THE RESCUERS DOWN UNDER
Directed By: Hendel Butoy & Mike Gabriel
Produced By: Thomas Schumacher
Based On: Margery Sharp’s The Rescuers (1959)
Premiered On: November 16, 1990
Distribution By: Buena Vista Pictures
Thus far the only Disney Animated Feature Film to be a direct sequel, The Rescuers Down Under is sadly one of the most forgotten of the Renaissance era if not all Disney films as a whole, live action or otherwise. The film itself is not, strictly speaking, a film of its era, much like how its predecessor was every bit the 80’s with how gritty and dark it was. Nor is it a film that has been, shall we say, shelved and buried beneath its betters like The Black Cauldron or Atlantis: The Lost Empire. The best way that I can describe this film is that it’s a film that does not truly feature its titular characters, at least not to the degree one would expect in such a film.
The film’s story focuses heavily on a boy named Cody who lives on the Australian outback and, much like Penny herself, is able to communicate with and understand the speech of animals. He acts as something of a young Australian Ranger, helping and aiding any of the animals whenever he can, most recently a ginormous golden eagle named Marahute.
Unfortunately for Cody, though he’s made a friend with the last of the greatest of eagles, he unwittingly makes an enemy out of Percival C. McLeach, a poacher who wants to capture and/or kill Marahute just as he had done to her mate. He captures Cody, intending to hold him prisoner until the boy spills the beans on where Marahute and her nest of eggs can be found, which leads to our titular Rescuers, Bernard and Bianca, coming to the boy’s rescue.
From here… This where the film gets really, really off track, at least as far as its focus is concerned. Though one of them is arguably concerning the overall plot of the film, there are two very long and frankly near pointless scenes that make no sense as to why they are shown. Chief among them is one pertaining to Wilbur, an albatross and brother to the film’s previous mode of international mice transportation Orville.
Following a spectacular landing, Wilbur had damaged his back to a point where he is sent to a hospital ran by mice where we seen him refusing to undergo surgery and makes a made escape that inadvertently cures him of his ailment in the process. Considering how little we see of his brother in the previous film, I honestly don’t know why this long scene had been made into the film.
The second scene, or rather scenes, involves Cody trying to break out of McLeach’s lair with the aid of all the animals he captured. The first attempt involves them making a large pole to try and reach the keys while the second, fair longer and again rather odd segment, involves a spastic little frilled lizard named Frank.
Beyond these two random events, there is only one major issue I have with the film as a whole and that is in the character of Marahute the golden eagle. Don’t misunderstand me; Marahute is a gorgeous bird and an amazing work of animation, easily one of the pinnacles of the Renaissance era.
Therein lies the problem though in a film where every animal except for Marahute are anthropomorphized to varying degrees, with some animals speaking outright or possessing clearly human eyes, mannerisms, or facial expressions. It was one thing for Cody to be unable to understand her, his gift might not extend to birds, but the mice clearly show that they can understand other animals and so should have been capable of hearing Marahute’s actual voice.
Heck, this sort of animation oddity was actually done correctly in the film Brother Bear wherein Koda’s mother, when we first see her, is every bit the realistic bear but when we see her again later on, she is more humanized. They even give her a voice as Kenai’s flashbacks concerning her whilst in his bear form allow him to understand her better than when he was human.
Contrary to its predecessor that had songs being sung in the background, The Rescuers Down Under has no actual lyrical music played in the background. Despite this, there is one scene in particular that has received nothing but the highest of praises and with good reason. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the segment simply known as Flying with Marahute…
Overall, I give this film… eh, three out of five stars. It’s a film that I can see anyone enjoying at least once but not one that I think anyone would want to watch again and again and again until the entirety of it is memorized into one’s brain. Frankly, I feel that this was a film that could have excluded the Rescuers entirely and should have focused more of a story on Marahute herself, because blast it that flight scene is amazing, or even Joanna, because despite clearly the villainous sidekick in the film, she stole the show whenever she was onscreen.