Generally regarded as one of the most criminally underrated Disney films of all time, Oliver & Company
, a loose adaptation of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist
, is different from most Disney animated films.
It's set in present-day New York City, and is about Oliver (voiced by a post-Gimme a Break!
Joey Lawrence), a cute orange stray Kitten, who wants nothing more than a loving home with a loving owner. Along the way, he meets a cool Dog named Dodger (voiced by pop singer Billy Joel) as he follows him to a hideout on the pier. It turns out that Dodger is a leader of a band of pick-pocketing Dogs, owned by a homeless man named Fagin (voiced by Dom De Luise
) The other members of Fagin's gang include Tito, a Chihuahua (voiced by Cheech Marin, one half of Cheech and Chong), Francis, a Bulldog (voiced by Roscoe Lee Browne), and Rita, a Saluki (voiced by Sheryl Lee Ralph). Fagin has to pay a large some of money to a loan shark named Sykes (voiced by Robert Loggia) in 3 days, or his home will be destroyed. The next day, they attempt to steal a car, to make some money. However, things go wrong when Oliver ends up inside a car with a cute little girl named Jenny (voiced by a post-Alice in Wonderland '85
Natalie Gregory). Feeling incredibly lonely over the absence of her parents, she takes him under her wing. She immediately falls in love with him, but her jealous prize-winning Poodle (voiced by Bette Midler) wants him out. When the gang "rescues" him, Jenny goes looking for him, but then gets kidnapped. Now, Oliver and the gang must save her!
What sets this film apart from the rest of the Disney animated cannon, is that all of its five original songs were written by different people. The fitting, emotional opening track, which sets the tone for the rest of the film (Huey Lewis' "Once Upon a Time in New York") was the late Howard Ashman's first Disney contribution. Other songs include the signature "Why Should I Worry" by Billy Joel, Ruth Pointer's "Streets of Gold", Bette Midlers' "Perfect Isn't Easy", and the simple but sweet "Good Company".
An underrated gem that never gets the respect it deserves, "Oliver & Company" is one film that is not to be overlooked. Its success led the way to the Disney renaissance a year later with The Little Mermaid