Oliver & Company: Special Edition
Oliver & Company, originally released theatrically in 1988 and re-released in 1996, is loosely based on the classic Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens. Notable voice actors in the film are: Joey Lawrence (Oliver), Billy Joel (Dodger), Cheech Marin (Tito), Dom DeLuise (Fagin), Robert Loggia (Sykes), and Bette Midler (Georgette). Joel, Midler, and Huey Lewis also provide several of the songs. Oliver & Company was one of the first Disney movies to blend traditional cell animation with CGI and paved the way for later Disney hits like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin.
Orphaned in New York, Oliver meets Dodger on one of his scams and soon teams up with his ragtag band of con-artist pooches, all owned by Fagin. On a scam, Oliver meets Jenny, who instantly falls in love with and adopts him. However, Fagin owes a large sum of money to Sykes, and to get it back, he kidnaps Oliver and holds him for ransom. When that plan goes awry, Jenny ends up in Sykes's clutches, and now Oliver, Dodger, and the crew must get her back.
Oliver & Company is a decent animated adventure, though it falls shy when compared to many of Disney's classics from the same era. The main problem is with the rather short running time of only 74 minutes. This really doesn't give any time for the audience to "know" any of the characters and gives only a few places for them to shine. I would've preferred a slightly longer film and a few more adventures for Oliver & Company to embark on. Still, it's worth watching, especially for kids.
Oliver & Company is presented in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen. The transfer has a layer of grain during the film, and while it is minimal most of the film, in a few scenes, it does become distracting. There is also a bit of softness apparent and well as a few specks. Colors are a bit faded and rarely appear vibrant. Blacks are solid throughout.
Oliver & Company is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 in English, French, and Spanish.
Surrounds are light throughout, with the rears mainly devoted to ambient effects and the film's score. Dialogue is clean, though not entirely crisp, with no distortion. English captions are also included.
The disc includes three featurettes. The first is The Making of Oliver & Company, which runs five and a half minutes in length. It provides a behind-the-scenes look at the film, some interviews with the voice actors, and a few tidbits of information about the CGI in the film. The next is The History of Animals in Disney Films, which runs about two minutes. This featurette spotlights some of the animals that have appeared in Disney films over the years, though takes a fair amount of time promoting Oliver & Company. The last is Return of a Classic, which is another two minute featurette spotlighting Oliver & Company's return to the theater in 1996.
There are also two animated short films on the disc, "Puss Café" and "Lend a Paw," which won an academy award in 1941. Both short films star Pluto and are rather enjoyable.
Also on the disc are sing-along songs for "Why Should I Worry?" and "Streets of Gold;" the TV Spot, original trailer, and re-release trailer; a scrapbook of conceptual artwork, storyboards, model sheets, and merchandise pictures; some text film facts; and previews for other Disney titles. These previews include: Beauty and the Beast, Lilo & Stitch, Snow Dogs, Monsters, INC., Max Keeble's Big Move, Air Bud: 7th Inning Stretch, Teamo Supremo, and Peter Pan II.
Though not one of Disney's more well-known or better films, Oliver & Company certainly merits watching, and while fans of the film should definitely consider a purchase, newcomers might want to try renting first.