Home on the Range is short of a few memorable yodels in being a little patch of heaven. Disney’s animation studio, immediately after ‘Lilo & Stitch’, experienced a major financial loss. Competitors such as the soon to be acquired Pixar, DreamWorks and even Blue Sky Studios were dominating the earlier part of the twenty first century. Disney’s features, the once leading studio, were broken. Productions enduring extensive lengths, costly visualised conversions and downsizing of employees. Home on the Range, rather unfortunately, was a misfired product from a studio encountering corporate instability. A western styled tale involving three mismatched dairy cows attempting to capture an infamous cattle rustler to receive a generous bounty that will pay off their farm from foreclosure.
Finn and Sanford’s hearts were in the right place, just bordering the rustic picket fences of Patch of Heaven. The trio of dairy protagonists, comprising of brash show-cow Maggie, sophisticated Mrs. Caloway and the stupendously ditzy Grace, garnered sufficient interactions with each other that prolonged their brief characterisations. The rivalry between Maggie and Mrs. Caloway was earnest and provided moo-ments (I promise, no more cow puns...) of friendship during times of great need. The plot itself was punctual and cohesive, with functional albeit predictable beats found in any other Disney animation. Voice acting was solid for the most part, particularly Dench, Tilly and Gooding Jr., whom all suited their characters. Barr was too bullish, and lacked the subtlety required to tenderise Maggie’s emotional conflicts. However, the biggest asset Home on the Range withholds, is the throwback to the classic cartoon style. The humour is refreshingly slapstick and acquitted itself with nothing more than a fun adventure. It’ll keep children entertained, adults not so much.
As I said previously, this feature was produced during a rough period of time for the studio, and consequently resulted in a functional yet unmemorable tale. Despite the modesty of the leading “three maids are milking”, their journey is hugely unmemorable, lacking the originality and timelessness of previous productions. Yes, questing across the dusty Grand Canyon, encountering perilous flash floods and traversing exhilarating mines, should’ve made for an exciting comedic adventure. Alas, the milk in these cows had expired. The narrative lacked innovation, the dialogue lacked energy and the animation itself lacked charm. Even Menken’s original composition, featuring “all-time favourites” including *cough* “Will the Sun Ever Shine Again” and the painful antagonist’s theme tune “Yodel-Adle-Eedle-Idle-Oo” resembled outdated traits that Disney failed to avoid. Hypnotising cows into an LSD trip by expressively yodeling at them, should’ve been one of the most unforgettable scenes the studio had pumped out. Sadly, not the case. Everything was shoved into a minuscule runtime, and the breezy pace emphasised the one-dimensional aesthetic.
Home on the Range is, undoubtedly, formulaic. Whether the formula for this dairy goodness is to your taste, is clearly down to personal preference. Undeniably though, the sour aftertaste of a studio no longer caring was beginning to present itself. A feature with the consistency of semi-skimmed milk, avoiding the delectability of full fat wholesomeness. Udderly disappointing.