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The Rescuers / The Rescuers Down Under(1977-1990)
Two mice of the Rescue Aid Society search for a little girl kidnapped by unscrupulous treasure hunters.
For more about The Rescuers / The Rescuers Down Under and the The Rescuers / The Rescuers Down Under Blu-ray release, see the The Rescuers / The Rescuers Down Under Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on August 16, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Bob Newhart, Eva Gabor, Bernard Fox, Geraldine Page, John Candy, Joe Flynn
Directors: Wolfgang Reitherman, Hendel Butoy, Art Stevens (I), Mike Gabriel, John Lounsbery
This Blu-ray bundle includes the following titles, see individual titles for specs and details:
The Rescuers / The Rescuers Down Under Blu-ray Review
"Heads held high, touch the sky!"
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, August 16, 2012
Disney has long been one of the more conservative studios when it comes to releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray, especially its classic (and even its not-so-classic) animated films. The reasons are many -- some noble, others shrewd -- but chief among them is the sheer amount of time and level of care the studio invests in the restoration and remastering of its most treasured animated features. There's another big reason, of course; one that requires a healthy dose of corporate cynicism to discuss. You and I know it as the Disney Vault, that vacuous and abstract netherworld designed to drive demand, increase perceived value, provide marketing muscle, and bolster a film's legacy. It's a practice that has continued well into Blu-ray's life cycle, with only a small number of animated films being issued in high definition each year.
Apparently, though, someone left the Vault door cracked open. August 21st sees the release of not one but seven animated films spread across five different BD releases. Included in the sudden, generous deluge: five theatrical features -- The Aristocats (1970), The Rescuers (1977), The Rescuers Down Under (1990), Pocahontas (1995), and The Tigger Movie (2000) -- and two direct-to-video sequels, Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World (1998) and Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure (2001). But it's The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under that are easily the most beloved of the seven, and the two films that most delight audiences, young and old, all these years later.
Based on the late Margery Sharp's book series of the same name, The Rescuers tells the tale of two mice, the ever prim and proper Miss Bianca (voiced by Eva Gabor) and the endearingly timid janitor-turned-hero Bernard (Bob Newhart), who set out to save a young orphan girl named Penny (Michelle Stacy) from rotten-to-the-core pawn shop owner Madame Medusa (Geraldine Page). But Bianca and Bernard aren't your ordinary, everyday house mice, and this isn't your ordinary, everyday mission. They're agents in the Rescue Aid Society, a secret, international organization that specializes in recovering kidnapped children. Their investigation begins in New York and soon leads Bianca and Bernard all the way to the swamps of Devil's Bayou, where Medusa, her partner Mr. Snoops (Joe Flynn) and her pet alligators, Brutus and Nero (Candy Candido), are searching for a lost treasure. But a good Rescue Aid agent never acts alone. Bianca and Bernard recruit the help of several selfless animals along the way, giving them a fighting chance to save Penny and thwart Medusa's evil schemes.
There's something to be said for simplicity. In the rush to be the flashiest, funniest and fiercest, most animated films have lost their way, relying on the razzling and dazzling of young minds to compensate for sloppy storytelling and other fumbled fundamentals. The Rescuers doesn't bite off more than it can chew or indulge in lofty ambitions. It doesn't rely on cuteness and cuddliness; it doesn't mine its orphan's tale for overly sentimental gold; it doesn't have too much fun with the Rescue Aid Society, reducing it all to a joke. It aims to tell a sweet, simple story sweetly and simply, and does just that. The character designs and animation are full of subtle wonder and lived-in life. The voice actors, particularly Gabor and Newhart, are perfectly cast and smartly employed. And the adventure, from Bianca and Bernard's opening investigation to saving Penny in a flooding cave to the climactic swamp-mobile chase, is as imaginative as it is understated. The Rescuers might just be one of Disney's best '70s animated films. It was a favorite in childhood and it's a favorite now. Thanks to its Blu-ray debut, it's now one of my son's favorites as well.
The Rescuers Down Under followed some thirteen years later (an eternity considering how quickly kids weened on the original had grown up), and remains something of a rarity in Disney animation: a theatrically released sequel. Down Under wasn't as successful as the first film, nor is it as charming. But while most adults and nostalgic animation aficionados will greatly prefer Bianca and Bernard's first mission, most children will gravitate toward its more colorful, action-packed followup. Miss Bianca and Bernard are back, this time on a mission that takes them half way around the world to the Australian Outback. A little boy (Adam Ryen) has been kidnapped by a dangerous poacher (George C. Scott) hellbent on finding the nest of a giant golden eagle named Marahute (Frank Welker). As before, a host of local animals help Bianca and Bernard on their mission and a tense showdown pits the mice against overwhelming odds. Can they save little Cody? Can they stop the evil McLeach from killing Marahute? Will the Rescue Aid Society prevail? The answers may be obvious to you and I, but children will gasp, shift nervously, peek through their fingers and watch most of the sequel on the edge of their seats.
Unfortunately, all that racing around has some unintended consequences. Down Under is a bit too far removed from the original Rescuers, playing less like a true sequel and more like a somewhat haphazard continuation. Bianca and Bernard are as captivating a couple as ever, but the Australian adventure and new supporting characters constantly threaten to overshadow the RAS agents' relationship, which was one of the unexpected joys of the first film. Penny was at the center of the duo's earlier mission, but she never stole the show. Cody, Wilbur, Jake and others, on the other hand, feel like equal headliners, and the sequel suffers a bit as a result. It's still plenty of fun and plenty enjoyable, at least as second outings go. It just isn't as focused, darting around like a mouse in a maze. There was a time when Down Under was my Rescuers of choice. But then I grew a bit older, a bit wiser, and tuned in to the original film's finer qualities. The Rescuers Down Under stays put as The Rescuers continues its ascent; the former a solid but flawed sequel, the latter a tried and true classic.
The Rescuers / The Rescuers Down Under Blu-ray, Video Quality
First and foremost: while The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under are housed on a single BD-50 disc, neither film's 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer is hindered by the shared space. With that out of the way, on to the presentations. The Rescuers looks terrific -- especially by film purist standards -- and embraces its age rather than running away from it. The 1977 film's understated palette and reserved primaries haven't been tampered with (just restored), blacks are dark and inky, the detail in the original animation is intact and more revealing than ever, and the presentation preserves the source image's grain, specks of dust and tiniest imperfections. There are a few too many marks and scratches to place this one in the upper echelon of Disney's animated remasters, and contrast is duller than animation fans may be accustomed, but the biggest complaint that can be leveled against the first film's transfer is that it's too faithful; a criticism true videophiles will dismiss immediately. Without a more invasive and risky overhaul, I can't imagine The Rescuers looking much better than it does here. I wouldn't go so far as to call it ideal, but it comes close enough for me.
The Rescuers Down Under offers a somewhat more striking image, which isn't a surprise considering it has a thirteen-year leg up on its predecessor. Be that as it may, the sequel's dusty Outback colors and at-times vivid hues aren't overbearing in the slightest (and are cast in darkness and shadow most of the time anyway). Its blacks aren't weaker by any means either, and its detail is as rewarding and satisfying as it should be (soft though the film may be on the whole). Grain is light but present, the animators' line art is smooth and well-defined, and the print quirks and obvious age that haunt the original film aren't nearly as much of an issue in the sequel. Some minor but prevailing ringing takes a toll and, compared to the first film, the image is noticeably brighter, but none of it suggests a heavy hand or careless touch. For the most part, faithful's still the word. Moreover, like The Rescuers encode, there isn't any significant artifacting, banding or any other distractions that might sully the proceedings. Down Under may be the lesser film, but its 1080p presentation measures up. Fans will be pleased with both.
The Rescuers / The Rescuers Down Under Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Both The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under feature excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround tracks, although for different reasons. The first film's lossless mix stays true to its origins, allowing the adventure to fill the entire soundfield without turning its back on its mono roots. Dialogue is clear and nicely grounded (for a 35-year-old animated catalog title that is), era-specific noise and hiss are kept to an absolute minimum, and the rear speakers grab hold of everything from the music to the swampy soundscape. It's still a largely front-heavy track, but audiophiles shouldn't expect too much more. The Rescuers Down Under offers a more involving experience, thanks in part to being produced some thirteen years after the original. Voices are bright and distinct, eagle cries and mouse squeaks are as piercing and delicate (respectively) as they should be, and the score and songs soar across the soundfield. Directionality is more engaging too, even though, again, that has little to do with the actual quality of the mixes. All things considered, both films sound great; their lossless tracks pairing wonderfully with their video presentations.
The Rescuers / The Rescuers Down Under Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Rescuers / The Rescuers Down Under Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Rescuers 2-Movie Collection is a worthwhile dual release. The Rescuers Down Under isn't as strong as the 1977 original, but it still holds its own, offering up an adventure kids will love (even if their parents remain more smitten with the first film). Disney's BD release is excellent too. Yes, two separate Blu-ray discs would have been nice (from a collector's standpoint, quality is unhindered), and yes, additional series-centric extras or retrospectives would have been most welcome, but that shouldn't frighten anyone away. With two faithful video transfers and two able-bodied DTS-HD Master Audio tracks, The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under have never looked or sounded better. Be sure to add this one to your cart or wish list.
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