Monday, June 21, 2010

Walt Disney Animation Studios Part 29: Rescuers Down Under

Series Intro: This is Part 29 of a multi-part retrospective of Walt Disney Animation Studios' endeavors.

Official Title: The Rescuers Down Under
Release: November 16, 1990
Running Time: 74 minutes (a bit on the shorter side)
Estimated Cost: n/a
Estimated Revenue: $47.4 million
Overall Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Plot Summary:
Cody, an adventurous Australian boy (though he does lack an Australian accent), saves a giant, golden eagle, Marahute. He has a network of native animals that help him in making sure all the outback animals are safe from poachers. This time however, after a flight on Marahute, he gets caught in a poachers trap. Percival C. McLeach discovers that Cody knows where the golden eagle nests and kidnaps Cody until he reveals the location.

Halfway around the world, the Rescue Aid Society headquarters in New York has heard about this kidnapping and request that Miss Bianca and Bernard (made famous by rescuing Penny in Rescuers) fly directly to Australia to solve this case. Bernard puts his planned engagement on hold as he and Bianca fly on Wilber (Orville seems to have retired) to Australia.

They arrive, worse for the wear, and meet up with Jake who leads them across the outback to McLeach’s hideout, while Wilber is being looked after by a crack-pot mouse doctor.

Cody, trapped at McLeach’s with several animals that McLeach has poached, tries to escape to no avail. That is until McLeach releases Cody, and lies to him, saying the mother eagle was shot and wonders what will become of the eggs. Cody wondered this too, and led McLeach straight to Marahute and her nest. Luckily Bianca, Jake and Bernard had finally caught up with Cody; but Cody, Bianca and Jake were all captured with Marahute. Bernard, again left behind (a running theme where he feels like a third wheel and wonders if Bianca likes Jake more than himself) saves the eggs from being eaten by McLeach’s pet lizard, Joanna. Wilbur rejoined Bernard by accident and is assigned to sit on the eggs.

Bernard followed the truck while on the back of a wild boar, to a crocodile watering hole, where McLeach is going to throw Cody. After some scary moments and some comical relieve Cody, Marahute, Jake, Bianca and Bernard are reunited on Marahute’s back! Bernard finally proposed to Bianca who gives him a resolved “Yes!” And Wilbur remained on the eggs as they hatch.


Another movie with no songs, but a wonderful score.

Plot Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

The plot was amazing! It was similar enough to the original, as it put our beloved characters in o situations that we knew they would eventually be able to get out of; yet different enough that it did not feel at all like watching the same movie from thirteen years ago.

The exotic setting of the Australian Outback also gave it a renewed feeling. As hard as it was to believe that there were no other qualified members of RAS closer to Cody, the location really upped the anti and Bianca and Bernard had to rely more on their new friend Jake.

Animation Rating: 3 out of 5

I was very disappointed with the animation of this movie. First off, take a look at the following to pictures. 

The one on top was from Rescuers and the one on the bottom is from Down Under. The characters, although similarly designed, have completely different coloring and do have a much more cartoony feel. It was like watching the mice from Cinderella versus the mice in Rescuers.

This was the first movie to skip ink and painting! The APT process is gone; replaced with CAPS (Computer Animated Production System) which completely digitizes the whole post production process. In CAPS, the animators drawings are scanned into the computer, as are the backgrounds, and are colored digitally. Then (using the techniques from mutlipaning) CAPS artists would layer the characters on backgrounds and move them accordingly. CAPS was also used to create several scenes/props. It is a noteable effect, the CAPS drawn scenes (such as the opening flower bed) and props (McLeach’s truck), have a much darker feel and stand out against the hand drawn art that surrounds it.
The worst example of CAPS comes from the simplistic renderings of the Sydney Opera House. While the flower bed and the truck as least seemed real in the world of the movie, the Opera House stood out like a sore thumb; it honestly looks like they only did the initial renderings and said “hey the building’s white, let’s just leave it like that!”

The Test of Time:

So one of the problems with releasing one film a year is that WDAS doesn’t have the opportunity to learn from the previous film. Down Under was in production while WDAS was also producing Mermaid, Roger Rabbit and probably Oliver. So WDAS couldn’t see that musicals were selling. I’m not saying that this was a bad thing, but might explain why the movie wasn’t a box office smash like Mermaid

As I’ve said before about Rescuers I believe that WDAS doesn’t know what they’ve got. Bianca and Bernard have many more stories to tell, but are ignored by WDAS, Home video, Imagineering and Merchandizing. This holds true to this movie too. I had wanted to be Cody when I was growing up but my wants were ignored. Is this movie ignored because it doesn’t have a princess? Aren’t the suits trying to get away from princesses? Couldn’t Cody become a spokes person against animal cruelty (like Ariel against dumping in the oceans and Balou in support of recycling)?

Through the Modern Lens

Plot wise, the movie doesn’t seem to have any stand out flaws (other than Cody not having an accent). It was a strong movie with not too much to complain about from a social perspective.

Next Up:
Beauty and the Beast


janice said...

an adventurous Australian boy..nice story!

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Davenz said...

Very cute story..

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