Oliver & Company – Oliver & Co (1988)
Directed by: George Scribner | 70 minutes | animation, comedy, adventure, family, musical | Original voice cast: Joseph Lawrence, Billy Joel, Cheech Marin, Richard Mulligan, Roscoe Lee Browne, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Dom DeLuise, Taurean Blacque, Carl Weintraub, Robert Loggia, Natalie Gregory, William Glover, Bette Midler, Charles Bartlett, Frank Welker | Dutch voice cast: Yuri Lucassen, Frits Lambrechts, Alfred Lagarde, Arnold Gelderman, Jerome Reehuis, Justine Pelmelas, Coen Flink, Willem Duijn, Dorien Criete, Peter Aryans, Luc Lutz, Simone Kleinsma
‘Oliver & Company’ came out in the eighties of the last century, when Disney was struggling with disappointing returns. It is no wonder that this had to do with the lower quality of the films released since Disney’s death. Movies like ‘The Fox & The Hound’ (‘Frank and Frey’) and ‘The Great Mouse Detective’ (‘The Sleuths’) are nice, but whether they can really be labeled ‘classic’ is debatable. Of course the film company recovered after that, with the release of ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ a few years later.
‘Oliver and Company’ is the film adaptation of Charles Dickens’ timeless story about Oliver Twist, although the similarities are hard to find. The only characters that appear in both the English story and the film are Oliver, Dodger, Fagin and Sykes. The film has been given a modern look for that time, and although the typical eighties sound of the music does seem dated, that doesn’t have to be a problem. Songs by Billy Joel (Why Should I Worry?) and Bette Midler (Perfect Isn’t Easy) are still easy to listen to.
The film is less well drawn than its successors, which is mainly reflected in the backgrounds, which are less detailed. There are also some mistakes in the film, such as a house number that changes and even disappears. Too bad it hasn’t been given more attention. What the makers have concentrated on is introducing references to other Disney films, there are regular (briefly) characters from various other Disney classics to admire, although it does help if you know what to look for if you want to recognize them.
The characters themselves are endearing enough. The sweet orphaned kitten Oliver steals everyone’s heart and you also sympathize with the girl Jenny. Of the dogs, Tito and Georgette especially stand out, because they are both wonderfully irritating and therefore actually made for each other. There are a few humorous scenes in it and the dialogues are also quite funny at times (“Hey, man, if this is torture, chain me to the wall.”). The villain Sykes does not come out well and there is therefore no real threat from him. Still, the film is nice to have seen, that’s why you should wake up this sleeping dog.