Before this movie, Disney had only thought of doing a sequel once. Funny thing was that it was still a “Rescuers” sequel, although more direct. It would have followed Penny, and I honestly don’t know if it would have included our mice friends Bernard and Bianca. This movie never came to fruition, and any leftovers of that movie were fashioned into the move “Oliver and Company.”
I will be the first to say that I am happy that they decided to go in a different direction. Without it, we might have never gotten this movie. It’s small and stuffed between two mega hits in the Disney Canon, but I, for one, LOVE this movie. People glaze over it or have never heard of it, and in reality, that’s not really fair. This movie deserves to be known. It’s not as memorable as Beauty and the Beast, sure, but it’s still good!
The Rescuers Down Under centers once again around our mice friends from the first movie, Bernard and Bianca, members of a mouse organization called the Rescue Aid Society. This time, they’re investigating the kidnapping of a boy named Cody by a Poacher named McLeach in Australia. Turns out Cody knows the location of the extremely rare Great Golden Eagle named Marahute, who McLeach is trying to capture. It’s up to Bernard, Bianca and some new friends to rescue Cody and save Marahute from a horrible end.
What’s so great about this movie is that it’s not just a rehash of the first Rescuers movie. It’s actually a vast improvement. We have a better story, way better characters, beautiful animation, humor, and a unique location. I mean really – Disney needs to go back to Australia!!!
Many of our characters are new, but our two main characters Bernard and Bianca are the same (I guess Cody could be argued to be a main character too – he has a lot more screen time than Penny ever had). How do they compare to the first? In all honesty, they’re pretty much the same. Bernard has somehow lost his triscodecaphobia and is much less superstitious, but still isn’t super confident. He spends the entire movie trying to come up with a way to ask Miss Bianca to marry him, but something or someone always gets in the way. Miss Bianca, on the other hand, is exactly the same as the first movie. She’s motivated and not afraid of anything. She’s willing to do anything to save this kid, and nothing is going to stop her. It’s nice to see their relationship move forward, but it’s nice to see they still have the same chemistry as they did in the first.
Acting as a threat to Bernard (and half the reason he feels he can’t ask Bianca to marry him) is Jake, our Australian mouse (he’s a species of hopping mouse, FYI, see below… yes the Biology dork in me totally looked it up). He’s struck by Bianca’s beauty and flirts with her the entire movie, making Bernard very uncomfortable to the point he begins to worry that Bianca doesn’t love him. Jake, on the other hand, is just a flirt. He’s actually a nice guy and completely respects Bernard, even if he does think he’s a bit “soft.” He, on the other hand, lives in the outback and knows how to wrangle any critter he can to help them on their way. He’s a good if not strange addition to their party, but a needed character I feel in this movie. It’s nice to have our duo become a trio.
The last character on the mouse side of our story is Wilbur, an Albatross and Orville’s brother from the first movie. Voiced by John Candy, he is just as great and funny as you would expect John Candy to be in a Disney movie. After landing in Australia, he pulls his back and spends part of his time in a mouse hospital (the most crazy/hilarious place ever), and the rest of the movie attempting to find Bernard and Bianca and help them. He ends up stumbling upon Marahute’s nest and the eggs after McLeach has captured everyone but Bernard, and the mouse gives him the job of sitting on the eggs. He’s a smaller character than the three mice, but a better character than Orville ever was in the first one.
So while we have the story line going with our mice trying to find our kidnapped child, we actually have another running storyline with Cody and McLeach. The movie actually starts out like this. We meet Cody as he rushes off into the outback to answer a call from his outback friends (aka: a kangaroo) that Marahute is stuck in a poacher’s net. He goes and rescues her, the bird thanks him in the most amazing way possible, and he suddenly has a friend for life. She takes him to see her eggs, he finds out the daddy eagle was killed, and he’s off home only to fall into McLeach’s trap.
When I was a kid, I would have dropped everything to be Cody. Think about it: This kid can talk to animals, he rescues them, flies on a giant eagle, and gets to be outside all day. That was my dream. Five minutes into this movie, and I was hooked. But all that aside, how’s Cody as an actual character? Well… he’s MUCH better than Penny. This kid is smart, has a good heart, but isn’t willing to give up his friends and their safety. He never really seems scared to be in McLeach’s care, and in fact acts out yelling and screaming, claiming the rangers are going to get him. He knows this guy is going to get it in the end, even if it seems hopeless. He’s selfless and loves Marahute and wants to do anything to protect her and her eggs. Is this realistic? Maybe…? I dunno. Would a tough little kid stay tough in the hands of a kidnapper? Penny sure did in the first one too. It’s honestly probably because Disney didn’t want to portray kidnapped kids realistically (aka: TERRIFIED). They needed them to be strong. Cody is definitely strong in the face of danger.
Now we have McLeach. If there was ever a dumb villain in a Disney movie, this guy would be it. He’s a poacher and seems smart on how to do that, but doesn’t really have the smarts on anything else. He’s a one trick pony, but at the same time they found lots of ways to make him entertaining. He’s not a “scary” villain at all, but he is causing our main character problems. He doesn’t value nature as Cody does, and sees animals as objects, not as individuals. Except Joanna, his Goana. Yeah… It took me years and watching Steve Irwin to make that connection and finally laugh at the joke Disney was making with that name. Joanna is the best. She’s his sidekick, and she’s just as evil but just as dumb as he is. She offers comic relief to a movie that wasn’t hurting on it before, but it’s refreshing. She’s a funny character and she never even has to utter a word.
This is one of Disney’s only attempts at an environmental piece, and in all honesty, they do a pretty good job. It came out before Ferngully, so no one can accuse them of copying the “fad.” It doesn’t shove its message in your face, but it puts it at a level that kids can understand. It gets them to care about animals and realize that hunting these animals (Poaching. Hunting is different) is bad. It gets them to think about what will happen to the eggs if the mommy eagle dies. It introduces us to a fictional bird that seems so real you almost wish or wonder if it ever was. It’s a different kind of environmental message than “protect the forests,” and I think I kinda like that. How many stories have an anti-poaching message? It’s super unique, and I love it.
The animation on this movie is beautiful. I don’t know if something happened between The Little Mermaid and this movie, but wow. Don’t get me wrong, I like the animation in the Little Mermaid, but this just… it’s such an improvement. Some of this scenery is gorgeous. Some of these scenes are gorgeous. The CGI flowers in the beginning are pretty good for 1990. The animation in general on the mice is much better than the original. The flight with Marahute is definitely one of my favorite pieces of Disney animation, even if it does seem to go on for a little too long.
I do have a few criticisms of this movie, but I’m not going to do paragraphs on them, because their either just my personal issues or things that really don’t need a ton of expansion. Instead, I’m just going to list them:
~ There’s a scene in McLeach’s where Cody is locked in a room with a bunch of other caught animals. He attempts to help them escape, but McLeach finds him and pulls him out. Did anyone else ever wonder what happened to these animals after McLeach tumbles off a waterfall? did they just die there?? I want to know!!
~I talk about how great this animation is but one part that really bugs me is when they’re all in McLeach’s weird truck cage. The bars are so close together it looks awful. I know it’s the design of the cage so small animals don’t get out, but I dunno. It almost always gave me a headache in certain scenes.
~ There’s also a scene where McLeach and Joanna find Marahute’s nest and Joanna goes down to eat the eggs after the mom’s been caught. Everyone else is caught except Bernard, who somehow in the span of 5 seconds manages to hide the real eggs and replace them with rocks. Is this mouse super strong now??
Those are all stupid criticisms really, but every time I watch this movie I catch them and wonder about them. If that’s all I can find wrong about this movie, though, that’s not bad. I am sad they didn’t continue with Bernard and Bianca. I’m sad that this movie came out when it did between the movies it did. It gets shoved to the wayside when in fact it’s a wonderful little movie. It’s not a huge musical or a fairy tale. It doesn’t have a princess or a prince, but it’s memorable.
So I say this: Please Disney. Do another movie in Australia. I would say do another rescuers movie, but without Eva Gabor, it wouldn’t be the same. These movies, however, are fun. Let’s follow another two mice in the R.A.S. You have a franchise that you didn’t expand on. In this world now where Franchises are the way to go, you have one that I bet would do well. Don’t go crazy, but explore it. You had a good thing going with this one.
If you haven’t seen it, watch it. If you loved the first one, I bet you’ll like this one even more. I actually saw this one before I saw the first, and in that order, the first was kinda a let down. This movie really is that much better. Watch it yourself and see what you think.
I give The Rescuers Down Under (1990) a 3.7 out of 5. Has a few random plot issues, but generally good, solid fun.
Next up: Beauty and the Beast (1991)