You’re right, this didn’t just come out. Neither has Disney re-released it on a Super-Platinum Hyper-HD Limited Time Only Special Edition. Thank goodness. But it is a forgotten Disney animated film that deserves more respect than it gets!
This movie was released in 2004 and was the 45th animated feature for Walt Disney Studios, and was slated to be the last. With a switch to CGI features like Chicken Little, Disney wanted to abandon hand drawn animation all together. But with the acquisition of Pixar came John Lasseter who lead the cause and resurrected the traditional ways for The Princess and the Frog in 2009.
Home on the Range is the final animated feature to use the CAPS system and the last to be released in the old VHS format. The film began production after Pocahontas was released in 1995. In 2000, it was announced under the name of Sweating Bullets (changed to it’s current title in 2002) and was scheduled for a fall 2003 release. But it was later switched in the line up with Brother Bear, and had to wait until 2004 to reach screens.
Synopsis: The movie starts on a little farm called Patch of Heaven with a barnyard full of happy animals cared for by a kind old lady. But all is not well in the West! Alameda Slim is a greedy outlaw who is stealing all of the cattle and then buying up all of the foreclosed farms. And why? Because his former bosses didn’t like his yodeling. Yup. It’s revenge!
So Slim rides through the West and yodels to hypnotize his Bovine prey. Once under his ‘art’, the cows follow him back to his hideout. And who can stop him? Only Maggie, Mrs. Caloway, and Grace. Three dairy cows. But they have help from a would-be Hero Horse named Buck. A peg legged Jack Rabbit. And a whole lot of improbable luck.
I won’t spoil the whole movie by telling you every twist and turn, but if you ever wanted to see cows steal a train, this is your movie! The film goes from happy, to conflict, to problem, to failure, to resolve, and ultimately to triumph. Just like any other Disney movie. But along the way, there are many innuendos, good one-liners, and laughs.
Music: The animation is excellent and is augmented by the appropriately western soundtrack. Alan Menken provides the orchestration, but Recording Artists like k. d. lang (Little Patch of Heaven), Bonnie Raitt (Will the Sun Ever Shine Again) and Tim McGraw (Wherever the Trail May Lead) add signature songs throughout the proceedings.
Talent: Roseanne Barr (never my favorite Actress) does a good job here of playing an outcast cow with a big heart. And udder! British Actress Judi Dench (M from the new James Bond franchise) plays the leader of the herd, Mrs. Caloway. And Jennifer Tilly adds a ditzy touch to her portrayal of Grace.
Other notable names linked to this movie are Cuba Gooding Jr. (Buck, the Hero-Horse) and Randy Quaid as Slim. But I enjoyed hearing Estelle Harris (Mrs. Potato Head) voicing Audrey, the chicken, and Patrick Warburton (Cronk) sneaking in a cameo as one of the villains horses.
Extras: 1 Bonus Short. 4 Deleted scenes. A few games. 1 music video. Art Review. Commentary. And the highlight of the Extras was Trailblazers: The Making of Home on the Range. The Making of portion is one of the best I have watched. Not very long, but big on style and fun. This movie is only available on a One-disc DVD.
Evaluation: The first time I saw this movie I wasn’t overly impressed, although I did enjoy it. But after multiple viewings I have really come to appreciate it. I even like the yodeling! I would give this movie a 3.8 out of 5 stars.