REVIEW: Home On The Range

home on the range>Now I’ve seen everything!
Literally – I’ve now seen every traditional Disney hand drawn animated feature film.
The collection is now complete. From SNOW WHITE in 1937 to HOME ON THE RANGE in 2004.
The original studio built by Walt and maintained since his death by the Nine Old Men, Ron Miller, Jeffery Katzenberg and currently Michael Eisner closes the book with one last feature length cartoon.
HOME ON THE RANGE is a fun little piece of fluff – it’s sort of an animation equivilent to the kind of small live action comedies Disney made in the 1960s, like MOON PILOT or THE MONKEY’S UNCLE. And like those films, HOME is easy to watch, good for a few laughs, harmless… and unimportant.
It’s got some good things in it, to be sure. The bright primary colors and the Ham Luske/Mary Poppins-esque character designs are (for me) a pleasure to watch; the strong stylized layouts and full character animation still make me smile and hold my attention.
The film’s creators may have been trying to making a statement here, taking a stand against CG by designing the most intentionally flat two-dimensional Disney universe since THE SWORD IN THE STONE.
home on the rangeThe film is about a trio of cows who attempt to catch a cattle rustler in order to save their farm. The beefy bandit, Alameda Slim (Randy Quaid), has a special technique to lure his prey – a hypnotic yodel! The demonstration of his vocal warbling is the film’s psychedelic highlight.
Other random pros & cons I thought about while watching the film:
PRO: There’s a nice bit where the farm horse fantasizes in CinemaScope spagetti Western style;
CON: Too many burping gags;
PRO: The voices are great – Roseanne, Jennifer Tilly, Cuba Gooding Jr. Judi Dench, Steve Busemi, and Governor Ann Richards (!);
CON: This film can have a jack rabbit with a peg leg – but Disney’s PC police had to get rid of Peg Leg Pete’s handicap in later Mickey Mouse adventures.
The Disney studio has come a long way from it’s Kansas City roots, Mickey Mouse beginings and SNOW WHITE heights. But the only thing this new film has in common with SNOW WHITE is a credit to Joe Grant (for Additional Story).
HOME ON THE RANGE is a better note to end on than, say, THE BLACK CAULDRON or ATLANTIS. It feels like the animators, writers, designers and directors had a lot of fun putting this together.
But that won’t change Hollywood (or public) perception of traditonal animated features. This style of film now comes to an end (actually, it evolved – and moved to Pixar). Traditional animators will have to have fun reinventing the artform.
I know they can do it.
To paraphrase an old World War II song: They did it before, they’ll do it again.