would think someone would notice Orville’s place and question why a bird would have his own air service; Poor Bernard and his premonitions about the number 13; Orville made fly beautifully, but he needs some work on his landing especially if he considers that one of his better one; It would be Bernard’s luck that the steps leading onto Orville would be 13; Bianca is willing to sacrifice herself and not buckle up tightly because she doesn’t want to get her dress wrinkled; Orville really needs to work on his conditioning if he gets real winded just by running to takeoff; So of course the fun fact about this film that everyone remembers is that on some of the early video tapes of this film, if you pause it at a certain frame when the three are flying through the city you can see a photo of a topless woman in one of the windows of the buildings; A roller scoater?; Not only does Bianca not buckle up tightly, but she runs red lights too; That flight from New York to New Orleans was quite the trek, they are lucky that Medusa didn’t find the diamond prior to them making it; Medusa must’ve trained those gators real well that they just are trained to find Penny and not attack her; Medusa must be a fan of Greek mythology if she named the gators Nero and Brutus; Considering how rickety that airboat is, it’s no surprise that Medusa has constant trouble starting it up; That is a crap load of fireworks that they have in that boat, where were they able to get that many?; Again, of all the luck for them to be flying right as they are setting off those fireworks; Is it just me or do the fireworks look like they are live-action shots?; Whatever Luke is brewing, he needs to adjust the formula if he is constantly burping up fire; That was a dick move by Orville just moving away and letting Bernard and Bianca fall into the puddle, why couldn’t he just catch them?; Great, Luke just made Bernard an alcoholic; Orville couldn’t wait to get out of there and was in such a rush that he ended up being sucked into Medusa’s airboat; A typical boat in the bayou is a leaf being pushed by a dragonfly; They went so fast in that they managed to pull ahead of the gators and they got brushed aside by them when they swam by; It is a bit sad that they treat Evinrude just like a simple motor; It was a bit of a cool moment that Snoops used the fireworks to spell out “Got Girl”; Just like Snoops to pass the buck onto the gators; That is quite the stash of jewels that they were able to find, but of course Medusa only cares about the one diamond that matters; Medusa saying she has a way with children is the biggest oxymoron I’ve ever heard; How strong is Bianca’s perfume that the gators were able to smell it so strongly?; That organ is so out of tune it’s not even funny; You wouldn’t think that gators would be versed in working an organ and knowing which key blows the air out of which pipe; I always find it funny when a woman sees a mouse, they jump onto a chair and pull their dress or skirt up; Where did Medusa pull that gun out from?; The gun runs out of ammo and she assumes that it jammed or it malfunctioned; Considering the flak they got for the topless woman photo showing up which they should’ve, I’m surprised more people didn’t freak out about a little girl basically being shown half naked for a brief time; I’m not going to lie, Medusa is pretty ugly and I’m surprised the mirror didn’t break; Is it just me or do those two deer look exactly like Bambi and his mother?; I don’t think it’s safe for Penny to be walking on those boards barefooted as she could get a splinter; She actually has a nightcap for her teddy bear; At this point, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Penny can understand Bernard and Bianca when we saw her conversing with a cat earlier; There aren’t many boats that I remember that ever had an elevator in them unless they were cruise ships, and that ship was a very old ship and didn’t seem to merit an elevator; Penny did a pretty spot on impression of Medusa despite having only known her for a few days; Poor Evinrude had to fly right into that flock of bats and cost him precious time to get to the rest of the animals; As much as I don’t like spiders, I do feel bad for that one having his web destroyed by Evinrude and the bats; I wonder if the Devil’s Bayou is located at the Gulf of Mexico since they can only have Penny go in at low tide without the risk of drowning; Penny knew that pirates used that cave because the skeleton happened to have a pirate’s hat, clothes, and a sword; Considering how many jewels they already had thanks to Penny, the fact there are even more down there is astonishing and it makes you wonder why they didn’t just demand her to grab all that as well as the Devil’s Eye; Bernard tries so hard to be brave but at times just can’t bring himself to do it unless he has to help Bianca; I wonder how that big diamond managed to be squeezed into that skull; Much like the fireworks, that diamond looks like a live-action diamond; Does Medusa know that if Penny doesn’t make it out, then she won’t be able to get the diamond?; That must’ve been a tense scene in the theaters when Penny, Bernard, and Bianca went down in that whirlpool and could’ve drowned; Typical heel move for Medusa to cut Snoops out of his promised cut; Another tense scene as Evinrude knows the bats are waiting for him and his home is just mere feet away; Evinrude just escaped with his life from those bats and everyone crowds around him like he didn’t just fly for his life, but then Luke’s brew is just the thing to bring him a new burst of energy; That is the biggest rag-tag group of animals brought together to help Bianca and Bernard; Of all the places that Medusa would put the diamond, she had to use Penny’s teddy bear; They were lucky that Brutus and Nero just barely fit into that elevator or their plan would’ve been shot; Another pretty risky scene having Medusa shooting a shotgun at a child; Not only is Luke’s brew basically alcohol and an energy drink, now it apparently works as gasoline for this airboat; You could tell that Brutus and Nero finally had enough when Medusa used them as jet skis and was whipping them; I don’t want to sound negative because Penny deserved to get a loving family, but it is a bit coincidental that this story comes out about her finding this diamond and then she gets adopted; If Penny wasn’t a child, her telling the reporter that mice talked to her and helped her would make believe think that she was absolutely insane; How did Evinrude manage to make that long trip from New Orleans all the way to New York?; Of course they had to show the calendar and reveal it was Friday the 13th; Every time he goes flying, Bernard is going to comment that they should’ve taken the train.
Overall Thoughts: Overall, I thought that this film was a great film and I firmly believe to this day that it still does not get the credit that it deserves and is still one of the most underrated films in the Disney canon. This period of time leading into the mid-80s is widely considered one of the weakest stretches in history and I feel this film gets lumped in with the rest of those films, and I feel that is grossly unfair because this is a really good film that stands out even though it doesn’t quite compare to the classics that came before it. We come to the end of the 1970s and it has been a pretty interesting decade to say the least, and we head into the 1980s where little did anyone know that there was some turbulence going on behind the scenes and it would affect them for at least a little bit. As for this specific film, it is a great film and deserves to be recognized as one of the best films in the Disney canon and earn its proper rating while no longer being considered underrated.
Final Grade: 8.5/10