Disney Animated Features
<< The Little Mermaid | Beauty and the Beast >>

Release Date: 10 November 1990

A year before this film was released, The Walt Disney Company learned that they'd finally found the right combination of music, comedy, drama, character, and magic. The Little Mermaid pointed the way back to a successful formula for their animated features.

Throughout the sixties and seventies, Disney Animated Features were often spaced 3 or 4 years apart. But in the late 1980's, the mild successes of The Great Mouse Detective, Oliver and Company, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit showed that the company could create multiple movies simultaneously, allowing for quicker releases.

As a result, The Rescuers Down Under was already far into production when Disney discovered the magic formula with Mermaid. Not to say that it's a bad film -- just that it followed a different formula, similar to that of Detective, and one that wouldn't be seen again until 2001 with Atlantis: The Lost Empire. As such, despite coming just one short year after the huge success of Mermaid, this sequel to 1977's The Rescuers couldn't match it in profit or popularity.

As mentioned, this was a sequel -- the first (of only two so far) of Disney's animated features to be one. It was a natural fit, really -- it was clear at the end of The Rescuers that the adventures of Bernard and Bianca were only just beginning. This film finds our two mouse heroes sent to Australia to rescue a young boy and a giant golden eagle from an evil poacher. They get a little help from the Albatross Airlines pilot Wilbur and an Aussie mouse named Jake. Some romantic tension arises as Jake puts the moves on Bianca, to whom Bernard had been wanting to propose.

The plot is rather straightforward, but it serves mainly as the framework for several well-done action sequences. One such scene finds the three mice desparately running along the top of the treads on the poacher's monstrosity of a vehicle. The vehicle, like several other parts of the film, was animated with the help of computers, a technique Disney had begun relying on more and more since The Great Mouse Detective. The use of computer-assisted animation helped the animators create scenes that would be difficult or impossible to do with traditional animation. Another such scene is the awe-inspriring ride Cody (the boy) takes atop the golden eagle.

The film has plenty of such eye candy, along with comedy, adventure, and the aforementioned romance. But one thing it lacks is music. Coming so soon after the tune-packed Mermaid, this may have surprised some people, but the film would only have been bogged down by the addition of songs. Without them, it stands as a fast-paced, exciting adventure.

Perhaps a bit too fast-paced. It clocks in at only 74 minutes. To fill out the time during its initial theatrical release, Disney added a short featurette to the bill: The Prince and the Pauper.

Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor reprise their roles for this film. The famous character actor George C. Scott provided the voice of the poacher, McLeach. And, since the voice of Orville (the Albatross Air pilot from the first film), Jim Jordan, had died in 1988, Orville was replaced in this film by his brother Wilbur (get it?), voiced by John Candy.

No Academy Award nominations this time around for Disney, but that was all about to change in a big way...

Information for the Disney Animated Features series of nodes comes from the IMDb (www.imdb.com), Frank's Disney Page (http://www.fpx.de/fp/Disney/), and the dark recesses of my own memory.

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