Sunday, July 29, 2012

Disney's Home on the Range

Home on the Range is Disney's first cowboy movie, except instead of the cowboys, it has cows. Not exactly the same, but Disney was hoping that the movie would do well giving that they've never really done a Western-themed movie. We'll see how that worked out for them soon. The title of the movie comes from the state song of Kansas, and a song that basically everyone attributes with the old west. The movie was originally going to be titled, Sweating Bullets, and star a young calf named Bullets that saves his herd from a gang of ghost cattle rustlers. Not a bad plot, it's just that the name is pretty stupid. The movie was also almost going to be a pied piper story, but Micheal Eisner hated the idea because he thought no parent would want to take their kid to a movie about children getting murdered. The writers came up with this movie instead, but kept a few pieces of the pied piper story-line. Instead, Home on the Range is about three cows who have to save their owners ranch from being foreclosed on. To do this, they decide to capture a cattle rustler named Alameda Slim so they can collect the reward money to save the ranch. Pretty basic story, right? The whole, "We have to collect money for our (fill in the blank) or else it will close" trope is tried and true, and even the unlikely heroes catching a criminal has been done a hundred times. I kind of feel like this movie is a mash-up of Western story-lines, but none of them are very interesting.

Home on the Range marks the end for traditional animation at Disney Studios. Well, at least for five years. At the time Disney thought it was going to be a permanent shift, as all other animation studios were operating almost completely at the computer animated end. With the end of traditional animation, it also ended the CAPS system that was first used in The Rescuers Down Under. So, big changes happening with Disney at this time, including the laying off of animators. This movie has actually been in production for a really long time, since after Pocahontas. It was originally going to be released in 2003 instead of Brother Bear, but the film ran into a few bumps and it had to be released in 2004, and not in the summer or Thanksgiving as had every other Disney film done. It was released in April, which probably led to its dismal return. Oh, did I give something away? You knew this was coming.

Probably the only saving grace of this movie is the voice cast, which it seems Disney went all out on. They all aren't big Hollywood names for the most part, but the cast is still more star-studded than the average Disney film. Voicing the main character, Maggie, is Roseanne Barr. Now, for all you youngin's out there who don't know who Roseanne is, you are pretty lucky. She is most known for her TV show of the same name, and for completely destroying the national anthem at a Padres game in 1990. Dame Judi Dench voices Mrs. Calloway, the leadership crazy cow. Judi Dench is perhaps the complete opposite of Roseanne. Dench is dignified and known for roles in Shakespearean plays. Roseanne is crass and is known for grabbing her crotch. See the difference? The third happy-go-lucky cow, Grace, is voiced by Jennifer Tilly. Tilly has been in a bunch of stuff, but is more known for her voice acting, as she has a very unique voice. Most notably she does the voice of Bonnie Swanson in Family Guy, and voiced Celia Mae, Mike's girlfriend, in Monsters Inc. Cuba Gooding, Jr. voices the selfish horse named Buck. Cuba has really not been in anything recently, but is most known for his role as Rod Tidwell i n Jerry Macguire and for his role in the kids movie Daddy Day Care. Other stars filling out the roles include, Randy Quaid as the cattle rustler Alameda Slim, Steve Buscemi as Wesley, and Patrick Warburton as...Patrick.

Home on the Range came out in April 2004 and did not do so well in the box office. In all it grossed a combined $103 million, which doesn't sound that bad. That is, until you find out that the movie cost $110 million to make. It's not as big of a bust as Treasure Planet was, so Disney has that to think about. I blame the lousy returns on a few things. First off, making a Disney movie come out any other time than Thanksgiving or Summer is unforgivable. Why would you break tradition? I know the time of year shouldn't matter, but it does. People see more movies in the summer and around holidays. Another factor was the material. Westerns have not been "in" since the 70's and have only made brief successful returns such as Pale Rider, Dances with Wolves, Unforgiven, 3:10 to Yuma, and the remake of True Grit. You may think that's a lot, but that's a span from 1985 to present, and a lot of movies come out in a year. Westerns just aren't that popular anymore. Disney apparently didn't get the memo and hoped that kids just wouldn't care and would just want to see the barn animals. It didn't work apparently. Another factor, though very small, is the PG rating. This film received it for a "boob joke" in the guise of an utter joke. Only a few other films have received a PG rating in the Disney canon, and not all have been bombs, so I would say this didn't deter viewers as much as the first two points. Critics weren't kind to this movie, calling it unoriginal and badly animated. It currently holds a 55% on Rotten Tomatoes and is one of the lowest rated. Something needs to go right for Disney. Will it be their next film, Chicken Little?

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