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Underappreciated Disney Films: The Rescuers Down Under

“The Rescuers Down Under” doesn’t stand out as much as other films in my underappreciated series.  When looking at the full catalog of Disney feature-length animated films, I can understand why RDU and its predecessor don’t get as much attention.  I could have chosen either of them for this column, but given that “The Rescuers” was popular enough when it came out to warrant one of Disney’s only three theater-released sequels, I picked the latter film.  RDU is also hurt by the fact that its release came between that of Disney powerhouses “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

But it’s a sweet little film nonetheless, one that deserves more attention.  Now that both “Rescuers” films are available on Netflix Instant, I hope that they’ll get some.  RDU is also noteworthy for being the first Disney animated film to feature computerized animation.

Let’s look at the story itself.  Young Cody is a boy growing up on the Australian Outback, and he immediately captures my heart for his enduring love of animals.  He’s a friend to all of them, and he spends his days helping them out in any way he can, including freeing them from poacher’s traps.  He saves a rare golden eagle, and is taken to her nest in reward.

Cody’s then captured by poacher McLeach, because the boy is the only one who knows the location of the golden eagle’s nest.  The Rescue Aid Society is quickly alerted, and Bernard and Bianca are dispatched to save Cody.

The true standouts of RDU are the absolutely gorgeous animation – all of the sprawling, sweeping scenes of Cody on the eagle’s back flying across the outback are beautiful – and the variety of animals.  Yes, that seems silly, but Disney movies bring out the kid in me.  I loved seeing Cody interact with so many different animals, and if I loved it, kids will love it even more.  Also, special mention has to go to George C. Scott’s fantastic voice work as the unscrupulous McLeach.

Another distinction of RDU, or at really the Rescuers franchise as a whole, is that it has the most dynamic Disney mouse duo.  Forget Mickey and Minnie; Bernard and Bianca are where it’s at.  Although Mickey sometimes has interesting character developments, Minnie’s been nothing but his wooden girlfriend.  Even in the Kingdom Hearts games, she stands around and prays to her absent husband (and then his knights Goofy and Donald) for help, rather than doing anything for herself.

Bernard and Bianca, in contrast, both actually do something.  To be fair, Bernard ends up taking on most of the action in BDU, whereas Bianca is held captive for most of the climax.  But even then, she does the best that she can under the circumstances.  Maybe it’s silly to look at cartoon mice as role models, but that’s kind of inherent when we’re talking about Disney.  And so Bernard and Bianca, rescuers-extraordinaire, far surpass Mickey and Minnie.

Netflix Instant is the perfect place for “The Rescuers Down Under.”  It’s not one of Disney’s best movies, but it’s worthy of attention, and I hope it gets it now.