The Rescuers (1977)
The Rescuers (1977)

Genre: Fairy Tale Running Time: 1 hr. 18 min.

Release Date: June 22nd, 1977 MPAA Rating: G

Director: John Lounsbery, Wolfgang Reitherman, Art Stevens Actors: Bob Newhart, Eva Gabor, Geraldine Page, Joe Flynn, Jeanette Nolan, Pat Buttram




t the International Rescue Aid Society meeting (comprised of mice), the chairman determines that someone is in need of immediate help. A glass bottle has washed up in New York, with a note inside that instructs the recipient to come to the Morningside Orphanage. The Hungarian delegate, Miss Bianca (Eva Gabor), requests that she be assigned the mission. And although many other murine rescuers clamor to volunteer as a partner for the delicate, perfumed young lady, she chooses Bernard (Bob Newhart) the panicky, superstitious janitor.

The duo journeys to the orphanage but finds only an old cat named Rufus (John McIntire), who recounts his time spent with little Penny, a small girl who purportedly ran away, and who penned the message in the bottle. Rufus points them in the direction of Medusa’s Pawn Shop (and boutique), run by a very trashy group of scoundrels. While there, Bernard and Bianca overhear the loud, abusive Madame Medusa (Geraldine Page) yelling to her henchman Snoops (Joe Flynn) about the kidnapped Penny – and her rapid departure to Devil’s Bayou. The mice’s attempt to stow away in Medusa’s luggage is thwarted when her crazed driving results in the suitcase tumbling out onto the street. Albatross Air Service is the next best option, captained by Orville (Jim Jordan), a clumsy, overconfident but dependable bird. When they get to Devil’s Bayou, they discover Penny is being detained in a creepy, dilapidated riverboat, guarded by Medusa’s monstrous pet alligators Nero and Brutus.

“The Rescuers” is filled with unique, hilariously colorful supporting roles, including the moonshine-chugging Luke (Pat Buttram), his plump, plucky companion Ellie Mae (Jeanette Nolan), and swamp folk sidekick Evinrude the dragonfly. Snoops is also amusingly stereotypical (complete with whiny voice), while Medusa is deliciously evil, though an obvious derivation of Cruella De Vil. Casting recognizable voices for Bernard and Bianca was a clever move, especially with Gabor, who imparts a striking accent that is equal parts sexy (perhaps odd for a cartoon rodent) and assured. Each character employs exaggerated motions and movements, as well as humorously distorted physical features, topped by Disney’s knack for high-caliber animation – with a smoothness (thanks to new xerography technology) and realistic nature that set it apart from the competition.

As with many animated features of the ‘70s, there aren’t many musical numbers, although there is a delightful piano riff that opens the picture and the marginally catchy, occasionally revisited Rescue Aid Society anthem. While “The Rescuers” isn’t the most complex or emotionally involving of Disney’s masterpieces, it’s still a notable work with loveable characters and family-friendly adventure – and a refreshing highlight amongst some drier productions (“The Aristocats” [1970] and “Robin Hood” [1973] being particularly lackluster predecessors). Based on the Margery Sharp books, the Bernard and Bianca teaming was enough of a success to warrant a theatrical sequel in 1990; it is, in fact, the very first animated Disney movie to receive a follow-up.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10