|(drawn animation, some cgi animation)
Disney does Dickens, Broadway style! Actually, the animated Oliver & Company was more “inspired by” than “based on” Charles Dickens’ classic Oliver Twist. Eschewing streetwise orphans for hip animals, and trading the cold streets of London for the mean streets of New York City, the movie was a musical romp from a cat’s eye view.
The title cat (“Oliver,” not “Company”) is the only member of his litter not taken in for adoption. Left alone in the bustling Big Apple, the cute fuzzball is taken in by a pack of con artist dogs, including the bandana-wearing terrier Dodger, peppy chihuahua Tito, veddy British bulldog Francis, Motown Afghan hound Rita and dimwitted mutt Einstein. The pooches’ human master, Fagin, is indebted to a ruthless neighborhood boss named Sykes, and the dogs take it upon themselves to bail him out.
Out on a fundraising con, Oliver ends up in the limo of a lonely little rich girl named Jenny. The girl and the kitty strike an instant bond, and Jenny takes Oliver home to live with her. Thinking Oliver has been catnapped, the dogs devise a plan to “liberate” him. It works, but when Jenny strikes out to find her missing kitty, she falls into the greedy hands of Sykes, who holds her for ransom. Now it’s up to Oliver and company to save the little girl and end Sykes’ reign of urban terror.
Taking full advantage of a voice cast that included Billy Joel as Dodger and Bette Midler as Jenny’s spoiled pet poodle Georgette, Oliver & Company featured a number of upbeat, show-stopping tunes, including the pre-“Hakuna Matata” anthem, “Why Should I Worry?”
In addition to Billy and Bette, the movie boasted such vocal talents as Robert Loggia, Dom DeLuise, Richard Mulligan, Cheech Marin and a prepubescent Joey Lawrence as Oliver. While it wasn’t a phenomenon on the order of the next year’s The Little Mermaid, Oliver & Company was a modest success both in its initial release and in a 1996 re-release.