Two of Disney’s most underrated animated classics come together at long last in The Rescuers: 35th Anniversary Edition/The Rescuers Down Under, which packs both films into a special edition package. While there’s not much in the way of special features, both movies have lovingly been given a wonderful HD treatment that’s sure to please old fans and is sure to create several new ones along the way.
It’s hard to believe that it was nearly 30 years ago when I first saw The Rescuers at the movies when it was re-released in 1983. In this 1977 classic, a young girl named Penny is being held hostage by a mean woman named Madame Medusa, who seeks to use the girl by making her crawl into a small hole where an old, valuable diamond is hidden among some pirate treasure. When Penny manages to send a message in a bottle for help one day, it floats around until it is discovered by the Rescue Aid Society, which is group of mice who act on the behalf of the United Nations. Two of the mice, Miss Bianca (voiced by Eva Gabor) and a janitor for the society named Bernard (voice by the always great Bob Newhart) volunteer to help Penny. They hitch a ride to the Bayou where Penny is being held by flying on the back of Orville the Albatross (Jim Jordan), and soon find out that rescuing the girl isn’t going to be easy with Medusa, her minion Scoop and two hungry alligators standing in their way.
Thirteen years later in 1990, I remember watching the sequel, The Rescuers Down Under, after its theatrical run when it came to home video on VHS. This time the Rescue Aid Society learns that a young Australian boy named Cody has formed a friendship with a rare eagle and is later kidnapped by an evil poacher named McLeach (voiced by George C. Scott) who wants to hunt down the bird and her eggs. Once again it’s up to our heroes Bernard and Miss Bianca to come to the rescue, with the help of Wilbur the Albatross (voiced to comedic perfection by the late John Candy) and an Aussie hopping mouse named Jake (Tristan Rogers). But as with their last adventure, it’ll be easier said than done as they go against McLeach, his hunting rifle and pet lizard named Joanna who just so happens to be hungry for bird eggs and mice.
Animation fans should be thrilled that this criminally underrated sequel is finally available on Blu-ray, as its the first full-length Disney animated feature to use Pixar’s technology to help render both the traditional cel-animation and computer-generated imagery to bring many of the film’s most thrilling sequences to life. While it may not have been the box-office success of its fellow Disney blockbusters like The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast, it’s still a fun and exciting adventure that truly deserves to be seen and appreciated for its considerable merits.
It was really great seeing both of these classics again after all this time. On Blu-ray, many of the memorable scenes such as when Penny tries to grab the jewel in The Rescuers, to Cody flying on the back of the golden eagle in The Rescuers Down Under, look even more amazing in HD. Speaking of which, both films have never looked better thanks to Disney doing a top-notch job with the 1080p video transfer that makes for clean, detailed visuals while also highlighting the fluid animation viewers have to come to know and love. The audio is just as great, with 5.1 DTS-HD sound on both features that make sure every thrilling adventure sound and dialogue come in loud and clear.
There’s not much in the special features department, but what’s included should be enough to satisfy those who enjoy extras. “Peoplitis” lets viewers check out a deleted song that was written for a scene in The Rescuers that didn’t make the final cut. “Water Birds” is an Oscar-winning 1952 episode from Disney’s classic True Life Adventure series and shows off different species of waterfowl that nature buffs are sure to enjoy. “Someone’s Waiting for You” is a karaoke-like sing-along extra that features on-screen lyrics for the classic song from The Rescuers. “The Making of The Rescuers Down Under” is a nice little ten-minute extra where producer Thomas Schumacher, directors Hendel Butoy and Mike Gabriel, as well as some of the crew going into details on how this ground-breaking sequel came together.
The Rescuers: 35th Anniversary Edition/The Rescuers Down Under is one Disney’s best Blu-ray releases to date, as it manages to pack two great adventures into one long-overdue package for a new generation of viewers to discover. While the set is short on special features, there’s still plenty of behind-the-scenes goodness for those wanting to learn more about how each film was created, making this an ideal set for both movie fans and animation buffs alike. This one comes highly recommended, as you’ll be glad you rescued yourself a copy for your collection.
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Walt Disney Video