*This is a user-submitted post by Jordan Hashemi-Briskin*
At the risk of stating the obvious, Home on the Range is quite possibly the most divisive film in the Disney canon. Since its release fifteen years ago, it has been derided by a vast number of Disney and general animation enthusiasts, but at the same time, it has acquired a fair number of aficionados. I, personally, am in the camp of people who enjoys this movie. It behooves me (pun not intended), therefore, to state up front that while I agree that it has a lot of flaws (mostly in terms of character treatment, as well as an over-reliance on humor to carry the movie on its own), it’s unfair to completely write it off. It has some redeeming qualities, which I feel ought to be recognized.
I’ve heard many people describe the premise behind Home on the Range—a trio of dairy cows hunting down a wanted cattle rustler to save their farm from foreclosure—as “childish” or “nonsensical.” However, I feel it necessary to point out that many animated features before and after this one—even many of the greats—must have sounded ridiculous when first pitched. For example, we all know how The Lion King was dismissed as too “experimental” in its early stages, yet it became one of the most acclaimed films of all time. To my mind, three cows becoming bounty hunters is no less credible a story idea. Furthermore, I appreciate how Home on the Range deviates from the conventions of the Western genre and allows the non-human animals to take center stage. In this respect, I think of the film as sort of a spiritual descendant of One Hundred and One Dalmatians.
According to the critics’ consensus on Rotten Tomatoes, Home on the Range is also supposedly marred by “garish visuals.” I’m sorry, but I couldn’t disagree more with that assessment. The art direction on this film is tailored to perfectly suit both the setting and the story; the angularity of the backgrounds and character designs, as well as the sharp, fast-paced animation, work quite effectively, evoking the works of UPA, the Wile E. Coyote shorts from Looney Tunes, and even Disney’s own Paul Bunyan and The Emperor’s New Groove. As an added plus, the artists did some very creative work with the color palette on this film, even if may not be quite as vibrant as that of Aladdin.
Finally, there’s the music, which is easily the best element of the movie. While it’s debatable whether it is quite as good as his previous work for Disney, Alan Menken manages once again to compose a lively, infectious batch of melodies, and newcomer Glenn Slater’s lyrics are clever and singable; not bad for a first-time collaboration, if you ask me! Each song is a joy to listen to, though I must single out “Little Patch of Heaven” as my #1 favorite. The upbeat orchestration and singer-songwriter k.d. lang’s spirited vocals make this song super catchy. (In fact, it calls to my mind the John Denver standard “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”)
To recap, Home on the Range may not be the best entry in the Walt Disney Animation Studios library, but it’s by no means the worst. While certain aspects definitely leave something to be desired, there’s still a lot to enjoy about the film when taken as a whole.
What are your thoughts on Home on the Range?
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Edited by: Kelly Conley