This week marks the 25th anniversary of one of my all time favorite Disney films, The Rescuers Down Under. Sadly The Rescuers was never a huge hit for Disney, despite being the second film released in the successful 'Disney Renaissance' era, which ran from 1989 (The Little Mermaid) until 1999 (Tarzan). But, while the film failed to bring in the cash, it was still well received by critics, and has a special place in many hearts, including my own.
In order to properly celebrate the release of The Rescuers Down Under, I thought it would only be fitting to learn a bit more about this oft-forgotten film with these 25 facts you may not have known. Take a look and tell me your favorite part of The Rescuers Down Under in the comments:
1. It was Disney's first animated sequel!
These days it's pretty common for Disney to make sequel films for many of their properties, however The Rescuers Down Under was Disney's first animated sequel! After Rescuers Down Under the sequels Fantasia 2000 and Winnie the Pooh would be the only sequels to screen in cinemas, the rest would be straight to video.
2. Wilbur's name was a tip to the pioneers of flight
In the original Rescuers film, Bernard and Miss Bianca ride on an albatross named Orville, however, in The Rescuers Down Under they're unable to find Orville and instead ride with his brother Wilbur. The cool thing about the albatross bros' names is that they're a neat little tip of the hat to the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, who were the inventors and pilots of the first successful airplane.
3. Orville didn't appear in the film because his voice actor passed away
Jim Jordan voiced the albatross Orville in the original Rescuers film back in 1977, however, he passed away in 1988. When The Rescuers Down Under was being made, Disney decided to bring in a whole new character, rather than have a replacement voice act as Orville.
4. The voice of Cody is bilingual
Adam Ryen, the actor who voiced Cody, can speak both English and Norwegian, and was able to dub his own character for the Norwegian release of the film - lucky!
5. The villain in the film inspired some of Disney's most iconic villains
As an animal lover, Percival C. McLeach seemed like the most evil character to me as a child (poor Joanna!), and it turns out his villainous tendencies were so good that they inspired other Disney villains for years. Villains such as Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, Governor Ratcliffe from Pocahontas, Clayton from Tarzan, and Commander Rourke from Atlantis: The Lost Empire were all inspired by McLeach.
6. The voice of the nurse mouse voiced another famous mouse!
The actor who voiced the sweet nurse mouse in The Rescuers Down Under was Russi Taylor, who is most famous for voicing Minnie Mouse! Taylor also voices Martin Prince and twins Sherri and Terri in The Simpsons.
7. Disney sent a team to Australia for research
Five Disney animators actually traveled to the Australian Outback in order to properly observe the environment they were supposed to be animating. They took photographs and drew sketches to be sure to capture the essence of the Outback on film.
8. Despite being set 'Down Under' there was only one Aussie in the cast!
Tristan Rogers, who voiced the hopping mouse, Jake, was the only Australian to voice a character in The Rescuers Down Under even though the film was set in the Outback.
9. It was Eva Gabor's last film
Eva Gabor reprised her role in the film as the classy Miss Bianca, and sadly this was the acting legend's last film role before her death in 1995. Following The Rescuers Down Under she had just two more on screen roles in the TV series Dream On and Burke's Law.
10. Wilbur was voiced by a comic legend
Wilbur is one of the funniest characters in the whole film, which makes total sense when you realize he was voiced by comedian John Candy! Sadly just four years after The Rescuers Down Under was released, John Candy would pass away from a heart attack at the age of 43.
11. McLeach sings in the film but it was a different characters voice actor in real-life
The Rescuers Down Under wasn't a musical, though McLeach does sing a very twisted version of 'Home on the Range' in the film. While it's the character of McLeach singing in the film, in real-life the actor who did the singing was Frank Welker (not George C. Scott who voiced the rest of McLeach's lines). Welker was actually the voice actor of Joanna, McLeach's Goanna!
12. It was the only non-musical Renaissance film
The Disney Renaissance films are widely regarded to be the 10 films released from 1989 until 1999 (The Little Mermaid, The Rescuers Down Under, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Mulan, and Tarzan), but among those 10 films the only one not to be a musical is The Rescuers Down Under.
13. It was only the second Disney film not to be a musical
While you already know that the film was the only Disney Renaissance film not to be a musical, you may not have known that it was only the second non-musical Disney animated film of all time. The other film was the 1985 release The Black Cauldron. Despite not being a full musical, the characters McLeach and Wilbur do sing a little in the film.
14. The film was made with the help of a LOT of people
It took a team of 415 artists and technicians to make The Rescuers Down Under.
15. It was the third Disney film to have mice as main characters!
It's no secret Walt Disney loved mice, after all, he did create Mickey Mouse, so I'm sure he would have been proud to see The Rescuers Down Under become the third Disney film to have mice as main characters. The other films with mice in lead roles were the original Rescuers film and The Great Mouse Detective, though obviously mice have appeared in minor roles in many Disney films.
16. Some big names were considered for the villainous McLeach
The role of McLeach ultimate went to George C. Scott, Bryan Brown, Clint Eastwood, Paul Hogan, John Mahoney, and Mandy Patinkin were all considered for the role as well.
17. Disney had planned a third 'Rescuers' film
A third Rescuers movie was planned for 1996, but after the death of Eva Gabor (the voice of Miss Bianca) in 1995, coupled with the financial failure of the film, all plans for future sequels were canned.
18. The flying scenes were inspired by Studio Ghibli
In particular, the scenes were inspired by Hayao Miyazaki's films. The Japanese director often features beautiful and elaborate aerial scenes and obviously the Disney animators were taken enough by them that they tried to emulate them for Rescuers.
19. There are real-life Joannas in Australia!
Joanna the goanna is definitely one of my favorite villain sidekicks of any Disney film, and it turns out that the goanna is a real lizard! Goannas are monitor lizards and are found in Australia, and southeast Asia.
20. Many famous comics almost voiced Wilbur
Though it was John Candy who eventually ended up voicing the albatross Wilbur, Dan Aykroyd, James Belushi, and Steve Martin were all considered for the role as well.
21. It was sadly the only Renaissance film not to have a TV series
Unlike every other Disney Renaissance film, The Rescuers Down Under did not receive a TV series based on the film. It was also the only Renaissance film not to get a sequel, however, this blow is cushioned by the fact that the film was a sequel itself.
22. A new computer system helped finish the movie quicker than ever before
The Rescuers Down Under was the first traditionally animated film to use the computerized CAPS (Computer Animation Production System) process. CAPS was a system used for digital ink and paint, and made the old system of hand-painting cels obsolete and helped cut about 6 months off the movie making process. In addition to that, the CAPS project was the first of Disney's collaborations with Pixar.
23. The film may be set in Australia, but Cody's name comes from Ireland
The name Cody is derived from the Irish word "cuidightheach," which meas 'helper' or 'guardian,' quite a fitting name when you consider what he risked to take care of Marahute!
24. It was a pioneer in CGI use
Though The Rescuers Down Under may not have been a commercial success, it does have the honor of being the first Disney animated film to use fully-rendered CGI backgrounds! You can see the CGI elements in the opening scenes, McLeach's truck and also the shots of Wilbur flying above the Sydney Opera House and New York City.
25. It was the first 100% digital feature film ever made!
Because Rescuers Down Under used both the CAPS process and CGI elements, it became the first ever animated film which was 100% completed within a digital environment.