ANIMATION SPIN
September 6, 2016 posted by

Disney’s “The Rescuers” on Records

The animated feature that was as an artistic bridge between two animation eras is also a recording that in many ways did the same thing for Disneyland Records.

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Walt Disney Productions’ Story and Songs from
THE RESCUERS

Disneyland Records #1369 (LP Only / 1977)
Disneyland Storyteller LP #3816 (With 11-Page Book) (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono / 1977)

Album Producer / Adaptation: Jymn Magon. Story: Larry Clemmons, Ken Anderson, Frank Thomas, Vance Gerry, David Michener, Ted Berman, Fred Lucky, Burny Mattinson, Dick Sebast. Musical Score: Artie Butler. Running Time: 35 minutes.

Voices: Bob Holt (Narrator); Bob Newhart (Bernard); Eva Gabor (Bianca – Speaking Voice); Robie Lester (Bianca – Singing Voice); Geraldine Page (Madame Medusa); Joe Flynn (Mr. Snoops); Bernard Fox (Chairman); John McIntyre (Rufus); Jim Jordan (Orville); Jim Macdonald (Evinrude); Jeannette Nolan (Ellie Mae); Pat Buttram (Luke); George Linsday; Michelle Stacy (Penny); Shelby Flint (Soloist).
Songs: “The Journey,” “Rescue Aid Society,” “Tomorrow is Another Day” by Carol Connors, Ayn Robbins; “Something’s Waiting for You” by Sammy Fain, Carol Connors, Ayn Robbins.

rescuers-one-sheetTo animation and/or Disney enthusiasts, The Rescuers is notable for being the transitional film between the original Disney artists and the new guard. It also is considered a creative break from the gradual sameness (however delightful) of the previous three features: Robin Hood, The Aristocats and The Jungle Book.

From an audio perspective, The Rescuers is a combination of both. There is a similarity in the casting of actors (however fine) that came largely from rural comedies of the ’60s and a “what worked before” formula (that almost again included Phil Harris). Archie comics fans might note that Michelle Stacy, the voice of Penny, played L’il Jinx in an unsold primetime Archie live-action pilot in the mid-‘70s.

Musically, there is evidence of an attempt at a slightly different sound. The score by Artie Butler (Sinatra, The Bugaloos) is noticeably different than those in previous Disney animated features, making use (but not overuse) of electronic instrumentation of the period.

The studio sought Oscar nominees Carol Connors and Ayn Robbins to add a contemporary feel to the score, while keeping it within the comfortable “Disney” of the era. Sammy Fain, who gave us such classic Disney songs as “Alice in Wonderland” and “You Can Fly,” collaborated with the team on the Oscar-nominated “Someone’s Waiting for You.” And Shelby Flint, who was such a musical presence in’70s animation (Snoopy, Come Home and Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July), sings three of the four songs off screen. Perhaps the song most remember best is “Rescue Aid Society,” which features Robie Lester’s pitch-perfect singing for Bianca.

rescuers-lobbycardNarrating the record—which was released with and without a book — is veteran actor Bob Holt, who voiced the Codfish in Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks and countless characters for Hanna-Barbera (including the Great Grape Ape), Ralph Bakshi (notably as Avatar in 1977’s Wizards) and for DePatie-Freleng (as The Dogfather and Hoot Kloot; in the Doctor Dolittle series and in several Dr. Seuss specials). Holt continued to record albums and read-alongs for Disneyland Records for several years following this album, having already cut over a dozen Disneyland Little Golden Book sets.

The Rescuers was the Storyteller debut of Disney innovator Jymn Magon, who wrote and produced all those Little Golden Disney book and record sets and ushered in a “second golden age” for the label with Mickey Mouse Disco and a library of new records featuring Disney characters and other properties from Rankin/Bass, Spielberg and LucasFilm.

rescuers-storey-albumLike the best Storyteller albums of any era, The Rescuers combines background music with soundtrack dialogue and sound effects. Some of those elements had been missing from several dialogue albums of the ’60s and ’70s.

Starting with The Rescuers, Magon also introduced a new format to Disneyland 7-inch book and record read-along sets that is used to this day. Since 1965, the readers (Robie Lester or Lois Lane) read solo from texts taken directly from the Golden pages. Magon decided to adapt them more fittingly for audio, omitting such phrases as “he said” and “she replied” and allowing the context of the surrounding text to indicate which character was going to speak. After The Rescuers, Magon reformatted most of the classic Disney read-along sets with full casts, music and sound effects (collectors can tell the difference between the pre- and post-1977 editions by the look of the little book and record in the top left of the front covers).

My only quibble with this album is that the songs are not complete. “Rescue Aid Society” is cut and the other three songs simply fade out. This decision was based on the idea that, as a story album, the songs were secondary. That would have been fine had there been another recording giving listeners more of the song content, but that did not happen until Ovation Records released the box set, The Magical Music of Walt Disney.


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GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“The Journey”

The Rescuers is one of the more highly regarded of the post-Walt features, but its score gets little attention. This spectacular piece — accompanying a series of pastels depicting Penny’s message-in-a-bottle going from the bayou to New York — is a fine example of music and voice having a major effect on the dramatic mood.


"The Rescuers" UK vinyl LP album

“The Rescuers” UK vinyl LP album

6 Comments

  • One song I remember from The Rescuers was the Oscar Nominated song Someone Waiting for You in which Penny being held against her will by Madame Medusa looking tearfully at the other animals with thier young in the Bayou. This and The Journey and Tommorow is Another Day was rereleased on the soundtrack The Rescuers Down Under. There’s another album called The Lost Courds:The Rescuers that featured several “lost” songs from The Rescuers that somehow didn’t make the cut of the original soundtrack.

  • Nice article. Artie Butler’s good score for THE RESCUERS is often overlooked; it adds dimension and atmosphere to the movie.

    I would respectfully point out, though, that Carol Connors and Ayn Robbins never did actually win an Academy Award. They were twice nominated — for the lyrics of “Gotta Fly Now” (from ROCKY; music by Bill Conti) and for the lyrics for “Someone’s Waiting for You” (music by Sammy Fain) from THE RESCUERS.

  • The songs from “The Rescuers” are a departure for Disney. There is a spiritual quality to them that is different from anything that had preceded them. In fact, “Someone’s Waiting for You” has been performed in church services, sometimes with the lyrics altered to “Someone’s Praying for You”.

    One of the best recordings of “Someone’s Waiting for You” is on Barbara Cook’s Disney Album. I’m hoping that album will get reviewed here, because it is a gem and a tour-de-force performance.

    A more complete version of “Tomorrow is Another Day” is on the aforementioned Ovation Records release. It’s a shame it isn’t presented completely on this album, because it would have made for a stronger finish instead of fading out so soon. It’s another beautiful ballad that offers hope for the future.

    “The Rescuers” is more linear and straightforward than most of the Disney animated films of the previous two decades–it is the most story-driven feature since “101 Dalmatians”. Madame Medusa is not as effective a villainess as either Cruella de Vil or Mad Madam Mim–her motivation is purely selfish and not elaborated enough for us to really get to know her. And it’s hard to feel sorry for Penny, simply because the thrust of the story is to force us to feel sorry for her–and she is not a fully realized character, only a person who needs rescuing. The characters of Bernard and Miss Bianca, on the other hand, are much better developed. Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor were extremely popular at the time, so they were good choices to play the roles. The scenes with Bernard and Miss Bianca are the strongest in the film.

    Part of the delight of the film is in the logistics–showing how the bottle gets from Penny into the hands of the Rescue Aid Society, showing how Bernard and Miss Bianca have to look for clues, and finally showing how they manage to journey all the way to the bayou country. The Albatross is another engaging character.

    However, nothing beats the original stories by Margery Sharp. If you haven’t read them and only know the Disney version, you’re in for some surprises and more than a few delights.

  • Wow, if issued as part of the DISNEY LEGACY collection, I would buy this soundtrack. I have to admit, I’ve never seen this movie, but it is noteworthy as, perhaps, the first Disney production without Uncle Walt. is the LEGACY COLLECTION going to continue? Beyond this, I would love to get a set devoted to the soundtrack to “SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS”, if it is possible to create such a set.

    • The first feature made entirely without Walt was the 1973 animated “Robin Hood.” It was a project cooked up by the remaining Nine Old Men after completion of “The Aristocats” which had received Walt’s go-ahead before he passed. I believe Ken Anderson and Woolie Reitherman were largely responsible for developing the concept and the characters for the 1973 film.

  • I have this record! “The Journey” is such a haunting and moving song. I love how Disneyland Storyteller albums like this one used the voices from the films instead of using new actors.

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