The RescuersThe Rescuers (1977) Feature Length Theatrical Animated Film by Dave Koch
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- Walt Disney Studios
- Animated Characters: Penny, Bianca, Bernard, Rufus, Madame Medusa, Mr. Snoops, Nero, Brutus, Orville, Evinrude, Luke, Ellie May, Digger, Gramps, Deacon Owl, Mouse Scouts, Orphans, Penny's Adoptive Mother, Penny's Adoptive Father.
- Awards: Academy Award Nominee, Best Original Song, "Someone's Waiting for You" (Music: Sammy Fain.
Lyrics: Carol Connors, Ayn Robbins), 1977.
- Originally Released in 1977.
- Production Number: 505
- Running Time: 77 minutes.
- Jun 22, 1977- Original US Theatrical Release date
- Sep 18, 1992- VHS Release
- Jan 5, 1999- VHS Masterpiece Collection Release
Cartoon Production Information:
This was Milt Kahl's last film for the studio, and he wanted Madame Medusa to be his best; he was so insistent on perfecting her that he ended up doing almost all the animation for the character himself. It is said that Medusa is modeled after Kahl's ex-wife, whom he had a particularly vicious divorce with. There was some talk of making the villainess Cruella de Ville from One Hundred and One Dalmatians, but that idea was shot down fairly early in production.
Margery Sharp's book The Rescuers had been considered for adaption at the studio as early as 1962. Walt Disney originally nixed the idea, feeling the stories published to that point were not focused enough to make a good film. The final movie was based more on the second book for its more coherent story.
The Rescuers marked the end of the rough line quality of the animation so pervasive in the 1960s and 70s. A more refined xerographic process produced a solid, thin single line accurately, something that was not possible before. Colored lines were also now possible, with the use of a medium-gray line for most characters and even a purple tone for outlines for Miss Bianca.
This was Joe Flynn's last film performance. The film was one of two released after his death on July 19, 1974.
The Rescuers earning $48 million at the box office in its initial release. It became the company's first major animated success since The Jungle Book and would be the last until The Little Mermaid.
On January 8, 1999, three days after the film's second release on home video, The Walt Disney Company announced a recall of about 3.4 million copies of the videotapes because there was an objectionable image in one of the film's background cels. It was discovered the image of a topless woman was added to two non-consecutive frames in one sequence. The frames were not in the original theatrical releases, but were added in video mastering. The remastered film was released three months later, on March 23, 1999.
This was the 23th film in the official Disney list of animated films.
On a large scale, The Rescuers represented the passing of the Disney animation torch from the men who had created Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Dumbo to a new generation of animators who would see Disney animation into the future. Shortly after the film's completion, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, and Milt Kahl retired; Wolfgang Reitherman retired in 1980; John Lounsbery died a few months before the release of The Rescuers. These were five of the famous Disney "Nine Old Men." Another, Eric Larson, had supervised the training of many of the new generation, and stayed on with Disney for another decade.
As a transitional film, observant viewers will notice subtle differences between The Rescuers and the several animated features that preceded it. The film features more subtle character voices, voices that have been selected for their innate qualities and are not used as the primary basis for character development. The Rescuers also features a brief song score instead of attempting (like its predecessors) to be a full-blown musical. The film won an Academy Award(r) nomination for the song "Someone's Waiting for You," by Sammy Fain, Carol Connors, and Ayn Robbins. The other songs, by Connors and Robbins, were "The Journey," "Rescue Aid Society," and "Who Will Rescue Me?"
Although The Rescuers was not creatively earth-shattering, it represented an important evolution in Disney animated features, a step that would enable the medium to move forward to the next level of success. The film was a box office smash, and was particularly popular in Europe. Indeed, the only Disney theme park that regularly features costumed characters of Bernard and Bianca is Disneyland Paris!
The standout character animation in The Rescuers is the tour-de-force performance of Milt Kahl (animating to the vocal of Geraldine Page) as Madame Medusa. Although often compared to Cruella de Vil, Medusa in her final form bears only a passing resemblance to the villain of 101 Dalmatians (1961), a tribute to the talents of Kahl, since during pre-production of The Rescuers, the similarities between Cruella and Medusa were so distinct that the film was briefly developed with Cruella as the villain instead of Medusa.
The somber production design of The Rescuers is also a standout, with most of the action taking place in a moody, cobalt-colored night, with a distinctively muted color palette against elaborately detailed background settings.
A series of stylish paintings by Mel Shaw are featured under the credits of the film, showing the journey of Penny's message in a bottle to the Rescue Aid Society These paintings are evocative and dramatic, and filmed without animation; the skilled camera movement provides the drama of the sequence.
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