- Directed by George Scribner
- November 18, 1988
- Oliver-Joey Lawrence
- Dodger-Billy Joel
- Tito-Cheech Marin
- Einstein-Richard Mulligan
- Francis-Roscoe Lee Browne
- Rita-Sheryl Lee Ralph voice / Ruth Pointer singing
- Fagin-Dom DeLuise
- Bill Sykes-Robert Loggia
- Jenny Foxworth-Natalie Gregory voice / Myhanh Tran singing
- Winston-William Glover
- Georgette-Bette Midler
- Old Louie-Frank Welker
An orphaned kitty joins a group of dogs engaged in petty theft in New York City.
Oliver & Company is a Disney-fied version of the story of Oliver Twist set in late 80s New York City with a gang of cute criminal animals. This movie stands out in my mind not because it is a particularly original take on the story but rather because I recall seeing this in theaters. Why does that make it stand out do you ask? Because it was a little on the rare side to go to see movies in theaters. Often I would catch them when they came on broadcast television because unlike the majority of the people in the world, we did not even have cable. For that reason it was a bit of a magical experience for me.
This is from when Disney had once again started producing animated features. There was a time when they had ceased doing what they were famous for and were focusing on live action stuff. The period known as the Disney Renaissance (1989-1999), when they once again made animated features, would not begin officially until the next year but this fits in nicely with that work. Though not as polished as the work from that time, it is still an enjoyable film with many of the same touches those films are known for.
Oliver & Company was light and family friendly but with some dark aspects. Disney was not yet talking down to its audience. That was saved for newer stuff. They kept this watchable for the kids but there was some darker stuff touched upon that if you thought about it you would realize it’s kind of messed up. The character of Jenny for example had some seriously neglectful parents. They were off galivanting around while she was left at home in the care of their butler. How emotionally damaging is that?
Joey Lawrence was the go-to cute kid back then. He was fresh off of Gimme A Break! and making the rounds on the cover of Tiger Beat but not yet a teen heartthrob so it was a given he would voice Oliver. Oliver is the last kitten in a box of kittens being sold outside of a store near Times Square.
Billy Joel of all people shows up as the terrier mongrel mix Dodger who is the first character to befriend Oliver. I am not sure if he has done anything in film before or since this. This was during the 80s and he was quite the big deal in music back then.
Cheech Marin shows up here as a Chihuahua named Tito. I knew enough about Cheech Marin at the time to know that his other work was not for kids. I am not sure if I even had seen or heard him in anything up to that point. I knew his reputation and that was enough.
Altogether we have a nice cross section in the voice cast of people either I had heard of and in my mind were associated with quality or edgy or just voices I recognized and again they were associated with quality or edgy. This was and still is one of a few animated films that interested me based on the voice cast alone.
Oliver & Company is hand drawn animation and I prefer that over the current plethora of CGI. Hand drawn animation stands the test of time. It is art directly from the hand of an artist. This looks as good now as it did at theaters. There looks to be the use of some early computer assistance in this though but on the whole this is drawn by a group of craftsman and not keyboard warriors. I would not expect it to be done on a computer entirely anyway since computer special effects were very much in their infancy you got to go and computer animation.
This story has the same bouncy music and songs one would expect from a Disney film along with the usual humor of the era. I miss these kind of Disney films.
Oliver Twist has been done numerous times in various settings and I am willing to bet that cute animals are not original, but this does have that classic Disney touch. It may not stand out as a classic, but it is an entertaining story that will make you feel good enough to smile.
While nothing groundbreaking Disney’s Oliver & Company is a fun, family friendly musical from a simpler time. It has good songs and it will hold your attention as well as the attention of your children. For the kids this is a watch it but for the adults this is strictly for the Disney fanatic.