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Click to buy the Oliver & Company: 20th Anniversary Edition DVD.

On February 3, 2009, Disney re-issued Oliver & Company as a 20th Anniversary Edition DVD. The new disc replaces the now-discontinued earlier version.
Click here to buy the Oliver & Company: 20th Anniversary Edition DVD from Amazon.com, click here to read our complete review, or read on for a full critique of Oliver's original Special Edition disc.

Buy Oliver & Company: Special Edition DVD from Amazon.com
Movie - 1988, G, 73 minutes, Disney
Genre - Family, Animated, Comedy, Musical
Cast - Joey Lawrence, Billy Joel, Cheech Marin, Richard Mulligan, Dom DeLuise, Carl Weintraub, Robert Loggia, Natalie Gregory, William Glover, Bette Midler
Director - George Scribner
DVD - 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1, (English), French (Dolby 2.0), Spanish (Dolby 2.0), subtitles - English; single-sided, dual-layered disc; $29.99 SRP, Released 5/14/02

Movie - Disney's 27th animated classic, Oliver & Company, was released to theaters in 1988 without too much fanfare. Oliver was the fourth major Disney animated release of the decade, and all were considered to be relative disappointments.
It wasn't until the following year that Disney released The Little Mermaid, which salvaged the '80s for animation, and paved the way for a number of grand successes to follow. But to lump Oliver & Company with the other non-Mermaid '80s animated films and label it "mediocre" would be wrong. On the contrary, Oliver is a pleasant film adaptation of Dickens' Oliver Twist and a celebration of New York City. (Interestingly enough, the 1988 holiday season brought Scrooged, another Dickens adaptation set in Manhattan.) Oliver (voiced by Joey Lawrence, just a few years before he blew up in popularity, and a few more before he fell out of the spotlight) is a little kitten who is without parents and when he is not adopted, without a home. All alone in the big city, Oliver is overwhelmed and confused until he runs into Dodger (voice of Billy Joel), a slick, scamming, self-confident dog. Oliver winds up with Dodger and his mischievous gang of outlaw dogs. During one of the gang's scams, Oliver meets young Jenny (voice of Natalie Gregory) who embraces the little orphan cat as her new pet. Everything seems great in the new home until Dodger's gang "rescues" Oliver and he becomes pawn in a scheme. Clocking in at just 73 minutes, Oliver is genial lightweight entertainment. Characters hold your attention (even though just about every line out of Cheech Marin's character is grating), and there's some fun songs. Not epic in scope, with its contemporary and familiar urban settings playing backdrop to ordinary actions, Oliver isn't the home run that Aladdin and Lion King were...but it doesn't try to be. It succeeds at being an upbeat, entertaining retelling of Dickens' tale in the Disney tradition.

The title logo for "Oliver & Company" appears over gridlocked traffic at New York City's commercially robust Times Square.

Video - Oliver & Company is presented in its original widescreen ratio of 1.66:1. It is enhanced for 16 x 9 televisions. It is certainly nice to have the movie released in its proper ratio, and not suffer the fate of many a live-action Disney film. However, the video is not flawless. Picture quality seems overly soft for the most part and the colors just don't leap off the screen as it seems they were supposed to. The animation quality is not what it is today, but the New York city locations are nicely composed, and computers were used to augment the traditional cell animation in the scenes of street traffic.
Overall, the picture quality is not unlike the movie, in that it is pleasant enough, but won't really amaze you. (And no, the Twin Towers were certainly not edited out of this film.)

Audio - The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is not overly active, but audio is clear and crisp. The score and dialogue are mostly relegated to the front speakers, with infrequent surround activity. The soundtrack is faithful to the original stereo mix and while there isn't too much going on, there's not too much to complain about. Fidelity is clear and all dialogue sounds natural. An adequate sound mix.

Four panels take turns coming alive on the Oliver & Company: Special Edition DVD main menu.

Extras - Having broken tradition with the "Gold Collection" label, Disney calls Oliver & Company a "Special Edition." Well, there isn't much of a difference in terms of content, but Oliver does have a decent amount of supplements. The animated menus are a nice touch, and it's nice to see Disney embrace something other than the static menus the Gold Collection seemed to have a great fondness for. The main menu features a collection of a scenes in each corner of the screen that take turns playing, while the score plays over it all. Other menu screens like Bonus Features, are static after the transition, but the score gives life to them.
The first and most significant extra is The Making of Oliver & Company, which despite what it implies, is really just a 5 minute, 30 second featurette that fits the definition of "fluff piece" as the cast is praised and the voice-over man convinces us that the movie is in successful Disney tradition while remaining hip and all-American,
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even though it is based on a classic English novel. The featurette briefly touches upon the computer-generated imagery used in the animation, but for the most part, is pure hype and quite disappointing.
Disney's Animated Animals: A Look at the History of Animals in Disney Films is a 90-second featurette that briefly skims the surface of animal characters in Disney's animated films, focusing on Oliver. Basically, this featurette is as long as it takes to read the full title of it.
The Oliver & Company Scrapbook is a 14-page gallery with conceptual art, character and story development sketches, behind the scenes photos of the artists and voice actors, and publicity and merchandise artwork. You can browse the cropped thumbnails or move individually through the full-sized still images.
There are 2 Sing-Alongs, for the film's most memorable tune, "Why Should I Worry?" (2:55) and for "Streets of Gold" (2:50). Both are in fullscreen, with 2.0 Surround audio.
The Publicity Materials section fortunately provides us with a handful of trailers. (Several recent Disney DVDs, such as The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Hunchback of Notre Dame have been noticeably missing their trailers.) Contained within this section are a 35-second TV spot, the original trailer (1:35), the re-release trailer (1:41) and a re-release promotional spot (1:59) which is mostly self-congratulatory in tone, and tries to hammer home the fact that Oliver started a new realistic animation trend that Little Mermaid, etc. followed.
Fun Film Facts is a set of nine screens worth of information on the production and design of the movie. These notes range from the obvious to the interesting.
Finally there are two animated shorts: "Lend a Paw" (1941 Best Animated Short Oscar winner) (8 min, 5 sec) and "Puss Cafe" (1949) (7 min, 7 sec). Both feature feline characters and an agitated Pluto, and both are presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen with mono sound.
Also present are 8 Sneak Peeks for Beauty and the Beast, Lilo & Stitch, Snow Dogs, Return to Never Land, Max Keeble's Big Move, Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch, Monsters, Inc., and "Teamo Supremo." The first three play upon loading the disc, and can be skipped.

Dodger rides a taxi the way dogs with street savoir-faire do.

Closing Thoughts - Disney has put together a nice disc for one of their lesser-known animated classics. Video and audio, while not mind-blowing, are quality and there's a handful of extras, as well. Definitely a recommended purchase for anyone who's a fan of this film and worth a rental for the Disney fan who hasn't seen this yet.

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Related Reviews:
Oliver & Company (20th Anniversary Edition) The Little Mermaid (Platinum Edition) The Fox and the Hound (25th Anniversary Edition)
The Aristocats (Special Edition) The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (Friendship Edition) Robin Hood (Most Wanted Edition)
101 Dalmatians (Platinum Edition) The Sword in the Stone (45th Anniversary Edition) Lady and the Tramp (Platinum Edition)
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Reviewed May 2002.