Oliver & Company 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. The picture of Oliver showed a mix of problems.
Sharpness usually appeared decent. The image wasn’t particularly tight, but it showed reasonable delineation most of the time. Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no concerns, and I also witnessed no indications of edge enhancement. In terms of source flaws, grain was the major issue, as that element showed up often during the movie and could be rather heavy. Other flaws were less problematic, though; the image sometimes looked a little flickery, and I saw a few small specks, but that was it.
Colors looked fairly good for the most part. At times I felt they seemed somewhat heavy, but the hues mostly came across as reasonably bold and vibrant. Black levels appeared nicely deep and rich, but shadow detail could be rather thick. Many of the film’s low-light scenes were too opaque, though this never became a terrible concern. Overall, Oliver & Company always remained watchable, but the image seemed problematic compared to most Disney animated offerings.
More consistently successful was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Oliver & Company. 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 picture and audio of this “20th Anniversary Edition” compare to those of the original 2002 DVD? I thought both discs offered similar sound, but the 2009 package provided moderate improvements in visual quality. The old disc suffered from more source flaws and was a bit less distinctive. While the 20th Anniversary disc wasn’t a huge step up, it did show improvements.
In terms of extras, most of the components already appear on the old DVD. Only one new piece shows up here: a game called Oliver’s Big City Challenge. This includes a smattering of mini-games that challenge you in different ways. None are particularly interesting, and there’s no real reward for successful completion of the tasks.
The Making of Oliver & Company presents a 1988 featurette about the film. It runs for five and a half minutes 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 88 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.
In the Oliver & Company Scrapbook, we find a nice collection of stillframe materials. The thumbnailed domain includes 57 images that cover a variety of topics. We see concept art, character sketches, photos of actors and filmmakers, and advertising art. I love the thumbnailed presented, and this area provides a fair amount of interesting material.
When we examine Fun Film Facts, we discover some text production notes. I don’t know how “fun” they are, but this section offers a reasonably decent discussion of the film’s creation. It seems somewhat thin and perfunctory, but it does the job.
Inside Publicity Materials we 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 118-second piece tries to convince us that Oliver was really the first megahit of that series. I didn’t buy it.
A staple of Disney DVDs, we get two Singalong Songs. We can croon along with “Why Should I Worry?” and “Streets of Gold”. Frankly, I think these offerings make little sense on DVDs; the format already offers subtitles, so I’ve always found the “Sing-along Songs” to seem somewhat pointless. However, if you dig them, there they are!
Lastly, the DVD includes two classic animated shorts, both of which star Pluto. From 1941 comes Lend A Paw, while Puss Café 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.
When you start the DVD, you’ll find the usual complement of advertisements. Here we get clips for Pinocchio, Up, Air Bud, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Disney Movie Rewards and SpaceBuddies. From the main menu, you’ll discover a Sneak Peeks area that includes all of these promos plus ones for Bolt, Tigger and Pooh and a Musical Too, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, Imagination Movers and Monsters, Inc.
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 DVD offers a decent image that suffers from excessive grain, but it provides pretty solid sound. In addition, it includes a roster of fairly superficial extras. As a Disney completist, I’m happy to have Oliver on DVD, but I can’t imagine I’ll want to watch it too frequently. Leave this one for the die-hards.
If you choose to pursue the movie, the 20th Anniversary release is the strongest version of it on the market. In terms of audio and extras, it’s a lot like the 2002 disc, but the 2009 release provides moderately improved picture. It’s not a huge difference, though, so I wouldn’t endorse a repurchase for fans who already have the original disc.
To rate this film visit original review of OLIVER & COMPANY