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.

Another promotional item available to theater owners, was this three-dimensional countertop display.  It only measures 14 inches in height, so I assume that it was meant to sit on the counter of the theater's snack bar, or maybe inside the ticket booth.

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 One Hundred and One 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 the 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!

****BONUS / LATE ADDITION - March 9, 2021****

I just came across my lobby card for the 1983 theatrical re-release of  The Rescuers.  Released along with it, was the brand new Disney featurette, Mickey's Christmas Carol.  This was the studio's first new theatrical Mickey Mouse cartoon in over 30 years, and this was The Rescuers first theatrical re-releaseThe film's next (and last) re-release was in 1989, in anticipation of the sequel, The Rescuers Down Under, which was released the following year (1990).

I also came across my April 1956 issue of Popular Science, which included an ad for Evinrude outboard motors.  In reader's comments left below, both "K. Martinez" and "JG" mentioned realizing that the name of the character, "Evinrude," was a nod to this brand of outboard motor.  I had never heard of this brand name before, so I didn't make the connection to the character until I bought this vintage magazine, about 10 years ago.


DrGoat said...

TM, Great comprehensive post. I didn't see The Rescuers till sometime in the '80s. I was 27 when it came out and I was really in the thick of trying to light on a career (or job), and I missed a lot of Disney stuff from the late 70s. Caught up again and found the Rescuers to be all in all a charming movie. Same guy who directed the Aristocrats (which I didn't see either until later in life). One of the Disney legends with a great Disney career going all the way back to 1934.
Didn't know about the objectionable image thing. Animators got to have their fun!
Loved the comic version. Not to surprised to see that ad for 204 Revolutionary War soldiers. I fell for that ad, or something very similar back in the 60s. They showed up, but they were basically 2 dimensional, hard plastic figures. Thin as could be and absolutely no fun. The cynicism began around that time. Boy learns valuable lesson.
Always a pleasure to read your posts. Thank you.
See ya in the funny papers, or in the nexus (GDB).

TokyoMagic! said...

DrGoat, thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed the post and the comic book!

I stopped seeing Disney films in the theater, after "The Great Mouse Detective," and didn't start up again until "Beauty and the Beast" came out, in the nineties. So I can relate to missing certain movies upon their release and then catching up with them later.

Wolfgang (Woolie) Reitherman! Yes, he had a very long and successful career with Disney!

Your story about the Revolutionary War Soldiers doesn't surprise me. My mom didn't let us order anything from the comic books. She thought most of those ads were probably a scam. Although, she did let us order things through other outlets, like items offered on the backs of cereal boxes. Maybe that was because those were better known companies.

K. Martinez said...

Another great post, TM!

Always loved the original poster for "The Rescuers". It captures that sense of action and adventure.

Great lobby cards too. Especially of Madame Medusa on the phone.

Evinrude, named after the Evinrude outboard motors for boats was always my favorite character from this animated feature.

I didn't realize they did Madam Medusa and Evinrude as costumed characters for the parks. I would've loved to have see Evinrude in the park. I only remember seeing Bernard and Bianca at Disneyland. The Penny character looks strange. Wouldn't it have been better if they hired an actual child to play her?

I do remember those Disneyland Emporium window displays of "The Rescuers". I always thought that particular display was well done.

I also enjoyed the sequel "The Rescuers Down Under" and thought more sequels could've worked. Same with "The Great Mouse Detective" which I thought would've been perfect for sequels and they could've done a different case each time like implied at the end of that animated feature.

Thanks for posting the comic. I'll have to read that later.

"Robin Hood" was the last Walt Disney animated feature I saw in a theater until "The Great Mouse Detective". I only saw "The Rescuers", "The Fox and the Hound" and "The Black Cauldron" when they debuted on The Disney Channel in the 1980's. Other than that, I never took a break with the live-action films of Disney. Just skipped those three animated features for some reason.

Anyway, there's a lot to look at in this post and I'll definitely revisit and pick up some of the other stuff. Thanks again, TM! for another great post.

TokyoMagic! said...

Ken, I love that poster, too! I bought a small three-dimensional "countertop display" version of the poster, but I didn't have time to photograph it. Maybe I will do that tomorrow and add it to the post!

I didn't get the Evinrude connection until about 10 years ago, when I bought a vintage issue of Popular Science, for an article about the House of the Future. There was an advertisement in the magazine, for Evinrude outboard motors and when I saw that, then I made the connection!

I suppose they had to use an adult to portray Penny, because of child labor laws. Just like when they used to have a walk-around Mowgli character in the park, he was portrayed by an adult. Now that I think of it, Disney did use children for John and Michael (from Peter Pan), for their 1981 "Fantasy On Parade." But I bet that was because the hours for parade performers was very limited.

I also remember seeing the "Rescuers" window displays at Disneyland, and also thought that they were very well done. Most things at Disneyland were still well done, back in 1977!

I have another Robin Hood post, coming up in a few months (probably). It's sort of a "Part 2" to a post that I did back in 2010!

K. Martinez said...

Another thing I liked is that Evinrude sounded like an outboard motor and operated like one too.

Forgot to comment that I did know Cruella was considered for the villain of "The Rescuers" and I do find the alligator suit interesting, but am glad the animators decided to create an entirely new villain. I thought Geraldine Page did a pretty good job as Madame Medusa.

I get a kick out of the headers for the news articles about "stuff" the animators snuck in there. Mouse Droppings! Sheepish Mouse! HA, HA! I love it!

TokyoMagic! said...

Ken, I'm also glad that they didn't reuse Cruella. I think the villain that they came up with for this film, was a pretty darn good one.

Anonymous said...

Tokyo, another splendid post!

I missed this film since I was in college and had other things on my mind.

Our kids watched it years later on the Disney Channel, where my wife and I got the Evinrude joke.

Did not know about the image fiasco, but had heard it with other films. Maybe I heard it wrong.

I love the Star Trek and, like Dr. Goat, also the toy soldier ad. Like your Mom, my Dad would never let me order anything from a comic book, although we could get things from cereal boxes etc. A good policy on the whole. My kids got a few decent toys from cereal promotions, so the policy lives on another generation.

Thank you for all the hard work assembling this enjoyable post.


TokyoMagic! said...

JG, I missed a lot of Disney's releases when I was in college, so I can relate!

There are other risque images inserted into other Disney films. I think in most cases, they have been animated into the films. This situation with "The Rescuers" was different (I think), because they claim that it was done "post production. It was not on the earlier VHS release, in 1992. But then I think they said this re-release was struck from a different copy or master of the film. The other kind of infamous incident was when "The Little Mermaid" was released on video. The person who did the artwork for the packaging, worked in a questionable image. Those were also recalled, redesigned and reissued.

I just added a vintage 1956 "Evinrude" outboard motor advertisement at the end of the post, in case you are interested! (I also added a lobby card that I forgot that I had. It's from the 1983 re-release of the film.)

Major Pepperidge said...

I have always been very fond of “The Rescuers”! By 1977 I was fully into my “Disney animation enthusiast” mode, and had been looking forward to the latest film. This era was also noteworthy because my father did not go to a lot of movies, but we had seen “Rocky” the year before, “Star Wars” (in Woodland Hills), and then “The Rescuers”.

Bernard and Bianca were cute, I especially liked Eva Gabor’s performance as Bianca (though Bob Newhart is great as well). Inspired casting!

Very neat that you have the complete set of lobby cards. That countertop display is nice too! Other than the comic book, can you think of any other merchandise from that film? Maybe there were plush toys, but gosh, I can’t remember anything of note.

Crazy that there was a walk-around Evinrude! I seem to recall a lot of articles showing Jimmy MacDonald (voice and sound effects actor) blowing through a narrow rubber tube to achieve Evinrude’s whiny buzz. There was also a lot of press about Mr. Snoops being based on author John Culhane.

I think that cast member working on the Emporium window scene looks like a cross between Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams!

I’m very glad they didn’t reuse Cruella for Madam Medusa; that was a weird habit for Disney to reuse designs (and even whole animation sequences) to save money. The version they used is much better, as much as I love Cruella in “101 Dalmations”.

VERY COOL that you got that cel setup for $5.00! What a score!

I totally remember that scandal about the topless woman who was visible in two frame grabs - you can find them online pretty easily. So hilarious! I applaud whoever came up with that idea. Thank you also for scanning that entire comic book, that is “above and beyond”. I probably would have been too lazy to do that. I love the ads as much as the story!

This really brings back a lot of great memories of my Disney fandom from that period. Thanks so much for the mega-article!

"Lou and Sue" said...

TokyoMagic! Boy, I haven't seen The Rescuers or The Rescuers Down Under in ages, but I do remember they were both very enjoyable to watch, with lots of new, fun characters. I had no idea Disney was thinking of using my all-time favorite Cruella de Vil in The Rescuers. As much as I love Cruella, I agree she would not be a good fit. I associate her with puppies and would be distracted - looking for puppies.

Your bat cell is great! What a treasure to stumble across!

The YouTube clip you included - when Evinrude bumps into the spider and spider web, reminds me of something I saw in my backyard, a while back. Between two of our big blue spruce trees, a very large spider had spun a huge web, maybe 3 feet in diameter - connecting the two trees, and positioned himself (herself? don't know how to tell the difference) smack-dab in the middle, waiting for dinner to arrive. Along came a dragon fly - heading right for the web, about to become dinner. When the dragon fly bumped into the web and spider, the web bounced around and, in a couple seconds, the dragon fly flew off, carrying that large spider. I had no idea that Evinrude was that tough and could haul away a big spider dinner (I truly thought it would be the other way around). Now I have a whole new respect for those little critters!

TokyoMagic - thank you for all your information, photos and items you've included. I'll be back to look at more of this post, later.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I think that's great that you got to see the film with your dad! My mom took my brother and me to MANY of the Disney films, but I remember she skipped this one. We saw The Rescuers at Los Cerritos Center (Mall), so I'm pretty sure she went shopping, while we watched the movie.

I'm a little surprised that there was a walk-around Evinrude character at the parks. He does look a little odd. I believe all of the characters were used in the park's Christmas parade that year, but I didn't get to see it. In fact, the only Rescuers characters that I remember ever seeing in the park, were Bernard and Bianca.

As for merchandise, I don't remember seeing too much out there at the time, but when I checked ebay, I see that there were the usual items such as a "Storyteller" record with read-along book, lunchbox, "Frame-tray" puzzles, coloring books, and I even saw a board game listed. There was also a set of 6 drinking glasses from Pepsi, which were available at Pizza Hut. I kind of want those now, but I really don't need them! I had a habit of collecting sets of drinking glasses as a kid, but then never using them, in order to keep them pristine. I still have my set of McDonaldland glasses from 1976, my Burger King/Star Wars glasses from 1977, assorted character glasses from Disneyland, and more!

Now that you mention it, I do see a bit of Cindy Williams in that cast member. But then I'm also seeing a little of Carmine Ragusa and Boo Boo Kitty in her, as well.

I almost didn't buy that cell, because I didn't remember a scene with bats! I remember thinking that the cell could be from ANY animated film. Later, I really was glad that I didn't pass on it.

Scanning an entire comic book does take some time, but I didn't mind. As with my "Herbie Rides Again" post/comic book, I was only going to scan a few pages, but then figured I might as well just scan the whole thing. What I really need to do is go back and scan my entire "Happiest Millionaire" comic book, and add it to that post!

I'm glad you enjoyed this post, and now you have reminded me that I should have added, "MEGA POST!" to the title!

TokyoMagic! said...

Sue, Cruella de Vil is also my all-time favorite villain. Well, she is actually in a three-way tie with Maleficent and the Evil Queen (from Snow White). But having said that, I'm also glad that they didn't use her for the villain in The Rescuers!

Wow, I had no idea that a dragon fly could or would actually eat a spider! I wonder if the "carrying off" part could have happened inadvertently, and the spider just happened to be "stuck" to the poor dragon fly? Either way, nature is pretty amazing, isn't it!

"Lou and Sue" said...

Evinrude flew away, close by me, and it was clear that he was carrying a “bundled up” spider—and had everything under control.

TokyoMagic! said...

Sue....oh, good!!! But now I'm kind of feeling sorry for that spider! ;-)

Stefano said...

A terrific post, TokyoMagic! I had some of the same materials you collected, and then lost them over the years, so to see them again is a nostalgia bash and a memory trip.

The summer of '77 was golden for me also, what with Space Mountain, "Star Wars", "The Rescuers", and as I recall a rerelease of "The Boatniks", which I missed and still haven't seen, though with Phil Silvers starring it might be worth a look. Around Memorial Day through the latter 1970s the Los Angeles Times printed a supplement called Great Times, with a preview of what was new at theme parks, upcoming concerts and special events, etc. That always signaled that summer was near; did you hold on to any of those?

Concerning "Penny Marshall": around 1975 Disney News featured an article on the Mad Hatter Shop (reprinted in the free Vacationland magazine) using this same "Penny" as a model; she had a lot of fun in a series of photos as she tried on different hats with different expressions. Sometime later I actually saw this "Penny" at Disneyland, working security detail/crowd control during America on Parade; it was like a celebrity sighting. With the popularity of "Laverne and Shirley" it was probably natural that she be used in park publicity.

At Disneyland on a Thursday in June 1977: astonishing now that the crowds that day weren't bad, the Electrical Parade was back and, with my friends ages 11 and 12, we were allowed to spend all day in the park with no adult supervision. The friends tuckered out the last couple of hours and gave me their unused E Tickets; I walked on Space Mountain several times in a row.

The only thing tempering the excitement of that day was the disappointing scene in Frontierland: Rainbow Ridge was gone and the forested hill behind it bulldozed. We had seen the plans for Big Thunder Mesa in the Prevue Center and could guess where it might go, but still...

None of us could have conceived at the time that in 40 years, this phenomenon "Star Wars" would really chew up Frontierland.

TokyoMagic! said...

Stefano, thanks! Hey, that was a pretty good year/summer, wasn't it? I forgot that "The Boatniks" was re-released that year. I have a comic book version of that movie, too! I've thought about posting it, because I also have a 1970 newspaper ad for that movie's original release. Pete's Dragon was also released later in 1977 (for the holidays).

I did save quite a few of those "Great Times" supplements to the newspaper. I was always looking forward to those coming out, so I could read all about the new attractions for summer, at the local theme parks.

I know exactly which article you are talking about, with the lady trying on all of the different hats. They also ran that article in Disney News Magazine around the same time. I had no idea that it was the same lady! Coincidentally, I came across that issue/article not too long ago, and I think I might have scanned it. I'll have to look for that scan. If I find it, I might add it to the end of this post. Oh, and that's pretty neat that you actually saw her in the park!

That's right! The Main Street Electrical Parade was also making a return that summer of '77, after a two-year absence from the park. I remember the first time I was allowed to be in the park with friends, and without adult supervision, but I had to wait until the following summer to be able to do that. I also remember that disappointment of seeing the wall in front of Nature's Wonderland Mine Train, and being able to see that all of the tall trees were missing on the other side. And yeah, who would have guessed about the further destruction of Frontierland that would take place almost 40 years later.....and for a movie that at that time, didn't have any sequels or even a "Holiday Special" yet!


Love the Mega Post!! How funny regarding the Disney News article!! I remember seeing that when new and thinking she looked like Cindy Williams!! And I totally recommend the Mad Hatter model in that Disney News issue. I didn’t start getting my own Disney News subscription till 1981, but my grandparents had every issue from the first to the current then and I learned so much about the parks at a young age pouring over all those past issues when my family would go visit a few times a month.

The Rescuers “topless lady in the city” scandal reminds me of the first Mary Tyler Moore show reunion when the cast made comments that when Mary Richard’s moved into the apartment tower in the later episodes , the set designers had people doing nasty things in the windows of some of the apartments and office towers on the backdrop seen from Mary’s balcony !!! Nobody in the TV audience or live audience could see them , but the cast sure could!!

I remember the two variations of the big Thunder coming soon billboards : both featured the same Clem Hall art concept , but the sign / poster design had changed. I have an original of the second version done like an attraction poster done by the imagineer who designed it - it was his first silkscreened project at WED ( Richard Cala )

While I loved Nature’s Wonderland , I was so excited about Big Thunder .... I was 9 when construction started .... but one of my earliest memories of Disneyland was the model of Thunder Mesa in the preview center I saw in 1973!! I was 5 and was obsessed with it .... I made drawings all the time and clay models .... do when big thunder was announced , I was already hooked!

Regarding the Emporium Window displays , a retired decorating castmember who helped work on some of those windows and a person who helped with the mechanics ( who has since past) was working on a book for the animated window displays .... but sadly they were not well received by the current ( group? Gang ? Click?) that has been putting out park related books recently .

I would have never guessed or predicted that - to use Chris’s term WOOKIE WORLD would have ever been shoved in to where it went . The worst is the reduction of the Frontierland / Rivers of America to fit it in. More and more stuff that I don’t care for infects the Disney parks to the point I feel Disneyland will become an entirely different thing .... I love Star Wars , I love muppets .... I don’t love those things in Disney theme parks . And I don’t care for Pixar or Marvel stuff so that doesn’t help.

TokyoMagic! said...

Mike, my dad used to pick up a copy of "Disney News" magazine at his work, and bring it home for my brother and me. He did that from 1969 up until the late seventies. I think they weren't receiving as many copies of the magazine as they had previously, because it was getting harder and harder for him to get a copy. So, finally I just subscribed to it. I finally stopped at some point, probably in the nineties. By then the name had been changed to "The Disney Magazine." At the time of the name change, they made every back issue available for purchase, so I bought all the issues prior to 1969, that I was missing. The only issue they didn't have available was issue #1. That was such a good magazine, back in the day. I also remember my brother and pouring over each issue.

I didn't know that about the Mary Tyler Moore set! Too funny!

Back in the seventies, I could never get enough info on "future attractions." I loved seeing the artwork and the models, and reading about what was planned for the park. I took pics of both of those Big Thunder posters you are talking about. The first one was done in almost like a "sepia" tone. The second one had more color added to it.

I would love to see a book about the animated scenes from the Emporium windows! I hope someone picks up where that cast member left off. If she worked on some of those sets, I bet she had some incredible photos! But it sounds like the "people" in charge aren't interested. What a shame.

I also like Star Wars and the Muppets, but don't think they belong in Disneyland! It's especially heartbreaking that they destroyed so much of Frontierland, for a "Star Wars Land." It's too bad that they didn't go ahead with a third park (in the Toy Story parking lot), where they could have thrown all the non-Disney IPs together like Star Wars, Marvel, Muppets, and anything from 20th Century Fox. Seems like it was the perfect time for a third park in Anaheim.

Jeffrey Parker said...
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