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Oliver & Company is a 1988 animated feature film in which a homeless kitten named Oliver joins a gang of dogs to survive on the 1980s New York City streets. The film was produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and became the twenty-seventh animated feature released in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series. It was distributed by Walt Disney Pictures and Buena Vista Distribution. It was re-released in the USA, Canada, and the UK on March 29, 1996, and again on March 7, 2009 on DVD.

The movie was inspired by the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist, which has been adapted many other times for the screen. In this version, Oliver is a cat and Fagin's gang is made up of dogs, one of which is Dodger. The film is Disney's fifth animated feature to take place in the present day of its release, using New York City as its setting.

Plot

Oliver, an orange kitten, is lost in the streets. He steals some hot dogs from a hot dog vendor with the help of a mongrel named Dodger. Together they are successful, but Dodger runs off, attempting to leave the orphaned feline behind.

Dodger eventually arrives at the barge of his owner, a pickpocket named Fagin, along with his meal, to give to his friends: Tito the Chihuahua, Einstein the Great Dane, Rita the Saluki and Francis (Frankie), the Bulldog. Oliver sneaks into their home, located below the city's docks, and is discovered by the dogs. Fagin, owner of the dogs, comes in and explains that he is running out of time to repay the money he borrowed from Sykes, a ruthless shipyard agent and loan shark: the money must be paid in three days, or else.

Next day, Fagin sets out into the city with his canine menagerie, Oliver included, and tries to sell his wares at a pawn shop, with no success. The animals, meanwhile, come face-to-face with a limousine driven by a butler named Winston. Winston is employed by the Foxworth family and is taking care of their daughter Jenny while the couple is out of the country. The dogs stage an elaborate ruse in order to get Winston out of the car. Tito and Oliver slip in and attempt to steal its radio to give to Fagin so that he'll have something to pawn to pay back Sykes. In doing so, Tito gets shocked by the electrical system, and Jenny finds Oliver tangled up in the wires near it. Oliver finds a good home and a caring owner in Jenny, to the chagrin of Winston and the Foxworth's pampered, pedigreed poodle, Georgette.

The following day, Fagin's dogs retrieve the cat back to their home barge, not knowing that Oliver is now happy where he is. Fagin sees Oliver's new golden tag, and sends Jenny a map and a letter requesting a ransom. Fagin goes to convince Sykes that his plan is air-tight enough to pay him his money.

Later, Jenny and Georgette arrive at their destination. Being distraught that his "wealthy cat-owner" is just a little girl and feeling guilty, Fagin returns Oliver to her by pretending to find him in a dumpster. Sykes kidnaps Jenny, intending to hold her for ransom.

Fagin, his dogs and Georgette manage to save Jenny, and Sykes and his Dobermans chase them down the city streets and into the subway. They emerge onto the Manhattan Bridge, where a train crashes into Sykes' vehicle. He and his Dobermans are killed, everyone else escapes unscathed.

Next morning, Fagin and the entire group celebrate Jenny's birthday party at her home. That same day, Winston receives a phone call from Jenny's parents in Romemarker saying that they will be back tomorrow.

Characters

  • Oliver, voiced by Joey Lawrence. The protagonist of the film. Oliver is a cute orange kitten who wants a home. He joins Fagin's gang of dogs before being taken in by Jenny. He also saves her life from the black-hearted loan-wyrm, Sykes.
  • Dodger, voiced by Billy Joel. Dodger is a carefree, charismatic mongrel with a mix of terrier in him. He claims to have considerable "street savoir-faire". He is the leader of Fagin's gang of dogs, and becomes Oliver's closest friend amongst them.
  • Fagin, voiced by Dom DeLuise. Fagin is a poor man who lives on a house-boat with his dogs. He needs money desperately to repay his debt with Sykes. Because of this, he is forced to do horrible deeds, but really, he has a heart of gold.
  • Jennifer "Jenny" Foxworth, voiced by Natalie Gregory (singing voice by Myhanh Tran) . Jenny is a kind, rich girl who takes care of Oliver.
  • Ignacio Alonzo Julio Federico de Tito, voiced by Cheech Marin. Simply known as Tito, he is a tiny Chihuahua in Fagin's gang. He has a fiery temper for his size, and has a crush on Georgette (although she is initially repulsed by him).
  • Georgette, voiced by Bette Midler. Georgette is the Foxworth family's spoiled prize-winning Poodle, who is jealous of Oliver getting attention. When Tito displays his attraction to her, she initially responds with revulsion. At the end, however, she displays considerable attraction to Tito - so much, in fact that she sends him running for his life when she tries to bathe, dress and groom him.
  • Sykes, voiced by Robert Loggia. Sykes is the main antagonist of the film, and is a cold-hearted loan-shark who lent a considerable sum of money to Fagin and expects it paid back. He is finally defeated at the end of the film when he is killed by being hit by train while still inside his car.
  • Einstein, voiced by Richard Mulligan. Einstein is a gray Great Dane in Fagin's gang, representing the stereotype that Great Danes are friendly, but dumb. His personality is the opposite of his name.
  • Francis, voiced by Roscoe Lee Browne. Francis is a bulldog with a British accent in Fagin's gang. He appreciates art and theatre, and detests anyone abbreviating his name as "Frank" or "Frankie."
  • Rita, voiced by Sheryl Lee Ralph (singing voice by Ruth Pointer). Rita, a Saluki, is the only female dog in Fagin's gang.
  • Winston, voiced by William Glover. Winston is the Foxworth family's bumbling but loyal butler.
  • Roscoe and DeSoto, voiced by Taurean Blacque and Carl Weintraub respectively. They are Sykes's trusty, vicious Doberman Pinschers, and seem to have a long rivalry with Dodger and his friends. Roscoe is attracted to Rita, while his brother DeSoto wants to eat Oliver for dinner, but gets his nose rended. The feeling is not mutual. Both of them are killed in the climax by falling onto the electric rail tracks whilst fighting with Dodger. (Roscoe Blvd. and DeSoto Ave. are major streets in the San Fernando Valleymarker, several miles from Walt Disney Studios.)
  • Louie, voiced by Frank Welker. Louie is a bad-tempered hot dog vendor, who appears early in the film where Oliver and Dodger steal his hot dogs. He is meant to be one of the 'enemies of the four-legged world', meaning that he hates both cats and dogs.


Production

The working title of this film during production was Oliver and the Dodger. This film pre-dated the second Disney Renaissance; much of the original Nine Old Men had migrated away from the studio by this time, which signaled the entrance for the next generation of celebrated Disney animators. At a certain point, this film was to be set after The Rescuers. If this had happened, it would have given the character of Penny more development, showing her living her new life in New York City with Rufus the cat (also from The Rescuers), and as well as her new adoptive parents. This idea was eventually scrapped because the producers had then felt that the story would not have been convincing. This is why Penny and Jenny are similar.

This was the first Disney movie to make heavy use of computer animation, since previous films The Black Cauldron and The Great Mouse Detective used it only for special sequences. The CGI effects were used for making the skyscrapers, the cars, trains, Fagin's scooter-cart and the climactic Subway chase. It was also the first Disney film to have a department created specifically for computer animation.

This was a test run movie before The Walt Disney Company would fully commit to returning to a musical format for their animated films; Oliver & Company was the first such film to be a musical since 1981's The Fox and the Hound. For most of the next decade, all of WDFA's (Walt Disney Feature Animated) films, first starting with The Little Mermaid, were also musicals excluding The Rescuers Down Under.

It was one of the first animated Disney films to introduce new sound effects for regular use, to replace many of their original classic sounds, which would be used occasionally in later Disney movies. However, The Little Mermaid introduced even more new SFX. The new sound effects were first introduced with The Black Cauldron, while The Great Mouse Detective released a year after the previous film used the classic Disney SFX. This included some sounds such as the then fifty-year-old Castle thunder and the classic Goofy holler. However, the Disney television animation studio continued extensively using the classic Disney sound effects for several years, while the feature animation studio retired the original sound effects.

It was the first animated Disney film to include real world advertised products. Many placements of real product names Coca-Cola, USA Today, Sony, and Ryder Truck Rental were some of the most used examples. It was said on ABC's The Wonderful World of Disney that this was for realism, was not paid product placement, and that it would not be New York City without advertising.

Certain animals shown in the film are inspired from past Disney films. When Dodger sings Why Should I Worry? in the beginning of the film, some of the dogs shown are Peg, Jock and Trusty from Lady and the Tramp and Pongo from One Hundred and One Dalmatians.

Reception

The film was released in 1988 on the same day as The Land Before Time, a production of Disney expatriate Don Bluth.

As of 2008, Oliver made a total domestic gross of $74 million at the U.S. box office though it grossed $53.2 million of which came from its original run. Its success prompted Disney's senior vice-president of animation, Peter Schneider, to announce the company's plans to release animated features annually. Aladdin was the last to continue the trend. However, they picked up the trend after The Lion King and ended it after Tarzan.

The Ren and Stimpy Show creator John Kricfalusi suggested that the film was derivative of Ralph Bakshi's works, and jokingly suggested its use as a form of punishment.

During its release, McDonald's sold Christmas musical ornaments containing the movie's two main characters, Oliver and Dodger, the start of a multi-year agreement of joint promotions with licensed products.

This was the only Disney film to not be distributed in the UK on theatrical release by Buena Vista International, it was distributed by Warner Bros. but was then distributed by Buena Vista International upon video release.

Despite its financial success at the box office, however, the film was not released on video until after its re-release in 1996. It was later released on DVD in 2002. A 20th Anniversary Edition was released on DVD on February 3, 2009.

Awards







Soundtrack

CD cover for the 1996 re-release of the Oliver & Company soundtrack (an alternate cover was used in the United Kingdom).
The instrumental score for Oliver & Company was composed by J. A. C. Redford, and the film's music was supervised by Carole Childs. The first song heard in the movie, "Once Upon a Time in New York City", was written by lyricist Howard Ashman. Billy Joel, in addition to voicing Dodger, fittingly performed the character's song in the film.

The track list below represents the 1996 re-release of the Oliver & Company soundtrack. The original 1988 release featured the same songs, but with the instrumental cues placed in between the songs in the order in which they appeared in the film. Using the numbering system in the list below, the order the tracks on the 1988 release would be: 1, 2, 6, 7, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11.

Musical Numbers

In the movie various songwriters worked on the songs. Out of the six songs Oliver sang none of them.
  1. Once Upon a Time In New York City- Narrator
  2. Why Should I Worry- Dodger & Chorus
  3. Streets of Gold- Rita, Dodger, & Chorus
  4. Perfect Isn't Easy- Georgette
  5. Good Company- Jenny
  6. Why Should I Worry- Company


1996 soundtrack listing

  1. Once Upon a Time in New York City - Huey Lewis; written by Barry Mann and Howard Ashman
  2. Why Should I Worry? - Billy Joel; written by Dan Hartman and Charlie Midnight
  3. Streets of Gold - Ruth Pointer ; written by Dean Pitchford and Tom Snow
  4. Perfect Isn't Easy - Bette Midler ; written by Barry Manilow, Jack Feldman, and Bruce Sussman
  5. Good Company - Myhanh Tran ; written by Ron Rocha and Robert Minkoff
  6. Sykes (instrumental)
  7. Bedtime Story (instrumental)
  8. The Rescue (instrumental)
  9. Pursuit Through The Subway (instrumental)
  10. Buscando Guayaba - Rubén Blades
  11. End Title (instrumental)


References

  1. Beck (2005), pp. 182-3.
  2. Disney Archives, "computer animation department created".
  3. The Wonderful World of Disney: ABC television network, "the making of Oliver and Company. Comments of the animators from the production deny product placement."


Sources

  • Beck, Jerry (2005). The Animated Movie Guide. ISBN 1-55652-591-5. Chicago Reader Press. Accessed May 23, 2007.


External links




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