Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Walt Disney Animation Studios Part 27: Oliver and Company

Series Intro: This is Part 27 of a multi-part retrospective of Walt Disney Animation Studios' endeavors. They will mostly be in release date order, save for those that are not available on DVD at Netflix. (Numbers skipped will note missing movies that will be out of order).

Some background information: (compiled from Wikipedia and imdb and my own knowledge of the movie).

Official Title: Oliver and Company
Release: November 18, 1988 (another one just over a year from the last one! We’ve truly begun the one movie a year that will last from ’85 until the present – save two years. The schedule from WDAS will change in the future as they alternate releases with Pixar).
Running Time: 73 minutes
Estimated Cost: ??
Estimated Revenue: $74.2 million
Overall Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Plot Summary:
Welcome to the first honest WDAS musical. This movie opens with a young cat, Oliver, being sold with the other kittens in his litter. But by the end of the day, he’s left alone. Oliver meets the artful Dodger (a stray mutt) who introduces Oliver to life on the street through a well placed song that moved the plot along.

Oliver follows Dodger back to his home and meets the rag tag team of strays Fagin has assembled to help him steal. Times are tough for Fagin as he owes a huge sum of money to Sykes.

So Oliver and company help Dodger in his plan to steal a car to help pay Fagin’s debt. However, things go wrong and Oliver is cat-napped (or so the dogs all think). In actuality he is adopted by Jenny a rich child that treats Oliver with class. Jenny also has a poodle (who’s a vain as she looks) named Georgette (who also sings a great musical style number).

Sykes finds out about Oliver and the girl, and decides to kidnap her for the ransom. The dogs all work together to help save Oliver and Jenny. However, after a great computer generated chase scene, Skye’s car is driven into oncoming traffic and is presumed dead.

Songs:
1. Once Upon a Time in New York City
2. Why Should I Worry
3. Streets of Gold
4. Perfect Isn't Easy
5. Good Company
6. Why Should I Worry Reprise

Wow! “Why Should I Worry?” is a great song. It should be part of the Disney cannon of songs, but since it is more about defying authority rather than wishing and hoping, it hasn’t made it.

Plot Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Dogs doing complex choreography! I was truly impressed. I think the plot once again was motivated by both characters and circumstance! I love that the music truly helped moved the plot.

Animation Rating: 3.5 out of 5

So APT only has one more movie and I honestly hope the next film process is as great as this one has been. Gone are the stray lines that were left from the artists drawing. However, this movie had the most computer generated images (CGI) to date in an animated movie. Unlike the simple CGI backgrounds in Cauldron and the more complicated Big Ben scene in Mouse Detective WDAS used computers to make all the backgrounds, the cars, the subway trains and many other effects.

Most noticeably were the two scenes when the camera would do a whole 360 or more! (When Georgette is walking down the long stair case, and when Jenny is in her bedroom near the middle of the Oliver/Jenny montage.) I couldn’t believe the way the new technology had advanced so much. No longer were characters mimicking proscenium theatre (where there is just one front), they lived in a 360 degree world.

I also find that this is the first movie to have honest choreography (although there were some simple dance sequences in early movies, they just weren’t as impressive).

The Test of Time:

Why hasn’t this movie permeated our culture as much as some of the other domestic animal films? Everyone has a connection to Lady or 101. This movie is much better than its predecessors are (and hundreds of times better than Aristocats).

As a note, this was the first Disney movie I saw in theatre. This started a long run - of nearly 15 years - of my yearly pilgrimage to the movies to see Disney, Pixar and Disney/Pixar films.

Through the Modern Lens

This movie acted like a primer for Charles Dickens’ Oliver and introduced many familiar names and characters to young audiences that might never actually read the book. But watching stray dogs steal and lie? I’m not sure that would fly with Disney execs now.

Next Up:
The Little Mermaid






4 comments:

Amy said...

This was the first film I saw in theatres, too though I don't remember it.

Another element I think is important in this film is the caliber of talent. Disney was well-known for having the participation of A-listers from the stage, screen and radio, but this film has Billy Joel, Frank Welker, Bette Midler, Cheech Marin, Dom DeLuise and Joey Lawrence. It also marks the first collaboration between Disney and the late, great Howard Ashman, who co-wrote "One Upon A Time in New York City" with Huey Lewis, who sang it.

Great assessment and I agree that this film is extremely well-done and rather under-appreciated. Luckily, it was a big enough success to allow WDFA to continue with "The Little Mermaid." Can't wait to read the next installment!

janice said...

This movie opens with a young cat, Oliver, being sold with the other kittens in his litter.

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Davenz said...

Oliver follows Dodger back to his home and meets the rag tag team of strays Fagin has assembled to help him steal.

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Davenz said...

This movie acted like a primer for Charles Dickens’ Oliver.

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