Back in the 1960's, Walt Disney's crew started to drift from soft and touching Disney animated films into a new genre of comedy that wasn't fully convincing. Sure, The Sword in the Stone, The Aristocats and Robin Hood all have their little touching moments, but they generally had a more comic atmosphere and none of them were very endearing. After Walt Disney's death, it was uncertain if his previous lever of master film-making could be imitated. The Aristocats (1970) and Robin Hood (1973) were successful enough, but neither could guarrantee hope for Disney's future.
So, when I saw their following film, The Rescuers (1977) and after watching its trailer, I resigned myself to believe that this would be one more in the line of Disney's comedies; boy was I wrong. Wrong and pleasantly surprised, because it only took me the first thirty seconds of the film to know that this wasn't business as usual, we were in for a real treat. At this point, I wasn't expecting a Disney film to open so powerfully as The Rescuers had.
The story begins with a little girl tossing a bottle containing a message into the water. The bottle slowly makes its way into the ocean, and for a little while, we forget about the girl and about who she could be because then, it's all about the bottle. This kind of creativity can only come from a classic Disney film, we hear the bottle, a simple little lifeless bottle, singing, with the beautiful voice of Shelby Flint, "Who will rescue me...? I'm lost at sea without a friend..." I actually found myself feeling sorry for the poor bottle, being tossed and thrown around by raging ocean waves, this kind of opening could never be duplicated.
We then learn that the little girl is named Penny and she has been kidnapped. Her bottle arrives at the Rescue Aid Society, a mouse organization whose purpose is to help those in need. Miss Bianca, a representative of Hungary volunteers for the mission, Mr. Chairman, fearful for Miss Bianca's safety asks her to accept the company of a male companion, Miss Bianca choses janitor Bernard. The two take off in search of Penny, their only clue is that the bottle had been addressed to a place called Morningside Orphanage. After an eventful trip through a New York zoo, Bernard and Miss Bianca arrive at the orphanage, but they don't find Penny. Instead, an old cat named Rufus sets them in the right direction with the clue that a strange woman had offered to give Penny a ride in her car. After this, the two little mice set off for Madame Medusa's Pawn Shop, where they overhear her phone conversation with some Mr. Snoops. Bernard and Miss Bianca then learn that Penny has been taken to a place called Devil's Bayou and she's being kept there. The rescuers take off to Devil's Bayou and gather all their intelligence, strength and the help of a group of swamp critters to rescue the girl and safely return her to her home. Still, before the rescuers can return Penny home they'll have to face the raging waters of a scary underground pirate's cave, where Penny is expected to retrieve the Devil's Eye, the largest diamond in existance.
As I stated at the beginning, The Rescuers is not a comedy film, it's much more dramatic than modern films or other Disney classics of the '60s and '70s, in the style of classic tearjerkers in the likes of Bambi (1942) and Dumbo (1941). The film's theme is that of faith, and the most touching scenes involve those in which characters, no just Penny, find themselves struggling to keep their faith or dealing with their lose of it. The musical score is quiet, touching and sweet and the songs are top-notch. "The Journey" is a chillingly-powerful song that opens the film, "Someone's Waiting for You", nomitated for an Academy AwardÃ‚Â® in 1978 is very emotional and "Tomorrow is Another Day" is a joyful break from the film's dramatic flow. Other fun songs include "Rescue Aid Society", "For Penny's a Jolly Good Fellow" and the little poem, "Faith is a Bluebird."
The film was released on DVD in 2003, although rather poorly, but still, every time I watch The Rescuers, there's a feeling of emotional nostalgia I simply can't avoid. No child should grow up without the change of experiencing The Rescuers, it may make them appreciate their home and their families more to see the heartwarming story of Penny. In conclusion, this is yet another charming masterpiece worthy of the Disney name, such a shame this kind of movie is not made nowadays.