Oliver and Company: Theater, Popular Culture, and Childhood

In 1988, at the age of four, I saw my first movie on the big screen. I don’t remember what I was wearing or what the theater looked like. I don’t remember if I had popcorn or candy. I don’t remember who took me or even which theater we went to. I grew up in a town small enough that it has had several theaters come and go over the years, unable to consistently support one, and though I want to say that I saw Oliver and Company at Twin Cinemas in Waynesboro, most of the records that I can find say that the theater wasn’t there until 1990. So we might’ve seen the movie in Waynesboro-or we might’ve drive the half hour to the closest theater.

1988 movie poster courtesy Imp (click through for link)
1988 movie poster courtesy Imp (click through for link)

But I remember having my cousins there. We were close in age, lived within a few hours of one another, and my mother and her sisters liked to get together. We didn’t see my maternal grandparents often, for many complex reasons, but my aunts and cousins made sure we noticed it as little as possible for as long as they could; they did well. So there my cousins and I were, and I remember the large red chairs in the row in front of us, and I remember the theater was almost empty-or at least no one wanted to sit near us, because I remember running up and down past the folded up seats with little interference while we waited for the movie to start.

And I remember the joy of the film. I remember loving Oliver, wanting a dog like Dodger-and thinking that the Bette-Midler-voiced-delightfully-mean-Georgette was named “Torgette.” I don’t remember running past the folded-down seats while the movie was playing. I remember kneeling in one of those chairs, though I weighed barely enough to keep the seat down, entranced by the huge screen, the loud sound, and the Disney movie experience.

Image courtesy of The Disney Collection-click through for link
Image courtesy of The Disney Collection-click through for link

Later, I remember playing with the McDonald’s finger puppets of the characters, re-playing the film over and over in my head. When my family went to Disney World in 1990, I bought a plush Oliver as my souvenir.

I was hooked-on animals; on movies; on Disney; on the theater; on merchandise. On popular culture.

(Working on a few more Zero to Hero related changes as prompted. Nice to know about Creative Commons-feel silly for not knowing about that sooner.)

*This piece is an entry in the True Classics fourth anniversary contest.

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8 Comments

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  1. I love hearing about people’s first movie experiences (we do an entire series every May devoted to Movie Memories, and I will probably be coming back to you in a couple of months to see if I can reprint this piece on True Classics!). Disney truly is a gateway to pop-culture obsession for so many of us. I haven’t seen Oliver in YEARS, but now that Disney has released it on Blu-ray, I’ll be adding it to my collection soon.

    Thanks for contributing this wonderful piece to our contest!

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    1. Please do! I enjoyed writing about it quite a bit, and I still love watching Oliver. I didn’t have a copy of it for a while, because of course the VHS eventually wore out. Colin and I watch it now, though-I bought it when it was re-released on DVD in 2009, when he was a baby.

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      1. Honestly, that’s the only thing I miss about not having kids–the opportunity to share my childhood loves and hopefully shape one awesome movie fan out of them. 🙂 The Little Jedi’s a lucky lad–you have excellent taste!

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        1. Why thank you! 🙂 Sharing things from my childhood with him is one of the best parts of parenting, because it’s almost like I get to experience it all over again.

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    1. I kind-of remember going to see that one, too, though it’s more that I know that I went to see it than that I remember it. For some reason, I never liked it as much as I liked some of the others. Beauty and the Beast has always been my favorite.

      Oliver and Company is basically a Disney re-telling of Dickens’s Oliver Twist. And with that 1980’s flair and Bette Midler and Billy Joel, I just loved it. Still do. It’s well worth the watch.

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  2. This is very minor, but since you’re tweaking anyway, take a look at the Scholars and Rogues link on your blogroll. It has an extra U, and look for an email from me later this evening.

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