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  Rescuers Down Under, The Poacher Prevention Peril
Year: 1990
Director: Hendel Butoy, Mike Gabriel
Stars: Bob Newhart, Eva Gabor, John Candy, Tristan Rogers, Adam Ryen, George C. Scott, Douglas Seale, Frank Welker, Bernard Fox, Peter Firth, Billy Barty, Ed Gilbert, Carla Meyer, Russi Taylor, Wayne Robson
Genre: Comedy, Animated, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Cody (voiced by Adam Ryen) wakes up in his home in the Australian Outback and sneaks out of the house when his mother isn't looking, drawn by a distress call only he and the animals can understand. On reaching the woods, he meets a small gang of wildlife who tell him he is the only one who can help out for the eagle of their acquaintance has been trapped in a poacher's snare at the top of a high cliff. Seeing no option other than rescue, he scurries off to the location of the trap and climbs up to free the eagle, which does him the favour of carrying him on her back and giving him a flight around the landscape...

But what if Cody had to be rescued himself? Who could possibly carry out that task? How about our old friends Bernard and Miss Bianca, voiced once again by Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor? This was the first animated sequel Disney made, now common practice in lower budgeted, straight to video efforts but back then something of a novelty for their non-live action works, and seeming more so now when those sequels which followed rarely made it to cinemas, and even when they did they were largely considered cynical cash-ins by the Disney diehards. The Rescuers Down Under, on the other hand, was quite well thought of, though not enough to turn a profit at the box office.

Which explains all those direct to DVD quickies for undemanding children, but was also regrettable since the studio realised they didn't have to spend too much money or indeed thought in making profitable product which in many cases paid no tribute to the original, more expensive and always more impressive source. Here the template was set up: take an existing property and pretty much run the same plot as before over again, only there was a novelty of a different location here, one which was capitalised on for showing off Disney's then-new digital style of filmmaking, something which on this evidence was mostly used for swooping over sprawling vistas to emphasise the huge country they were set in.

So Down Under the Rescuers certainly looked a lot slicker, yet there were those who preferred the cost-cutting, sketchy design of the first movie, which had a charm all its own. The seventies were not a pioneering era for the studio and none of the cartoon features created then could be described as a classic in the same way as their earlier output had been when Uncle Walt was still alive, yet that tale of the duo of ingenious mice was definitely one of the better efforts of that difficult period with its easy to grasp premise and nice interplay between the characters, something sensibly carried over to the sequel. Although the modern strain of cartoons with celebrity voices truly took off when Robin Williams performed the Genie of the Lamp in Aladdin, you could look back to 1977 to hear Newhart and Gabor instigating that trend to some extent.

In this one, they were joined by John Candy as Wilbur the albatross who flies our protagonists to Oz, then hangs around as comic relief which does come across as padding an already slight tale, and as the villianous, lizard-owning poacher McLeach who kidnaps Cody to ensure he gets that eagle and its eggs, step forward George C. Scott, sounding as if he was enjoying himself, but not sounding Australian, as indeed neither does Cody. In fact, the only character with a noticeably authentic accent was the contact Bernard and Bianca met, another mouse named Jake (Tristan Rogers, a genuine Aussie), which was odd when the production had made such a song and dance about this new location for the adventures. Certainly the imagery looked up to the minute for 1990, yet now that pretty much every family animation had taken this film's cue about how to set about the task of going for this market, The Rescuers Down Under no longer looked as fresh as it did. Bernard and Bianca's tentative romance was sweet, and it was busy enough, but on the whole this spoke to the corporate. Music by Bruce Broughton.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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