The classic era of Walt Disney Animation is filled with nostalgia for everyone, from the well-known princesses to the less well remembered productions. One of the studio’s most underrated classics is Oliver and Company from 1988, a mostly hand-drawn animation about an orphaned kitten making his way through modern day New York City, going from the streets to high society and back again.
Although it was directed by a relatively unknown director, George Scribner, Disney animation heavyweights such as Glen Keane, Ruben A. Aquino, Mike Gabriel, Hendel Butoy and Mark Henn each leant a hand in making this film, helping to grow the anticipation for Oliver and Company even before its release.
On top of the animators, Oliver and Company featured musical and acting greats like Billy Joel, Bette Midler and Cheech Marin, each bringing their iconic sounds to this romanticised presentation of New York City.
Released only a year before the revolutionary and some would say studio-saving animation The Little Mermaid however, Oliver and Company (and so many of Disney Animation’s 80s films) faded into the background as the so-called Disney Renaissance roared into view.
In this Top List, we here at The Film Magazine are analysing everything from the animation style to the music on offer in this overlooked 1988 release, to offer to you 5 Reasons Why Oliver and Company (1988) Is an Underrated Animation Classic.
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1. The City Scape
Oliver and Company is jam-packed with iconic New York imagery from the very start to the very end, with the opening song being played over the New York skyline and yellow cab-lined streets, and ending in very much the same fashion.
Of course, cities have been in Disney films before, but they are always set earlier in the 20th century and beyond, so Oliver and Company really brought the classic Disney animation into the modern world by setting itself in the contemporary United States. This is clearly a stylistic choice too, as New York’s iconic line-up of major brands are showcased throughout – from the well-known Coca-Cola billboards to the McDonald’s restaurants around the city. This was the first time known brands were included in a Disney animation, but it wasn’t done for the purpose of a cash grab and was only used to build a more authentic picture of modern day New York.
Overall, the setting for the film ends up making you feel nostalgic for 80s New York City, even if you’ve never been.
2. The Classic Animation Style
At the time of Oliver and Company’s release (1988), classic animation was the only type of animation that Disney was putting out. But since the turn of the century, this style has slowly been eradicated from our screens. So for most people, this now much older style of animation brings them the nostalgic feeling of watching their childhood favourites.
There is some “computer-assisted imagery”, seen most prominently in a subway chase scene, but generally Oliver and Company is one of the last of a dying breed of Walt Disney Animation releases in that it is a hand drawn feature.
It’s a romantic style for a romanticised portrayal of one the world’s great cities, and the perfect way to make a fairy tale location from a city often maligned for its trash and congestion.
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