Following the extraordinary success of The Little Mermaid, Disney released The Rescuers Down Under, an underrated but inspiring epic set against the vibrant beauty of the Australian outback. The story reunites the audience with the miniature heroes from The Rescuers, Miss Bianca (Eve Gabor) and Bernard (Bob Newhart), as they traverse across the vast Australian landscape to rescue a young boy and a rare golden eagle from the clutches of a dangerous villain.
One of the strongest themes which is woven throughout the story of The Rescuers Down Under is that of love. The first thread of love elicited in the movie is expressed by Marahute, a beautiful golden eagle who guards a precious secret. She is the embodiment of maternal love. After a dramatic flight through the Australian skies with Cody (Adam Ryen), the young boy who rescues her from a poacher’s snare, Marahute returns to her nest and shows Cody her eggs. The golden feather that Marahute gives to Cody, in a sense, signifies that she trusts him with her secret, and her love for her human friend is demonstrated further in the way that she rescues him from peril not once, but twice. Cody returns Marahute’s love for him by steadfastly refusing to reveal her secret to the greedy villain, McCleach (John Candy).
Another form of love is also demonstrated in The Rescuers Down Under. This love comes in the form of an awkward love triangle between the two miniature protagonists, Bernard and Bianca and their smooth-talking Australian comrade, Jake (Tristan Rogers) the bush-rat. Throughout the course of the movie, Bernard tries in vain to propose to Miss Bianca, but his efforts are repeatedly thwarted because his Aussie counterpart has also caught the eye of the beautiful Bianca. While this “battle over Bianca” creates some of the more humorous moments in the movie’s plot, Bernard ultimately finds the courage to propose, and he ultimately succeeds in winning Bianca’s heart.
In comparing the two Rescuers movies, there is a marked difference in the animation style. In the first movie, the animation looked like watered down, colored in, rough pencil drawings and there was very little detail. The second movie possesses some of the most beautiful and creative work expressed in Disney animation. The environments (particularly in the Australian wilderness) can only be described as breathtaking and the attention to detail, particularly in regards to the creative designs of the main protagonists and Marahute, only serve to enhance the beauty of the movie. The two villains, Madame Medusa and Percival McCleach, while they are different genders, are otherwise identical; they are motivated primarily by greed, and they will go to extraordinary measures to achieve that which they desire. The peripheral characters in The Rescuers Down Under are by far a stronger faction than those in the original movie, particularly in the cases of Joanna, McCleache’s pet lizard, and Wilbur, the clumsy, yet comical brother of Orville from the original movie.
While the initial reaction of The Rescuers Down Under was somewhat underwhelming compared to the popularity and financial success of The Little Mermaid, this second jewel in the Disney Renaissance stands out for another reason altogether. One aspect that makes this movie truly unique is that The Rescuers Down Under is one of the only Disney sequels to not only surpass its original in the superior animation, character development, and story-line, but it is also one of the only Disney animated sequels to date to merit a place in the Disney animated canon.
As Disney movies go, I think that The Rescuers Down Under is a unique addition to the Disney family. While it diverges from the fairy-tale atmosphere that is common in Disney films, the movie provides enough breath-taking adventure and tender romance to keep both children and adults entertained. I would highly recommend this movie to anyone.