Home on the Range is a big reason for the near death of traditional animation. Walt Disney animation’s forty-fifth production became their last 2D film for over 5 years. Maybe a cartoony western about talking farm animals wasn’t the best way to compete with refined computer animated movies tackling complex themes. Brother Bear certainly scaled things back, but I still find it hard to believe Disney made something as low-rent as Home on the Range. What happened? Well the director of Pocahontas also wanted to make a western. So Disney approved the idea while it was still being developed multiple times. Eventually being named after the signature old west anthem. I call everything in the Post-Renaissance experimental, but why go with such flat unremarkable animation? CGI is present, if a little mismatched.
I don’t think it would surprise anyone to know I didn’t see Home on the Range in theaters. I was 8, but even I knew it was too childish for me. I distinctly remember renting it at a video store soon after, and my brother and I liked it alright. There’s no personal attachment, but it is a guilty pleasure. Home on the Range centers on a quaint farm called Little Patch of Heaven. A large show cow is taken there after her herd was taken by a dastardly outlaw called Alameda Slim. The farm has all the usual barn animals with mostly lame jokes. The three main cows are made up of adventurous new cow Maggie, sophisticated hat wearing cow Mrs. Caloway, and ditzy cow Grace.
You get what you’d expect from the mostly obnoxious humor of Roseanne Barr. It’s odd that Judi Dench agreed to something like this, but she does alright. Really it’s Jennifer Tilly who’s the natural voice actress. The farm has the cliché problem of foreclosure and the cows set out to claim a reward for Slim’s $750 capture by becoming Bovine Bounty Hunters. Competing with them is an extra exuberant Cuba Gooding Jr. as battle ready horse Buck. Who idolizes a bounty hunter named Rico. The cows are later joined by a jack rabbit and a herd of bulls. Randy Quaid appropriately voices the goofy villain Slim. Between mostly juvenile jokes, Slim herds cows by yodeling with his dimwitted band of nephews the Willie brothers. Songs have a folksy charm, but it’s a real downgrade. Home on the Range has its moments, but none are up to Disney’s more high quality standard.