The Adventures of Bianca and Bernie (1977)
The Adventures of Bianca & Bernie, a 1977 film, stands in the glorious tradition of Disney animated feature films as the 23rd classic, shining with its creativity, style and humor. Produced by Walt Disney Productions and distributed by Buena Vista, the film is a wonderful animated adventure comedy that has touched audiences around the world.
A Society of Savior Mice
The Adventures of Bianca and Bernie tells the story of the International Rescue Society, a New York-based organization of mice whose mission is to rescue kidnapping victims around the world. Two members of this very noble society, the refined Miss Bianca and her anxious companion Bernie, undertake a mission to free Penny, a young orphan, from the imprisonment of the treasure hunter Madame Medusa in the "Devil's Swamp".
The Star Cast
With the voices of Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor lending their craft to Bernie and Bianca respectively, the film manages to create memorable characters with plenty of depth. Little Penny, voiced by Michelle Stacy, becomes the symbol of innocence and hope, while the treasure hunters, played by Geraldine Page and Joe Flynn, represent threat and greed.
The Literary Origin
Based on a series of books by Margery Sharp, including “Miss Bianca at Castle Black” (1959) and “The Adventures of Bianca and Bernie” (1962), the film transports viewers to an animated world where mice can be heroes and adventures are the order of the day. The literary context adds another layer of depth and complexity to the plot, making viewing a rich and rewarding experience.
Development and Success
Creation of the film began in 1962, but was initially shelved due to Walt Disney's reservations regarding the project's political undertones. Revived in the 70s as a project for younger animators, it finally saw the intervention of the senior animation staff after the release of Robin Hood in 1973. Four years of intensive work led to the creation of this masterpiece.
On June 22, 1977, The Adventures of Bianca & Bernie made its theatrical debut, earning critical and popular acclaim, grossing $48 million against a budget of $7.5 million in its initial box office run. Thanks to two re-releases in 1983 and 1989, the film achieved a total gross of $169 million.
A Distinctive Sign
The Adventures of Bianca and Bernie also remained in history for being the first Disney animated film to have a sequel, “Bianca and Bernie in Kangaroo Country”, released in 1990, thus consolidating its position as a milestone in the filmography Disney.
The Adventures of Bianca & Bernie is a film that, through its compelling narrative and lovable characters, reminds us of the power of friendship and courage. It is a story that, despite being set in a fantasy world, resonates with universal human truths, making us reflect on our responsibility towards others and the value of solidarity.
In the wild landscape of Devil's Swamp, Louisiana, a little orphan named Penny desperately sends out a message in a bottle, a cry for help. This bottle, after a tumultuous journey, arrives in New York in the hands of the International Rescue Society, an organization of international rats. Miss Bianca, the representative of Hungary, courageously offers to take the case and chooses Bernie, a shy usher, as her co-agent.
Leaving for Penny's orphanage, the two befriend an old cat, Rufus, who informs them of one Madame Medusa, a sinister character who had tried to lure Penny. Determined, the mice investigate Medusa's pawn shop and uncover her diabolical plan. Medusa, with her accomplice, Mr. Snoops, is looking for the enormous diamond called "The Devil's Eye", and has kidnapped Penny to take advantage of her small size to access a secret cave and recover it.
Bianca and Bernie, with the help of an albatross named Orville and a dragonfly, Evinrude, chase Medusa to the swamp. There, they discover that Medusa wants to force Penny to retrieve the diamond from a blocked pirate cave. Despite the difficulties and threats, the two mice, together with Penny, devise a daring escape plan. Evinrude, despite the difficulties, warns the other swamp animals, who deeply detest Medusa, and chaos begins in which Penny, Bianca and Bernie manage to escape with the diamond, leaving Medusa and Mr. Snoops in a critical situation.
After a thrilling escape in Medusa's craft, our heroes return to New York, where Penny is finally adopted, and the Devil's Eye is delivered to the Smithsonian Institution. The International Rescue Society, satisfied, promotes Bernie and, interrupted by a new cry for help, Bianca and Bernie set off on another adventure, demonstrating that courage and friendship can overcome any obstacle.
Bernie is the usher of the Rescue Society, a clumsy and fearful character, with a fear of the number 13 and with an unrequited love for Miss Bianca, an elegant little mouse and representative of Hungary at the Rescue Society. The latter, with an adventurous and altruistic nature, chooses Bernie as a co-agent in the mission to save little Penny, an unfortunate orphan who has been kidnapped by the evil Madame Medusa.
Madame Medusa she is a greedy and eccentric woman, owner of a pawn shop in New York and the main antagonist of the film. Her obsession is the legendary “Devil's Eye” diamond, for which she has kidnapped Penny, the only one small enough to reach the place where the diamond is hidden. Medusa has two pet crocodiles, Brutus and Nero, who, despite being spoiled, are often mistreated by her.
Penny she is a sad and lonely little girl, convinced that no one will ever want to adopt her. She is very attached to her stuffed bear, Chicco, and to the elderly orphanage cat, Rufus, who gives her comfort in moments of sadness. Little Penny is the driving force behind the film's events, seeking help through a message in a bottle that will later be found by the Rescue Society.
The film is colored with secondary but no less important characters such as Snoops, Medusa's naive and narrow-minded helper, who hopes for a profit from the sale of the diamond, and Orville, a ramshackle albatross who offers a ride to Miss Bianca and Bernie. There are also Ellie Mother e Luke, two mice from the Devil's swamp, who will help the protagonists on their journey, and Evinrude, a dragonfly that leads the way through the swamp.
Finally, the film also takes us to the orphanage where Rufus, the elderly cat, gives words of wisdom and hope, bringing out the theme of faith, an essential element of the plot. Despite his brief appearance, Rufus proves to be a key character, inspiring Miss Bianca and Bernie to search for and rescue Penny.
The context is characterized by contrasting places, from the glittering New York, with its skyscrapers and lights, to the Devil's Swamp, a dark and mysterious place, refuge of the evil Medusa. The plot unfolds between daring rescues, frenetic chases and moments of sweetness and reflection, creating an exciting and engaging adventure.
The film “The Adventures of Bianca and Bernie” has deep origins and a troubled development path, drawing inspiration from Margery Sharp's books, in particular “The Rescuers” and “Miss Bianca”. In 1959, “The Rescuers” achieved considerable success, and in 1962 Disney acquired the rights to turn it into a film. Despite this, the film adaptation underwent numerous changes and revisions, so much so that the project was shelved several times before its actual realization.
Initially, the plot centered on a Norwegian poet unjustly imprisoned in a stronghold resembling Siberia, called “Black Castle”. However, Walt Disney decided to put the project aside, not liking the political connotations that the story was acquiring, moving the setting from a Siberian stronghold to Cuba, then to an Arctic environment, and finally to the United States. In an attempt to renew the story, several changes were made in the characters and contexts, always maintaining the central idea of the rescue of an unjustly imprisoned victim by the protagonists, two little mice called Bernard and Bianca.
Louis Prima was originally cast as a polar bear named Louis the Bear, but the project was scrapped due to his illness. The story underwent further changes, including the replacement of the main villain, the transformation of the characters, and the creation of new environmental and narrative contexts.
A central point of the film is the struggle to free the “Devil's Eye diamond” from a pirate skull, a sequence carefully crafted to heighten the tension. The film also saw the transformation of the villainous Cruella de Vil into Madame Medusa, a character inspired by animator Milt Kahl's ex-wife. Medusa became Kahl's final animated creature, and he wanted her final character to be her best, so much so that he did nearly all of the character's animation himself.
Despite initial obstacles and changes in direction, “The Adventures of Bianca & Bernie” eventually found its place as a Disney classic, featuring unique characters and a compelling plot. The making of this film represented an important transitional moment for the studio, leading to a collaboration between new talent and veteran animators, and served as a bridge between the old and new generations of Disney artists. Additionally, thanks to technological improvements in the xerography process, artists were able to create smoother, more detailed lines than in previous films, elevating the aesthetic quality of the film.
The film's production was not without tragedy; John Lounsbery, one of the co-directors, died of a heart attack during the film's production. But despite all the difficulties encountered, “The Adventures of Bianca & Bernie” has become an iconic work, the result of years of creative effort and technical innovation, and an emblem of Disney's ongoing commitment to creating compelling stories and unforgettable characters.
- Original language: English
- Country of Production: United States of America
- Year: 1977
- Duration: 78 minutes
- Report: 1,66:1
- Gender: Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Drama
- Directed by: Wolfgang Reitherman, John Lounsbery, Art Stevens
- Subject: Margery Sharp
- Film script: Larry Clemmons, Ken Anderson, Frank Thomas, Vance Gerry, David Michener, Ted Berman, Fred Lucky, Burny Mattinson, Dick Sebast
- Producer: Wolfgang Reithermann
- Executive producer: Ron W. Miller
- Production house: Walt Disney Productions
- Distribution in Italian: CIC
- Mounting: James Melton, James Koford
- Music: Artie Butler
- art director: Don Griffith
Animators and Artists
- Animators: Ollie Johnston, Milt Kahl, Frank Thomas, Don Bluth, John Pomeroy, Cliff Nordberg, Andy Gaskill, Gary Goldman, Art Stevens, Dale Bear, Chuck Harvey, Ron Clements, Bob McCrea, Bill Hajee, Glen Keane, Jack Buckley, Ted Kierscey , Dorse A. Lanpher, James L. George, Dick Lucas, Heidi Guedel, Ron Husband, Dick Sebast
- Wallpapers: Al Dempster, Jim Coleman, Ann Guenther, Daniela Bielecka
Cast (Original Voices)
- Bob Newhart: Bernie
- Eva Gabor: Miss Bianca
- Geraldine Page: Madame Medusa
- Joe Flynn: Mr. Snoops
- Jeanette Nolan: Ellie Mae
- Pat Buttram: Luke
- Jim Jordan: Orville
- John McIntire: Rufus
- Michelle Stacy: Penny
- Bernard Fox: president
- Larry Clemmons: Grandfather
- James MacDonald: Evinrude
- George Lindsey: rabbit
- Bill McMillian: TV presenter
- Dub Taylor: Digger
- John Fiedler: owl
Italian voice actors
- Marcello Tusco: Bernie
- Melina Martello: Miss Bianca
- Ada Maria Serra Zanetti: Madame Medusa
- Gianni Bonagura: Mr. Snoops
- Liu Bosisio: Ellie Mae
- Franco Latini: Luke
- Silvio Spaccesi: Orville
- Roberto Bertea: Rufus
- Davide Lepore: Penny
- Alberto Lionello: president