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Disney's animated classic 'The Rescuers' marks 35th anniversary

June 22, 2012|By Susan King
  • "The Rescuers" celebrates its 35th anniversary on June 22.
"The Rescuers" celebrates its 35th anniversary on June 22. (Disney )

“Brave” -- Disney/Pixar’s latest CG, 3-D animated film -- opens Friday, which also happens to be the 35th anniversary of the classic Disney animated film “The Rescuers.”

Based on “The Rescuers and Miss Bianca” by Margery Sharp, the 1977 family comedy revolves around an international mouse organization -- the Rescue Aid Society -- located inside the United Nations that helps abduction victims.

Eva Gabor lent her voice to Miss Bianca, the sophisticated, beautiful Hungarian representative of the society; Bob Newhart characterized Bernard, the nervous janitor who joins Miss Bianca in her quest to find a missing orphan girl; and Geraldine Page was pitch-perfect as the evil pawnshop owner Madame Medusa.

In production for four years, “The Rescuers” was the first Disney animated film that brought together members of Disney’s “Nine Old Men” animators (including Milt Kahl, Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas) with a new crop of animators, including Glen Keane, Ron Clements and Andy Gaskill, who had come to the studio in the early 1970s. 

Wolfgang Reitherman, also a member of the Nine Old Men, was one of three directors on the film. Reitherman had directed such Disney classics as 1959’s “Sleeping Beauty,” 1961’s “101 Dalmatians” and 1967’s “The Jungle Book.”

“The Rescuers” rescued Disney from its animation doldrums, earning $48 million upon release -- that would be equal to more than $180 million today. The studio had struggled after “The Jungle Book,” which was in production when Walt Disney died in December 1966.  Not only was “The Rescuers” a major box office animated success for the studio, it was also the first animated triumph that Disney himself had not worked on.

Reviews were also welcoming, with Leonard Maltin remarking in his book “The Disney Films” that “The Rescuers” was “a breath of fresh air for everyone who had been concerned about the future of animation at Walt Disney.”

The film’s sole Oscar nomination was for the song “Someone’s Waiting for You,” which lost to “You Light Up My Life” from the movie of the same name.

For the first time in Disney history, “The Rescuers” spawned an animated sequel for the studio: ”The Rescuers Down Under,” which was released in 1990.

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