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Oliver & Company

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Oliver & Company
Oliver poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by George Scribner
Screenplay by Jim Cox
Tim Disney
James Mangold
Story by Vance Gerry
Mike Gabriel
Joe Ranft
Jim Mitchell
Chris Bailey
Kirk Wise
Dave Michener
Roger Allers
Gary Trousdale
Kevin Lima
Michael Cedeno
Pete Young
Leon Joosen
Based on Oliver Twist 
by Charles Dickens
Starring Joey Lawrence
Billy Joel
Natalie Gregory
Dom DeLuise
Cheech Marin
Bette Midler
Robert Loggia
Richard Mulligan
Roscoe Lee Browne
Sheryl Lee Ralph
Music by J.A.C. Redford
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
  • November 18, 1988 (1988-11-18)
Running time
73 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $74.2 million[1]

Oliver & Company is a 1988 American animated musical buddy comedy-drama film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released on November 18, 1988 by Walt Disney Pictures. The 27th film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, the film is inspired by the classic Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist, which has been adapted many other times for the screen. In the film, Oliver is a homeless kitten who joins a gang of dogs to survive on the 1980s New York City streets. Among other changes, the setting of the film was relocated from London to New York City, Fagin's gang is made up of dogs (one of which is Dodger), and Sykes is a loan shark.

Oliver & Company began production around 1986 as Oliver and the Dodger. The film was re-released in the United States, Canada, and the UK on March 29, 1996. It was then released to video later that same year, and again in 2002 and 2009 on DVD. The film was released on Blu-ray Disc in 2013, commemorating its 25th Anniversary.


In 1980s New York City, an orphaned kitten named Oliver is left alone after his fellow orphaned kittens are adopted by passersby and he wanders the streets by himself. The next day, he is tricked into assisting a laid-back dog named Dodger into stealing food from a hot dog vendor. Dodger then flees the scene without sharing his bounty with Oliver. Dodger eventually arrives at the barge of his owner, a pickpocket named Fagin, along with his meal, to give to his friends: Tito the Chihuahua, Einstein the Great Dane, Rita the Saluki and Francis the Bulldog. Oliver sneaks into their home, located below the city's docks, and is discovered by the dogs. After a moment of confusion, Oliver is then received with a warm welcome. Fagin, owner of the dogs, comes in and explains that he is running out of time to repay the money he borrowed from Sykes, a ruthless shipyard agent and loan shark. Sykes tells Fagin the money must be paid in three days, or else. Sykes' Dobermans Roscoe and DeSoto attack Oliver but the cat is defended by Fagin's dogs. A depressed Fagin then enters the barge, but the dogs are able to cheer him up. Fagin then is introduced to Oliver, noting that the gang has never had a cat before. Afterwards, Fagin reads the dogs a bedtime story, and Oliver sleeps with Dodger.

The next day, Fagin and his pets, now including Oliver, hit the streets to sell some shoddy goods and perhaps steal money. Oliver and Tito attempt to sabotage a limousine but the plan backfires when Oliver accidentally starts the car, and Oliver is caught and taken home by the limousine's passenger Jenny Foxworth and her butler Winston. Jenny's parents are away on a trip and she adopts Oliver out of loneliness. Georgette, the family's pompous and pampered poodle is enraged and jealous of Oliver's presence and wants him removed. Dodger and the others manage to locate Oliver, and with help from Georgette they bring him back to the barge. Oliver explains that he was treated kindly and did not want to leave, much to the shock of Dodger who feels that Oliver is being ungrateful, but allows him the opportunity to leave. However, Fagin arrives and concocts a plan to ransom Oliver, then sends Jenny a ransom note. Jenny discovers the note and sets out to get Oliver back. Meanwhile, Fagin tells Sykes of his plan, and Sykes says he is proud of him for "starting to think big".

Later, Jenny meets up with Fagin, who is shocked that the "very rich cat owner person" is actually just a little girl. Bothered by his conscience after seeing how downhearted Jenny is, Fagin gives Oliver back freely. Just then, Sykes comes out of the shadows and kidnaps Jenny, intending to ransom her and declaring Fagin's debt paid.

Dodger rallies Oliver and the other dogs to rescue Jenny from Sykes, but the animals are confronted by Sykes and his Dobermans after they free her. Fagin saves the group with his scooter and a chase ensues through the subway tunnels. Jenny falls on the hood of Sykes' car, and Oliver jumps in the car and bites him on the hand. Sykes throws Oliver in the backseat, where Roscoe and DeSoto wait. Dodger jumps in and fights Roscoe, who falls off the car in the struggle and lands on the subway's third rail, electrocuting him. An enraged DeSoto then tries to kill Dodger, but Oliver jumps on him causing him to fall off the car and die as well. Tito takes control of Fagin's scooter as Fagin manages to retrieve Jenny, and Tito drives the scooter up the side of the Brooklyn Bridge as Sykes' car drives straight into the path of an oncoming train, killing Sykes and throwing him and his car into the East River. Dodger and Oliver manage to survive the train collision and are reunited with Jenny and the others. Later, Jenny celebrates her birthday with the animals, Fagin and Winston. That same day, Winston receives a phone call from Jenny's parents in Rome saying that they will be back tomorrow. Oliver opts to stay with Jenny but he promises to remain in contact with Dodger and the gang.

Cast of characters

  • Joey Lawrence as Oliver: A cute orange kitten who is looking for a home.
  • Billy Joel as Dodger: The carefree leader of Fagin's dogs and Oliver's first acquaintance and eventual best friend, and bodyguard. He is the object of Rita's affection.
  • Cheech Marin as Ignacio Alonso Julio Federico de Tito: A tiny Chihuahua full of passion and slight anger issues.
  • Richard Mulligan as Einstein: A gray Great Dane and a member of Fagin's gang. He is named ironically as he is not particularly bright.
  • Roscoe Lee Browne as Francis: A bulldog with a British accent in Fagin's gang with a love of theatre, particularly Shakespeare.
  • Sheryl Lee Ralph (Ruth Pointer, singing) as Rita: A Saluki and the only female dog in Fagin's gang. She is street-wise and takes Oliver under her wing.
  • Dom DeLuise as Fagin: A petty thief and a poor man on his bad side, but in truth he is good-natured and polite most of the time.
  • Taurean Blacque and Carl Weintraub as Roscoe and DeSoto respectively: Sykes's vicious Doberman Pinschers with an Italian accent. They have a hostile history with Fagin's pets. Roscoe wears a red collar and DeSoto wears one that is blue.
  • Robert Loggia as Sykes: An evil loan shark and shipyard agent who isn't afraid to get his hands dirty when aggravated.
  • Natalie Gregory (Myhanh Tran, singing) as Jennifer "Jenny" Foxworth: A kind, rich girl who takes care of Oliver.
  • William Glover as Winston: The Foxworth family's bumbling but loyal butler.
  • Bette Midler as Georgette: The Foxworth family's show-winning poodle; vain and spoiled, she becomes jealous of Oliver but eventually accepts him and Fagin's gang. She is the object of Tito's affection.
  • Frank Welker as Old Louie: The hot dog guy.


After the release of The Black Cauldron in 1985, Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg invited the animators to pitch potential ideas for upcoming animated features, infamously called the "Gong Show". After Ron Clements and John Musker suggested The Little Mermaid and Treasure Island in Space, animator Pete Young suggested, "Oliver Twist with dogs". Originally wanting to produce a live action adaptation of the musical Oliver! at Paramount Pictures, Katzenberg approved of the pitch.[2] The working title of the film during production was Oliver and the Dodger.[3] The film pre-dated the Disney Renaissance. The original central braintrust of Disney animators, the "Nine Old Men", had retired in the early 1980s, which signaled the entrance for the next generation of Disney animators, including Oliver & Company supervising animators Glen Keane, Ruben A. Aquino, Mike Gabriel, Hendel Butoy, and Mark Henn. At a certain point, this film was to be a sequel to The Rescuers.[citation needed] If this had happened, it would have given the character of Penny more development, showing her living her new life in New York City with Georgette, as well as her new adoptive parents. This idea was eventually scrapped and later shelved because the producers had then felt that the story would not have been convincing.[citation needed]

This was the first Disney film to make heavy use of computer animation, since previous films The Black Cauldron (1985) and The Great Mouse Detective (1986) used it only for special sequences. The CGI effects were used for making the skyscrapers, the cars, trains, Fagin's scooter-cart and the climactic Subway chase. It was also the first Disney film to have a department created specifically for computer animation.[4]

Oliver & Company was one of the first animated Disney films to introduce new sound effects for regular use, to replace many of their original classic sounds, which would be used occasionally in later Disney films. However, The Little Mermaid introduced even more new sound effects. The new sound effects were first introduced with The Black Cauldron, while The Great Mouse Detective released a year after the previous film used the classic Disney SFX. This included some sounds such as the then fifty-year-old Castle thunder and the classic Goofy holler. However, the Disney television animation studio continued extensively using the classic Disney sound effects for several years, while the feature animation studio retired the original sound effects.[citation needed]

Oliver & Company was the first animated Disney film to include real world advertised products. Many placements of real product names Coca-Cola, USA Today, Sony, and Ryder Truck Rental were some of the most used examples. It was said on ABC's The Wonderful World of Disney that this was for realism, was not paid product placement, and that it would not be New York City without advertising.[5]

Certain animal characters from previous Disney films make cameos in Oliver & Company. When Dodger sings "Why Should I Worry?" in the beginning of the film, some of the dogs shown are Peg, Jock, and Trusty from Lady and the Tramp (1955), and Pongo from One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961). Anita Radcliff, also from One Hundred and One Dalmatians, is shown as well.

Richard Rich (who previously co-directed The Fox and the Hound and The Black Cauldron) was going to co-direct, but due to acting very hostile towards Disney feature animation president, Peter Schneider, he was fired in 1986.


The film was released on November 18, 1988, the same day as The Land Before Time, a production of Disney expatriate Don Bluth.

As of 2008, Oliver & Company made a total domestic gross of $74 million at the U.S. box office, $53.2 million of which came from its original run.[6] Its success prompted Disney's senior vice-president of animation, Peter Schneider, to announce the company's plans to release animated features annually.[3] Since 1988, Disney Feature Animation has released at least one film a year, except for 1993, 2006, and 2015.[citation needed]


In the United Kingdom, Oliver & Company was not distributed by Buena Vista International, but by Warner Bros.[7] Buena Vista International did however release the film on home video.


During its release, McDonald's sold Christmas musical ornaments containing the film's two main characters, Oliver and Dodger, the start of a multi-year agreement of joint promotions with licensed products.[5]

Home media

Despite its financial success at the box office, Oliver & Company was not released on video until after its re-release in 1996.[8] It was later released on DVD on May 14, 2002. A 20th Anniversary Edition DVD was released on February 3, 2009, and a 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray was released on August 6, 2013. A Walt Disney Gold Classic Collection DVD copy from 2001 is said to exist.


Despite its success at the box office, Oliver & Company was met with mixed reviews from critics. As of 2014, Rotten Tomatoes reported that 43% of critics gave the film positive reviews based on 35 reviews with an average rating of 5.4/10.[9] Its consensus states that "Oliver & Company is a decidedly lesser effort in the Disney canon, with lackluster songs, stiff animation, and a thoroughly predictable plot."[10]

On the television program, Siskel & Ebert, Gene Siskel gave the film a Thumbs Down. Siskel stated: "When you measure this film to the company's legacy of classics, it doesn't match up" as he complained "the story is too fragmented". Roger Ebert gave the film a "marginal Thumbs Up" as he described the film as "harmless, inoffensive".[11]

The staff of Halliwell's Film Guide called Oliver & Company "episodic" and "short on charm". "Only now and then", they added, "it provides glimpses of stylish animation".[7]

The Ren & Stimpy Show creator John Kricfalusi suggested that the film was derivative of Ralph Bakshi's works, and jokingly suggested its use as a form of punishment.[12]



Oliver & Company
CD cover for the 1996 re-release of the Oliver & Company soundtrack (an alternative cover was used in the United Kingdom).
Soundtrack album by Various artists
Released 1988
Genre Pop rock, blues rock
Label Walt Disney

The instrumental score for Oliver & Company was composed by J. A. C. Redford, and the film's music was supervised by Carole Childs. The first song heard in the film, "Once Upon a Time in New York City", was co-written by lyricist Howard Ashman, who, with Alan Menken, would write the songs for the next three Disney films. Billy Joel, in addition to voicing Dodger, performed the character's song in the film.

The track list below represents the 1996 re-release of the Oliver & Company soundtrack. The original 1988 release featured the same songs, but with the instrumental cues placed in between the songs in the order in which they appeared in the film. Using the numbering system in the list below, the order the tracks on the 1988 release would be: 1, 2, 6, 7, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, and 11. The reprise of "Why Should I Worry?", performed by the entire cast, remains unreleased on CD.

Track listing
  1. "Once Upon a Time in New York City" - Huey Lewis; written by Barry Mann and Howard Ashman
  2. "Why Should I Worry?" - Billy Joel; written by Dan Hartman and Charlie Midnight
  3. "Streets of Gold" - Ruth Pointer ; written by Dean Pitchford and Tom Snow
  4. "Perfect Isn't Easy" - Bette Midler ; written by Barry Manilow, Jack Feldman, and Bruce Sussman
  5. "Good Company" - Myhanh Tran ; written by Ron Rocha and Robert Minkoff
  6. "Sykes" (score)
  7. "Bedtime Story" (score)
  8. "The Rescue" (score)
  9. "Pursuit Through the Subway" (score)
  10. "Buscando Guayaba" - Rubén Blades
  11. "End Title" (instrumental)


  1. ^ "Oliver & Company". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 5, 2012. 
  2. ^ Stewart 2005, pp. 71-72.
  3. ^ a b Beck 2005, pp. 182-83.
  4. ^ Disney Archives, "computer animation department created".[dead link]
  5. ^ a b The Wonderful World of Disney: ABC television network, "the making of Oliver and Company. Comments of the animators from the production deny product placement."
  6. ^ "Re-releases of Oliver & Company". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved October 25, 2008. 
  7. ^ a b Gritten, David, ed. (2007). "Oliver and Company (*)". Halliwell's Film Guide 2008. Hammersmith, London: HarperCollins Publishers. p. 871. ISBN 0-00-726080-6. 
  8. ^ Hicks, Chris (March 29, 1996). "'Oliver' just as delightful 2nd time around". Deseret News. p. W4. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Oliver & Company - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. 
  10. ^ "Oliver & Company Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. 
  11. ^ Siskel, Gene and Roger Ebert (November 1988). "Oliver & Company Movie Review". Disney-ABC Domestic Television. Retrieved August 28, 2010. [dead link]
  12. ^ Kricfalusi, John (1994). "Mike Judge Interview". Wild Cartoon Kingdom (3). Retrieved March 20, 2009. 


External links