Pixar has stepped in over the past decade to team with Disney and make some of the greatest and most memorable animated films of all time. But before computer-generated graphics were brought to the forefront and took over anything and everything, there was a world of hand-drawn animation that brought us classics that so many of us can never forget. Aladdin and Pinocchio. Beauty and the Beast and The Jungle Book. Let’s not forget The Lion King and Peter Pan as well because they are Disney greats that have changed the way of the animated film. But we also can’t forget that for every brilliant release comes a bad or mediocre cartoon flick that gets thrown into the mix as well. Sadly, Oliver falls into that particular category.
Oliver is a young kitten that happens to wander the streets because he is an orphan. He doesn’t really have much to do with himself and isn’t quite up to date on the ways of the world until he runs into a pack of dogs from the wrong side of the tracks. They are all working for a human named Fagin and appease him by pickpocketing people and bringing their haul back. Fagin needs the money they bring back to him in order to pay off a large debt to Sykes, a rather intimidating loan shark.
Oliver soon learns the tricks of the trade and does so by palling around with one of the smoothest dogs in the group, Dodger. Now knowing what needs to be done and how to do it, Oliver heads out and attempts his hand at thievery but he’s just not as swift or cunning as Dodger. Oliver ends up being caught by a little girl named Jenny who lives in a penthouse with very wealthy parents that just don’t pay enough attention to her. Being content with each other’s company; Jenny and Oliver soon have an ever-lasting friendship that will have its bonds tested by the evil and corruption of Fagin. Both end up kidnapped when he realizes that there is more money in Jenny and her parents then the dogs can ever get pickpocketing, but he underestimates the willpower and brotherhood of the canine kingdom.
Songs, dance numbers, forced comedic one-liners, and some not so lovable characters make Oliver and Company an uneventful underachiever. As a child it seemed so much more interesting to me and I actually recall loving this film because it was fun and well…it was Disney. Watching it now and it almost appears to be something that would end up direct-to-DVD from the Disney B-Team of animators that don’t ever work on theatrical releases. Some of the songs are catchy and worth singing along with, but they’ll never be the classics like “Part Of Your World” or “When You Wish Upon A Star.” Music is a staple of Disney animated films and there is not nearly enough fun or feeling in any of the numbers to keep you humming them when all is said and done.
Moving onto the next problem in the film, and it’s a big one, and that’s the characters just aren’t memorable or lovable. Oliver is cute and so is Jenny, but I don’t care nearly as much about them as Dopey, Flounder, Lumiere, King Louie, or Timothy Mouse. Folks, those are only secondary characters in their films meaning that those in Oliver and Company couldn’t even attempt to hold a candle to the bright lights of Snow White, Ariel, Belle, Baloo, or Dumbo. It’s a cute film and will always be great for kids because they re going to love the cartoon aspect of it, but it doesn’t hold the lasting effect with adults that the other Disney classics do. Had I reviewed this at the age of ten then perhaps you would have gotten a much different view.
Presented in 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen format, Oliver And Company does not look that good at all but it never really has. The colors are very drab, dull, and are surely showing their age.
The film is heard in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound is good though with the dialogue being heard well and the songs blaring around the room for a fun experience. Both the audio and video for the DVD are exactly the same as on the 2002 release.
Oliver’s Big City Challenge Game – This game lets kids go through different levels of finding differences, counting things, and picking put certain characters. It is rather dull and not very fun, but kids will probably enjoy it. A DVD release of Oliver And Company came out in 2002 and this is actually the only new special feature on this 20th Anniversary Edition.
The Making Of Oliver and Company – Interviews with cast, crew, and animators fill up this very short featurette that simply goes into the storyline of the film and how it was trying to be cool and hip with modern times. Nothing much here. (5:31)
“Why Should I Worry” Sing-Along Song – Lyrics are provided on screen for you to sing along with the song. (3:25)
“Streets Of Gold” Sing-Along Song – Ditto to above. (1:12)
Disney’ Animated Animals – This is a compare and contrast feature that looks at Oliver as opposed to other Disney animated classics. (1:28)
Oliver and Company Scrapbook – A lot of pictures are included here with scenes from the film, characters, backgrounds, unused footage, and a lot more.
Publicity Materials – Trailers and TV spots.
Fun Film Facts –
Bonus Short: “Lend A Paw” – Pluto stars in this short as he wrestles with his decision to rescue a young kitten. (8:08)
Bonus Short: “Puss Cafe” – An assortment of kittens torment Pluto. (7:09)
Trailers – Pinocchio 70th Anniversary Edition, Up, Space Buddies, Air Bud: Special Edition, and Beverly Hills Chihuahua
Oliver and Company is one of those Disney films that will never be in the animated classics’ category because it just doesn’t belong there. It has some catchy tunes and a decent story, but it’s not something that will ever really touch my heart or sink into my soul much like Pinocchio, Snow White, or even Tarzan. Listening to the interviews in the special features and such, it’s obvious how hard they were trying to get with the times back in the late eighties and ended up trying way too hard. The film actually comes off more lackluster from their intense attempts to have everyone associate with it. As for this release; don’t bother getting it if you already have the copy from 2002 because the new cover art and little game thrown in are not worth owning another one. I see no reason for this DVD to even have been released at all, but you know that money talks and it will still sell some copies. My suggestion is not to bother because the 25th Anniversary Edition will be out shortly. Count on it.
Walt Disney Video presents Oliver And Company: 20th Anniversary Edition. Directed by: George Scribner. Starring (voices): Joey Lawrence, Cheech Marin, Billy Joel, Richard Mulligan, Dom DeLuise, Robert Loggia, and more. Written by: Jim Cox & Tim Disney. Running time: 74 minutes. Rating: G. Released on DVD: February 3, 2009. Available at Amazon.com