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Home on the Range

Jul 13, 2008
Come on people and "bust a moo." When Home on the Range was released on April 2, 2004, it was designated to be the last traditionally animated feature for Disney. The studio declared, to the surprise of industry insiders, that all features following Home on the Range would be rendered with CGI imagery rather than the CAPS method, which had been in use since The Rescuers Down Under. Indeed, Disney's traditional method of animation dates back to Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. This decision prompted Disney to fire most of its animation department.

Pre-production for the film, originally entitled Sweating Bullets, began as early as 1995, following the release of Pocahontas. This version of the movie detailed the adventures of a calf named Bullets who works to save his herd from a band of ghost cattle rustlers. This incarnation of the story as well as the title were changed in 2002. The new title, Home on the Range, was inspired by the classic country song of the same name.

The new version of the story follows the adventures of three dairy cows, voiced by Roseanne Barr, Judi Dench, and Jennifer Tilly, as they struggle to apprehend the nefarious cattle rustler, Alameda Slim, voiced by Randy Quaid. The cows hope the bounty on Slim will pay the mortgage on their beleaguered farm, but getting him to the sheriff proves harder than they thought when another bounty hunter, Rico, voiced by Charles Dennis, wants a cut of the action.

Scheduling problems, brought on by a re-editing of the initial plot, forced Disney to flip Home on the Range with Brother Bear, which had been scheduled for release in 2004. This caused a terrible crisis for the Brother Bear production team, but afforded Will Finn and John Sanford, the directors of Home on the Range, the time they needed. Though it had been a traditional practice for Disney to release features on Thanksgiving or during the summer, Michael Eisner decided to release Home on the Range in April. Many critics felt this was intentionally done to highlight the glaring costs of traditional animation, playing into his decision to make all future features with CGI. Though Sanford and Finn had anticipated a G rating, the MPAA rated the film as PG because of a joke alluding to surgically enhanced breasts during the opening sequence.

The critical response was mixed, with most of the disparagement reserved for the plot. The average rating, according to Metacritic, was 4.2 out of 10. Though the budget was $110 million, the film only managed to garner about $50 million domestically and $103 million internationally. This qualified the movie as a box office failure. Though this made Eisner's case about traditionally drawn features, professionals in and affiliated with Disney urged for a return to traditional animation, culminating in the slating of The Princess and the Frog (2009) as a traditionally animated feature.
About the Author
Steve Collins is an author and journalist based in Los Angeles. A hiuge Disney fan, he uses the Disney Movie Club to build his collection. Read his reviews of the Disney Movie Club movies.
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