I like a lot of things about “The Rescuers.” The film has beautiful imagery, particularly the pastel skies and animal animation during “Someone’s Waiting for You.” Madame Medusa is a pretty scary villain (probably because she feels very “Miss Hannigan”). The use of music when the crocodiles are trying to get the mice out of the organ creates some amazing comical moments. But this film is noticeably missing Walt's touch. Something about it resonates “good” instead of “classic,” which is why few claim this to be their favorite Disney movie. One reason that it doesn’t feel like a traditional Disney film is because the songs are sung as part of the narrative instead of by the film’s characters. Shelby Flint’s voice is perfectly suited for the mellow folk songs written for the film, but perhaps the writers could have better incorporated other songs into the storyline. I do love the way that the opening scene leads into a series of still paintings (each of which is worthy of hanging in a museum) that depict the journey of the Help bottle as it travels to New York, and these images fit well with Flint’s rendition of “Who Will Rescue Me.” But there are other montages that drag on and seem unnecessary. There is nothing wrong with this device - it is just overused. It would have been reasonable to keep “Who Will Rescue Me” and “Someone’s Waiting for You” (which are both very effective) but add a ballad sung by Rufus the cat, a villainous song for Medusa, and a heartwarming song for Penny. Another issue is the inconsistency in the animation. Some of the backgrounds are stunning, and others reminded me of "Scooby Doo." At first, the story seems surprisingly dark but in historical context, it foreshadows films like “The Fox and the Hound” and “The Black Cauldron” that would follow in the 80’s. Still, shoving an orphan into a flooding cavern to retrieve a diamond is enough to scare any kid. The voice acting meets the expectation of most Disney films. The young Michelle Stacy (perfectly cast as Penny) got to act alongside big names like Eva Gabor, Bob Newhart, and Geraldine Page. One of the most important voice actors is Jimmy MacDonald (Evinrude), following up performances in Snow White (Dopey, yodeling Dwarfs), Cinderella (Jaq and Gus), Alice in Wonderland (Dormouse), Lady and the Tramp (howling pound dogs), and most importantly as the voice of Mickey Mouse from 1947-1977. I would’ve liked to hear more from Pat Buttram’s character. His voice is so distinct that it enhances any Disney movie (Sheriff of Nottingham in “Robin Hood,” Chief in “Fox and the Hound”). The local animals feel mostly like an afterthought that we only incorporated to resolve the conflict. “The Rescuers” contains all of the pieces for a classic Disney film, but its inconsistencies and departures from the winning Disney equation leave it lacking the spark that keeps us coming back.
[Pictured: The artistry present throughout the film is the true reason to watch]