Welcome to my weekly discussion of the animated films of the Walt Disney Studio. I’m proceeding mostly chronologically. The title comes from a quote from Walt, “I never called my work an ‘art’ It’s part of show business, the business of building entertainment.”
Just stick with me. We’ll get through this…
Title: Home on the Range
Budget: $110 million
Box office: $103.9 million
Plot: Maggie is the only cow left on the Dixon Ranch after cattle rustler Alameda Slim stole all the rest of Mr. Dixon’s cattle. Dixon sells Maggie to Pearl, a kind woman who runs a small farm called Patch of Heaven. The local Sheriff arrives to tell Pearl that her bank is cracking down on debtors, and has three days to pay the bank $750, or her farm will go to auction.
Maggie convinces two other cows on the farm, Grace and Mrs. Caloway, to go to town to attempt winning prize money at a fair. While the cows are in town, a bounty hunter named Rico drops a criminal off and collects the reward. Stating he needs a replacement horse to go after Alameda Slim while his own horse rests, he takes Buck, the sheriff’s eager horse. When Maggie find out that the reward for capturing Slim is exactly $750, she convinces the other cows to try to capture him to save Patch of Heaven.
That night, they hide among a large herd of steers, when Alameda Slim appears. Before any of them can do anything, Slim begins a yodeling song which sends all the cattle into a trance that causes them to dance madly and follow Slim anywhere.
Grace, who is tone deaf and therefore is immune to Slim’s hypnotic call, is able to bring Maggie and Mrs. Caloway back to their senses. Slim closes the path behind him with a rock-slide to stop Rico and his men from chasing him. Rico sends Buck back to the Sheriff. Buck escapes, determined to capture Slim for himself.
The cows continue their search for Slim, but they have a fallout when they lose the trail in a downpour. Mrs. Caloway thinks Maggie is wanting to go after Slim only for revenge, believing that she and Grace are better off without Maggie.
The three spend the rainy night under a large rock. Maggie decides to leave the next morning to find Slim while Grace and Mrs. Caloway decide to return to Patch of Heaven. The next morning they are awakened by a peg-legged rabbit named Lucky Jack, who has also lost his home to Alameda Slim. Maggie decides to go after Slim with Lucky Jack. Grace convinces Mrs. Caloway that they should help as well.
Lucky Jack leads the cows to Slim’s hideout in Echo Mine. At the mine, Slim reveals that he has been stealing all cattle from the homesteaders who hated his yodelling When they can no longer support their land, Slim buys the land when it is auctioned off, under the guise of Yancy O’Dell, 1 using the money he gets from selling the cattle he stole.
After arriving at Slim’s hideout, the cows capture Slim. They escape beimg pursued by Slim’s accomplices on a steam train. Rico arrives and stops the train, revealing that he has been working for Slim all along. Devastated, Buck decides to help the cows and fights Rico while setting the other cattle free.
Slim assumes his O’Dell persona to attend the auction, leaving the cows stranded in the middle of the desert with the train. However, the cows use the train to travel to the farm and expose Slim. Slim is arrested, and Patch of Heaven is saved from the bounty.
A few weeks pass, most of the livestock on Patch of Heaven have won prizes. Lucky Jack moves in with Jebb the Goat, and two of the steer and Junior the Buffalo arrive unexpectedly to live at Patch of Heaven.
Background: Mike Gabriel 2 developed a concept about a Western into a forty-page film treatment and sent it to Peter Schneider who approved it. At the time, it was titled Sweating Bullets. Originalky, it was about a timid cowboy who visits a ghost town and confronts an undead cattle hustler named Slim. Then it was later turned into a story about a little bull named Bullets, that wanted to be more like the horses that led the herd. Finally, story artist Michael LaBash suggested a different approach to the story which became the story produced. In 2000, Mike Gabriel and co-director Mike Giaimo were removed from the project because of the persistent story problems. Will Finn and John Sanford took over the reins.
Songs: The musical score for Home on the Range was composed by Alan Menken, with original music written by Menken and Glenn Slater. 3Shortly after winning the ASCAP/Richard Rodgers New Horizons Award, Slater was brought to the attention of Menken, who later invited Slater to work with him on what was then known as Sweating Bullets. Together, they wrote the first of the film’s six original songs back in 1999.
- “(You Ain’t) Home On The Range” 4 – Chorus
- “Little Patch of Heaven” – k.d. lang
- “Yodel-Adle-Eedle-Idle-Oo” – Randy Quaid and Chorus
- “Will the Sun Ever Shine Again” 5 – Bonnie Raitt
- “(You Ain’t) Home on the Range” – Echo Mine Reprise – Chorus
- “Wherever the Trail May Lead” – Tim McGraw
- “Anytime You Need A Friend” – The Beu Sisters
Voice Cast: Roseanne Barr 6 as Maggie.
Judi Dench as Mrs. Caloway. She made her professional debut in 1957 with the Old Vic Company, playing several of Shakespeare’s roles like Ophelia, Juliet, and Lady Macbeth. She worked with the National Theatre Company and the Royal Shakespeare Company. She appeated on television in A Fine Romance and As Time Goes By. She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love and has received nominations for her roles in Mrs Brown, Chocolat, Iris, Mrs Henderson Presents, Notes on a Scandal, and Philomena. She appeared as M in the James Bond series. Cuba Gooding Jr. as Buck. His breakthrough role was as Tre Styles in Boyz n the Hood. He appeared in A Few Good Men, The Tuskegee Airmen, Outbreak, Jerry Maguire, 7 Men of Honor, Pearl Harbor, As Good as It Gets, Rat Race, American Gangster, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, and Selma. He portrayed O.J. Simpson in the series The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story.
Randy Quaid as Alameda Slim. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in The Last Detail. He won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Emmy Award for his portrayal of U.S. President Lyndon Johnson in LBJ: The Early Years. He has appeared in Midnight Express, Kingpin, Independence Day, Days of Thunder and Brokeback MountainHe us probably best known as Cousin Eddie in the National Lampoon’s Vacation film series. Charles Dennis as Rico. He has written a number of radio plays for BBC, and CBC, including Leslie and Lajos, Long Time Ago, and To an Early Grave. Dennis wrote and directed the motion picture Hard Four.
Charles Haid as Lucky Jack. His acting roles include Delvecchio, Hill Street Blues, and the movie Altered States. Carole Cook as Pearl. She appeared in such feature films as The Incredible Mr. Limpet, Sixteen Candles, Grandview, U.S.A., American Gigolo, Summer Lovers, and Palm Springs Weekend. She made guest appearances on such television shows as The Lucy Show, Here’s Lucy, Darkroom, Knight Rider, Emergency!, Magnum, P.I., McMillan and Wife, Murder, She Wrote, Dynasty, Charlie’s Angels, and Grey’s Anatomy. She appeared in the original Broadway productions of 42nd Street and Romantic Comedy and was the second actress (after Carol Channing) to star as Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! She played Mrs. Peacham in the 1956 off-Broadway production of The Three Penny Opera, starring Lotte Lenya.
Joe Flaherty as Jeb the Goat. He is best known for his work on SCTV from 1976 to 1984, and as Harold Weir on Freaks and Geeks. He appeared in Back to the Future Part II and Happy Gilmore. Richard Riehle as Sam the Sheriff. He has appeared in Quantum Leap, Roseanne, Murder, She Wrote, L.A. Law, Ally McBeal, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Chicago Hope, Diagnosis: Murder, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, The West Wing, ER, Married to the Kellys, Tremors, Boston Legal, Grounded for Life, and The Young and the Restless. Riehle has also guest-starred on three of the six Star Trek television series.
Lance LeGault 8 as Junior the Buffalo. He appeared in three films with Elvis Presley: Girls! Girls! Girls!, Kissin’ Cousins, and Viva Las Vegas. He is best known for his role was in the series The A-Team as Colonel Roderick Decker. He made many guest appearances on television series, including The Rockford Files, Gunsmoke, Barbary Coast, Logan’s Run, Police Woman, Battlestar Galactica, The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The Dukes of Hazzard, T. J. Hooker, Tales of the Gold Monkey, Voyagers!, MacGyver, Simon & Simon, Sledge Hammer!, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Renegade and Crusade. G.W. Bailey as Rusty. He appeared in the M*A*S*H series, the Police Academy films and Mannequin. He played the role of Detective Lieutenant Louie Provenza on The Closer, and its spinoff series Major Crimes, from 2005 to 2018.
Dennis Weaver 9 as Abner. His two most notable roles were Chester Goode on Gunsmoke and as Deputy Marshal Sam McCloud on McCloud. He appeared in Duel and in Touch of Evil. He was President of the Screen Actors Guild from 1973 to 1975. Ann Richards 10 as Annie. She was the 45th Governor of Texas from 1991 to 1995.
Jennifer Tilly returns as Grace. Steve Buscemi returns as Wesley. Patrick Warburton returns as Patrick. Estelle Harris returns as Audrey the Chicken
Critical Reception: “A movie like this is fun for kids: bright, quick-paced, with broad, outrageous characters. But Home on the Range doesn’t have the crossover quality of the great Disney films like Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. And it doesn’t have the freshness and originality of a more traditional movie like Lilo & Stitch. Its real future, I suspect, lies in home video. It’s only 76 minutes long, but although kids will like it, their parents will be sneaking looks at their watches.” -Roger Ebert
Meanwhile, over at the Mothership, Nathan Rabin, called it “a sweet, raucously funny, comic Western that corrects a glaring historical injustice by finally surveying the Old West through the eyes of cows rather than cowboys.”
Legacy: This film has no current presence in the parks due to complete lack of intrerest.
My take: I had to watch this twice because I fell asleep halfway through. I am amazed it cost twice as much as Brother Bear and looks half as good. I just didn’t feel it was very funny. However, I did like Randy Quaid’s Slim, particularly the yodelling number.
Next Week: Finally, The Incredibles