Blu-ray Review “Oliver & Company: 25th Anniversary Edition”

Actors: Billy Joel, Joey Lawrence, Robert Loggia, Cheech Marin, Dom DeLuise
Directors: Dan Hansen, George Scribner
Rated: G (General Audience)
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Release Date: August 6, 2013
Run Time: 74 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2.5 out of 5 stars

“Oliver & Company” and I go way back.  Back in 1988, I begged my  folks to see the film in the theaters but ended up missing out (due to my little sister – and I have never let her live it down since, 25 years later – insert maniacal laugh!) So I had to wait till the 1996 re-release to finally see this film and loved it (of course). In today’s standards, it is not the best thing to ever come out of Disney’s animation studio but it is fun and has some great music. It does features a great and talent voice cast including Joey Lawrence, Billy Joel, Dom DeLuise, Cheech Marin, Bette Midler and Robert Loggia. To be honest, I enjoy watching this on high-def Blu-ray but like “The Sword and the Stone”, it was not really up to Disney Blu-ray standards. I would recommend for fans of the film and though crazy Disney fanatics.

Disney has been releasing all the animated classics in their library recently onto Blu-ray. Along with this, “The Sword in the Stone” (1963) and and “Robin Hood” (1973) were released as well. In fact after looking into it they should be coming to an end shortly with only fourteen more theatrically released Disney Animated Classics left with two more set for this year alone. Next up we have “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” and “The Little Mermaid”.

Official Premise: Celebrate the 25th anniversary of a Disney classic with the stunning Blu-ray debut of Oliver And Company, featuring perfect picture and sound. Relive this charming animated adventure, packed with excitement, fun and unforgettable songs by Billy Joel, Bette Midler and Huey Lewis. In the heart of New York City, Oliver, a mischievous orphaned kitten, is befriended by Dodger, a carefree pooch and his ragtag family of misfit mutts. Life gets even better for Oliver when he is adopted by a lonely little girl named Jenny. But when tough guy Sykes and his Doberman sidekicks try to keep Jenny and Oliver apart, the spirited kitten and his newfound friends discover the meaning of courage and find a home where they truly belong.

Disney is releasing this film as a combo pack with a Blu-ray and DVD but unlike “The Sword in the Stone” (1963) and and “Robin Hood” (1973) there is no digital copy included. I guess since this is only celebrating it’s 25th anniversary it didn’t deserve it. Who knows why. Similiar to “The Sword in the Stone”, this release didn’t really wow me. The 1080p transfer looks good in parts but terrible in others.  The colors well represented though, I just feel like they overdid it on the restoration.  This film was never perfect in terms of its animation and maybe they would have been better off leaving some of those endearing imperfections. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track does delivers with the dialogue, action and fun music from Billy Joel, Betty Midler and Huey Lewis.

The special features are ok but not really anniversary special. First off, we get a vintage behind-the-scenes look with “The Making of Oliver and Company”. There is another featurette called “Disney’s Animated Animals”, which talks about created our furry friends. There is also an alternate ending included. There is a sing-along mode for the film’s six fun songs. There is a bonus shorts including “Lend A Paw” and “Puss Café”. Lastly there is a TV spot, a theatrical trailer and re-release trailers.

Oliver Robins talks “Poltergeist” and working with Steven Spielberg

Oliver Robins is known best for his work in the classic horror film “Poltergeist”.  He has also worked on films like “Airplane II: The Sequel”. Currently Oliver is focusing on writing and directing with his latest film, “29,000 Wishes, 1 Regret”.  Oliver took out some time to chat about his experience on “Poltergeist” and working with Steven Spielberg.

Mike Gencarelli: Were you aware of how physical the role in “Poltergeist” was going to be?
Oliver Robins: For the most part I did because in the script it really explained what was going to happen. In terms of how they were going to execute those scenes I had no idea. It was presented to me like I was going to camp. And that’s exactly how it was. I had a great time. Every time I went to the set I had a new adventure. Because when you’re a kid you pretty much accept everything. They’d say, “OK, Oliver, today you’re going to be bolted to this wall and hung up by wires. We’re going to turn the room around and you’re going to scream into the camera because at the angle you’re hanging at it’s going to look like you’re flying.” And as a kid you’re thinking, “OK, that sounds fun.” Then the next day they tell you you’re going to be back in the room and giant tree arms are going to come at you. They want you to jump on the tree arms while screaming at it. Then they throw sugar glass at your face but they do remind you to cover your face when they’re doing it. And as a kid you’re having a great time. It’s like “what’s next?” As an adult you might step back and think it’s kind of crazy. But I used to love climbing trees so it was a blast to me.

MG: So it was really more like fun then work?
OR: Oh yeah, I had a great time. And it was a great bunch of people. Steven Spielberg. Kathleen Kennedy. Frank Marshall…they were a great group of people to work with. I didn’t want to leave the set when we were done every day. I had to because of the labor laws. “Sorry Oliver, you have to go home.”

MG: There has always been a lot of speculation as to whether Spielberg or Tobe Hooper was the director in charge. Can you lend any insight into this?
OR: I’ve learned that people seem to like controversy in pretty much everything in life. And this is one that will never go away no matter what people say. You can say that Steven Spielberg did NOT direct the film, bottom line, but people don’t want to believe it. They want to be conspiracy theorists because the falsehood is more exciting in many ways then the truth. As for Spielberg, he wrote the script (NOTE: the Original story for “Poltergeist” came from Steven Spielberg, who shared screenplay credit with Michael Grais and Mark Victor)…he was the producer. And he had a vision that he shared with Tobe. But Tobe directed me. I mean, it was investigated by the DGA (Director’s Guild of America) at the time. But when it comes to the nitty gritty, Tobe told me where to stand. He told the camera operator where to put the camera. All of the rules that I learned in film school about what a director does Tobe did. As far as what happened behind the scenes, I’m sure Steven explained what he was going for. I mean, when you’re the writer and the producer, you do what any writer would want to do. Explain your vision and your intent. Hope that they are executed as a team. And I think they worked as a great team. So in terms of what I saw on set, Tobe was the director. At least that’s my perspective on it. (NOTE: When “Poltergeist” opened in June 1982 these rumors were already circulating. Tobe Hooper has maintained that these rumors cost him an Oscar nomination for Best Director. Ironically, a week later “E.T.” opened. That film earned Spielberg a Best Director nod).

MG: How was the change going from scary “Poltergiest” to the zany “Airplane 2?”
OR: I had seen the original “Airplane,” so I knew the tone of the piece. I loved “Airplane” so I knew what kind of performance they were going for. It was a dream job for me when they gave it to me. Ken Finkleman, the director, was very patient. He told me what he wanted…the very broad and over the top reactions. I had a lot of fun doing it. And the adult actors were basically doing the exact same thing so I just followed their lead.

MG: What is it like for you now to watch films you made back when you were a kid?
OR: I just recently looked at “Poltergeist” again. Obviously I’m a bit prejudiced but I think it’s a fantastic movie. As good as the films being made today without any of the great technology that exists now. I think that with the advent of all of the new CGI technology we’re almost losing some of our filmmaking capabilities and techniques. It’s as if CGI is now almost a crutch. I mean in “Alien” you hardly see the “Alien” whereas now they show everything when maybe you don’t need to show everything. Not to mention that with a lot of CGI effects today it’s almost hard to suspend disbelief. Getting back to “Poltergeist,” that film is so scary because of the stuff you never even saw. It’s in your head because you really don’t know what you’re looking at. It’s all in your mind. And I think that’s brilliant filmmaking. And it’s not just a horror film. A professor told me that compassion will always win over camera. Which means you make a film with story and character and relationships and the special effects are secondary. And that’s true about “Poltergeist.” Sure it’s scary but it’s the family and their relationships that you care about during the movie.

MG: Now you’re focusing on writing and directing. Talk about taking that path in your career.
OR: It was on “Poltergeist” that I decided I wanted to be a filmmaker. Steven Spielberg loaned me a Super 8 camera and at 10 years old I started making films. And it became a passion that I fell in love with. I fell in love with telling stories. I made a 15 minute film called “The Crystal” that won first prize at a French Film Festival. I realized I wanted to do this as a career. So on the advice of Mr. Spielberg I went to the USC Film School (NOTE: Besides Steven Spielberg, note USC Film School Alumni include George Lucas, Robert Zemeckis and Ron Howard), graduated and I’ve been pursuing filmmaking pretty much ever since. I love all genre’s of film. From comedies to romantic comedies to dramas and family dramas. Hopefully I’ll be able to tell many stories.

MG: You wear pretty much every hat possible on your new film “29,000 Wishes, 1 Regret.” What was the inspiration behind the film?
OR: My inspiration was that I wanted to do a film about our times right now. And I learned it was going to be difficult to raise funding for a film about a young couple who loses everything because of the recession and realize they’re never going to live the life they hoped for. So they decide to charge what’s left on their credit cards and then kill themselves. That story line proved next to impossible to raise money through the traditional means. And I didn’t want to wait ten years to make this movie. I thought it was timely and that it had to be done right now. We had the technology to do it. We had the cameras. So we went out and did it. I’ve been to film school and I said to myself, “Let’s go out and let me see if I can fill every behind the scene role on the movie.” I brought in a couple of friends to assist, one to be DP and one to run sound. But sometimes they weren’t available so I’d have to do everything myself. But what I loved about it is that it allowed me to work very close with the actors and allowed me to really just focus on their performances. I didn’t have to worry about funding or paying back money. It was really just our time that we were spending. And we could really just tell the story that we wanted to tell. Of course the downside is that we didn’t have an infrastructure. We were kind of scattered trying to assemble everything while shooting this film basically by the seat of our pants. So there was an upside and also a darker side to this level of filmmaking. But I think it really tested my ability. To be able to make a film with pretty much nothing…just me and my camera. For all intensive purposes the only thing I really had going was my knowledge of cinema from film school. It’s the same equipment. Now a high school kid can get the equipment as a holiday gift and go out and do the same thing without a lot of money.

MG: Where can people see the film?
OR: They can buy it right now on Amazon, ( or they can download it as well on Amazon. Just type “29000 Wishes, 1 Regret” on Amazon and they can watch it at a moment’s notice. The film has a distributor and it should be available on network television later this year.

MG: Tell us why you started your own clothing line, Cursed Clothes?
OR: I had been going to different horror conventions and thought that it would be great to give fans a little bit more of the movie I was in. So I got with a designer to create “Poltergeist” – inspired T-shirts to hand out. And we had so much fun creating these T-shirts that I thought it would be fantastic to do with other films…all of my favorite films from the 70s, 80s and 90s. Even movies from now. So we created an entire line of horror inspired clothing. And that’s how we came up with Cursed Clothes, ( We’re creating designs for all of the films that I love. “

Interview with Oliver Muirhead

Oliver Muirhead started of his career in the voice over business and has since gone on to appeared in over 70 films such as “Austin Powers: The Spy who Shagged Me” and more recently the blockbuster hit “The Social Network”. Movie Mikes had a chance recently to speak with Oliver about his career, his projects and his pen name.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us about your role in “The Social Network”
Oliver Muirhead: I was cast for that role in an interesting way. I had originally been sent in by my manager to audition for a role that I was clearly not right for. However, she knew there was another role that I was right for and hoped that casting would give me a shot. As it turns out she was right and I was perfect for this role. It was a very clever way to get the jump on things. I felt like a complete idiot when I went in for the first audition because I was just so wrong for that particular role. After my audition, casting told my manager that mine was the only audition tape that she sent to David Fincher for that role and I was hired. It felt kind of good to be noticed in that way. We shot the scene at two different locations in Los Angeles and during the first shoot they used a long tracking shot which featured eight principle characters and around 130 extras. The scene was a very large and ended up being shot 64 times. A lot of the scenes in that film were shot multiple times which allowed for the actors to really relax and take in the scene. I really enjoyed the script of the film and felt it had a very classic Hollywood feel. I think this film is one of the most classically scripted films I have been a part of. It was a really fun movie.

AL: During the time of shooting did you and the other actors have a sense that the movie was going to be such a hit?
OM: I don’t think so. Everyone had an idea that we were becoming a part of a really intense movie making process. I think everyone was happy that it was completed and had a good time doing it but I don’t think anyone predicted the success the film achieved.

AL: How was it working with Mike Myers on “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me”?
OM: [Laughs] I had met Director Jay Roach one day at my daughter’s schools, as he was there as a parent as well. It was one of those funny coincidences. I guess he had met Mike previously and one thing led to another and I ended up in the film. Jay is a really great guy. I think that film was actually his first film as a director.

AL: Are there any great behind the scenes stories from that shoot?
OM: Not that I can think of off the top of my head. I do remember during shooting we all had a sense that we were making a really funny film. I think that film has the best story of the three and is probably the funniest.

AL: How did you become involved with doing voice over work?
OM: I had gotten my union card by re-voicing movies so I have always had a toe in the water in the way of voice work. It’s really great doing that type of work because I can go to work in my pajamas. [Laughs] I have friends that work on the “Spongebob” show and I am extremely jealous. Who doesn’t want to live at the bottom of the sea! And who wouldn’t want those residuals [Laughs]. There are some really great and funny people in the voice over business.

AL: Do you have a project that stands out as a favorite?
OM: That’s like asking if I have a favorite child. Which I do, I only have one child so it’s easy to get away with that one [Laughs]. Generally I am always very into what is coming up. I did a small movie last year titled “Like Crazy” which won the Grand Prize at Sundance. I wasn’t a lead actor but I did have a large role in the film. The film had a great cast and we were all very happy to be working on the project. Paramount ended up buying the film for around $4 million dollars and I think they plan to release it on some sort of theatrical level. That film was such a pleasure.

AL: Can you tell us about your writing and your pen name George Mole?
OM: I started out as a museum journalist and writing under a different name as a way to protect my parents who were both in the museum world. I had met Steven Applebee who is a cartoonist in the UK while I was still living over there and we wrote our first book titled “No Honestly It Was Simply Delicious But I Couldn’t Eat Another Mouth Full”. The book was somewhat of a fake cooking book based on an idea for a series of books I had. The book did fairly well but we both felt it should have been a hit and were somewhat disappointed. That book did launch a career for us and we went on to write books such as “The Little Book of Parking Tickets”, “Negative Thinking” which was huge in Germany. We also wrote a book titled “Better Living Through Air Guitar” that was big in Italy. [Laughs] My pen name came about from my mother actually. There was a character in a spy novel called George Smart. George was always looking for the mole in various places or agencies, so my mother put the two together and felt it was a suitable pen name for me. She failed to check however that I actually have a cousin named George Mole [Laughs].

AL: Do you have any other upcoming projects?
OM: I just finished doing a few episodes for the upcoming season of “The Secret Life of an American Teenager”, which is great show. I had done one episode on the show last season and got some really great Christmas presents from the show. [Laughs] I did a “Hot Wheels” promo piece for this year’s Indianapolis 500, which was a little odd but fun. I also have a film in post-production titled “Son of Morning” which has a good story and an interesting cast. I also just completed three episodes on the TV series “Switched at Birth”. I have a recurring role as the character “Geraldo”…good fun!