Oliver and Company: 25th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Oliverand__Company25thAnnExperience a magical adventure, filled with friendship, fun and “paws-itively” cool music in the new 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray of Walt Disney’s Oliver And Company: 25th Anniversary Edition – featuring tail-wagging bonus and new digital mastering! Oliver, a feisty young cat, explores New York in this thrilling animated classic cleverly based on Charles Dickens’ timeless story, “Oliver Twist” — featuring unforgettable songs performed by musical greats Billy Joel, Huey Lewis and Bette Midler!  Joined by a pack of hilarious characters — dogs Dodger, Tito and their pals — Oliver knows he’s found a lifelong friend and a real home.  The new 25th Anniversary Edition includes Oliver’s Big City Challenge Game, the Academy Award-winning animated short “Lend A Paw” (1941, Short Subject, Cartoon) and much more!  Hightail it to your home theater for a fun and exciting movie-watching experience your family will enjoy again and again!

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Oliver and Company is Disney’s take on Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist” that’s set in the 1980s on the streets of New York City.  In this story, the character of Oliver (Joey Lawrence) is an orphaned kitten that roams the streets with no clue how to survive on his own until he meets a stray dog named Dodger (Billy Joel).  Once he meets Dodger, he learns a quick lesson on how not to be so trusting and gullible as Dodger tricks him into distracting a hot dog vendor while he takes the food for himself.  What Oliver lacks in street smarts he makes up for in pluck, since he manages to evade all kinds of danger to follow Dodger back to an old barge on the river where Dodger and his fellow pack of dogs live and work for a low life debtor named Fagin(Dom DeLuise).

It turns out that Fagin has gotten himself into some serious debt to a local thug named Sykes (Robert Loggia) and his only hope are his dog thieves he bring him items to sell at pawn shops.  This pack of dogs includes Tito the Chihuahua (Cheech Marin), Einstein the Great Dane (Richard Mulligan), Rita the Saluki (Sheryl Lee Ralph), and Francis the Bulldog (Roscoe Lee Browne) and they aren’t the best thieves to count on.  Just as Oliver is discovered spying on them, Sykes’ vicious Dobermans Roscoe and DeSoto burst into the room to force Fagin to walk to Sykes’ big black Lincoln Continental to be threatened by Sykes and warned that he has three days to come up with the money.   When Oliver scratches DeSoto’s nose, the dogs admire his spirit and make him a member of their gang.

Knowing that their time is running out, Fagin and the dogs venture out into the city to try to make some money.  When Oliver and Tito try to hotwire a limousine, things go badly and Tito is shocked and thrown from the car while Oliver is trapped within it.  When the limo’s owners return, they see Oliver caught up in the ignition wires and free him before taking him home.  Lucky for Oliver, the owner of the limo is a young girl named Jenny (Natalie Gregory) who along with her butler Winston (William Glover) lives in a mansion in an upscale neighborhood.  Jenny’s parents are often away on trips, so Jenny longs for a friend to spend time with so she adopts Oliver to keep her company which makes the pampered family dog Georgette (Bette Midler) very unhappy and jealous.

Thinking that Oliver was kidnapped, the other dogs embark on a rescue mission and eventually find out where Jenny lives.  With the help of Georgette (who is happy to help get rid of Oliver), they free Oliver and take him back to their place where he tells them that he didn’t want to be rescued.  When Fagin returns home and sees Oliver’s new pet ID collar, he realizes that whoever had Oliver has a lot of money and he schemes to ask for a ransom to get out of debt.  Despite his own dire straits, Fagin is unable to shakedown Jenny once he realizes that Oliver belongs to the little girl.   Sykes, on the other hand, has no qualms about it at all, and he kidnaps Jenny once he sees that Fagin doesn’t have the heart to do it himself.  It’s up to Oliver, Dodger, and the rest of the dogs to save Jenny from the villainous Sykes and his vicious Dobermans.

Oliver and Company isn’t one of Disney’s better efforts because it seems like they were so intent on making a “hip” film at the time of its release that it seems totally dated now.  In addition the animation isn’t as sharp as usual and the humor doesn’t work for the most part.  While watching it, it really reminded me aesthetically of The Rescuers thanks to the watercolor backgrounds and its New York City setting.  Later, while researching the movie for this review, I learned that at one point this movie almost became a sequel to The Rescuers but they changed their mind.  I’m glad on the one hand as I would rather have Bernard and Bianca have their own adventures on their own and it never would have worked anyway since Disney wanted to adapt “Oliver Twist” anyway.  Despite my issues with the movie, it’s still a cute movie that my son really liked.  Even the lesser Disney movies are still better than most of the other animated fare out there so you really can’t go wrong with them.  Oliver and Company was the first movie to really use computer animation to a large extent and it also paved the way for the second Disney Renaissance that would follow it.  It also has some catchy songs from Billy Joel, Huey Lewis, and Bette Midler.  I just wish that they had gone for a more timeless approach to the movie which would have given it a longer shelf life like most of their other movies.

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This 1080p (1.85:1) transfer is just as uneven as the movie itself.  While it’s undeniably an upgrade over the previous DVD release, it’s quality is nowhere near as good as Disney’s other animated releases.  I understand that this isn’t one of their Diamond Edition releases that offer a pristine print as they’ve spent a fortune restoring it, but I do expect them to put in more effort than this.  For a studio that’s serious about preserving their own animated history, it’s surprising to me that more effort wasn’t expended to make this look better than it does.  This isn’t a terrible transfer but it’s just not up to their usual par.  Colors look bright (sometimes too bright) while conversely, much of the movie is too dark.  This transfer seems to be very uneven with the contrast out of whack which veers from too light to too dark.  Detail is decent but you can tell that a lot of DNR has been used and not as carefully as Disney usually does.  This transfer is still better than the previous DVD’s but not by a whole lot.


Oliver and Company’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix fares better than its video quality but it also isn’t up to the usual gold standard of Disney releases.  This is a mostly front heavy mix with the rear channels coming to life only infrequently.  When they do kick in gear, it’s usually during one of the scenes that takes place on the streets of New York City where the mix delivers a lot of good atmosphere and accurate sound effects.  During the rest of the movie, we get a fairly flat and lifeless front channel mix that does the job but that’s about it.  The dialogue is clear throughout and the music comes across surprisingly well.  In fact, when the music starts up, it’s almost like you are listening to a different mix.  All in all, this is a decent mix that could have been better.


After you’ve read about the video and audio quality, you probably aren’t expecting too much in the extras department and you’d be correct.  We do get some token extras which is better than nothing but it’s nowhere near as good as Disney usually does.

  • The Making of Oliver & Company – This six minute segment isn’t really a making of featurette at all as it’s more of an extended commercial for the film.  Not too impressive.
  • Classic Animated Shorts – Even when the main Disney movie isn’t as good as it should’ve been, it’s always nice to get some classic Disney shorts that provide a nice contrast between the quality from the past and present.  In this case we get the Oscar winning “Lend a Paw” and “Puss Cafe, both of which are a lot fun to see.
  • Disney’s Animated Animals – Another throwback to the past that runs about two minutes long.
  • Publicity – Here’s a pair of trailers for the movie that show the approaches taken to promote the movie in different decades.  It’s interesting to see how the trailers themselves have changed over the years as the first one is from 1988 and the second is from 1996 along with a promo spot.
  • Disney Sing-Along Mode – Sing along if you dare!


Out of the three Disney movies released on the same day (Robin Hood, The Sword in the Stone, and this one), this is my least favorite of the three but unfortunately, it’s the only one I was given to review so I can’t comment on how those other ones turned out.  For Oliver and Company however, this movie didn’t get the same love and care that the other Disney movies usually do get and it shows.  The video and audio quality are just standard and the extras could be better too.  It’s nice to have this on Blu-ray but I wish they had spent more time on putting out a better version of it.

Order your copy today!

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