by D.W. Lundberg

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Our continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries are also included below.

Title: Home On The Range (2004)

The Plot: Three dairy cows in the Old West set out to capture a notorious cattle rustler and use the reward money to buy back their farm.

The Songs: "(You Ain't) Home On The Range," "Little Patch Of Heaven," "Yodle-Adle-Eedle-Idle-Oo," "Will The Sun Ever Shine Again," "Wherever The Trail May Lead," "Anytime You Need A Friend"

A Little History: Disney's 45th Animated Classic was originally titled Sweating Bullets, about a calf (named Bullets) who rescues his herd from a gang of ghostly cattle rustlers. Pre-production began in 1995, with Mike Gabriel (Pocahontas) and Mike Giamo slated to direct. By August of 2000, however, production woes forced Gabriel and Giamo off the project; they were replaced by Will Finn and John Sanford, who infused the script with elements from The Pied Piper Of Hamelin. Further delays caused studio executives to push HOTR's release date back by a full six months, from November 2003 to April 2004 (Brother Bear took its place on the release schedule, as it was further into production). Chris Sanders and Dean Deblois (Lilo & Stitch) participated in brainstorming sessions in October 2001. Maggie the cow was initially written as Patch of Heaven's matriarch and ersatz leader; when Roseanne Barr was cast in the part, the directors changed her to an outsider to improve the characters' dynamic. Alameda Slim is named after Canadian country singer Wilfred "Wilf" Carter, aka Montana Slim - renowned songwriter, guitarist, and yodeller ("Alameda" is also the name of the street where Disney's Burbank studio resides). The producers turned to composer Alan Menken (Beauty And The Beast, Aladdin) to write the song score, who worked with lyricist Glenn Slater to give the film a distinctive Western-Comedy feel. Songs on the soundtrack are performed by k.d. lang ("Little Patch Of Heaven"), Bonnie Raitt ("Will The Sun Ever Shine Again") and Tim McGraw ("Wherever The Trail May Lead"). Maggie's opening line about her udders ("Yeah, they're real. Quit staring") single-handedly earned the film its PG rating. Months before its release, Disney announced that Home On The Range would be their last 2D-animated feature, so they could focus solely on computer-animated titles. (Michael Eisner was also ousted as Disney CEO during this time.) The film was a financial disaster, costing $110 million but grossing only $76,482,461 worldwide.

How It Broke New Ground: The final Disney film to use the CAPS digital ink-and-paint system (first used in The Little Mermaid [1989]). Also the last Disney film to be released on videocassette.

How It Holds Up Today: The film that officially closed the book on 2D animation - and quite unjustly, too, since its particular blend of comedy and hi-jinks was just what we needed after Brother Bear and Treasure Planet drained all the fun from the format. Critics seemed to despair at its raucous humor and simplistic plot, but like a long-lost cousin to Lilo & Stitch, it's looser and less conventional for all that (you can practically feel the animators' joy in making it, as if delighting in their own irreverence.) Structurally, the tone is more Daffy Duck than Disney, with characters straight out of an old Looney Tunes cartoon (compare Sam the Sheepdog to the Willie Brothers, or Yosemite Sam to Alameda Slim). And the script by Will Finn and John Sanford plays fair within Western conventions, even while turning those conventions on their head. Range's real pleasure, though, is in its off-kilter casting (Roseanne Barr, Judi Dench and Jennifer Tilly are funnier together than you'd probably expect), and nonstop references to everything from Sergio Leone to Seinfeld to Little Caesar with Edward G. Robinson, of all things ("Mother of mercy... is this the end of Rico?"). It's ironic, I suppose, that a 2D movie about talking cows trying to save their farm from bankruptcy would put an end to one of Disney's most enduring legacies. Audiences couldn't have cared less, and flocked to see Shrek 2 instead, trouncing HOTR by $843 million (!) at the box office.

Grade: B


Hang on, Disney fans – there's more to come. Need to play catch up? Click on the following for: Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, Bambi, Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros, Make Mine Music, Fun And Fancy Free, Melody Time, The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad, Cinderella, Alice In Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady And The Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, One Hundred And One Dalmatians, The Sword In The Stone, The Jungle Book, The AristoCats, Robin Hood, The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh, The Rescuers, The Fox And The Hound, The Black Cauldron, The Great Mouse Detective, Oliver & Company, The Little Mermaid, The Rescuers Down UnderBeauty And The Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, PocahontasThe Hunchback Of Notre Dame, Hercules, Mulan, Tarzan, Fantasia/ 2000, Dinosaur, The Emperor's New Groove, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Lilo & Stitch, Treasure Planet, and Brother Bear. Please comment!

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