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Rescuers Down Under

Words and Photos care of Mike Gabriel.

Rescuers Down Under Research trip to Australia. We were the first animation crew at Disney to demand we go to the actual country and do the research before making the film. The studio naturally looked at this as an unnecessary boondogle since it had never been done as far as I know. I vowed to pay my own way if I had to. Peter Schneider relented—or should I say Jeffrey Katzenberg must have relented—-or should I say Michael Eisner must have relented— and allowed us two weeks to explore the continent of Australia. A great experience. This is Joe Ranft, Joe’s first head of story opportunity, and Maurice (Pixote Hunt) our art director at Uluru or Ayres Rock in the middle of the outback.

Co-director Hendel Butoy and Maurice Hunt getting ready for our sightseeing tour of northern Kakadu region. It was muggy, very tropical heat and Maurice and Hendel took video through some pretty rough air and spins for better views. Maurice is holding up a can of Ginger beer which was supposed to help stave off the nausea. It didn’t. Hendel preferred the little bag method of returned goods. Maurice wasn’t the same for the remainder of the trip. Producer Tom Schumacher remained motionless in the very back of this small plane, practically in the tail, with his eyes closed, meditating on happy thoughts

With Hendel and Maurice still feeling under the weather from the plane ride from hell, Tom, Joe and I took a sunset stroll down a path through the billabong, (swamp.) We thought we would come out back around to the hotel grounds. After about 40 minutes of walking and it getting darker and darker with no sign of anybody else the entire walk, and now in a pickle as to what direction to head in, back the way we came or forward into pitch darkness and who knows what— when suddenly a man wearing all white riding a bicycle rode gently past us and said quietly as he passed “I’d head back if I were you.” We did and barely made it back to the hotel grounds by absolutely the barest of light left in the sky. The ground was completely dark by then and we heard incredibly loud and large crunching thumping going on all around us in the dense trees. Never clear on whether those were crocodiles or not, or whether that was a bicycle pedaling angel or not who saved our lives that night.

We got stuck driving through a dry river bed looking at all the natural pigments the aboriginals made their paints out of. I will never forget the fun of driving through the wide open outback turning down a dirt road piling down a steep dry cliff into the dry river bed—getting stuck– and coming out going straight at what looked like a wall but those Nissans went straight up the wall and out the other side. Oh yeah, and the natural sedimentary pigments were cool too.

Typical Los Angeles blue noses. Joe Ranft and Maurice Hunt at the hotel near Uluru where we stayed both with the proper local sunscreen on their proper local noses.

My buddy Tom Schumacher feeling the hot winds blowing through the Olgas, a mountain range we used in the opening shot of Rescuers Down Under as the camera zips over the flowers to Cody’s house.

Joe holding up a caricature of Tom I drew on board one of the four plane rides we took that day going from Darwin to Sydney.

Thank you Mike Gabriel for sharing your photos of a time when we were Drawn2gether.


Posted by admin at 8.27 AM | 1 Comment
Labels: 1989, 1990 Rescuers Down Under, Directors


  1. Valerio Ventura (August 11th, 2008, 6.46 pm)

    Thanks Mike! These are great and the memories are great for us too… Ciao! Valerio (& Gay)

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