The Rescuers Down Under is an American animated film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and first released by Walt Disney Pictures and Buena Vista Pictures Distribution on November 16, 1990. The 29th film in the Disney Animated Canon, the film is the sequel (Disney's second for an animated feature) to the 1977 animated classic The Rescuers, which was based on the novels by Margery Sharp. This film, The Three Caballeros, Fantasia 2000, and Winnie the Pooh are the only Disney sequels that are part of the Disney Animated Canon, until Ralph Breaks the Internet and Frozen II, as they were all produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. The film takes place in the Australian Outback and belongs to the era known as the Disney Renaissance (1989-1999), which began with The Little Mermaid the year before this sequel was released. It was also the second Disney sequel to have been shown in theaters. The biggest reason this failed at the box office was because it was released around the same time as Home Alone (which also had the late John Candy), Rocky V, and Edward Scissorhands (both Home and Edward would be ironically by brought by Disney when they brought 20th Century Studios (then called Fox)). Disney wouldn't get back to making more animated features without musical numbers in the canon until the early 2000's.
The film is known as Bernard and Bianca in the Land of the Kangaroos in countries where the phrase "Down Under" is not as well known or is deemed as offensive. It also became the first fully digital feature film for Disney and the world.
Another Rescuers movie was planned for 1996, but after the deaths of Eva Gabor and John Candy, this and all future Rescuers movies were scrapped. Also, the disappointing box-office performance of the film discouraged the Walt Disney Company from releasing later sequels theatrically, with the exception of Return to Neverland and The Jungle Book 2, both of which proved to be box office successes.
In the Australian outback, a young boy named Cody is told by his friend, a kangaroo called Faloo, about a trapped Great Golden Eagle called Marahute, who is trapped on top of a cliff and that he is the only one who can set her free. After climbing the cliff, Cody rescues the eagle by cutting the ropes keeping her restrained to the ground. In the process, he is accidentally knocked off the cliff, but Marahute swoops down and catches him on her back just before he hits the ground. Befriending Marahute, Cody is taken on a ride through the air before been taken to her nest, where he is shown her three eggs that are close to hatching, and given a feather by her as a token of gratitude for freeing her, also learning that Marahute is a widow, as her mate had been killed by poachers. Later, the boy falls in a pit-trap by wanted local poacher McLeach, who arrives on the scene in his highly-destructive half-track to capture his game. Finding Cody, he helps him out of the pit to and allows him to go free, until he notices the eagle's feather in the boy's backpack. McLeach is instantly drawn to it, for he knows that to capture such a grandiose bird would make him rich. After McLeach reveals that he was the one who killed Marahute's mate, Cody tries to flee, but is quickly caught up to by McLeach, who tosses the boy's backpack into a river to make it seem as if he had been devoured by crocodiles.
As McLeach drives back to his hideout with Cody, a message is sent to New York to the Rescue Aid Society headquarters at the United Nations, and Bernard and Bianca, the RAS's 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 chagrin. He serves as their guide and protector in search of the boy. Wilbur is immobilized when his spinal column is bent out of its natural shape, convincing Jake to consign him to the hospital.
Wilbur is taken to a wrecked ambulance where several medical mice “help” him with his back. They rope him and put him in a harness, which made Wilbur unsure about being left there. When Dr. Mouse orders the Nurse Mice to put a cane in his back, Wilbur begins to panic, even though the doctor tells him to relax, causing the head doctor to sedate him. Two nurse mice load two syringes with tranquilizer into a double-barreled shotgun and shoot him in the rear.
At McLeach's hideout, McLeach tries threatening Cody into revealing Marahute's location, at one point negotiating a fifty-fifty split between the money he would earn from her, but Cody refuses. This gets him thrown in a cage in a room with several of McLeach's captured animals. Cody and the animals attempt to get the keys to the door, but are thwarted by Joanna.
Back in the hospital truck, Wilbur wakes up to find his head secured in a vice and a heart monitor attached to his beak, much to his horror. Planning on performing an operation on Wilbur’s back, Dr. Mouse orders a set of forceps, sharp-toothed scissors, and a rusted spur to prepare himself for it, frightening Wilbur even more. When Dr. Mouse discovers the spur to be rusted tight, he orders for an “Epidermal Tissue Disruptor”, which turns out to be a chainsaw. Wilbur panics, breaks free, and runs for his life. The doctor and the nurses try to return him to the bed while Wilbur tries to escape through a window. As the mice try to pull him back in, he falls flat back into the ambulance and on top of Dr. Mouse. His back is suddenly straightened up, but the doctor’s back is damaged, and Wilbur sets out to find Bernard and Bianca.
Back at McLeach's hideout, he overhears the rangers talking over the radio about the missing Cody and call off the search for him. After realizing he still needs to get the eagle's location from the boy, McLeach decides to eat some eggs. Naturally, this excites Joanna, who sneaks away with a few of his eggs while McLeach tries to figure out a way to make Cody give up the eagle's location, much to his chagrin. When Joanna successfully steals all of McLeach's eggs, he suddenly realizes the eagle's eggs are Cody's weakness before he can beat her with his toolbox.
Meanwhile, one of McLeach's captive animals, a stir-crazy frill-necked lizard named Frank, accidentially escapes from his cage and snatches the keys, only to be chased by Joanna. McLeach arrives and throws Cody outside, telling him that over the radio, he heard that someone else had shot and killed Marahute instead of him. As Cody runs away, McLeach tells Joanna that Marahute's eggs won't survive without her, which, as planned, inspires Cody to run off to nest.
Bernard, Bianca, and Jake, half-aware of what is happening, jump onto McLeach's half-track 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 Cody, along with Marahute, Jake, and Bianca. Wilbur arrives at the nest, at which point Bernard convinces him to sit on the eagle's eggs, which Bernard had saved from Joanna moments before.
As night falls, McLeach takes Cody and Marahute to Crocodile Falls, where he ties Cody up and uses his half-track's added crane to dangle him over the rapids where the eponymous crocodiles lie. 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 from putting Cody at risk. McLeach then tries to shoot the rope holding Cody above the water. To save Cody, Bernard tricks Joanna into ramming into McLeach, sending them both into the water. The crocodiles chase McLeach, while behind them, the damaged rope holding Cody finally snaps. Although McLeach manages to fight off the crocodiles, only Joanna reaches the shoreline while McLeach goes over a much larger waterfall to his death.
Bernard dives into the water to save Cody but fails. Jake and Bianca free Marahute in time to retrieve Cody and Bernard just when they begin to fall over the waterfall. Bernard, desperate to avoid any further incidents, proposes to marry Bianca, who accepts eagerly while Jake salutes him with 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 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 developed by Pixar that was used for digital ink and paint and compositing. This allowed for a 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 a computer, 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.
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. 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.
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.
On its initial release, The Rescuers Down Under was preceded by a short subject starring Mickey Mouse in an adaptation of The Prince and the Pauper, which was produced in hand-painted cel animation. This was the second new Mickey Mouse short made since the 1950s, the first having been Mickey's Christmas Carol, which accompanied the 1983 theatrical re-release of The Rescuers.
Cast and characters
The Rescuers Down Under features three characters from the first film: Bianca, Bernard, and the Chairmouse.
- Bernard, voiced by Bob Newhart, is a male mouse and the United States representative of the Rescue Aid Society.
- Miss Bianca, voiced by Eva Gabor, is a female mouse and the Hungarian representative of the Rescue Aid Society and Bernard's partner/love interest. This was Gabor's final role before her retirement and death in 1995.
- Wilbur, voiced by John Candy, is a comical albatross, named after Wilbur Wright. He is the brother of Orville, the albatross who appeared in the first film.
- Cody, voiced by Adam Ryen, is a young boy able to converse with most animals, who is implied to be a recurrent ally of theirs.
- Marahute, voiced by Frank Welker, is a giant golden eagle.
- Percival McLeach, voiced by George C. Scott, is a sadistic poacher.
- Joanna, voiced by Frank Welker, is a Spencer's Goanna and McLeach's pet, who acts to terrify his captives.
- Jake, voiced by Tristan Rogers, is a debonair, charismatic, friendly kangaroo rat.
- Red, voiced by Peter Firth, is a male kangaroo captured by McLeach.
- Frank, voiced by Wayne Robson, is an erratic frill-necked lizard captured by McLeach.
- Krebbs, voiced by Douglas Seale, is a koala captured by McLeach.
- Polly is a platypus captured by McLeach.
- Faloo, voiced by Carla Meyer, is a female kangaroo, who summons Cody to save Marahute.
- Chairmouse, voiced by Bernard Fox, is the chairman of the Rescue Aid Society. He is the only character besides Bernard and Bianca to return from the first movie.
- Dr. Mouse, voiced by Bernard Fox, is the supervisor of the surgical mice who examine Wilbur when he is injured.
- Nurse Mouse, voiced by Russi Taylor, is the operator of Doctor Mouse's instructions and a competent second-in-command.
- Nelson, an echidna.
- Baitmouse, voiced by Billy Barty, is a kind mouse, who tries to warn Cody about McLeach's trap, then tries to rescue him, but hides in his backpack, and then tells the other mouse, when Cody is kidnapped.
- Sparky, voiced by Frank Welker, is a kind fly and Jake's assistant.
- Cody's Mother, voiced by Carla Meyer, is a widow because her husband is dead, she tells Cody to come home for supper, then calls the rangers, because Cody is missing.
- Twister and The Razorback, voiced by Frank Welker.
- Francois, voice by Ed Gilbert.
- Peter Greenwood - Radio Announcer/Airplane Captain
- Mickie McGowan - International Mice
- Phil Proctor - French Mouse
The Rescuers Down Under was released in the Walt Disney Classics video series in 1991 on VHS like The Rescuers. 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 Gold Classic Collection. A DVD/Blu-ray combo pack of the film with The Rescuers was released as a 2-Movie Collection on August 21, 2012.
The film received a mostly mixed response. On Rotten Tomatoes, 68% of the critics reviews were positive to negative. But despite the critical success, the film underperformed at the box-office, grossing only $47 million, making it an unsuccessful box-office performance of any major release of the Disney Renaissance era.
- This is the second Disney traditionally animated feature film to not feature any musical numbers or any characters singing, after The Black Cauldron.
- The Rescuers Down Under is the only sequel to be released during the Disney Renaissance (not counting Toy Story 2, nor Direct-to-Video sequels by Disneytoon Studios).
- On the Disney Junior broadcast, the scene in which Percival McLeach asks Cody if Marahute was hiding at either Satan's Ridge or Nightmare Canyon was omitted due to the aforementioned location's name, and the second clip of McLeach throwing a knife next to Cody was replaced with a repeated clip of Joanna splitting her cracker into halves, due to it being violent. Also, during the hospital scene with Wilbur, the clip showing a chainsaw was removed, possibly due to it being too scary for younger viewers.
- The read along and novel books do not show us the scenes of Joanna's waving, McLeach's falling, Bernard's engagement to Bianca, or Wilbur left on the nest. This might be to avoid spoilers if some people have not seen the film yet.
- This was the last Disney film to be theatrically accompanied by a half-hour featurette until 2017's Pixar film Coco (which was theatrically accompanied by the Frozen short sequel Olaf's Frozen Adventure).
- This is the first Walt Disney Animation Studios feature film to completely use the digital ink and paint method of animation, courtesy of the CAPS system.
- This was the last Disney animated film to have its Latin-American dub to be released in Spain as Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film to have a European Spain dub nearly a year later after Down Under's release in Spain.