The number of films using ‘traditional’ animation have become fewer in light of the popularity of computer-generated images. Actually, it’s the not simply the physical appearance of these movies, but something more–an edginess, wit, better developed stories, etc.–that can explain this appeal, for both children and adults alike. Now, the latest animated film from Disney for a retro feel, not just in terms of looks (‘traditional’ animation), but in terms of feel and setting it seems reminiscent of the Studio’s work from decades ago, the stuff that would appear on “”The Wonderful World of Disney””.
This latest flick, “”Home on the Range””, works for the most part. There are plenty of lively characters (though too many at times), the story moves along briskly, fewer songs–only one character actually has a musical number, other songs are relegated to the background–and the humor can keep both children and adults interested. The look of the film may not wow some in light of the work Pixar did, although there are moments, such as occasional panoramic views of both the farm in the surrounding landscape. Again, though, this goes for the feel of the film–contemporary dialogue, but in a setting that was popular (western) that was popular with many older cartoons, along with retro-style character movements.The film generally succeeds, in large part to the casting of the voices. Roseanne, Judi Dench, and Jennifer Tilly do well in the roles of lead cows Maggie, Mrs. Calloway, and Grace respectively. In particular are the contrasting personalities, as can be expected, of the brash yet personable Maggie (Roseanne), and the prim and very British Calloway (Dench) who also has a major hat fixation. Grace, meanwhile, is easy-going, sings a lot (badly) to her co-horts, and has a generally trippy disposition overall; Tilly’s voice suits this character well.Plot-wise, “”Home on the Range”” is simple enough, as it concerns the efforts of the three leading ladies in their attempt to capture cattle rustler Alameda Slim (Randy Quaid) and collect the reward money ($750). It turns out that their home, the dairy farm Patch of Heaven, is about to face foreclosure and be auctioned off unless owner Pearl (Sarah Jessica Parker) can come up with–surprise–$750. After initially suggesting that they enter the local fair, Maggie comes up with the idea of going after Slim with Mrs. Calloway and Grace in tow, albeit reluctantly–and weighing in is Maggie’s own reason for going after the outlaw.Along the way, the three cows deal with Buck (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), the local sheriff’s horse who has a huge ego and is carrying famed bounty hunter Rico (Charles Dennis)–both horse and rider find themselves on the trail of Slim. The bovines must also contend with floods, overeager vultures, steep cliffs, and Grace’s singing. In addition, they encounter a shaman–rather, a peg-legged jackrabbit–named Lucky Jack (Charles Haid) who dispenses advice and um, interesting cooking.[pagebreak]The story, which could easily have been told in a film from a half century ago, still works well. The plot pauses briefly for a musical interlude before picking up, and the action in the film culminates in a roller coaster-esque chase scene. There aren’t as many ‘moments’ such that adults can enjoy the film as well as children–though some may question whether a few of the jokes are appropriate for children.The characters are voiced well–both leads and supporting roles. Noteworthy among the latter are an old goat–literally and figuratively–named Jeb (Joe Flaherty) who continually dishes pessimistic comments, and a businessman who deals with Slim named Weasley (“”It’s pronounced Westley””, he says) who is voiced by Steve Buscemi (the character even looks a little like Buscemi). Also lending vocal talents, albeit briefly, are Estelle Harris and Patrick Warburton–both of “”Seinfeld”” fame–as a chicken and a horse, respectively.The characters are entertaining–whether it’s Maggie’s continued comments (telling a pig with an apple to stay away from a luau), Buck’s war of wills with a buffalo, or the interaction between Slim and his goons–the action is fun, and the animation looks decent–for this type of story anyway. There are still a couple of gripes, with the first being that there are a lot of characters who, given the length of the film are given short shrift–and that turns out to be quite a number of characters (like some of the other farm animals). The other concern is the sight of dancing animals–brrrrr–during the “”Little Patch of Heaven”” song, done by k.d. Lang; the song is o.k., but the dancing around the barnyard is a bit much, a bit too ‘cutsey’.Despite these shortcomings, there is plenty to enjoy here, for both children and adults. This could be Disney’s last hand-drawn animated film, at least for a while, as they focus on the more popular computed-generated animation. If this is truly the case, then this seems like a decent enough send-off, successfully mixing the style of decades ago with a more contemporary attitude.Grade: B+EM Reviewby Andrew Haas4/2/02