The Rescuers Down Under is a 1990 American animated film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures and Buena Vista Distribution on November 16, 1990. The 29th film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics, the film is the sequel (Disney's first for an animated feature) to the 1977 Disney animated film The Rescuers, which was based on the novels of Margery Sharp. It is the first animated film produced digitally with paperless-partly animation and 3D integrated backgrounds.
This film, along with Fantasia 2000 and Winnie the Pooh are the only Disney sequels that are part of the Disney canon, as all three were produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. It was the second film released during the Disney Renaissance (1989–1999) era, which had begun the year before with The Little Mermaid. Set in the Australian Outback, The Rescuers Down Under was Eva Gabor's final film role before her retirement in 1994 and death in 1995.
In the Australian Outback, a young 10-year-old boy named Cody rescues and befriends a rare golden eagle called Marahute, who shows him her nest and eggs. Later, the boy is captured in an animal trap set by Percival C. McLeach, a local wanted poacher. When McLeach finds one of the eagle's feathers in the boy's backpack he is instantly overcome with excitement, for he knew that capturing the bird would make him rich because he had caught one before (which was presumably Marahute's mate). McLeach kidnaps the boy and attempts to force out of him the whereabouts of the rare eagle, even going as far as offering to split the profit with him. McLeach throws Cody's backpack to some crocodiles, fooling the local Rangers into thinking that Cody was eaten.
Meanwhile, the mouse Cody freed in the trap sends a message to New York City to the Rescue Aid Society headquarters, and Bernard and Bianca, the RAS' elite field agents, are assigned to the mission, interrupting Bernard's attempt to propose marriage to Bianca. They go to find Orville the albatross who aided them previously, but instead find Wilbur, Orville's brother. Bernard and Bianca convince Wilbur to fly them to Australia to save Cody. In Australia, they meet Jake, a kangaroo rat who is the RAS' local regional operative. Jake later flirts with Bianca, much to Bernard's anger. He serves as their guide and protector in search of the boy. At the same time, Wilbur is immobilized when his spinal column is bent out of its natural shape, convincing Jake to send him to the hospital.
When he refuses to undergo surgery and instead attempts to flee, Wilbur's back is unintentionally straightened by the efforts of the mouse medical staff to prevent him escaping through a window. Cured, he departs in search of his friends. At McLeach's ranch, Cody has been thrown into a cage with several of McLeach's captured animals after refusing to give up Marahute's whereabouts. Cody tries to free himself and the animals, but is thwarted by Joanna, McLeach's pet goanna lizard. McLeach ultimately tricks Cody into thinking that someone else has shot Marahute, making Cody lead him to Marahute's nest.
Bernard, Bianca, and Jake, half-aware of what is happening, jump onto McLeach's Halftrak to follow him. At Marahute's nest, the three mice try to warn Cody that he has been followed; just as they do, McLeach arrives and captures Marahute, along with Cody, Jake, and Bianca. Joanna tries to eat Marahute's eggs, but Bernard found the nest first and replaced the eggs with stones in order to protect them. Wilbur arrives at the nest, whereupon Bernard convinces him to sit on the eagle's eggs, so that Bernard can go after McLeach. McLeach takes Cody and Marahute to Crocodile Falls, where he ties Cody up and hangs him over a large group of crocodiles and attempts to feed him to them, but Bernard, riding a type of wild pig called a "Razorback", which he had tamed using a horse whispering technique earlier used by Jake, follows and disables McLeach's vehicle, preventing the use of its crane to put Cody at risk. McLeach then gets out his Winchester Model 1912 and tries to shoot the rope holding Cody above the water. To save Cody and get rid of McLeach, Bernard tricks Joanna into crashing into McLeach, sending them both into the water. The crocodiles chase McLeach, while behind them the damaged rope holding Cody breaks apart. McLeach fights off the crocodiles, but only Joanna reaches the shoreline, while McLeach goes over an enormous main waterfall to his presumed death.
Bernard dives into the water to save Cody, but fails. Jake and Bianca free Marahute in time for her to save Cody and Bernard, sparing them McLeach's fate. Bernard, desperate to avoid any further incidents, proposes to marry Bianca, who accepts eagerly while Jake salutes him with a newfound respect. All of them depart for Cody's home. Wilbur, whom they have neglected to relieve of his task, incubates the eggs until they hatch, much to his dismay.
The Rescuers Down Under features three characters from the first film: Bernard, Bianca, and the Chairmouse, all of whom feature the same actors reprising their roles.
The Rescuers Down Under is notable for Disney as its first traditionally-animated film to completely use the new computerized CAPS process. CAPS (Computer Animation Production System) was a computer-based production system used for digital ink and paint and compositing, allowing for more efficient and sophisticated post-production of the Disney animated films and making the traditional practice of hand-painting cels obsolete. The animators' drawings and the background paintings were scanned into computer systems instead, where the animation drawings are inked and painted by digital artists, and later combined with the scanned backgrounds in software that allows for camera positioning, camera movements, multiplane effects, and other techniques. The film also uses CGI elements throughout such as the field of flowers in the opening sequence, McLeach's truck, and perspective shots of Wilbur flying above Sydney Opera House and New York City. The CAPS project was the first of Disney's collaborations with a computer graphics company named Pixar, which would eventually become a feature animation production studio making computer-generated animated films for Disney, (Anyways, the first film was Toy Story, released in 1995). As a result, The Rescuers Down Under was the first feature film for which the entire final film elements were assembled and completed within a digital environment. However, the film's marketing approach did not call attention to the use of the CAPS process. It is Disney's second animated feature that does not include any musical numbers, the first being Disney's The Black Cauldron.
A team of over 415 artists and technicians were required for the production of the film. Five members of the team traveled to the Australian Outback to observe, take photographs and draw sketches to properly illustrate the outback on film.
With the new Mickey Mouse featurette The Prince and the Pauper as an added attraction, The Rescuers Down Under debuted to an opening weekend gross of $3.5 million, below the studio's expectations. As a result, then Walt Disney Studios chief Jeffrey Katzenberg decided to pull all of the Rescuers TV advertising. The film eventually went on to make $27,931,461, making it the least successful box-office performance of Disney's major animated releases of the 1990s.
The film received a mostly positive response. On Rotten Tomatoes, 65% of the critics reviews were positive.
The staff of Halliwell's Film Guide gave it two stars out of four. "[This] slick, lively and enjoyable animated feature," they wrote, "[is] an improvement on the original."
Roger Ebert awarded the film 3 out of 4 stars and wrote, "Animation can give us the glory of sights and experiences that are impossible in the real world, and one of those sights, in 'The Rescuers Down Under,' is of a little boy clinging to the back of a soaring eagle. The flight sequence and many of the other action scenes in this new Disney animated feature create an exhilaration and freedom that are liberating. And the rest of the story is fun, too."
TV Guide gave the film 2½ stars out of four, saying that "Three years in the making, it was obviously conceived during the height of this country's fascination with Australia, brought on by Paul Hogan's fabulously successful CROCODILE DUNDEE. By 1990, the mania had long since subsided, and this film's Australian setting did nothing to enhance its box office appeal. Further, the film doesn't make particularly imaginative use of the location. Take away the accents and the obligatory kangaroos and koalas, and the story could have taken place anywhere. Another problem is that "the rescuers" themselves don't even enter the action until a third of the film has passed. And when they do appear, they don't have much to do with the main plot until near the film's end. The characters seem grafted on to a story that probably would have been more successful without them. Finally, the film suffers from some action and plotting that is questionable in a children's film. The villain is far too malignant, the young vigilante hero seems to be a kiddie "Rambo," and some of the action is quite violent, if not tasteless."
The Rescuers Down Under was released in the Walt Disney Classics video series on September 20, 1991 with a home video trailer for The Jungle Book, while The Rescuers was released on VHS a year later in 1992. However, unlike The Rescuers, the film did not make it to the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection. It was released on DVD on August 1, 2000 as part of the Walt Disney classic Collection.
The score for the film was composed and conducted by Bruce Broughton. Unlike the vast majority of Disney animated features, there were no songs written for it (however, "Message Montage" includes a quotation from "Rescue Aid Society" by Sammy Fain, Carol Connors and Ayn Robbins, the only musical reference to the first film).
- Main Title (1:34)
- Answering Faloo's Call (1:32)
- Cody's Flight (6:02)
- Message Montage (2:49)
- At The Restaurant (3:06)
- Wilbur Takes Off (1:28)
- McLeach Threatens Cody (1:20)
- The Landing (2:01)
- Bernard Almost Proposes (1:36)
- Escape Attempt (1:30)
- Frank's Out! (3:23)
- Cody Finds The Eggs (1:33)
- Bernard The Hero (3:36)
- End Credits (3:41)
In 2006 Walt Disney Records reissued the album on compact disc, including the Shelby Flint songs "The Journey," "Someone's Waiting For You" and "Tomorrow Is Another Day" from The Rescuers.