The Rescuers (1977)

Directed by: Wolfgang Reitherman/John Lounsbery/Art Stevens

Written by: Larry Clemmons/Vance Gerry/Ken Anderson/Frank Thomas/Burny Mattinson/Fred Lucky/Dick Sebast/David Michener/Ted Berman

Based on novel by: Margery Sharp


The Rescuers is the first Disney film that Don Bluth was a lead animator on. It’s funny how much you can tell. The seeds that were laid from The Rescuers went on to form The Secret Of NIMH and An American Tail.

The film really started production in the early 60s, but Walt didn’t like the dark, political turns that the story was taking, so it was shelved. After he died and the studio went to an A-list/B-list schedule, they picked it up again.

It’s about a young girl named Penny who had been adopted by an abusive treasure hunter named Madame Medusa. (She was based on the ex-wife of one of the animators.) She puts a message in a bottle and it makes it to the Rescue Aid Society, a committee of mice at the UN who send volunteers to rescue prisoners all over the world. (The committee is set up just like the UN with representatives from every country. It’s notable that there are representatives from Middle Eastern countries shown! Of course, it’s also notable that “Africa” has a representative. Because,¬†ya know…it’s one giant country.)

Miss Bianca and Bernard (Eva Gabor and Bob Newhart) volunteer to go after Penny. They try to hitch a ride with Madame Medusa but fall out of her car. Instead, they fly the friendly skies with Orville, an albatross who MIGHT have a problem with landings.

The main thing I was struck by watching this as an adult is how much like a Hitchcock film it is. Miss Bianca and Bernard are very much like Eve Kendall and Roger Thornhill in North By Northwest…just maybe not quite as suave.

The animation is actually really good and super detailed. So detailed that, at one time, there was a nude woman in a window while they were flying through New York City. It’s been taken out, though. Sometime in 1999 when people noticed it because of the home video release and could pause and rewind. And pause. And rewind. And pause. And rewind.

Another bit of trivia: Madame Medusa was originally going to be Cruella de Vill, making this a sequel to One-Hundred And One Dalmatians. Ollie Johnston said that he didn’t think they should be in the business of making sequels. But irony lives because, of course, The Rescuers would end up being the first animated Disney film to get a sequel.

I’m sure I had seen this movie before because it was re-released around the time I was working at Blockbuster. But I really kinda didn’t really remember too much about it. It’s a genuinely good movie that wasn’t like any other Disney film. It’s not exactly a musical and, while it definitely has funny parts, it’s almost more of a drama. I mean, it’s about a little girl in an abusive “household.” There aren’t a lot of laughs in that.

Definitely worth a chance if you’ve somehow never seen it. I kinda can’t wait to get to the sequel.