So I Just Saw Disney’s The Rescuers

Rescuersposter.jpg

Original theatrical release poster. (Image credit: Wikipedia)

I’m feeling a little ill at the moment, so I’ll try to keep this brief and bullet-pointed.

  • The color palette of this movie is extremely subdued.  The music is extremely subdued.  The whole movie is extremely subdued.
  • The scene at the beginning showing the United Nations is nifty, except that it’s abound with national stereotypes.  Shrinking down to look at the mini-UN in the storage closet doesn’t help, because when you go from realistic humans to anthropomorphic mice, stereotypes get turned into cutesy versions that seem harmless (except for the fact that we’re still reinforcing stereotypes).
  • I see you, Black Female Mouse With an Afro, and I like you as a character.  I just wish you didn’t represent the country of Africa, because, y’know, that’s offensive and oh so colonial (I mean, Latvia gets its own representative.  Latvia!)
  • Not all male mice objectify Bianca, the Hungarian representative.  Just most of them.
  • Bianca chooses Bernard as her partner for the mission either because he respects her as a person and isn’t clamoring to hang out with her like all the other dog-mice… or he’s a bumbling janitor who makes her look good in front of Openly Misogynist English Mouse by comparison.
  • Orville the albatross is the most incompetent bird I’ve ever seen.
  • Backwater stereotypes of southerners aren’t as bad as international stereotypes, but seriously, Disney, learn not to paint in such broad strokes with your characterization.  I know you can do it; I halfway believed that Bernard and Bianca would fall in love (except for the fact, again, that he’s a bumbling schmuck who demonstrates absolutely zero character growth throughout the movie and makes Bianca look awesome by comparison).
  • Flipping the gender roles where the woman is the exciting, adventurous one and the man is the reluctant tag-along is not feminist; it doesn’t elevate women to only have your female lead look great in comparison to the janitor.
  • For all my ribbing, I don’t want to imply Bernard’s status as custodian is a detriment and makes him a bad character.  What makes him a bad character is the fact that he’s absurdly superstitious and has no apparent competencies at the start of the movie, and by the end he’s still absurdly superstitious and has no apparent competencies.
  • On the plus side, Bianca does get to save Bernard a couple of times.
  • Having an orphan girl who just wants to be adopted be the person who needs rescuing is manipulative and melodramatic; having the lesson she learns from her experience be that with enough faith anything can happen is a cruel, false message that encourages an attitude of blind hopefulness without any sort of epistemological foundation.
  • An entire swarm of bats would not camp out all day just to have a chance at catching one dragonfly hiding inside a bottle.  I call shenanigans.
  • The real reason Bernard gets picked to go on this adventure is because he represents an important cultural myth: the hapless nice guy who deserves to catch a break.  Yes, Bernard gets thrown into this mess because he has a cultural right to be the hero of something worthwhile.  Let’s not get into yet another discussion of how this trope reinforces attitudes of entitlement in privileged classes.

The Rescuers is a low point in Disney’s animated canon.  It has some merits as a small story with low stakes (put on your nostalgia glasses and marvel at a film from bygone decades that wasn’t trying to be the BIGGEST THING EVER), but it lacks the visual pop that other Disney movies usually have.  The animation can be very lovely, but I’m just not a fan of the drab palette.

Of course, my opinion’s worth pretty much nil, since this was the first Disney movie to receive a direct theatrical sequel.

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