|(drawn animation, some cgi animation)
Disney’s 29th animated feature was also its first sequel, an Aussie-flavored follow-up to the 1977 hit, The Rescuers. This time out, the writers made no pretense of following Margery Sharp’s Rescuers books, instead crafting an original tale of a young boy and his magnificent golden eagle in The Rescuers Down Under.
Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor returned as starring mice Bernard and Bianca, with John Candy filling in for the late Jim Jordan as albatross pilot Wilbur (Jordan played Wilbur’s brother Orville in the original). Also on hand were George C. Scott as the villainous poacher McLeach and soap star Tristan Rogers as an Outback mouse named Jake.
Ten-year-old fatherless Australian boy Cody has a natural affinity for animals. When he discovers a majestic golden eagle ensnared in a hunter’s net, Cody frees the bird, receiving a thrilling ride to the eagle’s nest as a reward. On the way back home, the boy is captured by McLeach, the poacher who had trapped the eagle to add to his collection of endangered species. Seeing a stray golden eagle feather on Cody’s clothes, McLeach demands that the boy tell him where the eagle’s nest is hidden.
Word of the tyke’s plight comes to the all-mouse Rescue Aid Society, and Bernard and Bianca take the case. Bernard plans on proposing to his lovely Hungarian companion, but when they arrive Down Under (courtesy of Wilbur’s one-bird airline), local hero Jake puts the move on the Eastern European lass himself. The Rescuers hook up with other Outback natives, including a frill-necked lizard named Frank, to take on McLeach, his pet lizard Joanna and his behemoth vehicle-a cross between a hovercraft and a monster truck-as a series of dangerous encounters builds up to a climactic cliffhanger (literally).
Unfortunately, The Rescuers Down Under fell victim to poor timing. Crocodile Dundee had ignited a wave of Aussie-mania in the U.S. in 1986, but the phenomenon had died out over the years it took to complete this animated film. The movie had the benefit of a few dazzling computer-assisted scenes (the eagle flight being one of the most memorable), but it wasn’t enough to win over the audiences who had flocked to The Little Mermaid a year earlier. In its theatrical release, The Rescuers Down Under was preceded by a 23-minute short, Prince and the Pauper, with Mickey Mouse in the dual title roles.