In case you were wondering if Disney's 2004 animated title 'Home on the Range' was as bad as you remember it being, I have an answer for you: Yes, it is. Maybe it's the odd, slightly off-putting angular animation or Roseanne's shrieking voice, but 'Home on the Range' is a major letdown.
The early 2000s proved to be tough for Disney Animation Studios. They found themselves releasing critical dud after critical dud. Once the pinnacle of animated feature films, Disney had found themselves mired in uninteresting stories and dreadfully unmemorable characters. Those are the same aspects that plague 'Home on the Range.' It's colorful and kid-friendly, but it's certainly a far cry from Disney's golden years of animation domination.
'Home on the Range' runs a brisk 76 minutes. It never takes a break to build any characters or establish anything other than the clichéd story it sets out to tell. Set in the Wild West, the movie shows us the world from the perspective of wise-cracking livestock. Maggie (voiced by Rosanne) is a heifer who has been relocated to another farm after her owner's entire herd of steers was stolen in the middle of the night, by the ruthless Alameda Slim (voiced by Randy Quaid). Slim is the meanest, toughest cattle robber in the west. Just to give you an idea of how annoyingly goofy this movie is, Slim's secret weapon is yodeling. Yup, that's right. Slim starts yodeling and the cows become hypnotized and follow him wherever he goes.
Maggie soon meets up with a few other cows, Mrs. Calloway (voiced by Judi Dench) and Pearl (voiced by Sarah Jessica Parker). They've taken it upon themselves to wrangle Alameda Slim by themselves because it just so happens that the farm they live on now is about to go under and in perfect sitcom fashion the reward money for Slim's capture is the exact amount of money needed to save the farm from foreclosure. I felt like I was watching a not-too-bright episode of 'Saved by the Bell.'
What follows is a mundane, fart-and-poop joke affair that never reaches anywhere near the memorable Disney cartoons of the past. 'Home on the Range' is brash and idiotic. It aims for the easiest jokes possible, like belching pigs, and never takes time to establish a meaningful story, emotion, or character involvement. There isn't one, single memorable character in this movie. I just named the main characters in the movie above and I'm still having a hard time remembering them. That's how forgettable this whole experience was. 'Home on the Range' reminded me of the feeling I get whenever I watch on of Disney's haphazard animated sequels. It lacks any sort of spirit or imagination that Disney animation had been known for. It feels rushed, unfinished, unfocused, and worst of all it's completely unfunny.
Thankfully, Disney Animation is stepping up its game once again and has overcome the Disney Dark Ages. 'Home on the Range' may be colorful enough and silly enough for kids to enjoy, but parents will find themselves either dozing off or frustrated beyond belief. There's nothing here for anyone over the age of eight. It's a dark mark on Disney's otherwise illustrious feature animation factory.
The problem comes when you might be a die-hard Disney completest. Someone who can't help but buy any Disney feature film that comes out simply so you can have them all lined up on your shelf. I understand this disease, but if there was ever a Disney movie to skip, 'Home on the Range' would be the one.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This Disney release comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc and also has a DVD copy of the film. The release is region free. It comes packaged in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with slipcover. There is a Disney Movie Rewards code inside.
Is this the best video transfer that you'll see from a Disney title? No. But, this 1080p presentation is no slouch. It does have a few hiccups along the way, but if you aren't searching through screen shot after screen shot looking for small errors, and instead are looking at the movie as a whole, then you should be pleasantly pleased with the way 'Home on the Range' looks on Blu-ray.
Colors are bright and vivid. The movie does have a made-for-Disney-Channel feel with how loud the color palette really is, but that's the way the movie is meant to look. From the dusty browns of the Wild West to the pinks (yes, neon pinks) and purples of the yodeling song-and-dance number, colors are strong and bold throughout the entire movie. For the most part the angular art is presented with clean and clear lines. Sometimes fuzziness around the lines is visible, but not enough to really complain about. When you're watching the movie in normal motion, and not scrutinizing every screen shot, then you'll find that the fuzziness is negligible at best. I noticed banding in a couple scenes, both of them involved fade outs on the sky. The banding was light and not really all that distracting.
The movie may be a wreck on just about every narrative front, and I personally may be put off by the animation style, but overall the release holds up to Disney's usual standards. It isn't 'Lion King' quality, but I doubt you'll find yourself disappointed with the minor hurdles it encounters along the way.
On the other hand I found Disney's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix a little underwhelming compared to their usual standards. The first thing that is noticeable is that Mrs. Calloway's voice seems under mixed. Now, this could be the Rosanne Effect, meaning that whenever Rosanne is in anything everyone seems like they're talking at a whisper compared to her. Especially when Mrs. Calloway is voiced by soft-spoken Judi Dench. Either way I felt like Dench's vocals were a tad hard to hear, whereas Rosanne's voice grated my ear drums the entire 76 minutes.
There is some nice LFE on this track, however. Much of it is reserved for the zany, screwball action going on, but there is some great low-end sonics attached to Lance LeGault's voice acting as Junior the Buffalo. Panning effects are somewhat smooth, but seemed a bit herky-jerky during the climactic mineshaft train chase near the end. Alan Menken's original music is presented cleanly throughout the entire soundfield. The musical numbers – as annoyingly cloying as they are – are given ample room to breathe and perform. Is this the demo-quality audio presentation we usually expect from Disney? Not really. But, like the video presentation, it does its job relatively well and provides a decent listening environment for anyone watching. It's just too bad Roseanne's voice takes center stage.
This is one of those movies that you really want to forget Disney even made. Yes, the presentation on the Blu-ray is nice, both audio and video wise, but that shouldn't be the deciding factor in buying it. If your kids are clamoring for it at the store, then you might have to buy it and leave them alone while they watch it. The worst thing that could happen is that a kid or two take a liking to it and they watch it a couple times a day. In that case, hide it and pretend you lost it. Either way you look at it the juvenile humor and story-telling of 'Home on the Range' is for kids only. Adults need not bother.