Home on the Range – The forty-fifth movie in the official series of Disney animated films was originally planned to be the last to use traditional animation, although Disney later released two others. The style of this one was very colorful and included some definite hints of old Disney, and there’s even a psychedelic scene similar to the pink elephants in Dumbo (although much shorter). Some of the humor tended toward the raunchy, with one particular line about udders apparently being why it received a PG rating instead of a G. It wasn’t one of Disney’s more ambitious movies, but it was funny and had a pretty solid if rather outlandish plot. Actually, the directors mentioned that the original idea was even more outlandish, with cattle rustler Alameda Slim planning to invade Washington with an army of cows. His plan in the finished movie was still quite ambitious but much less bizarre, instead having him steal the cattle, sell them, and then buy up the land. Aside from the obvious irony of a fat guy called Slim, the villain was also named after country musician and yodeler Wilf “Montana Slim” Carter. I had actually thought of Slim Whitman, who was also known for his yodeling.
Slim’s luring cattle through music is quite reminiscent of the Pied Piper, and apparently part of the idea from the film came from a scrapped idea for a straight-up Pied Piper movie. Slim is assisted in his evil deeds by his three dimwitted identical nephews, the Willie Brothers.
And yes, the colors of their scarves matched those of Donald Duck’s triplet nephews.
The heroes of the film are a trio of cows with celebrity voices, Roseanne as the sassy, uncouth newcomer Maggie; Judi Dench as the prim and proper Mrs. Caloway; and Jennifer Tilly as the kindly but dippy Grace. I thought there was a fair amount of Dr. Seuss in Grace’s design, although of course she lacked Seuss’s trademark half-circle pupils. Other celebrity voices included Cuba Gooding Jr. as a hyper horse with delusions of grandeur, and Steve Buscemi as the appropriately sleazy Mr. Wesley.
There were quite a few other characters as well, perhaps a few too many as some of them had rather significant introductions but then ended up not doing all that much. For instance, the revelation about the bounty hunter Rico was an interesting (if not entirely unexpected) twist, but didn’t really add that much to the plot. In addition to the celebrity voice acting, there was a fair amount of star power involved in the music as well, with songs by k.d. lang, Bonnie Raitt, and Tim McGraw. Also, for some reason they tacked on an annoying teen pop song at the end of the credits, and it didn’t fit with the tone of the movie at all. I’m not sure what was up with that, but it’s not like it affected the actual film at all.
I had no idea what to expect from this one, but I knew it didn’t get particularly good reviews or make much money at the box office. And while even the less popular Disney animated films tend to have their online fanbases, I can’t recall seeing much of anything about Home on the Range. I ended up liking it quite a bit, though, so I have to wonder if it was just poorly promoted (if I remember correctly, the commercials for it made it look pretty stupid) or if I have odd taste.