Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Living In Interesting Times

Began a sunny, bright morning with a quick breakfast and Alice In Wonderland. This Peter Pan LP from the 70's is a condensed musical version of the classic fantasy novel. Alice is a normal kid who gets caught up in some pretty wild adventures, from playing croquet with a flamingo for a mallet and a hedgehog for a ball to listening to a Mock Turtle tell her about his school days. Some of the songs here are rather well-done for a children's album. My favorites are the dreamy title number and "The Queen Has Commanded" during the croquet game, as Alice tries to figure out how to deal with the Queen of Hearts' bouts of temper.

Work was...interesting. While I mostly spent the first half of the day outside doing carts and the second half doing returns and and emptying trash cans, what happened in between was a little more exciting. I found a dead beaver on the parking lot. Don't ask me how he managed to drag himself from the creek on the other side of Audubon Park and across several streets. One of the morning cashiers helped me get rid of him. I also cleaned up after a flood in the men's bathroom.

Read a chapter of The Wizard of London when I got home to cool off, then went into today's writing session. Luke heads off to Wally "Wedge" Antilles, a British pilot working for the rebels who'll take him and Artie to San Francisco. Harry takes Leia, Clarence, and Charel on his plane, escaping at the last minute as the Rogue One rebels take on the Imperial troops.

Broke a bit earlier than usual, at 5:30. I wanted to finally start cleaning. I put it off for way too long. The bathroom was gross, especially the sink and bathtub. Finished that, then made that black bean dip for dinner. Used the tomato sauce that's been around for a while in place of diced or sliced tomatoes. Yum! It actually came out really well, melding nicely with the vegetables, Monterrey Jack cheese, and taco sauce.

Ran The Rescuers as I worked and ate my meal. We're introduced to Bianca (Eva Gabor), the Hungarian agent for the Rescue Aid Society, a kind of mouse United Nations, as the organization reveals a message in a bottle. An orphaned girl (Michelle Stacy) was kidnapped by a pair of greedy pawn shop owners, Madame Medusa (Geraldine Page) and Mr. Snoops (Joe Flynn), who want her to crawl into a cave and find a huge diamond. Bianca selects Bernard (Bob Newhart), the Society's nervous janitor, as her partner in finding the girl. Bernard's not too sure about this, especially when getting down south requires riding an albatross (Jim Jordan) with dubious flying ability. Bianca's more optimistic, but even she has her doubts when they're faced with the nasty Medusa and her mouse-chasing alligators. It'll take all their wits and resources, as well as the help of several local bayou critters, to chase Medusa out of the swamp and rescue Penny and the diamond.

Moved on to Lego Clone Wars as soon as I finished eating. Did "Ambush!" and "Duel of the Droids" again. Found one more piece in the former and three more in the latter. I'm still having problems with the final bounty hunter mini-round. I just can't get Cad and Jango to fly high enough to throw the last thermal detonator.

Finished the night after a shower with the second Rescuers film, The Rescuers Down Under. This time, Bernard and Bianca fly with Wilbur the Albatross (John Candy), brother of Orville, to Australia to investigate the disappearance of Cody (Adam Ryen), a boy who is especially close to a rare golden eagle. The boy was captured by Percival C. McLeach (George C. Scott) and his pet goanna lizard Joanna (Frank Welker), who hope to use him as bait to trap the beautiful bird. The Rescuers are aided by Australian agent Jake (Tristan Rogers), a rugged kangaroo mouse who helps them find their way across the outback. He also flirts with Bianca, to the frustration of Bernard, who wants to ask her to marry him. The trio have to figure out how to get past McLeach without revealing where the golden eagle is, while Wilbur deals with a group of medical mice whose idea of back surgery would look more appropriate in a horror film.

Both Rescuers films are among the most underrated Disney ever made, and are high on my list of all-time favorite Disney movies. The first film was a huge hit in 1977; the second was a surprise flop in 1990. Both have excellent casts having a great time with the material, some enjoyable action sequences, and two of the darkest and most hissable villains in the entire Disney line-up in McLeach and Medusa. While the animation hasn't dated that well in the first film, it looks magnificent in the second. Rescuers Down Under was the first film to be shot entirely digital, without the use of a regular camera. The artwork is downright glowing, especially in the amazing flight sequences.

I suspect the second film ran into the same problem as Treasure Planet over a decade later; audiences were too conditioned to expect a typical light-hearted musical in the early 90's, especially after the runaway success of The Little Mermaid a year earlier. It also ran into stiff competition from a far more beloved family film, Home Alone.

Many critics at the time questioned the plot, complaining that it was too dark or convoluted, and that the Rescuers themselves don't appear until a third of the way in, and Disney itself pulled its marketing when it became obvious it was going to bomb. Nowadays, it's seen as something of a minor cult favorite among people who grew up in the early and mid-90's and got to catch it on home video. If you have older kids who enjoy animal stories ala Zootopia or action tales, they may want to sign up with Bernard, Bianca, and the Rescue Aid Society, too.

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