“George can you come into my office please?”
“We have a problem”
“What is it boss?”
“As you know, a film is only as good as its creators, and you and your team have been in charge of creating the works that were supposed to lead Disney into a glorious renaissance that proved we could still flourish without Walt.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“What’s the problem?! Are you kidding me George?!” There are five BIG problems! Namely, ‘The Rescuers’, ‘The Fox and the Hound’, ‘The Black Cauldron’, ‘The Great Mouse Detective’ and ‘Oliver and Company’!”
“Ah… Well yes, I know they didn’t exactly “wow” the world…”
“You can say that again…”
“But I honestly think we’re on the right track! Our market research has shown that kids want their films to be full of unrelenting melancholy and darkness, less songs, characters with obscure hard to remember names, artistic pretentiousness and no jokes or joy, so…”
“What market research is this?!”
“My grand-daughter. And because she doesn’t want any friends, she always has the time to give really thorough explanations of the things she wants to see in her films! Ok, so not all her ideas are appropriate, but then she is a bit weird if truth be told, spends most of her time sitting in a dark room and then there was the fox incident that we never talk of, but otherwise…”
“George, we need a change…”
*sigh* “I know, and I am CERTAIN that you’re going to love the next film we’ve started work on…”
“George, I’m bringing in some different people.”
“We’ve been speaking at head office and we’ve decided we need a fresh perspective, some younger writers, a couple of composers who will write some memorable songs…
“We wrote memorable songs!”
“Sing one Disney song from the last ten years.”
“urrrm… There was a king, he had some horns, he really sucks…”
“No, you’re making that up George. You didn’t even bother writing any songs for ‘The Black Cauldron’. At least that’s what I was told anyway, I never actually watched it…”
“But boss you can’t get other people in!”
“Because we’ve started work on our next film already!”
“Ok and what is it?”
“The Rescuers Down Under!”
“George, no-one liked the first Rescuers film! Why are you making another?!”
“Because it’s better!”
“……….. Because it’s in Australia!”
“Well yeah. And what exactly are the new writers going to do that’s SO amazing?!”
“Well, they want to do a retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen classic ‘The Little Mermaid’.”
“Are you fucking kidding me? Who the hell wants to hear a story about a fishgirl on heat?! IT WILL NEVER WORK! THESE OTHER WRITERS KNOW NOTHING! Release both of our films and we’ll see who has the last laugh! You can have this on the record: there is no conceivable way that a film about mermaids will do better than a film about brave detective mice!!!!!”
I seriously do wonder what happened at Chez-Disney that allowed one of the least requested sequels of all time to see the light of day. After a decade of “Meh”, ‘The Little Mermaid” was such a change in quality, even a Disney-cynic like myself, enjoyed it so much that I no longer can really use the term cynic as a blanket statement to describe my feelings about Disney anymore (I’m also rather liking being able to enjoy the childhood favourite films of my wife and the Disney fans that read my blogs rather than callously shitting all over them! Long may it continue). But to then follow up that success with ‘The Rescuers Down Under’ is so frustrating, I’m left wondering how this came to pass…
My favoured theory is that this film was a dreg from the “Um… what shall we do next” era that is the 1980’s, that took so long to complete, it ended up being released after ‘The Little Mermaid’. This idea is supported by the presentation of ‘The Rescuers Down Under’ (TRDU) being far more dated than ‘The Little Mermaid’ despite being released after and boasting more modern animation techniques. I’m also wondering if there was a new team in charge of ‘The Little Mermaid’ and the old team were left to finish up their tenure by diligently continuing with the adventures of Bernard and Miss Bianca, whilst the Disney world changed around them. Alternatively, maybe Disney were just obsessed with proving to the world that they could make a genuinely good mouse detective film. If anyone can enlighten me as to what the hell they were thinking, I’d really like to know.
Whatever the reason, it’s impossible not to feel deflated watching TRDU after a seeing the adventures of Ariel and co, the week before. It doesn’t even feel like this film was made with any real purpose other than a lack of other ideas. It certainly doesn’t offer anything new to the Disney catalogue. It’s a lot of what we’ve seen already, but in Australia. That means frolicking kangaroos instead of rabbits, basically. Half the characters don’t sound remotely Australian. In fact, they sound more British. But then, Disney has had a history of being somewhat liberal with accuracy in this area.
The payoff in the first Rescuers film, was apparently seeing Bernard and Miss Bianca become a couple. I didn’t really care, and I wasn’t even aware that it was something I was even supposed to care about either! This time around, the big question is whether Bernard will propose to Miss Bianca, and whether Miss Bianca will say yes. The catch is that there is a cocksure Australian kangaroo rat named Jake who is also vying for Miss Bianca’s affections. Let’s be honest here. The true nature of mating rituals between mice would have meant in reality Miss Bianca would have copulated with Jake within 15 seconds of landing in the country before shagging a fair proportion of the other rodents that roam the Northern Territory that day for good measure. Hell, Bernard may have even given Jake a good seeing to. That reality could have changed the tone of the film significantly I admit… Also, considering how vigilant the Australians are with the importing of foreign species, in order to not disrupt their fragile ecosystem, the reality is, two horny mice on the back of a giant albatross would probably be shot out of the sky.
A standout feature of TRDU, is the endless filler used to bulk the movie’s modest runtime. During the first Rescuers film, we were treated to some spectacular padding, involving the world’s longest preparing-to-fly-on-the-back-of-a-bird-and-then-flying-on-the-back-of-a-bird scene in the history of cinema. Whilst this film does have an impressively drawn out preparing-to-fly-on-the-back-of-a-bird-and-then-flying-on-the-back-of-a-bird scene, the sequel outdoes itself with a one-mouse-sending-a-message-to-another-mouse-on-the-other-side-of-the-world-via-many-forms-of-communication-and-via-many-different-places-such-as-The Marshall Islands-and-Hawaii-for-example-by-incorporating-the-help-of-many-other-freakishly-intelligent-mice-to-pass-the-message-on scene, that literally has us shouting “hurry the fuck up!” at the television.
Another thing that bothers me is that the antagonist is a someone who kills animals for sport. Now don’t get me wrong, as I’ve made clear in the past, I believe all trophy hunters should be featured in a new Saturday night family gameshow I plan on creating called ‘Who wants to be a millionaire and then castrate a poacher?’. I’ll explain the premise if people want, but I think the title is fairly self-explanatory. But this is the third film that deals with the subject, and as a sensitive soul who likes some escapism from the worst of humankind in his films, this is too much. An antagonist like Ursula is perfect, as she is a detestable psychotic-drag-queen-octopus. It means that I can be desperate for her demise, but as I’ve encountered precious few psychotic-drag-queen-octopus’s during my life, she never strikes a chord that is too uncomfortably close to home. For me, TRDU creates more rage than escapism, even if the bad guy does eventually reach a grisly demise. Also, there are many films out there, where the good-guy vs bad-guy narrative works perfectly well when the bad-guy is just a self-centred jerk. You still want the good-guy to win, you still want the bad-guy to get what’s coming to them, as no thoughts about mistreatment of the vulnerable need to overwhelm the empathic parts of the brain.
A positive I can at least say is that TRDU is an improvement upon the original instalment. It’s still short on laughs, but without quite the oppressive bleakness of the original. Its story is very similar but slightly more polished. The characters are still relatively two-dimensional but at least afforded some time to develop some personality, where the original had next to none. But I think the biggest success I’ve noted is that the film bombed both commercially and with critics. This means that the planned second sequel was scrapped. That’s right, there was supposed to be another Rescuers film. Which means that in some dimension, people foolishly flocked to see this film and were rewarded with a future that a few years later, saw Elton John contributing songs not for ‘The Lion King’, but for ‘The Rescuers…. in space!’ (made up title). Breathe a sigh of relief Disney fans. You had a narrow escape.
I miss watching The Little Mermaid.
This film was fine, but just not necessary to the franchise. I think the protagonists are lovely, as Bernard is adorably geeky and Bianca classy, but with a beautifully kind heart, but they still wouldn’t come close to making my top ten favourite Disney characters (a list that I now feel compared to share with you when we have watched through all the films up the current date).
Hated the antagonist (job done, Disney). What a twat (was gonna use another word there, but stopped myself). Found that Frank lizard character completely pointless and extremely annoying, if I’m honest. As if Gurgi in The Black Cauldron wasn’t annoying enough, we seemed to get his irritating reptilian cousin here. Urgh.
In my opinion, the natural progression from The Little Mermaid would’ve been straight on to Beauty and The Beast, but alas, we go this in the middle.
Still, BATB is coming next, so keep your eyes peeled for that one. Another of my absolute favourites.