Bernard and Miss Bianca, the mice of The Rescuers, are back. Their new mission takes them all the way to Australia to save Cody, a young boy who's been kidnapped by a nasty poacher named McLeach.
Cody is a boy of the Australian outback who is something of a helper of the animals. One day he is called to help Marahute the giant eagle who has been caught in a poacher's trap. After helping her the two bond and become friends.
Enter McLeach, a ruthless poacher who has his sights on capturing Marahute. He discovers that Cody knows where Marahute's nest is and tries to get him to spill the beans on the location, but Cody's not talking. McLeach decides to kidnap Cody, in the hopes that he'll be able to squeeze the information out of him.
With young Cody in immediate peril, the best two agents of the Rescue Aid Society are called in to help: Bernard and Miss Bianca. As they make their way to the other side of the world, they have their own little drama as Bernard struggles to find the right time and opportunity to propose to Miss Bianca.
Besides the infamous Toy Story 2, The Rescuers Down Under is the only animated sequel that I love more than the original. Which isn't to say that it's outright better than The Rescuers, because it isn't. The Rescuers was made in Disney's melancholy era, when the stories were haunting and bittersweet; The Rescuers Down Under was made in Disney's glorious era, when the stories were huge and inspiring. Neither here nor there, both movies are very different. I just happen to love the sequel more.
The Rescuers Down Under also happens to be Disney's first sequel to an animated movie, the only one (besides Toy Story 2) that had a theatrical release. This movie was given the exact same Disney Studios treatment as any other full-length animated motion picture, which is why it has far more street cred than the later Disney sequels that are popping up like mushrooms nowadays. That said, they have one of the coolest openings ever for an animated movie, sequel or no. Much love.
If you watch this movie back-to-back with the original The Rescuers you'd notice the obvious difference in animation quality. The Rescuers Down Under doesn't try to clone the look that The Rescuers had... The characters are familiar, but the lines are sharper, the colours more vibrant, and the landscape much larger than anything we've seen. I like to think that this movie marked the start of the modern Disney epics, even if it wasn't received well box-office wise.
The main returning characters are of course, the Rescuers themselves. Miss Bianca is as beautiful as ever, and Bernard as stutteringly charming as ever. Their relationship has changed a lot since the friendship they forged in the original movie, and a different type of love has bloomed. It's not an obvious romantic relationship (they don't kiss or hug) but when you see how they easy act around and refer to each other, it's hard to believe they aren't married already. Aww.
New characters are a-plenty though, since we're in a whole new environment with a brand new adventure. McLeach the poacher doesn't hold a candle to the craziness that was Madame Medusa, but he's still a gritty (yet comical) villain, and is balanced nicely by Joanna is joanna (heh). Orville the albatross that was the Rescuers' means of transport in the original movie is gone, and he has been replaced by Wilbur, who gets involved a little more in the mission than Orville did originally. Then there's Jake the bush kangaroo, who provides some frustrating competition with Bernard over Miss Bianca's attention.
The movie itself is surprisingly short and has a fairly simple story, but the characters themselves drag you in to care about them. Bernard is tied in knots trying to figure out how to propose to Miss Bianca, Wilbur is held hostage by crazy hospital mice, and Cody fights to keep his loyalty to Marahute despite McLeach's threats. Hey, heroes do come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.
I myself have a tremendous soft-spot for animated flicks that deviate from the usual temperate forests for something drastically different, such as Australia. The landscapes in this movie are gorgeous, having some of the finest sights and well use of early 3-D animation. Though I have to say that many of the "Australian" accents were laughably bad. British and Australian are distinctly different, hem. That's another reason why Finding Nemo pushes all my right buttons. Still, the look they managed to achieve in this movie is nothing short of breath-taking.
Highlight of the show for me is Marahute, the scene-stealing giant eagle. Animated by the ever-wonderful Glen Keane, I've yet to see another living creature animated with so much majesty and effectiveness, despite the face that she doesn't speak a word. From the fluidity of her wings to the adorable tilts of her giant bird head, this is body animation at its finest. *loves*