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Blu-ray Review: The Rescuers: 35th Anniversary Edition / The Rescuers Down Under

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The Walt Disney Company celebrates the 35th anniversary of The Rescuers with a Blu-ray + DVD combo that presents the film in high definition. Also included is “The Rescuers Down Under, the first sequel by the studio, beginning an unfortunate trend of films that fail to live up to their predecessors.

Based on the children’s books by Margery Sharp, The Rescuers begins with a young girl named Penny trapped on a boat in a Louisiana bayou. She sends a S.O.S. in a bottle, which makes its way to New York City and the attention of the Rescue Aid Society, an international group of mice that meet in the UN building. Miss Bianca (Eva Gabor) requests the assignment and takes Bernard (Bob Newhart) the janitor, a nervous fellow especially when it comes to the number 13.

Miss Bianca and Bernard learn Penny is an orphan and a pawnbroker named Madame Medusa (Geraldine Page) may have something to do with her Penny’s whereabouts. The mice make their way to Louisiana with the help of an albatross named Orville (Jim Jordan). Once there, they learn of Medusa’s plans and work, with the assistance of local critters, to free Penny from her clutches.

The Rescuers is an entertaining children’s film, though missing some key ingredients of the top-tier Disney classics. The script offers laughs and thrills. The characters are amusing, and the two lead actors’ comic personae help inform the characters for adults. However, Madame Medusa is a rather forgettable villain, which lowers the stakes. The artwork isn’t as good as the top-tier Disney films.

“Gators Play the Organ”:

The film’s success led to The Rescuers Down Under, which finds Miss Bianca (Eva Gabor in her last film) and Bernard (Bob Newhart) heading to Australia to save a boy named Cody, who has been trapped by poacher Percival C. McLeach (George C. Scott in a funny, over-the-top performance) who wants to know the whereabouts of an eagle’s nest.

It might take a while to realize this is a Rescuers film as it takes 15 minutes before the call for help goes out over the mouse network, and even when they are introduced into the story, our main characters are used more like minor ones. Due to the death of Jim Jordan, Orville has replaced by his brother Wilbur (John Candy), a character that takes up too much screen time with his antics. Helping the Rescuers search for Cody is Jake (Tristan Rogers), a kangaroo mouse that finds Miss Bianca attractive to Bernard’s chagrin as he hopes to propose to her. This story would been acceptable as one episode in a TV series, but as a movie, Down Under comes up short.

“Australia Arrival”:

Both films have been given 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfers displayed at 1.66:1 and come together on one disc. They each deliver strong hues, with Down Under appearing a tad more vibrant, though it had a brighter color scheme. Details are more evident, which has positive and negatives. During the opening montage of The Rescuers, the brushstrokes in the watercolor paintings are clearer. On the other hand, the cels are more noticeable like the “The Rescue Aid Society” theme song scene. Down Under doesn’t suffer the same issues as the then-new Computer Animation Production System (CAPS) was used to computerize ink, paint, and post-production processes.

Audio is available for both in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1. The English tracks offer clear dialogue. The music made the most use of the surrounds and with the ambiance effects being a bit disappointing. The waterfall effects during Down Under were too loud and caused distortion.

In the 3-Disc Combo Pack, the two films are available on separate DVDs and come with almost all the extras related to their films. Exclusive to Blu-ray is “‘Peoplitis’ – Deleted Song” (HD, 5 minutes). Introduced by animator Ron Clements, who made his feature debut as a character animator on The Rescuers, is a Louie Prima number where he sings as a bear in the zoo that knew Penny. Original sketches and storyboards accompany the audio.

Keeping the mouse theme going is this 1936 Silly Symphony, “Three Blind Mouseketeers” (SD, 9 minutes), which may have had an influence on Tom & Jerry. “Water Birds – A True Life Adventure” (HD, 31 minutes) is a 1952 Academy Award-winning nature documentary produced by Walt Disney, which inspired the creation of Orville. “Someone’s Waiting for You” Sing-Along Song” (HD, 2 minutes) plays the scene with the song’s lyrics appearing karaoke style. “The Making of The Rescuers Down Under” (SD, 11 minutes) is a behind-the-scenes featurette that comes off a bit formal and stiff.

If found for a reasonable price, fans of The Rescuers should be delighted with this high-definition upgrade.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS