DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Home On The Range

Discussion in 'DVD' started by DaViD Boulet, Sep 14, 2004.

  1. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

    Feb 24, 1999
    Likes Received:

    Home on the RangeStudio:Disney Year:2004RunTime:76 minutesAspect Ratio:16x9 encoded 1.66:1 (pillarboxed)Audio:5.1 English, 2.0 DD Spanish Subtitles:English for the hearing impairedSpecialFeatures:Making-of featurette, Music video, Deleted scenesReleaseDate:September 14, 2004

    The Feature...

    So...it's the official "last hand-drawn" animated classic from the Walt Disney Studios. I'm sure that the Disney fans and casual viewers alike are wondering "Is it any good?" as, like me, you probably missed this in its theatrical run...

    It's cute. I'd even say "fun". Not one of Disney's best, as you probably guessed. But it's not terrible either. The story plays out predictably despite its unconventional premise...of three farm-yard cows setting out to save their endangered homestead. Dialogue is entertaining...at times a bit obvious but at times a bit inventive and overall the experience was enjoyable. The voice actors were marvelous and a few names worth mentioning are Roseanne Barr, Judi Dench, and Jennifer Tilly. Acting was good, the soundtrack was better than I expected; K. D. Lang and Bonnie Raitt both contribute some nice vocal performances and the "character songs" ranged between tolerable and enjoyable.

    Animation style is somewhat severe and stylized...which can be a good thing. The design has a 1960's look that will instantly remind you of the barn-yard scene in Mary Poppins (where they take a trip into the sidewalk chalk picture). The primary difference is that this execution looks cleaner without any of the sketchy outlining like you've seen in 101 Dalmatians. I found the animation style pleasing, and it's always fun (or was fun) to see the Disney animators experiment with different techniques and animation styles to distinguish their films one from one another. Action is fast-paced and one gets the distinct impression that this feature was aimed at a low-attention-span cohort of video-game-generation kids needing lots of constant commotion to keep focused on the screen. That's really my primary criticism of the film...not enough slow-paced dips to justify the high-current waves...the pacing feels like everything is continually in fast-forward motion either through story development, fast-cut scene editing, or both. Disney has dropped the occasional low-profile gem into the market like the Emperor's New Groove masked as "just another" low-tier feature and I was hoping that Home on the Range might turn out to be a hidden treasure. It didn't quite make it. Fun to be sure, but a timeless classic it is not. Enjoy it for what it is and you wont' be disappointed. I think that Fans looking to complete their Disney libraries and parents looking to buy another title to baby-sit the kids that is at least palatable to the adult mind will be able to add Home On The Range to their collection without fear...


    Really, really good, and I'm sure this will look great on about 95% of the displays out there, though wide-angle viewers may notice a slight problem or two. And it's better than Disney/Miramax's usual these days. What's good? colors are superb. Rich and saturated without "blooming" or bleeding. MPEG noise is also minimal...even backgrounds look solid and there's very little in the way of any perceptible digital or video noise. A decidedly "clean" picture...that's the word that kept coming to my mind while watching... "clean". I found the absence of video/digital noise very refreshing. Oh and get this...edge ringing is also at an all-time-low for a Disney animated feature...if I move up to about half a screen-width to my screen (about 5 feet from my 100" screen) I can see some very (very) mild edge ringing...but from 1.6 screen-widths back (the normal seating distance in my system and for most front-projection set-ups) all signs of "EE" are invisible and the hard-edge contours of the animation appear natural and unmarred (the animated short in the special features contrasts sharply with this by having halos so egregious that even your grandmother might notice without you saying anything). Contrast is good, black level solid, and all-in-all the picture is vivid and has the "woosh" factor on the big-screen you'd hope for from a bran-new animated feature.

    The let-down for me is that the image looks just ever-so-slightly softened...just barely. I spent the whole weekend up in NY at the Lafayette theater in Suffern for the 3-day film festival so maybe having just watched a steady diet of some of the most beautiful 35 mm prints I've ever seen has my perceptions a bit unfairly tuned to critically evaluate a DVD. But in all fairness I have seen some animated features look sharper and more defined... and I just can't shake the feeling that there's the slightest bit of unnecessary HF filtering going on. Not terrible...and nothing you'd notice sitting farther than 1.75:1 screen-widths away. But for wide-angle viewers you may notice what I did...that it seems that the image could have been just a *slight* bit sharper (not EE sharper...I'm talking *natural* sharper [​IMG]). And color banding...I know it's been on several Disney animated DVDs as of late (Brother Bear and Finding Nemo) and I looked very hard for it on Home on the Range. Due to the stylized nature of the animation, most of the solid-field areas of the image are monochromatic and don't really reveal tones or shades (i.e., the cow is just the same color all-brown...as if colored in with a single crayon with no variation or shading) so the problem of color banding is mitigated to some degree by virtue of there not being very many gradations for it to affect. But I think that In some of the sky backgrounds I may have noticed a slight bit of horizontal color-banding...but I wasn't sure if it was a digital artifact or if it was part of the artistry of the image design. You watch it and tell me what you think.

    On my 16x9 DLP projector fed via DVI the left/right pillarboxing preserving the 1.66:1 aspect ratio were clearly visible, but viewers on traditional CRT monitors may not notice this due to overscan (nothing wrong with the pillarboxing bars, that's the proper way to present a 1.66:1 image in a 16x9 frame...just pointing this out in case anyone wonders why they see them if they happen to appear).

    All in all a very fine looking DVD. Except for the slight perception of softness that I noticed in my wide-angle viewing system, there's really nothing to complain about.

    Good job Disney!

    Picture: 4.5/5


    Wow. As you might have suspected, Home on the Range really puts the 5.1 audio canvas to some good use. There's no DTS, which is a slight let-down, but the Dolby Digital track sounds so good that without any A/B comparison it's easy to be content. Dialog is smooth and natural...very smooth and natural, so much so that I kept thinking about how natural the vocals were. And the musical score illustrates this even more...K.D. Lang's songs sweep over with that lush, sultry sound you'd expect from her voice...and her voice has all the richness and depth of a good audiophile recording. Bass is used powerfully and to good effect...from the opening when the new cow stomps onto the farm to the train scene. Surround use is ample and quite aggressive at times...and always context appropriate in regards to supporting the on-screen action. Dialog also has a bit of directionality when characters step off-screen and this effect sometimes extends to the rear channels. Really a first-rate surround mix: one that shows off your rear speakers for initiating that new guest who asks you over dinner "so what's all that surround sound stuff about" and also has the elegance of an audiophile recording to back it up. Listening to this 5.1 mix has gained me much respect for those who were responsible for putting it together; clearly these folks know exactly what they're doing and are in perfect control of the medium.

    I could go on and on but it's really quite simple: This is a fantastic 5.1 mix and one that really takes advantage of the full potential of the multi-channel format while not abandoning traditional concepts of high-fidelity audio in the process. That's the way I like it. Good job.

    Sound: 5/5

    Special Features...

    This single-disc presentation is not over-loaded with bonus materials...but that's ok...better to keep the image quality of the feature film high and present a few decent special features than load up the single disc with bogus SE content and have picture quality suffer as a result. The Balance on this disc is a good one: A few nice supplements to compliment a generally high-quality feature presentation.

    [*]Feature Commentary: Screen specific...the creators of the film team up to discuss various aspects of animation, story development, and technical hurdles. Not as invigorating as the very best, but not disappointing either. I think this feature will be of most interest to fans of the film who want to spend time delving deep into the process of production...casual viewers probably won't have much desire to listen...but hey...casual viewers tend not to care about commentary tracks anyway. Like all Disney/Miramax commentary tracks, you can toggle to it by pressing the audio button on your remote control in addition to selecting it from the bonus-feature menu.
    [*]Making-of Featurette: A nice little documentary that traces story development, choice of voice-actors, storyboarding etc. I found this very interesting...this is a great bonus feature that will appeal to fans of the film and casual viewers alike. Seeing video clips of the actors recording their dialog for the on-screen animated characters is always a hoot...especially when you realize how the animation team tried to capture the look of the real-life actor in their hand-drawn character. See what you think.
    [*]Animated Short: A sort of bed-time fairy tale story of sorts. It has a South-Park-esque animation style and is constructed around a humorous core that is entertaining to watch. The downside to this 4x3 presentation is that it is flagged as "video" on the DVD disc and so if your progressive-scan DVD player uses flag-based deinterlacing (like mine) you'll see some pretty ugly combing on the motion. Also, if ever there was an image to demonstrate just how badly EE can mar the picture quality of an animated feature...this is it.

    [*]Deleted Scenes: There's a play-all feature for the handful of deleted scenes. Every scene is interesting and every scene is preceded with an intro from the director/writer detailing the nature of the scene and why the decision was made to alter or remove it from the film. Most of these scenes are compilations of storyboarding, work-in-progress, or both, depending on when the decision was made to excise them from production. Honestly (as usual) I found myself preferring some of the deleted scenes and concepts to what ended up in the final film. The "I want to become President" scene was a hoot and would have really added to the fun/camp value of the feature.

    [*]Any time you need a friend (music video): This 4x3 encoded 2.0 DD music video is the quintessential girl-band music video you've come to expect to find tucked away in the special feature list of Disney DVDs. Though I'm sure someone out there will love it and take offense...to the rest of you I say beware....
    [*]Games: It is a kids cartoon, after all. Some games for the kiddies which I have to say I didn't take the time to explore.

    Ok...not too shabby for a single-disc non-SE type of presentation.

    All Together...

    If you're like me and want to be comprehensive in your Disney DVD collecting...and are on the fence wondering if you can give money to the mouse to add this latest disc to your collection...fear not. Proceed. Not as good as the Emperor's New Groove (which I think is fantastic) but not as bad as the Lion King 2. While it's not destined to become the shining classic that will define the imagination of generations of movie-going youth with iconic significance, it's good entertainment; the Disney fanatic will probably enjoy watching it as long as his/her expectations are kept appropriately in check and the parental crowd should find little difficulty in taking pleasure in watching this film along with the family. Good-to-great image quality (depending on your viewing angle) and a reference-setting 5.1 mix make it easy to pull this one off the self when you want to watch something family friendly and put your HT to the test all in one fell swoop.

  2. John_McKittrick

    John_McKittrick Stunt Coordinator

    Nov 9, 1999
    Likes Received:
    Thanks for the review. I'm still on the fence about this one but if the price is right I may pick it up.

  3. Stephen_J_H

    Stephen_J_H All Things Film Junkie

    Jul 30, 2003
    Likes Received:
    North of the 49th
    Real Name:
    Stephen J. Hill
    I was disappointed by this one in theatres, mostly because of Roseanne's performance, but I'll have to see it again, just to see if the picture is as soft as it was in theatres. Disney is usually pretty good about providing good, sharp prints of its "flat" animated features (Teacher's Pet looked amazing), so the softening may have been deliberate.
  4. TonyDale

    TonyDale Second Unit

    May 3, 2003
    Likes Received:
    DaViD, as always, GREAT REVIEW!

    I'll admit it, I am a Disney completist, but even more so am an ALAN MENKEN completist, and had intended on picking this up over the upcoming weekend, your delightful review compelled me to change those plans, so I purchased HOME ON THE RANGE last night. [​IMG]
    Not having seen it in theaters, I watched it twice, enjoying every minute of its brief running time, but, have to say that Glenn Slater's lyrical contributions are quite an an even par with David Zippel's delirious lyrics for HERCULES, and that Menken's music just keeps reinforcing my belief that he is one of the great film/tv/stage composers of this age. With Bonnie Raitt's "Will the Sun Ever Shine Again?" is one of those hauntingly perfect melodies which should be recognized around awards time.
    (Menken isn't chopped liver as a record producer, either. I picked up the cd tonight, and it's peerless, too).
  5. Casey Trowbridg

    Casey Trowbridg Lead Actor

    Apr 22, 2003
    Likes Received:
    DaViD, you've done it again, I was on the fense about this one, and your review helped push me off and towards an eventual purchase of this DVD. I really shouldn't read DVD reviews when I'm broke...but, it was a great review and I'll definitely pick it up because I am interested in seeing it.
  6. Tarkin The Ewok

    Tarkin The Ewok Supporting Actor

    Apr 15, 2004
    Likes Received:
    I truly love this movie. It has three major things going for it: characters, art style, and music. My favorite character is Grace as the flaky, philosophical cow. It helps that my family has a farm background, but this movie gave me genuine belly laughs, and that is the goal of any comedy.

    As far as extras go, I'd rate those somewhere between the Gold Collection DVDs and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (I think you know which of those two has better features). As an Arizonan, I also liked seeing the Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson during the documentary.

    Bottom line: Get this movie if you like Disney animated films, or rent it if you're just looking for a comedy movie to spend one night with.
  7. Jake Lipson

    Jake Lipson Supporting Actor

    Dec 21, 2002
    Likes Received:
    As one of the Disney faithful, I was one of the very few who saw this in theaters - opening weekend, too, thankyouverymuch - and I loved it. Much better than New Groove, IMHO (I wasn't too fond of that one) and the funniest thing Disney's done since at least Hercules seven years ago.

    Yikes, Hercules is 7 years old? Makes me feel extrodinarily old.

    Anyway, about Home on the Range -- It's not an epic masterpiece along the lines of The Lion King, but it's not meant to be that. It's a great comedy, very fast paced, extremely enjoyable and at times bittersweeet (especially during "Will the Sun Ever Shine Again.") And of course the music is grade-A (A+ in my book, in fact.) So of course it's a must-buy for me (even if I had hated it, I'dve bought it for completion of the animated classics lineup, which I am currently trying to obtain the entirety of on DVD.) Fortunately though I didn't hate it, never thought I would and it lived up to my redicliously high expectations.

    Nice to hear that it's been treated well on disc, though I'm still a bit disappointed that it's not a 2-disc set like the very solid Brother Bear SE. Still, at least it's got some meaty features; will be great to hear the commentary. I hope it'll have a neverending shelf life on disc, significant to allow it to find the audience it should have had in theaters, like the Brother Bear DVD before it. (I hea BB is still selling very well despite having been released way back in the end of March.)

    Glad to bring this one home!
  8. Ernest Rister

    Ernest Rister Producer

    Oct 26, 2001
    Likes Received:
    There is a moment of true emotional poignancy in Home on the Range, but you have to wait until the credits to see and feel it. As Tim McGraw croons an Alan Menken ballad, credits for animation positions like "In Betweeners" and "Clean Up" roll by. As I watched each individual obsolete name scroll up the screen, I could see and feel one emotion:


    These positions - these people - are not needed in a CGI animation world. Clean Up Animation? The position I started in? Gone. In-betweeners? Why are these needed, when the computer has turned a drawing into a digital puppet? There is no more need to hire a team to draw the moments between key poses. The computerized puppet awaits the next frame you want to record.

    Time is saved. Money is saved. No more production assistants running down to Culver City to buy animation paper. No more money wasted on lead holders.

    And now, for a once-legendary animation studio convinced that CGI will restore their profits -- No more excuses.

    The executives at Disney claim that audiences have abandoned the decades-old art form of hand-drawn animation in favor of CGI animation. I say they have only abandoned weak, compromised movies. Disney will only make CGI movies from now on? Fine. Let's see them make some hit CGI films. If the new CGI films have screenplays and ambitions as limp as Home on the Range, they're going to be failures, too.

    Home on the Range will not make a lot of money. It will be lucky to outgross Brother Bear. The reason? It is a downsized, downmarketed, low-budget, low-expectation, cheaply-made, Disney animated sitcom. The reason the film fails is the same reason Brother Bear failed -- generic, passionless, compromised writing. Disney hand-drawn animation has been degraded into the Wal-Mart of the animation industry. After scores of low-budget direct-to-video "cheapquels", Home on the Range plays like the first direct-to-video piece of junk to come directly from the failing Camelot of Disney Feature Animation itself.

    If there is any palpable sense of longing in this film, it is the realization that we are watching an American art form ride off into the sunset. I wish I could report to the world that this art form went out with a bang, but like the overly familiar T.S. Elliot quote from "The Wastelands"... this is the way the DisneyWorld ends...not with a bang, but a whimper.

    Home on the Range is not an outright bad movie. To its credit, the film strives to be a tongue-in-cheek barnyard comedy for children, with art direction inspired by the work of the late Disney animator, Ward Kimball. Kimball defied character animation dogma to create some of the most indelible moments in all of Disney animation (see The Three Caballeros, the TV show, Mars and Beyond, Lucifer the Cat in Cinderella, the Oscar-winning short It's Tough to be a Bird). There is also a strong hint of Kimball's acclaimed "Pecos Bill" short from Melody Time, as well as an outright homage to the "giant shadow" sequence from "Mickey and the Beanstalk" in Fun and Fancy Free).

    I admired the look of the film. Yet, I must confess, I cannot point to a single moment of truly great animation in the entire movie. Back in 1998, as a video thesis, I created a montage of the great moments in Disney feature animation, starting with Snow White in 1937 all the way up to Mulan in 1998. When I came to Robin Hood in my assembly, I was frustrated, because I couldn't find a truly great moment in animation in the entire film. The closest I could come was the moment when Sir Hiss "crosses his arms", and the moment when Robin and Marian swing on a rope to the top of a festival booth.

    Watching Home on the Range tonight, I am likewise frustrated, because the only moment of true visual ambition in the entire film is a CGI moment, when we experience a mine car chase very similar to the one in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Disney's mine car chase is made via computer. It is very telling that Spielberg's mine car chase is the superior effort, despite the fact that in some shots, Spileberg used nothing more than spray-painted tin-foil and a Nikkon camera shooting some rubber dolls as stand ins for the lead actors. Spielberg's chase was lensed over 20 years ago. Here is Disney working within the animated medium, and they can't top tin foil and rubber dolls. As in Brother Bear, as in Atlantis, as in the last act of Lilo and Stitch, as in the last act of Mulan, as in the disaster Dinosaur, the failure is not visual, but literal -- Disney is undone not by their glorious visuals, but by their terrible, terrible, compromised writing.

    This is why the Disney product has stagnated at the box office while Pixar's product has soared. Not the CGI. Not the hand-drawn animation. It is the poor writing that has caused Disney feature animation to fail at the box office. Pixar has earned two nominations for best screenplay in their brief existence. DreamWorks has earned one nomination for best screenplay.

    No hand-drawn animated feature ever released under Walt Disney or Ron Miller or Michael Eisner has ever been nominated for screenwriting.

    Why is that?

    Home on the Range is not an unforgivable film - unlike the outright failure Brother Bear, it does have merits in its favor. The most notable is the soundtrack. Like Robin Hood, this is a disappointing movie with great music and great songs. The songs are so good, and yet, so brief -- you can't wait for the next musical moment to begin.

    Oddly enough, just like Robin Hood, the film has an unusually appealing cast of characters. To this day, I think Robin Hood works best as a potential pilot for a great Saturday morning cartoon series. Home on the Range follows that tradition. You'll love all of these characters, and you'll want to see more of them. The film does not do justice to the potential of the warm and engaging characters that appear within it.

    One last thing...I've often written about how Disney never made "children's films", how they made "family films". Pixar follows in that great tradition. Home on the Range, like the woeful Brother Bear before it, does not. Yes, there are a few suggestive comments ("They're real. Stop staring.") but on the whole, this film is a kids film. I wish I could like it more, I wish I could say it is a smart and engaging piece of family entertainment...it isn't. It has a few laughs. It has terrific music and songs. I can't wait to buy the soundtrack. But like Robin Hood, great songs and great characters can't substitute for limp storytelling. I'm really shocked to discover that I can't name a single great moment of hand-drawn animation in the entire movie.

    As much as it pains me to say it, the last hand-drawn animated feature by Disney is also one of their weakest -- and although I adore the art-form of hand-drawn animation, I cannot recommend Home on the Range.

    -- Ernest Rister
  9. Ernest Rister

    Ernest Rister Producer

    Oct 26, 2001
    Likes Received:
    p.s. If you buy the DVD, buy it for the music. The soundtrack is aces.
  10. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer

    Feb 20, 2001
    Likes Received:
    Livonia, MI USA
    Real Name:
    Kenneth McAlinden
    Well of course they have. That's why "Dinosaur" was such an audience favorite and made Disney so much money.

    [sarcasm mode off]

    I am interested in "Chicken Little" because Mark Dindal is making it and I like his comic sensibilities in concert with the movie's premise. The fact that it is CGI is about 100 places down on the list of why it interests me.

    In any case, my kids enjoyed "Home on the Range", and I will check it out myself when I am done engorging myself with Star Wars movies.


Share This Page