the plot of Walt Disney’s animated film Oliver
and Company (1988) feels or sounds familiar, it should. It is loosely based upon Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist but this titular character
is not a beggar sent to London. This
time around, he’s a cute little kitten set about the busy streets of New York
City and tries his best to fit in and survive.
He is “befriended” by Dodger, an older dog who is streetwise and gets
Oliver to aid him in scoring food while keeping the goods for himself. Oliver is understandably miffed by this, but
these are the mean streets of New York, after all. He learns a valuable lesson about trusting
others who appear to want to help him. Dodger
is owned by Fagin and is part of a gang comprised of Tito (a Chihuahua), Francis (a Bulldog), Einstein (a Great
Dane), and Rita (a Saluki). Fagin owes
money to Sykes, a loan shark who intimidates him with two Doberman Pinschers to
keep him in line, and is given three days to pay back the money he borrowed (which
he certainly didn’t spend on accoutrements).
In an effort to score some quick cash to help Fagin, Oliver and Tito
attempt to burglarize a limousine, only to be caught by a very young girl,
Jenny Foxworth, and Winston her Butler. Jenny
epitomizes the Disney “lonely child” (think of Penny from “The Rescuers”) and
takes Oliver home. Jenny is the victim
of rich parents who simply don’t have time for, as they are too busy
gallivanting the world. She also has a poodle, Georgette, who truly is a
stuck-up bitch and becomes extremely jealous of Oliver. She wants him out of the house, and is only
too happy to oblige when Dodger and his friends come to “rescue” Oliver who
confesses that he was actually happy living with Penny and the comforts her
home afforded him. Shocked and disappointed at this revelation, Dodger shrugs
off Oliver and tells him to leave. This,
of course, leaves us with Fagin who gets wind of the fact that Oliver was with
a rich family. His wheels begin to turn and he schemes to put out a ransom for
Oliver in an effort to reimburse Sykes. This
sets up a series of misadventures and misunderstandings that culminate in the
usual Disney happy ending.
on Friday, November 18, 1988, Oliver and Company
was met with a lukewarm response. I must
admit to being taken aback by some of the lackluster critical notices towards
this film. A lot have carped of the
predictable nature of the story and that the songs don't measure up to previous
Disney outings. While I will admit that
the style of animation is much different than the Disney masterpieces (the
reputable Nine Old Men who were responsible for the most well-known Disney
cartoons of all-time were by this time retired), this is the first Disney
cartoon to utilize computers for the background animation designs. If the movie seems predictable, it is due to
the fact that it's based upon a well-known piece of literature that has been
read and studied for decades. Besides,
the film is geared towards children who are probably are at an age where they
are completely unfamiliar with the story’s literary origins. It cannot help but feel familiar to adults
and it should not be cast aside due to this fact. Most of the animals are appealing, and there
is a humorous shot early on in the film where familiar dogs from past Disney
cartoons, specifically Lady and the Tramp
(1955), are seen on the streets of New York. Disney enthusiasts will pick this up right
of the characters are nicely drawn. Children will love the interaction between
animals. Georgia is an interesting creation, and her disposition mirrors that
of the female dog in Friz Freleng’s 1942 cartoon Ding Dog Daddy who sarcastically shrugs off a goofy dog who asks
her out, turning her nose up at him and walking off.
film also sports a handful of musical numbers by Billy Joel, Bette Midler, and
Oliver and Company is now available in
a DVD and Blu-ray combo. Needless to say, it looks splendid in high definition. The discs include trailers for the upcoming
DVD and Blu-ray combo of The Little
Mermaid which will be released in October 2013 in addition to an admonition
against the smoking effects of secondhand smoke.
discs are very light on the bonus features and they include:
The Making of Oliver
a vintage featurette that runs 5:31 and is presented in standard definition. It
spends much of its time discussing not only the cast involved in the creation
of the characters and songs (such as Cheech Marin, Billy Joel and Bette Midler),
but also takes a very interesting look at what was then state-of-the-art
computerized animation. This is not animation in the original sense of the
word, but rather using a computer to make changes in perspective within the
confines of animation cells in the film frame. The hardware was very big and
bulky at the time and the software looks extremely archaic to our eyes 25 years
hence, but it got the job done.
Disney's Animated Animals runs 89 seconds in
length and is a quick overview of the anthropomorphized animals that are
featured in the film.
Lend a Paw is an animated short
produced by Disney released theatrically by RKO Radio Pictures on October 3,
1941. It runs 8:08 and is included due to the fact that it is thematically
similar to Oliver and Company.
Puss Café is a Disney cartoon
that was released theatrically on June 9, 1950 and runs 7:11. It concerns similar themes in that Pluto is
up against a group of cats who are attempting to steal food.
discs also include both the television and theatrical trailers.