This movie is notorious for being an absolute commercial failure (despite mixed reviews from film critics) and it is often blamed for putting traditionally-animated films out of business, considering its quality consensus-wise, and the fact that it was the last traditionally-animated Disney film until The Princess and the Frog and Winnie the Pooh.
In 1889, Maggie is the only cow left on the Dixon Ranch after Alameda Slim (a cattle rustler capable of stealing 500 cows in a single night) stole all the rest of Dixon's cattle. Mr. Dixon sells Maggie to Pearl, a kind and elderly woman who runs a small dairy farm called Patch of Heaven. The local Sheriff arrives to tell Pearl that her bank is cracking down on debtors. Pearl has three days to pay the bank $750, or her farm will be sold to the highest bidder. Hearing this, Maggie convinces the other cows on the farm (Grace, a happy-go-lucky character, and Mrs. Calloway, who has had leadership gone to her head) to go to town to attempt winning prize money at a fair and met her new friends there.
While the cows are in town, a bounty hunter named Rico (whom Buck, the Sheriff's horse, idolizes) drops a criminal off and collects the reward. Stating he needs a replacement horse to go after Alameda Slim while his own horse rests, he borrows Buck. When Maggie find out that the reward for capturing Slim is of exactly $750, she convinces the other cows to try and capture him to save Patch of Heaven. That night, they hide among a large heard of steers, when Alameda Slim appears. Before any of them can do anything, Slim beings a yodeling song which sends all the cattle (except Grace, who is tone deaf) into a trance that causes them to dance madly and follow Slim anywhere. Luckily, Grace is able to bring Maggie and Mrs. Calloway back to their senses by letting the wagon go down to them just before Slim closes the path behind him with a rockslide to stop Rico and his men from chasing him.
As Rico discusses with his men what his next move will be, Buck starts talking with Maggie, Grace, and Mrs. Calloway as old friends and miming actions. This causes Rico to believe Buck is frightened by cows, and sends Buck back to the Sheriff. Buck escapes, determined to capture Slim for himself to prove his worth. Maggie, Grace, and Mrs. Calloway are left behind, but they meet a peg-legged rabbit named Lucky Jack, who leads them to the Slim's hideout mine. At the mine, Slim reveals that he has been stealing all cattle from his former patrons. When his former patrons can't support their land anymore, he buys the land when it is auctioned off, under the guise of the respectable-looking Mr. O'delay, using the very money he gets from selling the cattle he stole. After arriving to Slim's hideout, the cows capture Slim. They run off with Slim's accomplices and buyer in pursuit on a steam train. When the chase stops, Rico arrives and is revealed to work for Slim. Slim dons his Yancy O'del costume and leaves the cows stranded in the middle of the desert with the train, while he goes to attend the auction. However, after Buck redeems himself to save the cows and defeat Rico, Wesley, and the Willie Brothers, the cows arrive using Wesley's train to the farm and expose Slim with the help of the animals in Patch of Heaven. Slim is arrested by the police, and Patch of Heaven is saved by the reward money.
A few weeks pass, and at the county fair most of the livestock on Patch of Heaven have won prizes. 'Lucky' Jack Rabbit moves in with Jeb the Goat, and two steer and Slim's charming and gentlemanly steed Junior the Buffalo arrive unexpectedly to live at Patch of Heaven, expanding the farm.
Home on the Range was originally conceived as a supernatural western titled Sweatin' Bullets, some time during the mid 1990's when the Disney Renaissance was in full swing by directors Mike Gabriel and Mike Giaimo. In this version of the film, Alameda Slim and the Willie Brothers were a gang of ghostly rustlers who plotted to kill various herds of cattle in revenge for having been trampled to death years before. The one thing standing in their way was a brave young calf and Lucky Jack, a rabbit who's foot was stolen by Slim years ago. It was most likely changed due to the villains' origins being trampled by cattle/buffalo may have went to a very high PG or even a PG-13 rating due to a possible chance of blood being shown.
Similar to how Kingdom of the Sun became The Emperor's New Groove, the film was entirely reworked into a comedy by Will Finn and John Sanfond who replaced Gabriel and Giaimo, going with a '50s UPA inspiration for the character design. Although it was originally considered to be the last traditionally animated film to have been released by Disney (as the studio would be switching to computer animation), they would give the technique a comeback for 2009's The Princess and the Frog, which was a critical and commercial success, despite not performing well enough to fully convince the studio to make traditional hand-drawn animation one of their big priorities once again. The film had actually finished production before Brother Bear.
- Roseanne Barr as Maggie
- Judi Dench as Mrs. Calloway
- Jennifer Tilly as Grace
- Cuba Gooding Jr. as Buck
- Randy Quaid as Alameda Slim
- Charles Dennis as Rico
- Charles Haid as Lucky Jack
- Carole Cook as Pearl Gesner
- Joe Flaherty as Jeb
- Steve Buscemi as Wesley
- Richard Riehle as Sheriff Sam Brown
- Lance LeGault as Junior the Buffalo
- G. W. Bailey as Rusty
- Patrick Warburton as Patrick
- Estelle Harris as Audrey
- Sam J. Levine as The Willie Brothers (speaking)
- Dennis Weaver as Abner
While the film has earned mixed reviews from critics at the time of its release (according to a 54% rating the film has earned on Rotten Tomatoes and a 5.4 rating on IMDB makes an worst Disney animated canon review), it was (and still is to this very day) despised by the vast majority of the Disney animation press and fan base, being considered both one of the worst animated films of all-time, not just by Disney fans but from various movie critics as well, and is often debated against Chicken Little and/or The Black Cauldron as the worst film of the Disney canon; though it should be noted The Black Cauldron has become the less hated out of all three movies due to it having the largest fan base along with Chicken Little (which has a-bit less hated out of all three movies but though Rotten Tomatoes got 37%.)
- Main article: Home on the Range (soundtrack)
- During the scene where Slim is about to write his name on the deed to the Little Patch of Heaven, we see that the date is May 4th, 1889. However, the audtion for Patch of Heaven was dated on September 24.
- This was the third-to-last traditionally animated feature in the Disney animated feature canon, followed by The Princess and the Frog and Winnie the Pooh.
- This is one of the two posters along with Disney's live-action hockey film Miracle to be seen from the episode, Opposites Attract: Part 1 on ABC's 8 Simple Rules.
- According to the trailer, Maggie originally fed a piggie an apple from a barrel. This was likely a work-in-progress footage, because in the final version, Maggie pulled the apple out of the piggie's ear.
- This had the last trailer to be narrated by Mark Elliot.
- This had the last video release to have a THX certification.
- This is Alan Menken's only project in the Disney Post-Renaissance era (aka, The Second Disney Dark Age). His next project, Tangled, was released in the Disney Revival.
- This is the last animated movie from Disney to use the 1.66:1 aspect ratio, although the 2.35:1 aspect ratio is used for Buck's dream sequence.
- Hence its critical and commercial reception (see 'Reception' above), this film is often accused for putting traditional hand-drawn animation out of business in North America's cinema industry. However, traditional animation is actually still thriving in some European countries and Japan; mostly due to the popularity of both Cartoon Saloon's The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea and various anime shows, particularly in Japan's case. That, and the actual reason why traditional animation isn't as common anymore is due to the fact that films like this have failed to achieve the same critical and commercial success as the computer-animated films from Pixar and DreamWorks (that were considered innovative for their time), which in turn, has convinced the industry (even Disney) that hand-drawn animated films are no longer that worth producing, if they will not turn out as popular as more superior computer-generated films, in terms of success and reception.
- On a similar note, tradition animation still thrives in the entertainment industry in America, in way of course, but it is only used for television-based cartoons though like Adventure Time and The Simpsons.
- This the second Disney film to star both Jennifer Tilly and Steve Buscemi, the first was Pixar's Monsters, Inc.
- When the cows encounter Buck again, Maggie mockingly refers to him as the "Stallion of the Ci-moron". This is a reference to the Dreamworks Animated film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and is quite possibly one of the few times that Disney ever took a stab at one of their competitors.
- The film was rated PG because of a comment Maggie makes about her udders. ("Yeah, they're real. Quit staring!")