Friday, March 5, 2021

Walt Disney Productions' The Rescuers


Walt Disney Productions' animated feature, The Rescuers, debuted on June 22, 1977. I was 12 years old when the film was released. Two other big events (for a 12 year old, anyway) happened to be occurring right around the same time. Just one month earlier, the very first Star Wars film had been released. And that very same week, Space Mountain had it's grand opening at Disneyland.


Above, is the original theatrical poster for the film (which I purchased in the 1980s). Below, is an ad for the film, which I cut out of the Los Angeles Times at the time of the film's original release.

The artwork for that newspaper ad, was also used for this movie theater lobby card.


There were eight more lobby cards available to theater owners, for promoting the film (as seen below).

Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor provided the voices of the film's heroes, Bernard and Bianca:


Geraldine Page (The Happiest Millionaire) provided the voice of the film's villain, Madame Medusa:


Jim Jordan (Fibber McGee and Molly) provided the voice of Orville, the albatross.


Disney sound effects artist, Jimmy McDonald, created the sound effects for Evinrude, the dragonfly.

Joe Flynn (Million Dollar Duck), who passed away before the film's release, provided the voice of Madame Medusa's business partner, Mr. Snoops.

Child actress, Michelle Stacy, was the voice of Penny, the kidnapped orphan.

The Summer 1977 issue of Disney News Magazine, included this article about the film:


The back cover of the magazine featured a dual ad, which included Walt Disney Productions' other summer release, Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo:

The only "Rescuers" film-related merchandise that I bought back in 1977, was this Walt Disney Showcase comic book. I have scanned the entire comic book, and will include it at the end of this post.

The characters from The Rescuers were featured at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, as "walk-around" characters. I took this photo of Bernard and Bianca at Disneyland, in November of 1981.



Costumes were actually made for most of the film's main characters, including a "face character" version of Madame Medusa.



The next two pics of Orville and Bernard at Disneyland, are from the blog, "Stuff From The Park."



This Walt Disney World publicity photo shows that there was even a "Penny" character, complete with her "Teddy."


Today, you would be hard-pressed to find any of the characters from The Rescuers, walking around Disneyland or Walt Disney World, but they can still be found in one of the Tokyo Disney parks. The following postcard is from Tokyo DisneySea, and shows Bernard and Bianca peering through the window of the New York Deli restaurant, in the American Waterfront section of the park.

At the time of The Rescuers release, scenes from the movie were recreated in miniature, and displayed in the windows of Disneyland's Main Street Emporium. (As a side note, doesn't the cast member below, look a little bit like Penny Marshall of Laverne & Shirley fame?)

 


In 2005, some of the scenes from past Emporium window displays, made a return for Disneyland's 50th anniversary. This particular window contained scenes from The Rescuers, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, The Fox and the Hound, and The Jungle Book.


Here's a close-up of the Rescuers scene, which was brought back that year.


Incidentally, in the earliest planning stages for The Rescuers, Cruella de Vil (seen above) from 101 Dalmatians, was originally being considered for the film's villain. The following preliminary sketches were done by Disney animator, Ken Anderson, and show Cruella wearing an alligator coat, instead of her usual white fur coat.


   
 
About eight years after the film was released, I came across this production cell from the film. It was in a comic book shop (the Comic Castle, in Fullerton) not too far from Disneyland, and was only $5.00!
 

 
The cell was labeled, "Production Cell from The Rescuers."  There are actually two cells here, one for each bat, with one cell placed on top of the other.  At that time, I really couldn't recall a scene from the film, which included bats, but the store owner assured me that they were from the film.  I remember him saying that he had acquired the piece, from someone who worked at the studios.  I went ahead and purchased it.  This was around 1985, so the film had not yet been released on video.  Years later, when it finally came out on video, I was very pleased to see these cells used in this scene:

 

 

The Rescuers was originally released on VHS in 1992. It went back into "The Disney Vault," in 1993.



It was re-released on VHS, in 1999.


Three days after it's re-release, Disney recalled over three million copies of the videotapes, because of "objectionable images" in one of the film's backgrounds.

This explanation is from Wikipedia: "The image in question is a blurry image of a topless woman. The image appears twice in non-consecutive frames during the scene in which Miss Bianca and Bernard are flying on Orville's back through New York City. The two images could not be seen in ordinary viewing, because the film runs too fast — at 24 frames per second."

An article about the recall, appeared in a 1999 issue of Entertainment Weekly.


A local newspaper also featured an article about the incident.



Inside the videotape's package, was this order form for a "free" children's book.



The "free" book was originally published in 1977, as a part of Disney's "Wonderful World of Reading" series.


Here are some scans of just a few of the pages inside (borrowed from ebay).



The back cover:


The Rescuers was first released on DVD in 2003.  It was released again (on DVD and Blu-ray) in 2012, as a part of a 2-movie collection, along with it's sequel, The Rescuers Down Under.  The 2-movie set was released specially, for the original film's 35th anniversary.

By the way, The Rescuers Down Under was released in movie theaters in 1990.  But that film will have to be the subject of a future post....maybe.

 

And finally, here is my Walt Disney Showcase comic book, in it's entirety. Enjoy!