Disney Cartoon Bares Too Much -- Videos Recalled For Eyeblink Of Nudity

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In the animated Disney movie "The Rescuers," a pair of intrepid mice attempts to rescue a girl from Madame Medusa, the evil swamp woman who has kidnapped her in an attempt to find a fabulous diamond.

There's color. There's action. There's delightful music.

There's also a pair of naked breasts.

The discovery of a brief, virtually undetectable glimpse of the (human) female anatomy in video versions of "The Rescuers" prompted an embarrassed Walt Disney Co. yesterday to take an unprecedented step. It recalled all 3.4 million copies of the video that it has distributed to stores in recent days. Consumers can get refunds or corrected copies.

The reason, according to a brief Disney press release, is that the movie contains "an objectionable background image."

Disney officials declined to say publicly what the image was. Pressed for details, a spokeswoman, Claudia Peters, vaguely and primly insisted it was "an image that does not belong in a children's video."

Perhaps not, considering that the image in question is a photograph of the torso of a nude woman, according to company sources and animation experts. The photo appears in the window of a building during a scene early in the movie in which the two mouse characters take flight on the back of a seagull.

Unless one goes looking for it, the photograph is nearly impossible to see. It appears for only two frames, which is less than an eye blink in the course of a 77-minute movie containing 110,000 frames. Disney sources say the image was inserted into the movie by an unknown employee during production in 1976 or early 1977.

The film premiered in 1977 and apparently no one noticed, even when it returned to the theaters in 1983 and 1989.

An earlier video release of the film in 1992 did not contain the two offending frames, because it was made from a master copy of the film that did not contain them. But the one that has just hit the stores does.

Earlier this week, however, an anonymous animator with a VCR capable of playing videos frame by frame spotted the photo; a posting to an Internet discussion group for animators eventually tipped off Disney.

Disney declined to say what the recall will cost, although it says it took the action to "keep its promise to families that they can trust and rely on the Disney brand to provide the finest in family entertainment."

The recall is a first for Disney, although conservative religious groups claim other animated features have included risque words or images. The company has denied the allegations in each case, calling them misperceptions.

In 1995 the Virginia-based American Life League urged a recall of "The Lion King," arguing that in one scene rising clouds of dust spelled the word "sex."

The group also wanted Disney to excise portions of "Aladdin" and "The Little Mermaid." In "Mermaid," the group said, a minister becomes aroused during a wedding ceremony and in "Aladdin" the title character purportedly mumbles a phrase urging teenagers to remove their clothes.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.