A movie that often gets overlooked when discussing the Disney Renaissance is The Rescuers Down Under. Released in 1990 a year after The Little Mermaid, at a time when the studio had not yet decided to go all in on musicals that decade, this sequel to Disney’s modest 1977 hit The Rescuers reunited voice actors Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor as the Rescue Aid Society ambassadors Bernard and Bianca, who fly to Australia on a rescue mission to save a boy named Cody from the clutches of an evil poacher who is hunting the boy’s eagle friend Marahute.
But before the main plot even kicks in and before Bernard and Bianca even appear on screen, the film arguably hits its peak in a very exhilarating sequence near the beginning of the film in which Cody is informed by the Australian wildlife that Marahute has been caught in a poacher’s trap and upon freeing her, Cody rides the eagle high above the Outback and gets taken to her nest where he meets her eggs. The flight sequence, aided by Bruce Broughton’s soaring score, is almost like a ride from one of Disney’s theme parks, and watching it always gave me the feeling that I was flying high up in the sky right next to them, even more so than when I watched Dumbo or Peter Pan. I’ve always found this to be one of my personal favorite scenes from any Disney movie.
I didn’t own the official Walt Disney Home Video copy of this movie. My family had recorded an airing of The Rescuers Down Under on The Disney Channel and we watched it that way. But I enjoyed it just as much as all my other Disney movies and despite its lack of popularity with the general public, I held it in high regard along with The Lion King, Aladdin, Bambi and Cinderella. Of all these films, I thought the eagle flight sequence was in a league of its own.
There are a lot of thrilling moments in Disney films but the biggest thrills are always either suspenseful and action-packed or Broadway-style musical numbers. The pure unbridled joy of a boy flying in the air with no singing, just score, almost no dialogue, nothing pushing the plot forward and just a depiction of a character fully embracing the excitement of the moment is actually something that is rare in a lot of Disney films and to this day it still feels unmatched. The closest they ever came to matching it in any other movie might have been when Rescuers Down Under co-director Hendel Butoy directed the segment in Fantasia 2000 with the flying whales set to the music of Ottorino Respighi’s “The Pines of Rome.”
Honestly it is scenes like these that make me fantasize about Disney making another Fantasia sequel, or at least a movie that is less focused on story and more focused on characters feeling things and stopping the plot to let moments linger, something Walt Disney himself fully embraced, which is why he created Fantasia in the first place. Movies aren’t all supposed to be plot machines. Sometimes you just want to see a deer and a rabbit learn to ice skate, or see Dick Van Dyke dance with a bunch of penguins, or see a boy have the time of his life riding an eagle until you forget what the “plot” is and just focus on the experience.
A whole post about an opening sequence. Pretty cool! 🙂
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