Back last fall when Brandie originally came up with the idea for Saturday Morning Cartoons (and used it to talk me into joining True Classics), I was telling my sister about it and her first response was, “I love The Rescuers Down Under. You should do that one.” So here you go, Sissy: a post just for you.
Like Carrie, I was more familiar with this sequel than I was with the first Rescuers movie (though I did have the tapes with the chimes to “turn the page,” too). In this film, Bernard and Miss Bianca are off to Australia to help Cody, who has been kidnapped by the poacher Percival McLeach. McLeach is after Cody’s newest animal friend Marahute, the great golden eagle, and is hoping to get Cody to tell him where Marahute’s nest is. Along the way, we are introduced to some great Australian animals: a couple of kangaroos, a koala bear, an Australian frilled lizard, a goanna, and a kangaroo mouse.
Also, throughout the film, poor Bernard is trying desperately to work up the courage to ask Miss Bianca to marry him, but each time he gets close, something invariably happens. Throwing a wrench in Bernard’s plans is the somewhat cocky Jake, the kangaroo mouse, who is everything Bernard isn’t: confident, adventurous, and fearless. Once Jake determines that Bernard and Bianca are not married, he starts doing everything he can to impress Miss Bianca and downplay Bernard.
On a recent viewing, my sister and I decided that Jake set up the whole snake-wrestling thing purely to impress Bianca. But Bernard manages to turn it around by overcoming his fears and later using Jake’s method himself, telling a razorback the exact same thing (which is where this post’s title comes from) to the exact same results, showing who the better mouse is. Of course, Miss Bianca hasn’t fallen for any of this, as she shows after being captured by McLeach. Jake and Bianca are trying to reassure Cody that all is not lost because Bernard is still out there, and Jake makes the comment that it is a good bluff. But Miss Bianca tells Jake that she’s not bluffing and that Bernard will never give up.
I mentioned earlier some of the great animals featured in this movie, but I think my two favorite are Joanna the goanna and Frank the Australian frilled lizard. I love the scene when Joanna is trying to eat the “eagle” eggs that Bernard has left for her and it’s just not working. She never figures out what the problem is but manages to come up with her own solution that will keep McLeach off her back. But the best scene is the one where Joanna and Frank are running around with the keys. Poor Frank is so neurotic and excitable that it is hilarious watching him get the keys and then trying to keep them (and himself) away from Joanna.
This film has the distinction of being one of only two Disney sequels to be released theatrically, only to face a lackluster response at the box office (the other is Fantasia 2000). It and Fantasia 2000 are also the only ones to be done by the feature animation department while the ones that have come out direct to home video recently are done by the television animation department (hence why the animation quality isn’t always as good). Down Under also was the first film to be animated completely digitally. While the backgrounds and basic animation were done by hand, much of the coloring, effects, and final printing were done by computer. Some of the backgrounds were the first to be completely computer-generated, particularly the relay sequence and the aerial shots.
I think one of the things that makes this sequel work where most fail is that they were able to bring back the two lead voices of Eva Gabor and Bob Newhart. Without those two, it just wouldn’t work, and apparently Disney agreed because they scraped a possible third installment after Gabor’s death in 1996. Also returning was actor Bernard Fox who not only reprised his role as the chairmouse of the Rescue Aid Society but also voiced the doctor that works on Wilbur’s back. Joining the cast this time out was John Candy, who voiced Wilbur, the fun-loving brother of Orville from The Rescuers. Jim Jordan, who played Orville, passed away in 1988, so rather than recast him, Disney went with a new character and a new voice. Continuing the recent trend of using a well-known actor in the role of the villain, George C. Scott was selected to voice Percival McLeach. While likely not one of Scott’s best roles, it is certainly one to which his voice is well suited, as it fits McLeach to a tee.
While this film seems like an odd entry between The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, and proved to be the company’s least successful animated theatrical release of the Renaissance period, it is still beloved by many and is a fun entry in the Disney canon.