Toon Talk: Home on the Range DVD
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Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt
The Cows Come Home
Released this past spring and now available on home video, the delightful animated feature Home on the Range makes a perfect fit on the small screen. Its deceptively simple backgrounds, splendidly stylized character animation and laugh-a-minute story doesn't suffer in the least in the transfer of mediums; in fact, at home you can easily catch what might have been missed in the theaters, from the subtle use of colors to establish mood to any of a number of sly gags lost in the laughter of the theater (a good example: the town's telegraph operator is named Morris ... as in Morris Code).
Alas, not a lot of people actually saw this high concept-ish musical/comedy/western/adventure in the theaters, a film that (for now, at least) marks the end of the Disney Studios' traditional animation output. But one can hope that Home finds itself at home and, as with its predecessor Brother Bear, can become an unexpected success in the video market. (Click here for the original Toon Talk review of Home on the Range.)
While not a lavish two-disc spread like other recent releases, this DVD packs in just the right amount of material, with games and other fun stuff for the young'uns and some behind-the-scenes info for us oldsters out there. These latter features don't offer much depth beyond the usual, but that is as expected, considering the laid-back nature of the production as a whole. (Maybe a little too laid-back: check out the soundtrack promo in the "Sneak Peeksâ? section ... or as they spelled it, "sountrackâ?.)
Heading off the Bonus Features, co-writers/directors Will Finn and John Sanford introduce each of the four Deleted Scenes (all seen mostly in storyboard form), including an optional prologue which features an unused Alan Menken/Glenn Slater song, "Heroes, Villains and Cowsâ?, as well as stock footage of old black-and-white B westerns and a trio of three Mariachi butterflies, who were to be the film's narrators but were (thankfully) dumped. While the song is fun, one can see why it was replaced with "(You Ain't) Home on the Rangeâ?, which set the tone of the story without totally spelling out the "the cows-are-the-heroes-this-timeâ? angle. Also included here is an alternate motivation for that "rhinestone fat-boyâ? Alameda Slim (an outlandish, Lex Luthor-type plot to take over the White House using the stolen cows (?!), complete with an obvious Patton reference), a deleted action sequence (with a look at some nice, rough pencil animation of a pack of coyotes chasing the "bovine bounty huntersâ?) and another version of the Lucky Jack entrance, which gave the crusty critter a little more back story.
More production info can be found in the "Backstage Disneyâ? section with Trailblazers: The Making of âHome on the Range'. One can see from the outset that tongue was placed firmly in cheek for this outing, with a sepia-toned, Bonanza-type opening. All the major players from behind the scenes (but none of the voice cast) are rounded up around a campfire at a real-life dude ranch (the Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson, Arizona, to be exact) to reminisce about the making of the film, including Finn, Sanford, producer Alice Dewey, composers Menken and Slater (who, by the way, are currently working on The Little Mermaid's proposed Broadway production) and the supervising animators of the three leading ladies: Mark Henn, Duncan Majoribanks and Chris Buck. Here they reveal how the film was originally conceived as a more straightforward western "ghost storyâ?, titled Sweating Bullets, before it evolved into "Charlie's Angels with cowsâ?. We also get to see the crew's research trip: a City Slickers-like cattle drive.
And, although they weren't invited for the actual cook out, the voice actors are seen via recording session footage, including Roseanne Barr (Maggie), Judi Dench (Mrs. Calloway), Jennifer Tilly (Grace), Cuba Gooding Jr. (Buck), Randy Quaid (Slim), Steve Buscemi (whose character, Wesley, was written for him ... hmm, never would have guessed ... ), Lance LeGault (Junior the buffalo), Estelle Harris (Audrey the chicken), Charles Haid (Lucky Jack), Charlie Dell (Ollie the pig) and Joe Flaherty (Jeb the goat), as well as the movie's all-star country cast of crooners: k.d. lang ("Little Patch of Heavenâ?), Bonnie Raitt ("Will the Sun Ever Shine Againâ?, tellingly revealed as Menken's heart-felt reaction to 9/11), Tim McGraw ("Wherever the Trail May Leadâ?) and Quaid again, along with his "stunt yodelersâ? for "Yodel-Adle-Eedle-Idle-Ooâ?. (The Music Video for the Beu Sisters' version of "Anytime You Need a Friendâ?, which shows the quartet frolicking about a backlot western set, is found elsewhere on the disc as well.) But even with all this, the featurette ends abruptly, with no concrete resolution or overview of the production as a whole.