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April 2004

By Julian Roman

Home on the Range
Distributor: Disney
Directors: John Sanford, Will Finn
Producer: Alice Dewey
Screenwriters: John Sanford, Will Finn
Cast: Roseanne, Judi Dench, Jennifer Tilly, Cuba Gooding Jr., Randy Quaid, Steve Buscemi


Home on the Range is a fine film that proves hand drawn animation still has a place in the cinema. Cartoons do not have to be CGI behemoths to entertain. Disney unwisely shut down their 2D-animation unit in Central Florida last year. Their logic was that CGI projects like Shrek and Finding Nemo have supplanted traditional animation. This is an extremely shortsighted view from the guys that put cartoons on the map. Brother Bear, Disney's previous hand drawn effort, has made over $200 million dollars at the world box office. Home on the Range will probably double that. It's a wonderful children's movie and deserves a place among Disney's best. It's astonishing they have the ability to produce quality features like this and are not doing so.

Maggie (Roseanne) is a prize-milking cow that has come to live on a new farm, Patch of Heaven. Her previous owner had his entire herd stolen by the ruthless, cattle-rustling outlaw, Alameda Slim (Randy Quaid). Maggie shakes up Patch of Heaven with her wild, prize-cow ways. Mrs. Calloway (Judi Dench) and Grace (Jennifer Tilly) are the resident milking cows on the farm. Grace welcomes her, but Mrs. Calloway thinks she's too much of a showoff. It turns out that Patch of Heaven is in dire financial straits. The bank has threatened to repossess the farm if they can't come up with $750 dollars. Maggie has the idea of going to town and trying to win some money at the town fair. So the three cows head off with hopes of saving the farm. In town they meet up with Buck, Cuba Gooding Jr., the Sheriff's arrogant and cocky horse. He tells the cows that the reward for capturing Alameda Slim is $750. The girls decide to find Alameda Slim and use the money to rescue the farm.

Home on the Range has all the tenants of a great Disney cartoon. It's funny, the characters are memorable, and the story is pretty good. Also, and I hate to admit this, the songs in the movie are superb. Alameda Slim entrances cows by yodeling. That's how he's able to steal an entire herd at a time. There are scenes where he yodels wearing a pink sequin costume and the cows line dance transfixed by the music. It's the goofiest thing I've seen in a while, but very entertaining. The kids in the audience loved it.

The same team that did Aladdin made home on the Range. It's not nearly as good as that film, but enjoyable in its own right. Adults will like it as much as their children. It succeeds as quality entertainment for the whole family to enjoy. This will be a banner weekend for Disney and unemployed Yodeling teachers. My first lesson was great, yodelee yodelee yee hoo yodelee yodelee yah!