Getting Animated: “The Rescuers” (1977)

Actors Michelle Stacy and Geraldine Page lend their voices to the characters of Penny and Madame Medusa in Disney’s “The Rescuers” (1977)

Before television, there was radio; and with radio came actors who were trained within the theater and learned to use their voices to act through radio. They painted a picture of the character using the words and vocal inflections and sounds that made that person come alive to the audience. Animated films have always been popular, ever since the early days of Disney shorts and Warner Brothers’ Looney Toons. Without a doubt, Disney changed the market for animated films completely. Well-known stage and film  actors were able to lend their voices to characters on screen without getting all glammed up in the process. When television came along, so did the birth of the “Saturday Morning Cartoon.” I still remember, even when I was a kid, the old-school Looney Toons and Disney cartoons that flooded the airwaves.

As an actor, nowadays, if you have a little bit of success, at some point, you WILL lend your voice to an animated film. Just look at Cameron Diaz with the Shrek franchise, or Mandy Moore with Disney’s Tangled. Not to mention the mega-success of Toy Story (featuring Tim Allen &  Tom Hanks, among others.) Animated films give an actor the freedom to do as many takes as necessary without even having to get out of their  pajamas. Personally, I would love to get into voice work. My friend and mentor, Eileen Galindo, directed me in Trailerville. She is actually the voice of Dora the Explorer’s mother. How cool is that?

One of the films that I loved growing up was 1977’s The Rescuers. I would borrow the VHS tape from the library and rent it from the video store on countless occasions, so when I saw it was available to stream on Netflix, I wanted to re-visit my childhood. My most vivid memory of watching this movie comes when I was in my aunt’s basement in the little living room down there. I was so enthralled by this story, I didn’t want it to end.

As I got older, and got into acting, and noticed who different actors were, I was surprised at this cast list. In this film, the voices of Bob Newhart, Eva Gabor, and Geraldine Page are heard throughout. Growing up, this meant nothing to me. But now it does have meaning. Geraldine Page was one of the actors whose face I would stare at everyday as I walked the halls of Circle in the Square Theatre School. Scenes from Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke will forever live in my photographic memory.

The trailer: Two mice of the Rescue Aid Society search for a little girl kidnapped by unscrupulous treasure hunters.

Some of my most favorite films just happen to be animated ones. It doesn’t diminish their value, it adds to their worth. We as audience members are able to use our imaginations more freely and bring out our inner child. I”d love to do an animated movie one day.

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