Adapted from the Margery Sharp books Miss Bianca and The Rescuers, this 1977 full-length animated feature took four years to make. It was worth the work, as the film turned out to be Disney’s most profitable picture in a long time. Some reviewers called it the best film that Disney had produced since Mary Poppins (1964). A staff of over 250 worked on The Rescuers. Forty of them were strictly animators.
In the film, the evil Madame Medusa has kidnapped an orphan named Penny, with plans to use her to get her hands on a diamond. Penny sends for help by using a message in a bottle. That bottle is found by the International Rescue Aid Society. The IRAS is a group of mice located in the basement of the UN. Soon rescuers Bianca and Bernard are off to rescue Penny. The mice are aided by a cat named Rufus, Orville, a bird of the Albatross Air Charter Service, and Evinrude the dragonfly.
The film was directed by John Lounsbury, Wolfgang Reitherman and Art Stevens. Animators included Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Milt Kahl and Don Bluth. Among the vocal talent were Eva Gabor, Geraldine Page, Bob Newhart and Jim Jordan (of Fibber McGee and Molly radio fame). The music was composed by Carol Connors, Sammy Fain and Ayn Robbins. The song Someone’s Waiting for You was nominated for an Academy Award.
Ultimately, The Rescuers was so successful that it inspired Disney’s first sequel: The Rescuers Down Under, which was released theatrically in 1990.
Merchandise for both films included books, puzzles and records.