DVD Review: Disney Quietly Releases Underrated ‘Oliver and Company’

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Average: 5 (1 vote)
HollywoodChicago.com DVD Rating: 3.5/5.0
DVD Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – Maybe it’s because I was still young when it came out, but it seems like “Oliver and Company” has been unjustly forgotten by the Disney machine and family audiences in general. The 20th anniversary edition, newly released on DVD, might bring this lost comedy to a new audience.

Admittedly, “Oliver and Company” is far from one of Disney’s best, but it’s mostly been discarded by history because it came out just before the wave of massive success for the company that started with “The Little Mermaid,” continued with “Beauty & The Beast,” and went on to “Aladdin,” “The Lion King,” and many more. The mid to late-’80s were kind of a dark period for Disney and “Oliver and Company” was the end of arguably the company’s weakest trio of consecutive releases with “The Black Cauldron” and “The Great Mouse Detective”.

Oliver and Company was released by Walt Disney Home Video on February 3rd, 2009.
Oliver and Company was released by Walt Disney Home Video on February 3rd, 2009.
Photo credit: Walt Disney Home Video

The thing is that “Oliver and Company” is not that bad. It’s certainly better than the two movies that preceded it in the Disney canon, even if it doesn’t come to close to “Mermaid” or “Beast”. It just kind of fell through the cracks of Disney history.

Based on “Oliver Twist,” the musical comedy reimagines Oliver as a feisty young cat exploring New York City. (“Oliver” is one of the few Disney films set in modern times.) Fagin’s gang is made up of dogs, including the lovable Dodger.

Oliver gets into trouble, learns that only the strong survive and eventually finds a home in a musical that includes tunes by Billy Joel, Huey Lewis, and Bette Midler. Joel voiced Dodger, joining Joey Lawrence as Oliver, Dom DeLuise as Fagin, Cheech Marin as Tito, Midler as Georgette, Robert Loggia as Sykes, and Richard Mulligan as Einstein.

The new 20th Anniversary Edition of “Oliver and Company,” sadly unavailable on Blu-Ray, includes the all-new Oliver’s Big City Challenge Game, the Academy-Award-winning animated short “Lend a Paw,” “The Making of Oliver and Company,” another short called “Puss Cafe,” and sing-along songs.

It’s an oddly brief collection for a Disney Anniversary Edition, but what is included will be essential to the collection of serious Disney collectors. The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and with a 1.66:1 widescreen aspect ratio.

“Oliver and Company” will never be on a pedestal as high as the amazing run that Disney went on just after its release, but that doesn’t mean it should be completely ignored. Disney collectors will be happy to include this lost comedy with their more beloved titles.

‘Oliver and Company’ is released by Walt Disney Home Video and features voice work by Joey Lawrence, Billy Joel, Dom DeLuise, Cheech Marin, Bette Midler, Robert Loggia, and Richard Mulligan. It was released on February 3rd, 2009.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

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