I would like to thank one of my readers for this topic idea...
Why are Oliver and Company cels so cheap/affordable?
The Disney company has dismissed Oliver and Company as a "training" film for the generation of animators who would go on to revive the Disney brand. In short, the film has been sidelined by Disney and hence collectors.
If you had to describe Oliver in one word, it would be "scruffy." From the storytelling to the art itself (by all accounts, it was a stylistic decision), the film feels as unpolished as any cartoon the studio ever released.
But Oliver and Company marks some key transitions in Disney animation, as captured in the cel below. (Currently for sale at Wonderful World of Animation for $395.
First, it advanced the use of computer animation. Take the stairs here: designed in a computer but painted by hand. Of course, at the time, the studio swore computers would never replace humans. And while 2D is coming back, hand-painted production cels are not. Oliver and Company is the second to last full-length Disney feature to release cels.
Second, Oliver and Company aggressively promoted the use of celebrity voices in animation. One of the key selling points of the film was that Billy Joel and Bette Midler (along with Cheech Marin, Joey Lawrence, Richard Mulligan, etc) were starring in it. Disney executives - hungry for a hit - wanted to make a movie which would appeal to as many people as possible and decided stars would be one way to do that. Sure, there are celebrity voices in previous Disney cartoons (especially in the 1970's) but Oliver went for "cool" stars. Billy Joel and Better Midler were riding a second wave of popularity at the time and their participation gave the film the street cred it needed.
Third, it was a hit, albeit a modest hit. While it was not as successful as Roger Rabbit, it gave Disney animation some much needed momentum. When promoting Rescuers Down Under and Beauty and the Beast, Disney used the success of Oliver and Company to show The Little Mermaid was not an anomaly but part of a trend.
So, why can you pick up the following cel (great image of Jenny and Oliver with cool effects) for $250 at Van Eaton Galleries? Sure, age is a factor, but Little Mermaid cels can fetch as much as any Disney film from the 1950s.
Well, Oliver and Company is not a perfect film. Despite its attempts to be cool, the storytelling makes it hard for anyone over the age of 12 to fall in love with it. And really, the best Disney films (the one whose cels still command top dollar) appeal to people of all ages.
However, it's also worth noting that after the success of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast (and the failure of the exciting Rescuers Down Under), Disney decided to focus on creating "timeless" classics. It no longer made sense to promote Oliver and Company since it takes place not in a fantasy world, but in our own time.
So, where does this leave the collector? It's a buyer's market. If you love Oliver and Company, as many people who grew up in the '80s do, go ahead and buy a great cel. Cel collecting should be about love (and, if you so choose, money).
So why not go for one of these great cels also from Van Eaton Galleries:
Oliver and the gang for $400.
Tito, at his most appealing, for $125.
And my personal favorite: Jenny, Winston and Oliver waving goodbye for $200! (Much better than the $200 spent on a Roscoe and Desoto cel highlighted in a previous cel).
So, do you collect Oliver cels? Or do you avoid them? Is my analysis fair or way off? Please chime in!