Sunday, 14 April 2013

Cats And Dogs: Phil's Favourite Disney Film

Disney have made a lot of animated features over the years, Tangled being the 50th. But for me, the 27th of those holds a special importance. I almost jumped for joy when I came home to find it on Sky Disney last night. It is a film that this humble blogger watched relentlessly as a young lad and still finds it to be the Disney film he most connects with. Allow me, if you will, to tell you why you should love Oliver & Company and
why it means so much to me.

If you are not aware of Oliver & Company and have not seen it, let me quickly inform you of what it is about. It is Disney's adaptation of the famous tale of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. A young cat, voiced by Joseph Lawrence, is left in a box on the street with several other kittens with a sign saying they need a new home. Oliver is the only kitten to not get chosen and is left on his own in New York City in the rain. He starts trying to live independently and comes across a dog known as Dodger (Billy Joel) who takes him under his paw. Dodger brings the cat back to his gang of dogs, Rita, Francis, Tito, and Einstein, and their master Fagin, and they begin to break him into the crew. On the first job, the unnamed cat gets stuck in a limo in which a young girl, Jenny, promises to take care of him. She names him Oliver and they become the best of friends, much to Jenny's dog, Georgette's, displeasure. Fagin wants the cat to help him get money that he desperately needs to save his life, but will Jenny's love for Oliver change everything?

And with that, their friendship was cemented.

So why do I love this film? Aside from watching it a hundred times in my early youth (it was one of the only videos my Grandmother owned) and the psychological reasoning that goes with association to good memories, there is firstly one very simple reason: it looks and sounds fantastic. Oliver & Company is classic 2D animation at some of its finest. You can see, particularly on Francis, the sketch lines on the characters and this, combined with the painted opening credits, creates an ambience of home made film; the idea that love and dedication went into making the movie rather than money, which is important considering that Fagin is a character that has no money, but still shows how happy one an be with love (in his case, his love for his dogs). But what really makes Oliver & Company is the songs. If you have a moment, they can all be listened to right here. 'Why Should I Worry', a story of being care free and happy with what you have got, sung beautifully and powerfully by Joel. 'Good Company' one of the most adorable songs in any film ever, in which Jenny sings about her friendship with Oliver. 'Once Upon A Time In New York City', a beautiful and slightly heartbreaking introduction into Oliver's world performed wonderfully by Huey Lewis and the News. These songs are light and catchy but each hold a strong message individually. The same cannot be said for 'Perfect Isn't Easy', but that is always intended to demonstrate a character that the audience are not meant to particularly like.

I am not attracted to a cartoon dog I am not attracted to a cartoon dog
I am not attracted to a cartoon dog I am not attracted to a cartoon dog

But pretty animation and jamming songs are not really enough to make a film last in your heart, so what does it for Oliver & Company? For me, it is the message. Look at Oliver. He is a kid, lost in a city he does not understand. Everyone around him is bigger and scarier. All his friends, his brothers and sisters, have gone. They've left for caring homes and loving families. Oliver has nothing. But he does not give up. He fights for food and then when Dodger appears and steals his food, he fights to get it back. When huge mean Rottweilers attack Fagin's gang, Oliver fights back. When Oliver is in danger, the gang risk everything and go after him. When Jenny is in danger, the gang risk everything and go after her. When the gang are in danger, Fagin risks everything and goes after them. When Fagin's life is in danger because he cannot pay loan shark/ mob boss, Sykes, and his only way to get money is to ransom Oliver, he sacrifices that only chance at saving his life to make Jenny happy. The gang of outcasts stay together. Friendship prevails. It may come as a surprise to some of you, it may not, that I was short of friends as a youngster. I was an outcast. I did not like football or sports, I preferred to stand up against my bullies rather than roll over for them, if my friends were being bullied, I'd do what I could to help them. It led to me getting in fights where I did not fight back. I saw a lot of myself in Oliver, and that gave me hope.

Oliver had his ups and downs but in the end, friendship made it all worthwhile. The baddies, the bullies, come to an (extremely brutal) end. There is no doubt in my mind that a lot of my readers have felt isolated and alienated in their days. That they have felt overwhelmed or lost. That they have been against bigger and stronger opinions and felt hopeless. Oliver & Company is the Disney film that creates a host of characters that emulate these feelings but also shows them fighting it. If a kitten can fight off a Rottweiler, why can't I fight off a bully? If a gang of outcast dogs can take down a mob boss, why can't I finish my assignment? No matter what your issues you have to overcome, take a lesson from Oliver and Fagin's gang. Nothing is impossible so stay strong. Stay powerful. I mean, Why Should We Worry?

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