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Blu-ray Review The Rescuers/The Rescuers Down Under Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Matt Hough

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Disney’s The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under are both rollicking adventure comedies with the accent on adventure. Unlike Disney’s The Aristocats which had the potential for thrilling escapades but didn’t really follow through with that motif, both movies in The Rescuers series are filled with excitement which is reflected in the full throttled pacing and the antic gags. The sequel to the original film sacrifices some building tension with a bit too much slapstick comedy, but both films are notably entertaining and well worth watching.




The Rescuers/The Rescuers Down Under (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, John Lounsbery, Art Stevens/Hendel Butoy, Mike Gabriel

Studio: Disney
Year: 1977/1990
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1   1080p   AVC codec
Running Time: 78 minutes each
Rating: G
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio  5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, French
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish

Region: A-B-C
MSRP: $ 39.99


Release Date: August 21, 2012

Review Date: August 14, 2012



The Films


The Rescuers – 4/5


When a plea for help is discovered in a bottle by the Rescue Aid Society, a mouse branch of the United Nations, Miss Bianca (Eva Gabor) and the firm’s janitor Bernard (Bob Newhart) volunteer to offer assistance. It turns out that the cry for help was sent by Penny, a young girl who has been abducted from an orphanage and taken to Devil’s Bayou by the evil Madame Medusa (Geraldine Page) and her henchman Snoops (Joe Flynn). It seems they need a tiny child to be able to fit into a small cavern where some pirate treasure had been hidden, among the precious pieces the huge Devil’s Eye diamond worth millions. Arriving by way of Orville the Albatross (Jim Jordan), Bernard and Bianca find Penny relatively easily, but she’s not only guarded by the two humans but by two enormous alligators who’d like nothing more than two juicy mice for lunch.


The thrills come fast and furiously in The Rescuers with action the order of the day and the animation reflecting a rich array of colors. A sequence where flares are shot off is breathtaking, a scene where the alligators play a mammoth pipe organ to trap and catch the mice is brilliantly animated and expertly paced, a thrilling sequence where bats chase tiny Evinrude the dragonfly is edge-of-your-seat worthy, and the entire climactic black hole cave sequence is masterful with the tide coming in through exploding gushes of water followed by yet another elaborate chase scene. Despite some sloppy continuity problems with name pronunciations that should have been looped for consistency, the voice acting is wonderful (Bob Newhart and Geraldine Page are especially expressive). And while this isn’t a musical, there are some gorgeously evocative songs sung expressively on the soundtrack by Shelby Flint that include the lovely “Is It Wrong?” and the haunting Oscar-nominated “Someone's Waiting for You.”


The Rescuers Down Under – 3.5/5


When the RAS receives word that a young Australian boy Cody (Adam Ryen) has been abducted by evil Outback poacher McLeach (George C. Scott) because he knows the location of a rare female bald eagle with numerous unhatched eggs, Bernard (Bob Newhart) and Miss Bianca (Eva Gabor) are once more drafted into action. Arriving Down Under via Wilbur the Albatross (John Candy), they’re met by Aussie guide Jake (Tristan Rogers) and together set out to find the evil McLeach before he does something despicable to the young boy or his eagle friend.


There’s less adventure and more slapstick antics in this second installment with the goofy Wilbur and also a lizard named Frank (Wayne Robson) contributing long segments keyed to their foolishness. But the animation, while possibly not as detailed as in the bygone era, excels via the early use of computers in portraying an exhilarating flying sequence early on, elaborate vistas of the Australian Outback, and a later climactic peril sequence suspended over a mountainous ravine and then a raging waterfall. While Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor are welcome reminders of the earlier film, this movie belongs unquestionably to George C. Scott who turns in a towering performance that makes him one of the most legendary of Disney villains, and his lizard sidekick/fall guy/henchman Joanna (Frank Welker) is alternately funny and terrifying.




Video Quality


The Rescuers – 4/5


The film has been framed at 1.66:1 and is presented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Unlike many of these Disney classics brought to Blu-ray, there is an occasional dust speck or two to be seen on occasion, and sharpness is not always top notch in every shot. The lines are solid and consistent with no artifacts and no banding was noticed at all. Colors are beautifully controlled throughout. The film has been divided into 15 chapters.


The Rescuers Down Under – 5/5


The film has been framed at a 1.66:1 aspect ratio and is presented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. It’s reference quality all the way with clear, crisp visuals, color saturation under complete control, and the solid lines in the animation that never hint of an artifact. There is also no banding in the backgrounds and no age-related dirt or dust specks. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.



Audio Quality


The Rescuers - 4/5


The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is very much an audio track of its era with most of the audio spread across the front channels and very little seeping into the rears apart from occasional echoes of songs or the background score by Artie Butler. The dialogue is always clear and precise and has been placed in the center channel.


The Rescuers Down Under – 5/5


The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix conveys the sophistication of a more modern movie soundtrack throughout with quite active use of the fronts and rears for ambient sounds and a full expansion of Bruce Broughton’s background score. The LFE channel gets a nice workout from a huge tractor McLeach uses to terrorize his victims.  Dialogue has been well recorded and is always easy to understand. Most of it has been placed in the center channel, but there are a couple of instances of directionalized dialogue.



Special Features

3/5


“Peoplitis” is a deleted song written for a scene that was never animated. Ron Clements introduces us to the scene (using storyboards) and song as sung by Louis Prima and lasting for 4 ¾ minutes. The featurette is in 1080p.


“The Three Blind Mouseketeers” is a 1936 Silly Symphony cartoon presented in 480i and lasting for 8 ¾ minutes.


Water Birds is the Oscar-winning 1952 short feature in the True-Life Adventure series detailing many different species of water fowl with the legendary nature photography Disney became known for. This is in 1080p and runs for 30 minutes.


“Someone’s Waiting for You” sing along song runs for 2 ½ minutes and offers on-screen lyrics for the 1080p clip from The Rescuers.


“The Making of The Rescuers Down Under is a 10 ½-minute vignette giving a few minutes of face time to producer Thomas Schumacher, directors Hendel Butoy and Mike Gabriel, several animators, and the film’s art director discussing the two year production period that included a research trip to Australia and trips to the San Diego Zoo to watch real animals in motion. This is in 480i.


The disc offers 1080p promo trailers for Finding Nemo 3D and Cinderella.


The second and third discs in the set are DVD copies of the two films contained on one Blu-ray disc.



In Conclusion

4/5 (not an average)


Disney hasn’t done anything special to commemorate the 35th anniversary of The Rescuers other than to release it on Blu-ray with its 1990 sequel and with the few bonuses ported over from the last releases. But the films are really entertaining and the animation sublime. Recommended!




Matt Hough

Charlotte, NC

 

I guess Disney didn't include the transitional animation shown between "The Prince and the Pauper" short and "The Rescuers Down Under." This would have been the perfect opportunity to do so.
 

mattCR

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Someone's Waiting for You is a complete Disney classic. One of those lost gems that goes for me in the same category as "Candle on the Water" and the like. Things that make me think of being a little kid myself.
 

Escapay

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The Frank & Ollie DVD had a really great "Evolution of a Sequence" bonus feature where Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson discussed the "Pirate Cave" sequence from The Rescuers. It featured some early pencil animation, sketches and storyboards, and a complete story reel. Would have been great if it were carried over to this Blu-Ray. Disney never really gave The Rescuers (or any 1970's-1980's Disney animated film that isn't The Little Mermaid) its due on home video.
 

Jason_V

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Originally Posted by Escapay /t/323016/the-rescuers-the-rescuers-down-under-blu-ray-review#post_3962442
Disney never really gave The Rescuers (or any 1970's-1980's Disney animated film that isn't The Little Mermaid) its due on home video.
The more I think about the current "dump" of animated Disney films coming out right now, the more I think it's a test to see how well they sell. There's still films like Robin Hood, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Oliver and Company, Sword and the Stone and The Black Cauldron...those would be a nice set in the spring, right?

(Not to mention The Black Hole...I'd LOVE to see that one get a nice little BD package.)
 

Escapay

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Jason_V said:
The more I think about the current "dump" of animated Disney films coming out right now, the more I think it's a test to see how well they sell.
I sincerely hope so. I remember when they announced the "Gold Classic Collection" line back in 2000. They were quick-to-DVD releases of their lower-tier animated films, geared entirely towards families (hence the DVD storybooks and trivia games). Then, based on which titles in that line sold well, they were re-visited years later in varying "(Any word but Special) Edition" sets. Some got great DVDs (Pocahontas was pretty much the Deluxe Edition laserdisc plus "If I Never Knew You" re-instated in the film), while others were still extremely lacking (Robin Hood got a deleted scene, art gallery, and games). But several never got an upgrade from the Gold Collection, including The Rescuers Down Under, so I guess Blu-Ray counts as the upgrade.
Hopefully, sales figures for these catalog titles will be good enough for them to revisit in a few years again with better extras. The Rescuers surely deserves more than just a deleted song (especially since several more are known to exist). I've heard plenty of fans call it "the greatest animated film Walt never made" or something along those lines. Aside from The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, none of the 1970's Disney animated films have a making-of documentary made for them. :(
There's still films like Robin Hood, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Oliver and Company, Sword and the Stone and The Black Cauldron...those would be a nice set in the spring, right?
I would love for all those to hit Blu-Ray next year. With Bedknobs, especially, I would love if Disney offered the theatrical and roadshow versions via seamless branching. While I love that the restored roadshow edition includes full performances of several songs and scenes, I grew up watching the 117-minute theatrical version, as it flows well on its own without the extra material added in.
(Not to mention The Black Hole...I'd LOVE to see that one get a nice little BD package.)
Me too. Disney was planning an "Exclusive Archive Collection" laserdisc in the mid 90's, according to the Black Hole FAQ:
•Theatrical teaser.
•Theatrical trailer.
•Two deleted scenes (not restored within the movie).
•An alternate ending.
•Behind-the-scenes making of feature, with 1979 interviews with the likes of Anthony Perkins, Maximilian Schell, Ernest Borgnine, Yvette Mimieux and director Gary Nelson.
•Publicity and promotional materials.
•Storyboards and conceptual drawings and paintings.
•Merchandising materials
•A look at the special effects process.
•Articles focusing on the controversy surrounding this, Disney's first "PG"-rated film.
Surely the materials listed still exist in the Disney archives. The behind-the-scenes feature mentioned was a TV special entitled "Black Holes: Monsters That Eat Space and Time," so it's a ready-made extra that simply need to be prepped for Blu-Ray release. And they should still include the "Through the Black Hole: Visual Effects" featurette and "extended" trailer from the 2004 DVD.
 

Matt Hough

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Originally Posted by mattCR /t/323016/the-rescuers-the-rescuers-down-under-blu-ray-review#post_3962423
Someone's Waiting for You is a complete Disney classic. One of those lost gems that goes for me in the same category as "Candle on the Water" and the like. Things that make me think of being a little kid myself.

Yes, and how terrible that both these beautiful songs had to compete against one another for the 1977 Best Song Oscar and lose to the totally banal "You Light Up My Life."
 

Jason_V

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Originally Posted by Escapay /t/323016/the-rescuers-the-rescuers-down-under-blu-ray-review#post_3962474
I would love for all those to hit Blu-Ray next year. With Bedknobs, especially, I would love if Disney offered the theatrical and roadshow versions via seamless branching. While I love that the restored roadshow edition includes full performances of several songs and scenes, I grew up watching the 117-minute theatrical version, as it flows well on its own without the extra material added in.

I don't know...it's always felt a little long to me in the DVD version (I assume that's the theatrical). Maybe I just need to revisit it again.

Of course, I have zero knowledge of what Disney plans to do with their product. This is all conjecture and assumption on my part.
 

Craig_Ehr

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Is the transfer of "Rescuers Down Under" direct-to-digital or finished on film? "RDU" was Disney's first foray into all digital animation, while "The Little Mermaid" was the final studio film produced on film from ink & painted celluloid.
Unfortunately the previous SD DVD release of "RDU" used a film-to-video transfer.
 

Mark-P

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Jason_V said:
I don't know...it's always felt a little long to me in the DVD version (I assume that's the theatrical).  Maybe I just need to revisit it again.
Of course, I have zero knowledge of what Disney plans to do with their product.  This is all conjecture and assumption on my part. 
Nope, that's the roadshow version. The theatrical cut has never been released on DVD. You have to go back to VHS or Laserdisc to find that.
 

Escapay

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Yeah, every release after 1996 has been the roadshow version, so this includes the 2001 and 2009 DVDs. Turner Classic Movies, however, still shows the theatrical version from time to time.
 

Tom M

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"And while this isn’t a musical, there are some gorgeously evocative songs sung expressively on the soundtrack by Shelby Flint that include the lovely “Is It Wrong?”
There is no such song in The Rescuers, as the credits will attest. The songs are: "The Journey", "Tomorrow Is Another Day", and "Someone Is Waiting For You".
Likely, you are referencing "Tomorrow" which uses the phrase "is it wrong" in the lyrics.
Also, it would've been nice indeed to have the theatrical version of Prince & The Pauper but I guess you can't have everything. :(
 

darkrock17

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Well so much for the much anticipated "35th Anniversary", like any of us really thought Disney was going to put in the effort to put together a proper release for these two films.
 

Dick

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I'm happy to be getting these at all, knowing that Disney treats their animation library with care, even if no bonus features arrive with them.
 

dana martin

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really would have liked prince and pauper as well, but since Disney seems to be on a steamroller as to getting a lot of the Classics and not so classics out , do you see the possibility of maybe a Treasures set soon of just the theatrical shorts, in 1080 p the fact that a few of these releases do have some that way as bonus features, does give me hope.
 

Craig_Ehr

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Craig_Ehr said:
Is the transfer of "Rescuers Down Under" direct-to-digital or finished on film? "RDU" was Disney's first foray into all digital animation, while "The Little Mermaid" was the final studio film produced on film from ink & painted celluloid.
Unfortunately the previous SD DVD release of "RDU" used a film-to-video transfer.
To answer my own question, from the screen captures on blu-ray.com I would say that RDU is NOT a direct-to-digital transfer. Either too much effort or not possible to go back to the original digital source apparently. Still looks good, but probably could have been better if the source content had been available.
 

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Watched it last night. Overall, I'd say it was pretty much what I expected. Disney didn't go to any great lengths trying to redraw sequences or digitally freeze the backgrounds this time. Both movies look very film-like.
The problem is with the Rescuers itself. It's just one of those movies that is not going to look very good on blu-ray. Has nothing to do with the quality of the restoration efforts; has everything to do with what looks like obvious cut-cutting measures taken by the original animators. I mean, I never noticed before, but there's a scene where they even "borrowed" a few seconds from Bambi! Why? I dunno. Why on earth Bambi and his mother have been transported from their meadow and into a Louisiana bayou is beyond me!
But that's nothing to do with the cost-cutting measures I mentioned. The animation in that movie just looked cheap. I think they rushed it. Quality varies from scene to scene. It's a very inconsistent looking film. There's nothing we can or should do about it now, but that's the way they filmed it, and that's the way it appears on the blu-ray.
I can't say I'm disappointed; it looks the way it looked to me back in 1977. The obvious flaws in the Rescuers weren't so obvious back in the 70s, however. One thing we must keep in mind--if we are to view the Rescuers in its proper perspective--is that the moviegoing audience was absolutely starved for animation in those days. People just don't understand now, when we get about one major animated feature every month. But at the time the Rescuers came out, it had been a solid FOUR YEARS since the last major animated effort (there were a lot of cheap animated films in the 70s, but no big studio standouts). The public knew years ahead of time that the Rescuers was in production, but for all that, it simply seemed that the studios have more or less given up on the animated feature as major releases. We had lots of cheapies like "Oliver Twist" in those days, but those could have all been made for television, as far as they looked. When the Rescuers came out, my god--people were dying to see it. It was almost like Disney had been out of business for years and years and was suddenly roaring back to life. Everybody saw the Rescuers! Everybody was talking about it, and were more or less pleased. It gave one hope. Nobody noticed the crummy animated. They were happy to get an animated feature at all.
And of course, as I said, nobody cared that the animation was pretty bad, or that the plot had huge holes in it, or that Disney couldn't even hire a good villain for it, so they got Cruella DeVille's stand-in. Nobody cared about any of that stuff. They only cared that Disney had seen fit to actually release a real animated film in the first place. Does that make it a good movie? Far from it--it really has serious problems and doesn't stand up to Disney's finest. But oh yeah it has sentimental value to those who saw it back in 1977. Weird, that the public can so embrace even a mediocre animated film when there was such a dearth of quality films back in those days. I don't know what happened. It made a lot of money and proved to Disney that the public still wanted these films. It would still be a good dozen years before they released another "classic" film, but at least the Rescuers helped them keep the fires burning, okay? For that alone, it deserves its place among the Disney canon. I just wish they'd spent a little more time and effort on the cel rendering, because the quality and techniques they used are just all over the place! Some of it looks fully rendered, 100% top notch Disney. Other stuff looks like we're watching the animators' sketch pads in a flip-book. I can't figure it out. But I never really noticed any of this until the blu-ray! That's what happens sometimes. Oh well!
I do remember, in this vein, that the audience I saw it with were working under almost visceral reactions to the film as it unfolded. I have no doubt, for instance, that a good majority of the younger kids in that audience had never seen an animated film on the big screen before. There's that. But the people viewing it were regarding it as this big hit (which it really isn't). I remember people laughing at the lamest jokes. I remember people literally shrieking when the albatross takes a nosedive off the skyscraper (and that's some shitty animation right there! It didn't matter!) And they were howling at the entire pipe organ sequence (which I admit is one of the highlights of the whole movie). And I remember junior high school kids coming back to school that week and imitating Medusa. "Madame Med-u-sa's pawn shop bow-TIQUE!" they'd say endlessly.
Man, we were starved for animated entertainment in the 70s and 80s. I'm really glad that Disney and the other studios finally realized that there's lots of money to be made with steady releases, but I think they would have put a little more effort into it had they known people were going to be watching it in high-def 35 years later!
 

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Mark-P said:
In other words you're saying the film hasn't dated well.
Yeah, that was all. But my point was that I never noticed how bad that film really looked until I saw it in high-def! Actually the movie clips along pretty well, except for a pointless detour into a zoo. Bernard tries to question an offscreen lion, who roars and Bernard runs off like a coward. I think the only reason for that scene was to drive the point home that Bernard was nervous and cowardly. But I always thought--duh--who wouldn't be afraid of a lion?
I think the film plays fine once you're caught up in it. But there's so many weird plot holes that the movie is 50 minutes before you settle into it. If you make it that far, then you're okay to the end. I think what I was saying earlier is that we dumb 70s movie-goers somewhat turned off a part of brains in order to be wowed by and fully enjoy that movie. I suggest that new viewers try to do the same thing, or else they might just think they're viewing Disney's train wreck. It's not a train wreck; it was highly regarded and very well loved in its day. I think in order to appreciate it, you have to understand it in its historical context. But then, I'm easy. I loved "The Wacky World of Mother Goose" when it aired on tv in the 70s, and I now think that it's probably the single worst animated film of all time...! And I still love it, for sentimental reasons. Oh well--they can't all be "The Lion King."
 

Tom M

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Ethan Riley said:
Yeah, that was all. But my point was that I never noticed how bad that film really looked until I saw it in high-def! Actually the movie clips along pretty well, except for a pointless detour into a zoo. Bernard tries to question an offscreen lion, who roars and Bernard runs off like a coward. I think the only reason for that scene was to drive the point home that Bernard was nervous and cowardly. But I always thought--duh--who wouldn't be afraid of a lion?
Bernard is nervous but NEVER cowardly. The zoo scene drives that point home. Bernard goes to question the lion, only mildly protesting. When he comes running back, he quickly dismisses the lion as "grumpy" and is clearly not the slightest bit scared by the incident. Hardly the reaction of a coward.
After the zoo scene, the audience understands that Bernard might be nervous about a situation but will do what it takes to get the job done. Which is information we didn't really have about him before. Biancia suspected this which is why she chose him as her co-agent. She knew he had what it takes.
Also, 1970's audiences weren't "dumb". They just didn't feel the need to nitpick/critique a movie to death the way today's audience's do. They just watched and enoyed the movie. It was a less cynical, more innocent time. I sure don't remember my 7 year self going home and ripping the movie apart. :rolleyes:
Disney wasn't the big studio it was the decade before, but they still produced the highest quality animation at the time and The Rescuers is no exception. It may look "bad" to YOU but for it's time period it's pretty damn good. IMHO, it STILL looks good and does not meet my personal criteria for poor animation.
As for RDU, it's main problem is an over emphsis on Cody. Bernard and Biancia, at times, make only brief appearances (the firefly scene) and other times are just getting from point A to B. There is no mystery for them to solve which was a big part of the first film.
The escape scene in McCleach's hideout goes on wayyyy too long and is pointless considering nothing is accomplished. Oh, and we don't need to see the animals rescued at the end since you can easily guess Cody will tell the proper authorities about them when he gets home.
That said RDU is most enjoyable and a somewhat more solid, and fun, film than the first. Despite my minor complaints, I love RDU and it remains one of my most favorite animated films, Disney or otherwise!
BTW, I own The Rescuers Down Under on Laserdisc, Betamax (Rare and VERY hard to find!), Super 8mm and, of course, Blu-Ray! Hoping to have it on 16mm one day.
I only have The Rescuers on Laserdisc. Full screen version. Currently seeking the letterbox edition.
 

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