The Disney animation machine took another step forward in 1988’s Oliver & Company by adding music back into the Disney animated film. Drawing inspiration from Dickens, Oliver & Company marked the start of an aggressive new effort to revitalize the feature animation division of The Walt Disney Studios. Disney also further refined the computer animation process, even opening a separate computer animation department for the animators
In one of its first incarnations, it was thought it might be a sequel to The Rescuers. Ultimately, the story developed into a New York animal story loosely based on Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist, titled Oliver and the Dodger. The film was overseen by a new generation of supervising animators, including Glen Keane, Ruben A. Aquino, Mike Gabriel and Mark Henn.
While this film was not the first Disney film to feature computer animation, the new technology took a giant step forward in this production. Previous films used computers in a very limited fashion, or for special effects. Oliver & Company marked the public debut of new computer-aided animation technology, with which artists created many of the “inanimate” objects in the film-cars, taxis, buses, a cement mixer, subway tunnels and trains, even the Brooklyn Bridge. Live “character” vehicles, Sykes’ limousine and Fagin’s strange scooter/shopping cart/tricycle, were also created with the assistance of the new technology, which would continue in development to the amazing level of sophistication seen in the latest Disney animated features.
Director George Scribner explains, “Because the city itself is in some respects another character in the picture, we wanted it to be realistic with lots of movement and traffic, not just static backgrounds. The computer has enabled us to generate the rhythm and action that goes with an urban center and then animate our characters on top of it.”
While not technically a musical, Oliver & Company does feature a six-song score. Unlike most musical films, the score to Oliver & Company was the work of several composers and lyricists working in several different styles, including Barry Manilow, Howard Ashman, Dean Pitchford, Dan Hartman and Charlie Midnight
As had been the case with Lady and the Tramp (1955), much of the action in Oliver & Companytakes place from a “dog’s eye view.” Disney artists even went on reconnaissance trips to Manhattan to take photographs of the city from this peculiar angle-drawing stares from the usually blase New Yorkers.
The production design of Oliver & Company harks back to that of 101 Dalmatians (1961), in that the backgrounds are rendered in the same bold, graphic outlined” style, bringing forward the “drawn” qualities of the characters,rather than having “outlined” characters functioning against more subtly painted settings.
Look for some “cameos” by other Disney canine stars such as Peg, Jock, and Trusty from Lady and the Tramp and Pongo from One Hundred and One Dalmatians near the beginning of the film when Dodger sings “Why Should I Worry?”
While they did not know it, this was the last film in the Disney Dark Age; the next film would see the Disney Renaissance strike with full force.
Oliver & Company
- Traditional Animation
- Walt Disney Studios
- Animation Studio: Walt Disney Feature Animation
- Distributed by: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution
- Cartoon Characters: Oliver, Dodger, Tito, Einstein, Francis, Rita, Fagin, Sykes, Roscoe, DeSoto, Jenny Foxworth, Winston, Georgette, Louie.
- Voice Actors: Joey Lawrence, Billy Joel, Cheech Marin, Richard Mulligan, Roscoe Lee Brown, Dom DeLuise, Robert Loggia, Bette Midler, Natalie Gregory; Full Voice Cast ...
- Directed By George Scribner.
- Animated By Vicki Anderson, Chris Bailey, David Cutler, Anthony de Rosa, Russ Edmonds, Rick Farmiloe, Will Finn, Tony Fucile, Ron Husband, Jay Jackson, Dan Jeup, Leon Joosen, Shawn Keller; more Animators ...
- Written By Jim Cox, Timothy J. Disney, James Mangold, Roger Allers, Chris Bailey, Michael Cedeno, Mike Gabriel, Vance Gerry, Leon Joose, Kevin Lima; more Writers ...
- Awards: Golden Globe Award Nominee, Best Original Song (Motion Picture), “Why Should I Worry?” (Music and Lyrics: Dan Hartmand, Charlie Midnight), 1989.
- Music: Howard Ashman, Barry Mann, Dan Hartman, Charlie Midnight, Dean Pitchford; more Musicians ...
- Editor: Mark Hester, Jim Melton.
- Originally Released on November 18, 1988.
- Originally Released Theatrically.
- Running Time: 72 minutes.