Oliver & Company appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Like many Disney animated releases, this one got pretty severe noise reduction, and that made it a mix of ups and downs.
On the positive side, Oliver objectively looked pretty good. While it clearly came with a lot of DNR, that technique didn’t tend to damage definition.
Granted, some shots suffered from a bit of softness. However, most of the movie seemed accurate and displayed appealing sharpness.
The negative stemmed from the fact Oliver just didn’t look like a movie. I mind this less for animation than live-action since one can argue cartoons don’t exist as ‘film” in the same way as live-action. They come from cels then transferred to film, whereas live-action doesn’t exist outside of celluloid (or digital bits nowadays).
That said, I find it more and more disconcerting to watch a movie that shows so few signs of ever existing on film, and that’s what we got from Oliver. Clean and fresh, the image displayed a smoothness that seemed appealing in the objective sense, but it simply didn’t feel like film.
No issues with jagged edges occurred, and I saw no edge haloes or moiré effects. Print flaws failed to appear.
Colors seemed bright and bold – perhaps too bright and bold. As with the DNR, it seemed clear the Blu-ray tampered with the original, as I doubt the hues seemed as expressive in the original product. Still, they appeared concise and full.
Blacks felt dark and dense, while shadows seemed smooth and concise. I gave the image a “B” because it looked good objectively, but I deducted some points due to the digital alterations.
As for the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Oliver & Company, it held up well over the decades, as the film presented a surprisingly active and engaging soundfield. The movie used the front channels to good advantage, as I heard solid stereo presence for the music.
Effects also spread nicely across the front, where they created a good sense of atmosphere. The surrounds contributed to that tone, and they came to life fairly well during a few louder sequences.
For instance, thunderstorms demonstrated a fine level of involvement from all five channels. The material offered good localization and integration, and it provided a well-balanced and smooth environment.
Audio quality also seemed positive. At times speech appeared a little thin, and I noticed an odd reverb effect on the voices of Joel and Midler.
Lots of Eighties pop music vocals used a similar sound, and I got the impression no one thought to turn it when the singers spoke dialogue; most of the speech lacked this issue. In any case, most of the dialogue appeared acceptably natural and distinct, and I noticed no problems related to edginess or intelligibility.
Music showed nice fidelity. The songs and score presented good dynamics and seemed clear and bright. Effects also came across as realistic and reasonably vivid, and the whole track exhibited decent bass response.
Low-end never appeared terribly strong, but the mix contributed some nice depth at times. Ultimately, the soundtrack of Oliver & Company seemed quite good for its age.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the 20th Anniversary DVD? The lossless audio showed a bit more depth and oomph compared to the Dolby mix on the DVD.
Visuals improved because the Blu-ray looked tighter and cleaner and brighter than the DVD. That said, some viewers may prefer the DVD because it seemed truer to the source.
With ample grain and a less perky palette, the DVD could feel like more of an accurate representation of the original movie. However, it offered such a lackluster transfer that I’d still rather watch the Blu-ray, alterations and all.
Note that the Blu-ray alters the DVD’s aspect ratio. While the 2009 DVD – and its 2002 predecessor - went with 1.66:1, the BD brings 1.85:1.
The Making of Oliver & Company presents a 1988 featurette about the film. It runs for five minutes, 31 seconds and offers a quick look at the film’s creation.
Mostly it simply promotes the movie, but it also includes a few behind the scenes shots as well as brief statements from director George Scribner, Disney vice-chairman Roy E. Disney, and supervising animator Glen Keane. Nothing here offers much real information, but at least we get a few moderately interesting facts.
Disney’s Animated Animals lasts one minute, 29 seconds. It appeared to promote the 1996 re-release of the film, and essentially it acts as a glorified trailer. We hear a few words from Scribner - taken from the 1988 sessions seen earlier - but largely we just check out bits of the movie and learn that we should go see it.
We also locate a mix of ads. This area provides a TV spot as well as the movie’s original theatrical trailer and a reissue trailer.
In addition, “Return of a Classic” touts the film’s mid-Nineties reissue and tries to tie it in with the hits that came out during the interim. The piece tries to convince us that Oliver was really the first megahit of that series. I didn’t buy it.
A subtitle option, Sing Along with the Movie simply adds song lyrics as the tunes play during the film. It’s a forgettable option.
Lastly, the disc includes two classic animated shorts, both of which star Pluto. From 1941 comes Lend A Paw (8:08), while Puss Café (7:10) appeared in 1950.
The first runs eight minutes and seven seconds and shows Pluto as he tries to deal with the presence of a kitten he inadvertently rescued from a river. It’s a cute offering that works fairly well.
”Puss Café” lasts seven minutes and nine seconds, and it really focuses more on some guest stars than it does Pluto. Two cats named Milton and Richard try to infiltrate Pluto’s yard to steal some grub, and he attempts to stop them.
I don’t know if Disney wanted Milton and Richard to become new stars, but it didn’t happen; only one of them even showed up in another cartoon. This one’s decent, but the two cats weren’t very engaging, so since the short focused on them, it fell a little flat.
The disc opens with ads for The Little Mermaid, Planes, Space Buddies and Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United.
Sneak Peeks adds promos for Sophia the First, Newsies: The Musical, The Muppet Movie, and Return to Neverland.
A second disc brings a DVD copy of Oliver. It duplicates the 20th Anniversary disc and includes a few features not found on the Blu-ray.
While I can’t assert that Oliver & Company is the worst animated film ever produced by Disney, I think it falls close to that mark. The movie seems excessively bland and lifeless, as it fails to ever become engaging or winning. The Blu-ray offers generally good – though altered – visuals along with appealing audio and a few bonus features. As a Disney completist, I’m happy to have Oliver on Blu-ray, but I can’t imagine I’ll want to watch it too frequently.
To rate this film visit original review of OLIVER & COMPANY