Two Pluto cartoons:
Puss Café (1950) and Lend A Paw (1941, Oscar-winning short)
in a Disney movie: An English bulldog watches the most existential
soliloquy from Macbeth.
Tech Specs: Widescreen,
aspect ratio 1.66:1, English, French and Spanish Dolby DTS 5.1 surround
sound, English subtitles
Type of disc: Dual Layer Format
Not quite the
"classic" that the extras on this disc would have you believe, Disney's
Oliver & Company still has its charms and its importance in
the Disney canon. Jeffrey Katzenberg had not yet stepped in and figured
out how to put it all together (including how to whip children everywhere
into a frenzy of recognition for its characters), but all the pieces
that would allow Disney to re-take its animation crown are here in
this 1988 effort.
on Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, the film turns the English
orphan boy into a lost New York kitten (Joey Lawrence). After a day
on the streets, he falls in with The Dodger (Billy Joel), a raffish
mutt slightly updated from The Tramp mold. The two make their way
to a dilapidated boat in the harbor, inhabited by The Dodger's dog
gang and their owner, Fagin (Dom DeLuise). (Among the dogs is a feisty
Chihuahua voiced by Cheech Marin, early in his transition away from
the kitten joins the gang in its daily thieving, a necessity for Fagin
to earn enough money to pay back the villainous Sikes (Robert Loggia).
And then they encounter a lonely rich girl, Jenny. All paths cross,
Jenny gets endangered, wacky hijinks ensue, and everybody gets their
just rewards, joined along the way by the girl's absent parents' showdog
Georgette, played by Bette Midler.
So you see the
pieces there: classic story given a Disney twist, celebrity voices
(though before it had become cool to do), and oh, yes, music. Unfortunately,
Oliver & Company doesn't have the sense of a cohesive musical,
as each song is written by a different team, and clearly intended
to be a hit single. While that worked for Disney in the fifties (until
the Sherman Brothers came along, most of the music to their animated
classics was a huge team effort), it ends up being embarrassing for
1988. Why? Because quite simply, the eighties was not a decade for
timeless music. Does anyone still listen to The Pointer Sisters? If
you watch Oliver & Company, you'll have no choice.
On the technical
side, though, the film marks a breakthrough. The studio had been on
the forefront of using computer animation techniques in the earlier
The Great Mouse Detective (a.k.a. Basil of Baker Street)
and of course Tron, but each digital effect looked done
on computer. Sikes' Cadillac has the slightly too-smooth lines of
CG, but not the rough look of rotoscoping that plagued Detective.
But several sequences utilize computers so smoothly that it seems
a shame that Disney didn't really get credit for it until Beauty
and the Beast. I wouldn't have known if not for the Behind The
Scenes featurette on the disc.
The rest of the
extras offer little more than publicity hype instead of insight. That
feeling may be just because Oliver & Company doesn't have the
history of the earlier films or the weight of some of the later ones.
(That Beauty and the Beast package coming in the fall is going
to be massive, and worth it.)
the little ones the inclusion of two Sing-along Songs will be fun
(one being that Pointer Sisters song, so if you're a parent, you may
want to leave the room). And wisely, Disney dug into the vaults and
included a couple of Pluto/Mickey Mouse cartoons that really are entertaining
and a nice surprise.
a fairly recent development in Disney's DVD efforts, they have gone
all out with the digital re-mastering of this film. The print looks
sharp and clean (easily compared to the unremastered theatrical trailers),
and the soundtrack, too, is free of mud.
Oliver & Company here.