'The Rescuers' - Two mice of the Rescue Aid Society search for a little girl kidnapped by unscrupulous treasure hunters.
'The Rescuers Down Under' - The RAS agents, Miss Bianca and Bernard, race to Australia to save a boy and a rare golden eagle from a murderous poacher.
The 'Rescuers' movies aren't really regarded as the most memorable of Disney animated films. They reside somewhere on the second tier of their animated titles, below movies like 'The Lion King,' 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'The Little Mermaid.' Maybe that's why Disney saw fit to release both of them in the same package (on the same disc), without much fanfare. However, I can't help but love them and I'm fully aware, and able to admit, that most of my love comes from nostalgia. I grew up on a steady diet of Disney VHS and 'The Rescuers' (and later 'The Rescuers Down Under') became one of my staples.
The avid Don Bluth fan inside me enjoys watching 'The Rescuers' because his influence can be felt throughout the film. From the animation style to the character motivations, Bluth's fingerprints are all over this one. In many ways it reminds me of 'All Dogs Go to Heaven,' even featuring a little orphan girl who possesses the power to talk to animals and just wants to be adopted by loving parents.
'The Rescuers' is a simple tale about an organization of mice who meet as the Rescue Aid Society. Why they're mice and how they possibly have enough work to justify the existence of this society is beside the point. We're not worried about believability right? I mean, it's a group of mice who seem to exist solely to solve kidnappings that the police are unable to handle.
Bernard (Bob Newhart) and Bianca (Eva Gabor) are assigned to rescue a tiny orphan girl named Penny (Michelle Stacy) from the clutches of the evil Madame Medusa (Geraldine Page) who's a cross between Cruella de Vil and Ursala. Madame Medusa has locked Penny away on an abandoned river boat deep in the Louisiana bayou. Penny is the only person small enough that can fit down a tiny hole in a rock, at low tide, and retrieve priceless gems from an old pirate treasure.
The thing that I like about 'The Rescuers' is that it has a much more serious feel to it than many other Disney movies. Even the opening song "The Journey," performed by Shelby Flint, is probably the most solemn title song for any Disney movie. Sure the movie has its cute animal sidekicks (like Evinrude the dragonfly) and evil animal sidekicks (Medusa's two pet crocs), but it plays the narrative a little closer to the chest. It treats the rescue as a fairly serious circumstance, with real weighty consequences, rather than as an excuse to throw in a few jokes and song numbers. It just feels different.
Whereas 'The Rescuers Down Under,' a sequel that came 13 years later, feels much more like a Disney film. The animation had been modernized (for better or worse depends on the eye of the beholder). The story had been condensed, featuring less sentimentality and more action, adventure, and funny gag-type scenes.
Still, it was nice to see that the second 'Rescuers' movie didn't fall into the crowd of crappy Disney sequels. It felt like a real sequel. One that complemented the first movie even if it didn't really follow along the same emotional lines.
Here another kid has been kidnapped. This time its Australian animal lover Cody (Adam Ryen) who makes it a habit of freeing helpless animals from poacher traps. After setting the world's rarest bird free from a trap, Cody soon crosses paths with a dangerous poacher named McLeach (George C. Scott). McLeach is a pretty bad dude who has no trouble slinging a tiny kid around by the scruff of his neck, kidnapping him, and making the police and Cody's family think that Cody met his demise in crocodile infested waters. McLeach's aim is to find that bird Cody set free by any means necessary.
It makes for an exciting adventure, one that I enjoyed at a young age and still do today. Both 'Rescuers' movies take time with their villains, making them appear as threatening as they should be. I'd say that the first film does a better job of approaching the material with a more serious eye, while the second one seems updated for a less discerning, younger audience.
I'll always love these two movies simply because of the adventure and emotional investment they bring to the table. They're understated in their presence because they aren't musicals and they don't really have many of Disney's most memorable characters. Still, I enjoy them every time I watch them.
'The Rescuers': 4 Stars
'The Rescuers Down Under': 3 Stars
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a two-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack. That's right I said two-disc meaning that my fear came true and there is only one Blu-ray containing both of the films. They're both short though (78 minutes each) so they don't really have any problem fitting onto the 50GB Blu-ray Disc, but like the 'Fox and the Hound' release, it's just a little annoying that each movie doesn't have a separate disc. The release comes with a slipcover that has the same artwork as the case and also comes with a Disney Movie Rewards code inside. It's region free.
Let's start off with 'The Rescuers' video presentation. Presented in 1080p, Disney has carefully restored this original film, but has let the original artwork speak for itself. There haven't been any egregious touch-ups here. The somewhat rough animation style is presented clearly here. Yes, a few lines may pop up out of place, like a rough sketch, and then disappear, but that's what it's supposed to look like.
There are times where you can really pick out the different layers of the cel animation. Light ringing appears around characters, but again, this is due to the limitations of animation then and not necessarily due to a shoddy transfer by Disney. Like I said before, this movie harbors a lot of Don Bluth's influence, and his rougher, grittier animation style is on full display here. Colors are also a bit toned down, due to the movie's age. It's a pretty drab color palette, I'll say that, but again without overhauling the whole movie 'Snow White'-style there's really no way to beef up its visuals. Here's the question though, would you really want them to provide an expensive overhaul for 'The Rescuers'? A movie that is supposed to look this way, just to make it a little brighter or a little cleaner? My answer would be, no. All those sketch lines and muted colors are the way it should look. "Cleaning" it up would mean ruining a gritty animation style that makes the movie what it is.
'The Rescuers': 3.5 Stars
'The Rescuers Down Under' is also presented in 1080p and has a more modern style to it. The animation is certainly cleaner, clearer, and provides a bit more crisp pop to the image. Its colors are much more vivid too. This is the movie that will really entertain the younger kids because it's brightly colored and looks much more like the animation they're used to.
The unsoiled image is free from spots, errant lines, or anything that might distract from viewing. Its animation style couldn't be more different from the original, but it works for what it is. The bright greens, blues, and yellows of the Outback wilderness pop. Banding, and other artifacts are non-existent. Blacks are resolute. The line art is crisply portrayed. If you had trouble with the "messier" true-to-source presentation of 'The Rescuers' then this smooth, colorful presentation should make you quite happy.
'The Rescuers Down Under': 4 Stars
The audio presentations have the same type of distinction going on. 'The Rescuers' DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is a little lighter and features a little more extracurricular noise than the sequel's. That's not to say it isn't a competent audio track. It's just that this surround track definitely has a slightly tinnier mono-esque sound to it.
Disney has done a good job carrying the ambient sound to the rear channels though, offering some nice surround sound of a clamoring Rescue Aide Society meeting. They've also offered some nice LFE as fireworks bang and Medusa's smoke-belching swamp-mobile rumbles to life. Directionality has been given a nice touch as the clattering of objects can be heard off to the left as Bernard stumbles and falls out of frame. The track does feature slight hissing that can probably be chalked up to the movie's age, but overall it's a nice lossless surround sound mix from Disney.
'The Rescuers': 3.5 Stars
'The Rescuers Down Under' features a soundtrack that has a little more oomph to it. That oomph can be felt as McLeach's Frankenstein poacher-mobile thunders across the desert. The surrounds are more engaged this time around and showcase all manner of ambient animal sounds to create a fulfilling ambience.
Dialogue is always clear. Whenever the giant eagle shrieks its voice fills the soundfield with an echoing call. The music bleeds into the rears offering a well-rounded experience. The slight hiss that was heard on 'The Rescuer's track is gone. This track has near top-notch clarity and fidelity. Fans will be very happy the way this one turned out on the audio front.
'The Rescuers Down Under': 4 Stars
I'll always love these movies. I fully admit that it's probably my nostalgia for them talking, but they'll always hold a special place in my animation-loving heart. The emotionality of the first film, and the throwback Bluth-inspired animation make me adore it. The adventure and fun of the second film cause me to appreciate it probably a little more than I should. In any case, it's great to see these movies finally get the high-def treatment, even if they did kind of get the short shrift by putting both films on the same disc. Either way, fans should be happy with the outcome, both in the audio and visual departments. This Disney duo-movie pack is recommended.