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Will Finn, John Sanford
G.W. Bailey, Roseanne, Bobby Block, Steve Buscemi, Carole Cook, Charlie Dell, Judi Dench
Writing Credits:
Will Finn, John Sanford, Sam J. Levine, Mark Kennedy, Robert Lence

Bust a Moo.

Round up the family and get ready for a whole lotta fun with Disney's hilarious animated comedy Home on the Range. It's a "total joy," raves Gene Shalit, The Today Show.

When a greedy outlaw schemes to take possession of the "Patch Of Heaven" dairy farm, three determined cows, a karate-kicking stallion named Buck, and a colorful coral of critters join forces to save their home. The stakes are sky high as this unlikely animal alliance risks their hides and match wits with a mysterious band of bad guys.

Experience Disney's new moo-vie adventure with spectacular bonus features, stunning animation, and original songs performed by k.d. lang, Bonnie Raitt, Tim McGraw, and The Beu Sisters and written by the Academy Award-winning composer of Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. It's "good fun for the whole family," declares Leonard Maltin.

Box Office:
$110 million.
Opening Weekend
$13.880 million on 3047 screens.
Domestic Gross
$50.026 million.

Rated G

Widescreen 1.66:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 76 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 9/14/2004

• Audio Commentary with Writers/Directors Will Finn and John Sanford and Producer Alice Dewey Goldstone
• Deleted Scenes
• Bonus Short
• Games and Activities
• Music Video
• “Trailblazers: The Making of Home on the Range
• Art Review
• Sneak Peeks
• THX Optimizer


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Home On The Range (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 9, 2004)

Apparently, 2004’s Home on the Range marks the end of an era. No one knows for sure what the future will bring, but right now it looks like this flick will be the final Disney movie to focus on traditional cel animation. Given the studio’s storied history in that domain, this decision definitely saddens Disney fans.

Does Range send the studio out with a bang? Unfortunately, no. The film lacks much personality and fails to become something special.

At the start, we meet “show cow” Maggie (voiced by Roseanne Barr), the only critter left on a farm victimized by cattle rustler Alameda Slim (Randy Quaid). Penniless and forced to auction his property, Abner (Dennis Weaver) moves west and leaves Maggie on “Patch of Heaven”, a lovely dairy farm.

There she causes a ruckus with her outsized personality. We meet fellow cows like the prim and proper Mrs. Caloway (Judi Dench) and the bubbly Grace (Jennifer Tilly) as well as some other denizens. Unfortunately, a dark cloud enters the picture when Sheriff Sam (Richard Riehle) delivers a foreclosure notice to Heaven owner Pearl (Carole Cook). She has three days to raise the $750 she owes or she’ll lose the farm.

Maggie urges the others to enter the county fair and win the needed money there. Mrs. Caloway dislikes the idea and opposes Maggie but she eventually agrees to assist. Maggie, Grace and Mrs. Caloway depart to move this plan into action.

We also meet Buck (Cuba Gooding Jr.), the sheriff’s horse. He feels frustrated with his quiet, low-key lifestyle and fantasizes that he’ll get to actively battle baddies. When bounty hunter Rico (Charles Dennis) comes to town and needs a fresh horse, Buck lands himself the gig.

They plan to head out after Slim, and when the cows here about this, they get an idea. Since the reward for Slim’s abduction just happens to equal the $750 they need, they decide to go after the rustler. They participate in a cattle drive and eventually run into Slim himself, at which time we learn the villain nabs cows via his hypnotic yodeling. He then pretends to be “Y. O’Del” and purchases the farms to become the realm’s biggest landowner. The rest of the movie follows the cows’ pursuit and all the obstacles and dilemmas that pop up along the way.

Range doesn’t exactly boast a scintillating plot, but how many Disney animated flicks do? Most of them operate off of the usual simple story combined with basic moral combination. It’s what they do with those elements that makes the movies special.

Unfortunately, Range lacks the personality to overcome the ordinary story. It takes its cues mainly from glib flicks like The Emperor’s New Groove and Aladdin, as it shoots for the same style of wisecracking nuttiness. It just doesn’t manage to match up to those offerings, perhaps because it lacks a strong comedic talent in the lead. David Spade and Robin Williams helped propel their respective flicks, but the usually-annoying Roseanne can’t motivate personality into Range.

The fairly feeble script doesn’t help. The movie includes all the right elements but they never quite coalesce and turn into something lively or creative. Instead, the film feels cobbled together with a nod toward the right properties but without the spark or inventiveness of better Disney comedies.

That remains the biggest problem with Home on the Range: it seems relentlessly ordinary. The actors try desperately to sell the material but can’t overcome its inherent lack of inspiration. This renders Range watchable and superior to some of the studio’s more boring efforts, but it remains a pretty lackluster product.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Home on the Range appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Disney usually do a nice job with their animated releases, and London didn’t vary from that model.

Sharpness appeared fairly good. Some mild examples of softness crept into wide shots, and these led to present an image without great definition at times. However, the movie generally looked concise and detailed. No shimmering occurred, but I noticed occasional jagged edges and a little light edge enhancement. Source flaws caused no concerns and stayed absent.

Range enjoyed a suitably cartoony and lively palette with a Western tint, and the DVD replicated those tones well. The colors always came across as tight and vibrant. The hues never displayed any bleeding, noise, or other concerns, and they consistently appeared strong. Black levels also seemed deep and rich, while shadow detail looked appropriately dense but never became too thick or opaque. In the end, Range presents a reasonably positive picture.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 of Home on the Range, it seemed acceptable but lackluster. The soundfield maintained a noticeable bias toward the front speakers, and it displayed decent spread and imaging there. Music showed nice stereo separation, and a lot of environmental and other specific effects cropped up from the sides. The soundfield showed a good level of activity and made the front domain reasonably lively, with nice blending and movement.

Surround usage was relatively minor, though the movie enjoyed some active moments. For the most part, the rear speakers simply reinforced the front ones, but periodic instances of unique audio cropped up from the rear. This track stayed focused on the front.

Audio quality appeared clear but somewhat uninspiring. Speech came across as natural and concise, and I noticed no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Music sounded clean but lacked much dimensionality. The score and songs were somewhat thin and without impact. Effects also seemed clean and accurate, and they could provide some acceptable low-end response when appropriate. Bass for those parts was fine but a little loose at times. Some moments stood out as powerful, such as the arrival of the train or an explosion toward the end. Otherwise, though, the audio of Range was decent and nothing more given the flick’s vintage.

Not one of the more elaborate Disney DVDs, Home on the Range nonetheless comes with a mix of extras. We start with an audio commentary from writers/directors Will Finn and John Sanford and producer Alice Dewey Goldstone, all of whom sit together for a running, screen-specific chat. Like most Disney animation tracks, this one seems bright, bubbly, and reasonably informative. We get a lot of information about the film’s evolution, with remarks about cut sequences, changes of pace and characters, and various parts of the decision-making process. Happy talk pops up pretty frequently, and we also get lots of notes about who was responsible for what part of the flick; both elements get a little tedious at times. Nonetheless, the commentary gives us a good level of information and moves along nicely.

A collection of four deleted scenes follows. This section starts with a 35-second introduction from Finn and Sanford; they simply explain the concept of deleted scenes. As for the clips themselves, they run a total of 15 minutes and 10 seconds; that total includes scene-specific introductions from Finn and Sanford. The snippets vary from simple story reels up to rough pencil art; no fully finished footage appears.

Since little in the final film seems particularly entertaining, I didn’t anticipate much from these scenes, and my low expectations were warranted. The segments would have slowed down the movie even more, and they lacked much amusement or excitement. Sanford and Finn’s introductions give us good notes, however, as they aptly let us know what the scenes intended to do and why they got the boot.

Under “Music & More”, all we get is a music video for “Anytime You Need a Friend” by the Beu Sisters. (Why call it “Music & More” with only one component?) It’s little more than the usual lip-synch/movie snippet blandness, though the Sisters are attractive enough that I won’t complain.

Two elements pop up in “Games & Activities”. The Joke Corral tells us cracks - presented in the style of Laugh In and its folks behind windows - and lets you toss out your own funny; do so and hit a button to get a reaction from a character. We get 18 pre-programmed jokes in all, and while none seems scintillating, the presentation’s cool. It uses an interesting cutout style of animation (ala South Park) and also features all the original voice actors. This makes it more endearing than it might have been. (The “Herd of Jokes” play all option is also a nice touch.)

Yodel Mania! divides into three smaller areas. “Yodel Memory Game” requires you to attend to a growing sequence of singing animals. It builds up slowly to a possible seven vocalists, and that makes it easy. It’s surprisingly cute and fun, again because we find the original voice actors; how can you not love to hear Judi Dench and Joe Flaherty yodel? The bonus round is tougher, but I cheated and wrote down each yodeler so I aced it. Unfortunately, successful completion comes with no prize.

This area also includes a “YodelMentary”. This 160-second piece doesn’t present a game or an activity. Instead, we get a quick, glib, and not very interesting look at the history of yodeling. Finally, “Yodel Maker” sends you to a DVD-ROM drive and requires a microphone, so that’s all I can say about it. Alas, I shan’t record any personal yodels today!

”Backstage Disney” includes the already-discussed audio commentary plus two other elements. Trailblazers: The Making of Home on the Range lasts 16 minutes, 40 seconds, and presents a pretty standard piece. We hear from Finn, Sanford, Dewey, dialogue writer Shirley Pierce, composer Alan Mencken, lyricist Glenn Slater, background supervisor Cristy Maltese Lynch, and supervising animators Mark Henn, Duncan Majoribanks, and Chris Buck. They talk about the flick’s origins and development, its characters, the art and animation, the music

In addition to the comments, we see footage of the actors in the studio as well as production art and other archival elements. Those add to the package, which otherwise seems reasonably efficient and informative but not spectacularly deep. A fair amount of material repeats from the commentary, though enough new info pops up to make it worthwhile. It’s a good program given its length and restrictions. (Footnote: Mencken refers to kd lang’s “all-American” voice - does he know she’s Canadian?)

For the last part of “Backstage Disney”, we find a 10-minute and 15-second Art Review. In this, we check out look at research photos and concept drawings while we hear from Maltese and art director David Cutler. They discuss the processes they went into the visual and character design of the movie. It’s an informative and tight look at its subject.

Range tosses in an all-new animated short called “A Dairy Tale: The Three Little Pigs”. This uses the same style as the look of the “Joke Corral”. We watch Mrs. Caloway retell the “Three Little Pigs” story in this three-minute, 40-second piece, but she constantly gets interrupted by other cast members. It’s cute and fun.

In a fun touch, before you get to the main menu, you’ll find a unique animated intro. This offers tidbits with the original voice actors for four of the characters as they tell us of the coming menu. It’s cute and fun - and easily skipped, which is great since it’ll get old after a few screenings.

As the disc starts, we encounter a mix of ads. We find trailers for Pooh’s Heffalump Movie, Aladdin, Mulan and Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas. These also appear in the disc’s Sneak Peeks domain along with promos for The Magical World of Pooh, Disney’s ToonTown Online, and the Range soundtrack.

The disc features the THX Optimizer. Also found on many other DVDs, this purports to help you set up your system for the best reproduction of both picture and sound, ala stand-alone programs such as Video Essentials. I’ve never tried the Optimizer since I’m happy with my settings, but if you don’t own something such as Essentials, the Optimizer may help you improve picture and audio quality.

If Home on the Range represents the final chapter in Disney’s legacy of 2-D animation, it’s too bad for a number of reasons. Much of the sadness will come from the lackluster quality of this flick, which doesn’t represent a strong moment for the studio. It seems tepid and without much pep to make it entertaining.

The DVD offers very good picture along with sound that seems acceptable but not much better. The supplements don’t compete with the extras from Disney’s more packed special editions, but with a commentary, a good featurette, and some deleted scenes, there’s enough here to make it a better than average set. Too bad the movie itself is so bland. Leave this one for the Disney completists.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.7333 Stars Number of Votes: 15
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