Oliver, an orange Tabby kitten, is lost in the streets. He was the only kitten of his fellow kittens not to be adopted. Left alone in the rain in a cardboard box, he escapes and lives in the streets. He steals some hot dogs from a hot dog vendor with the help of a mongrel named Dodger. Together they are successful, but Dodger runs off, attempting to leave the orphaned feline behind.
Dodger eventually arrives at the houseboat of his owner, a petty criminal named Fagin, along with his meal, to share with his friends: Tito the Chihuahua, Einstein the Great Dane, Rita the Saluki and Francis (Frank or Frankie) the Bulldog. Oliver sneaks into their home, located below the city's docks, and is discovered by the dogs. At first, the dogs, except Dodger, think that Oliver is a spy but when Oliver explains his involvement in Dodger's hot dog theft, Dodger and the dogs begin to develop respect for him. Later, Fagin, owner of the dogs, comes in and explains that he is running out of time to repay the money he borrowed from Sykes, a shipyard agent and ruthless loan shark. Sykes and his Doberman dogs, Roscoe and DeSoto, arrive. Fagin tries to appease Sykes with leftover items located from the streets, but it does not work.
While DeSoto is sniffing around the barge, Roscoe flirts with Rita. When Tito tries to attack him; after Roscoe threatens Francis after he insulted him, he is held back by Einstein, who tells Roscoe to pick on somebody his own size, but Roscoe is not intimidated by the Great Dane. He is asked by Dodger about whether he lost his sense of humor or not and in reply, Roscoe smashes their television. It is then that DeSoto finds Oliver. The terrified kitten scratches his nose after DeSoto attempts to eat him and both Roscoe and DeSoto intend to tear him apart when the dog gang gets between them. Before further violence can ensue, Sykes calls his dogs back to his car, and they leave while making threats towards the gang and Oliver.
After this, a soaking wet Fagin returns to the barge, lamenting that he has only three days to find the money he owes Sykes. He discovers Oliver and, considering that they all need help, accepts him into the gang.
Next day, Fagin sets out into the city with his canine menagerie and Oliver. While he tries to sell his wares at a pawn shop, the animals come face-to-face with a limousine driven by a butler named Winston. Winston is employed by the exceedingly wealthy Foxworth family and is taking care of their daughter, Jenny while the couple is out of the country on business. The dogs stage an elaborate ruse in order to get Winston out of the car. Einstein hits the car to make it look like Winston had hit someone and Francis (being the only member of the gang with a passion and love for the art of acting and the theatre) comes in his place to play the role of the hit dog. While Winston tends to Francis, Tito and Oliver slip in and attempt to steal its radio so as to give it to Fagin in order to sell it and earn some money in return as partial payment to Mr. Sykes. In doing so, Tito gets shocked by the electrical system, due to Oliver's mishap, and Jenny finds Oliver tangled up in the wires near it. Oliver finds a good home and a caring owner in Jenny, to the chagrin of Winston and the Foxworth's spoiled pedigree poodle, Georgette.
The next day, Fagin's dogs go to Jenny's house to "rescue" their cat friend; thinking their friend is in danger and being tortured. After some initial disputes, Georgette is very happy that they are here to collect Oliver, and helps them take him back, convincing them that he's been traumatized by the whole experience and wants to go back to them. When Oliver is taken back, Oliver is sad because he was happy living with Jenny. Dodger is upset, nevertheless, he allows him to leave. The gang is sad to see their cat friend leave and Oliver, full of sadness and sorrow, is sad to leave his friends. Before having the chance, Fagin comes in, takes Oliver back in, and sits in his chair, full of sadness, because of his lack of hope and luck of earning some money. Later, Fagin sees Oliver's new golden tag and the wealthy district he got it from, and sends Jenny a map and a letter requesting "lots and lots of money" as a ransom. Fagin then goes to convince Sykes that his plan will work. While Fagin intends only to ransom the cat, Sykes believes that he is 'thinking big' in an attempt to kidnap and ransom the cat owner, and gives him 12 more hours.
Jenny receives the letter and takes Georgette with her to go and get Oliver back, but Fagin's poorly drawn map leaves them both totally lost, although they do unknowingly arrive at their destination. Being distraught that his "wealthy cat-owner" is just a little girl with her piggy-bank, Fagin decides that he might as well return Oliver to her, and pretends to find him in a dumpster. However, Sykes, who was unknowingly watching the whole thing, kidnaps Jenny, intending to hold her for ransom to her wealthy parents, and tells Fagin to keep his mouth shut and to consider their account closed.
Fagin, who was not expecting Sykes to use him to perform an actual kidnapping, takes his dogs and Georgette to Sykes' shipyard to rescue Jenny, which the dogs, with Oliver's help manage to do. However, an enraged Sykes and his Dobermans chase them down the city streets and into the subway in his car intending to snatch Jenny back. Roscoe and DeSoto are both thrown onto the tracks in their fight with Dodger and Oliver, and presumably killed. Jenny is thrown onto the hood of Sykes' car and Fagin tries to snatch her back while the dogs (mostly Tito) drive. Fagin manages to save Jenny while Oliver and Dodger fight off Sykes. They emerge onto the Brooklyn Bridge, where Sykes' car collides with a train and he is killed. Tito manages to steer Fagin's vehicle onto one of the bridge's cables and they emerge unscathed. After the incident, Dodger, who along with Oliver were thrown away by Sykes before his untimely demise, hands Jenny a "thought to be dead" Oliver. Everyone else thinks he's dead until Jenny hears a soft meow, meaning that Oliver is alive. Everyone is rejoiced and accepted as Jenny's new best friends, except Georgette who is still in great shock from the chase.
The next morning, Fagin and the entire group celebrate Jenny's birthday party at her home. That same day, Winston receives a phone call from Jenny's parents in Rome saying that they will be back tomorrow, while making a bet with Fagin on wrestlers on T.V., apparently earlier than expected; probably as an unexpected beautiful surprise for Jenny. Fagin and his dog gang finally drive into the streets to make a new start while leaving Oliver at his new home with Jenny.
- Oliver, voiced by Joey Lawrence, is the main protagonist of the film and an orange Tabby kitten who wants a home. He joins Fagin's gang of dogs before being taken in by Jenny. He also saves her life from the black-hearted loan-shark, Sykes.
- Dodger, voiced by Billy Joel, is a carefree, charismatic mongrel with a mix of terrier in him. He claims to have considerable "street savoir-faire." He is the leader of Fagin's gang of dogs, and becomes Oliver's closest best friend amongst them. He serves as the deuteragonist.
- Fagin, voiced by Dom DeLuise, is a petty criminal who lives on a house-boat with his dogs. He desperately needs money to repay his debt with Sykes. Because of his economic situation, he is forced to perform criminal acts such as pick-pocketing and petty theft, but in truth, he has a heart of gold.
- Jenny Foxworth, voiced by Natalie Gregory (singing voice by Myhanh Tran), is a kind, rich girl who takes care of Oliver. She serves as the tritagonist.
- Bill Sykes, voiced by Robert Loggia, is the film's primary antagonist and is a cold-hearted, immoral loan-shark who lent a considerable sum of money to Fagin for unknown reasons and expects it paid back.
- Tito, voiced by Cheech Marin, simply known as Tito, is a tiny Chihuahua in Fagin's gang. He has a fiery temper for his size and rapidly develops a crush on Georgette (although she is initially repulsed by him).
- Georgette, voiced by Bette Midler, is the Foxworth family's spoiled prize-winning Poodle, who is jealous of Oliver getting attention. When Tito displays his attraction to her, she initially responds with revulsion. At the end, however, she displays considerable attraction to Tito - so much, in fact that she sends him running for his life when she tries to bathe, dress, and groom him.
- Einstein, voiced by Richard Mulligan, is a gray Great Dane in Fagin's gang, representing the stereotype that Great Danes are friendly, but dumb. He is the strongest member of the gang.
- Francis, voiced by Roscoe Lee Browne, is a bulldog with a British accent in Fagin's gang. He appreciates art and theater and detests anyone abbreviating his name as "Frank" or "Frankie."
- Rita, voiced by Sheryl Lee Ralph (singing voice by Ruth Pointer), is a Saluki and the only female dog in Fagin's gang.
- Roscoe and DeSoto, voiced by Taurean Blacque and Carl Weintraub respectively, are the secondary antagonists. They are Sykes' vicious Doberman dogs and seem to have a long rivalry with Dodger and his friends.
- Winston, voiced by William Glover, is the Foxworth family's bumbling but loyal butler.
- Louie, voiced by Frank Welker, is a bad-tempered hot dog vendor, who appears early in the film where Oliver and Dodger steal his hot dogs. He is meant to be one of the 'enemies of the four-legged world', meaning that he hates both cats and dogs.
After the release of The Black Cauldron in 1985, Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg invited the animators to pitch potential ideas for upcoming animated features. After Ron Clements and John Musker suggested The Little Mermaid and Treasure Island in Space, animator Pete Young suggested, "Oliver Twist with dogs". Originally wanting to produce a live action adaptation of the musical Oliver! at Paramount, Katzenberg approved of the pitch. The working title of the film during production was Oliver and the Dodger.The film pre-dated the Disney Renaissance. The original central braintrust of Disney animators, the "Nine Old Men", had retired in the early 1980s, which signaled the entrance for the next generation of Disney animators, including Oliver & Company supervising animators Glen Keane, Ruben A. Aquino, Mike Gabriel, Hendel Butoy, and Mark Henn. At a certain point, this film was to be a sequel to The Rescuers. If this had happened, it would have given the character of Penny more development, showing her living her new life in New York City with Georgette, as well as her new adoptive parents. This idea was eventually scrapped and later shelved because the producers had then felt that the story would not have been convincing.
This was the first Disney film to make heavy use of computer animation, since previous films The Black Cauldron (1985) and The Great Mouse Detective (1986) used it only for special sequences. The CGI effects were used for making the skyscrapers, the cars, trains, Fagin's scooter-cart and the climactic Subway chase. It was also the first Disney film to have a department created specifically for computer animation.
This was a test run film before The Walt Disney Company would fully commit to returning to a musical format for their animated films; Oliver & Company was the first such film to be a musical since The Fox and the Hound (1981). For the next decade, all of Walt Disney Feature Animation's films, starting with The Little Mermaid (1989), were also musicals, except for The Rescuers Down Under (1990).
Oliver & Company was one of the first animated Disney films to introduce new sound effects for regular use, to replace many of their original classic sounds, which would be used occasionally in later Disney films. However, The Little Mermaid introduced even more new sound effects. The new sound effects were first introduced with The Black Cauldron, while The Great Mouse Detective released a year after the previous film used the classic Disney SFX. This included some sounds such as the then fifty-year-old Castle thunder and the classic Goofy holler. However, the Disney television animation studio continued extensively using the classic Disney sound effects for several years, while the feature animation studio retired the original sound effects.
Oliver & Company was the first animated Disney film to include real world advertised products. Many placements of real product names Coca-Cola, USA Today, Sony, and Ryder Truck Rental were some of the most used examples. It was said on ABC's The Wonderful World of Disney that this was for realism, was not paid product placement, and that it would not be New York City without advertising.
Certain animal characters from previous Disney films make cameos in Oliver & Company. When Dodger sings "Why Should I Worry?" in the beginning of the film, some of the dogs shown are Peg, Jock, and Trusty from Lady and the Tramp (1955), and Pongo from One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961).
Richard Rich (who previously co-directed The Fox and the Hound and The Black Cauldron) was going to co-direct, but due to acting very hostile towards Disney feature animation president, Peter Schneider, he was fired in 1986.
As of 2008, Oliver & Company made a total domestic gross of $74 million at the U.S. box office, $53.2 million of which came from its original run. Since 1988, Disney Feature Animation has released at least one film a year, except for 1993 and 2006, and in the future for 2015.
During its release, McDonald's sold Christmas musical ornaments containing the film's two main characters, Oliver and Dodger, the start of a multi-year agreement of joint promotions with licensed products.
Despite its financial success at the box office, Oliver & Company was not released on home video until after its theatrical re-release in 1996; this first home video release of Oliver & Company eventually became part of the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection series. It was later released for the first time ever on DVD, just one year after the Walt Disney Gold Classic Collection series was discontinued. A 20th Anniversary Edition was released on DVD in February 3, 2009.
Despite its success at the box office, reviews for Oliver & Company were generally mixed to negative. As of 2010, Rotten Tomatoes reported that 44% of critics gave the film positive reviews based on 34 reviews with an average rating of 5.4/10. Its consensus states that "Oliver & Company is a decidedly lesser effort in the Disney canon, with lackluster songs, stiff animation, and a thoroughly predictable plot."
On the television program, Siskel & Ebert, Gene Siskel gave the film a Thumbs Down. Siskel stated "When you measure this film to the company's legacy of classics, it doesn't match up" as he complained "the story is too fragmented". Roger Ebert gave the film a "marginal Thumbs Up" as he described the film as "harmless, inoffensive." 
- Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song for "Why Should I Worry?" (Nominated)
- Young Artist Award for Best Family Feature Film - Animation (Nominated)
- Golden Reel Awards for Best Sound Editing (Won)
- "Once Upon a Time in New York City" - Huey Lewis, Barry Mann and Howard Ashman
- "Why Should I Worry" (Main Theme) - Dodger and the Chorus Dogs
- "Streets of Gold" - Rita, Dodger, and the Gang
- "Perfect Isn't Easy" - Georgette
- "Good Company" (Jenny's Theme) - Jenny
- "Why Should I Worry" (Reprise) - Dodger, the Gang and the Chrous Dogs
- This movie was released exactly 60 years after Disney's first short, Steamboat Willie.
- The working title of this film during production was Oliver and the Dodger.
- This was the final pre-Disney Renaissance film to be released.
- This was the first Disney animated film to feature a modern handgun (more antiquated firearms had been featured in films such as Pinocchio and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad).
- At a certain point, this film was to be set after The Rescuers. If this had happened, it would have given the character of Penny more development. This idea was eventually scrapped because the producers had then felt that the story would not have been convincing. This is why Penny and Jenny are so alike. Even the name Jenny rhymes with the name Penny.
- At one point, the gang was going to include a Golden Retriever called Sally who would stereotype their nature as agile family pets, but she was pulled because it was felt there would be too many dogs.
- This was the first Disney movie to make heavy use of computer animation. CGI effects were used for making the skyscrapers, the cars, trains, Fagin's scooter-cart and the climactic Subway chase. It was also the first Disney film to have a department created specifically for computer animation.
- This was the first animated Disney film to include real world advertised products. Many placements of real product names such as Coca-Cola, USA Today, Sony, and Ryder Truck Rental were used. It was said on ABC's The Wonderful World of Disney that this was for realism, was not paid product placement, and that it would not be New York City without advertising.
- Princess Aurora makes a cameo appearance.
- Several animals from past Disney films make cameos:
- When Dodger sings "Why Should I Worry", Peg, Jock, and Trusty from Lady and the Tramp and Pongo from One Hundred and One Dalmatians can be seen on the street.
- Professor Ratigan from The Great Mouse Detective can be seen in Georgette's photo collection.
- Though not owned by Disney, Scooby-Doo also appears in the photo collection.
- This was the first time one of the Lawrence brothers were in a Disney project, with Joey Lawrence playing Oliver. The three brothers would star in various movies from the Disney Channel, Matthew Lawrence became the voice of Tombo in the Disney dub of Kiki's Delivery Service, and Andrew Lawrence would become the second voice of T.J. Detweiler in Recess.
- Like The Black Cauldron, the film made heavy use of sound effects made exclusively for the movie. Though some did pop up in later Disney films (like the seagull squawk sound effect).
- This was the only time Dom Deluise (the voice of Fagin) voiced a character in an animated Disney film.
- There is an unknown unidentified song on the 2002 Disney DVD commercial that you won't find anywhere else.
Characters: Oliver | Dodger | Fagin | Tito | Rita | Francis | Einstein | Georgette | Jenny Foxworth | Winston | Penny (deleted) | Rufus (deleted) | Bill Sykes | Roscoe and DeSoto | Oliver's Old Kitten Friends | Louie the Hot Dog Man | Alley dogs
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