olivercoverGrade:  B
Entire family:  Yes
1988, 74 min., Color
Rated G

Aspect ratio:  1.85:1
Featured audio:  DTS-HD MA 5.1
Bonus features:  C
Includes:  Blu-ray, DVD

The first Disney movie with attitude.

That’s the tagline for this 1988 animated feature, which draws its inspiration from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. Instead of setting it in Dickens’ Victorian London, writers Jim Cox, Tim Disney, and James Mangold plunked this one down in the middle of New York City in the Eighties. A soundtrack that includes songs by Huey Lewis, Billy Joel, and Bette Midler date Oliver and Company just as much as Dickens’ stovepipe hats, and it’s a feature few would consider one of Disney’s best.

But boy, does Blu-ray breathe new life into it!

My wife has never been a fan of this film and has sometimes had a problem telling the difference between a DVD and Blu-ray. But even she remarked how much better the picture looked, and how it helps you to see details that you never saw before, and appreciate the art design more.

The juiced-up audio does the same thing for city sounds. It feels more authentically Big Apple now with this extensive HD makeover—the most dramatic, really, of any recent Disney catalog title new to Blu-ray. It really helps you appreciate the great mix of Dickensian allusions, upbeat songs, fun animal characters, poignant moments, and elements of peril.  

OliverandCompanyscreenSinger Billy Joel gives voice to Dodger, the cocky Tramp-like mongrel who’s the main mutt in an animal thieving operation run by a bum named Fagin (Dom DeLuise). The “gang” includes a feisty Chihuahua named Tito (Cheech Marin), an elegantly mannered bulldog (Roscoe Lee Brown), and a not-so-bright Great Dane named Einstein (Richard Mulligan), with Bette Midler handling the voiceover for a poodle and Joey Lawrence giving voice to the title character, Oliver.

In this film, Oliver is a kitten that was abandoned in a box on the mean streets, left on his own until Dodger comes to his rescue and makes him one of the gang. But during one of the gang’s capers Oliver is separated from the group and meets a young girl named Jenny (Natalie Gregory), who takes in the cat and makes it her pet. Jenny is a girl of privilege and wealth, so it’s not long before Dodger and the gang “rescue” her and Fagin gets involved in a plan that will rob that rich family blind.

At just 74 minutes, Oliver and Company is one of the shortest full-length features from Disney, but there’s a lot packed into it.  While no one will ever mistake Oliver and Company for one of the Disney’s golden oldies, it’s still doggone entertaining.