OLIVER & COMPANY
Directed By: George Scribner
Produced By: Jim Cox, Tim Disney, & James Mangold
Based On: Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist (1838)
Premiered On: November 18, 1988
Distribution By: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution
While Oliver & Company is far from being the first Disney Animated Film to deviate from its source material, and it certainly won’t be the last, it is arguably one of the loosest of adaptations produced by Disney yet. Based on the story Oliver Twist, Oliver & Company is about a small kitten, the titular Oliver, who falls into a company of dogs who roam the streets of New York City stealing anything and everything they can.
Mostly so that their owner/master can pay off his debt to a guy who really ought to have thought better than to give out a loan of any sort to a bum on the street if he seriously wanted his money, plus interest, paid back in full within a ludicrously short amount of time. A loan shark Sykes may be but a certified genius he is not.
Things take an interesting turn however when Oliver ends up in the loving arms of a young girl from an incredibly rich family, leaving Oliver to chose between life on the dangerous streets of New York with those or living safe in the home of a child who treats him with all the love and affection he could ever dream of.
No, seriously, there’s a whole song sequence completely devoted to how Jenny, the girl, and Oliver having the time of their young lives doing all manner of things from playing piano together, to rowing on a lake in Central Park, to even sharing ice cream and enjoying a horse and buggy ride. Give the girl credit, she well and truly loves Oliver and despite being a kitten that has spent all of a day or two tops living on the streets, he’s a surprisingly well manner feline too.
Of course, things don’t come up all sunshine and roses, especially on the streets of New York as Dodger and company “rescue” Oliver and unwittingly lead Faggin, their owner, to come up with an admittedly brilliant plan to “ransom” the cat to his obviously rich owner. An obviously rich owner who is all of seven years old soon to be eight mind you but hey, it’s a fair plan considering the bling Oliver was sporting at the time.
Thankfully, Fagin’s conscience proves stronger than his fear of Sykes as he gives Oliver back to Jenny rather promptly at realizing that she, a mere child, has only so much to give in terms of her piggy bank. It’s right about then that Sykes comes swooping in with the intention of ransoming Jenny and its up to Oliver & company to chase the man down and rescue the girl from his clutches.
Seeing as there are far too many differences between the book Oliver Twist and the film, I’ll just skip ahead to the music of the film. Now, with the likes of such stars as Bette Midler and Billy Joel adding their voices to the cast of characters, it was actually rather hard to pinpoint just what song in particular best fit the film as a whole.
The song most commonly associated with the film is the one sung by Dodger (Billy Joel) called, “Why Should I Worry?” It’s a pretty great song as far as lyrics go but visually speaking, man is it a treat to see Dodger all but owning the streets of New York with blatant casualness while Oliver is struggling to keep up with him. Despite this though, the song that I feel best fits the film is the one sung by Rita as she and the others in the company try and teach Oliver the way of the streets in the song, “Streets of Gold.”
That and there’s nothing more amusing than seeing a cat barking like a dog.
Overall, I’d give Oliver & Company a good… meh, six out of ten. It’s a good film and a fun one to watch for all ages but really, it’s not one that I can imagine watching over and over again. It’s not quite to the same degree of “obscurity” as The Black Cauldron, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, or other similarly “forgotten” films but it comes pretty close to it and with fair reason. It’s not quite a cat person or even a dog person film, more like a… New York film if anything. The backgrounds and visuals of a 1980’s New York City is a sight to see though, unfortunately, some terrible awkward questions will likely arise in younger audiences pertaining to a certain two towers now absent in the skyline of the Big Apple….
Thus, we draw an end to the “Dark Age” of Disney Animated Films and will now begin the Disney Renaissance with the film that well and truly started it all.