Maggie is the only cow left on the Dixon Ranch after Alameda Slim (a cattle rustler capable of stealing 500 in a single night) stole all the rest of Mr. Dixon's cattle. Dixon sells Maggie to Pearl, a kind and elderly woman who runs a small 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. Caloway, who has had leadership go to her head) to go to town to attempt winning prize money at a fair. 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 takes Buck. When Maggie find out that the reward for capturing Slim is exactly $750, she convinces the other cows to try to capture him to save Patch of Heaven.
That night, they hide among a large herd of steers, when Alameda Slim appears. Before any of them can do anything, Slim begins 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. Grace is able to bring Maggie and Mrs. Caloway back to their senses just before Slim closes the path behind him with a rock-slide 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. Caloway as old friends and miming actions. This causes Rico to believe Buck is frightened by cows, so he sends Buck back to the Sheriff. Buck escapes, determined to capture Slim for himself to prove his worth.
Maggie, Grace, and Mrs. Caloway continue their search for Slim, determined to pass Buck and get to Slim first, but they have a fallout when they lose the trail in a downpour. Mrs. Caloway accuses Maggie of wanting to go after Slim only as a personal vendetta, arguing that she and Grace are better off without Maggie. The three spend the night under a large rock, with Maggie deciding to leave the next morning while Grace and Mrs. Caloway decide to return to Patch of Heaven to say their final farewells. The next morning, however, they are awakened by a peg-legged rabbit named Lucky Jack, who has also lost his home, an old mine, to Alameda Slim. Maggie decides to go after Slim with Lucky Jack in tow, but Grace convinces Mrs. Caloway that they help. Lucky Jack leads the three cows to Slim's hideout in Echo Mine. At the mine, Slim reveals that he has been stealing all cattle from his former patrons. When his former patrons can no longer support their land, Slim buys the land when it is auctioned off, under the guise of the respectable-looking Yancy O'Dell, using the very money he gets from selling the cattle he stole.
After arriving at Slim's hideout, the cows capture Slim. They run off with Slim's accomplices and buyer in pursuit on a steam train. Rico arrives. When the chase stops, Rico is revealed to work for Slim. Crushed by this, Buck decides to help the cows and fights Rico while setting the other cattle free. Slim dons his Yancy O'Dell costume and leaves the cows stranded in the middle of the desert with the train, while he goes to attend the auction. However, the cows arrive using the train to the farm and expose Slim. Slim is arrested, 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 Jebb 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.Roseanne Barr as Maggie. Chris Buck served as the supervising animator for Maggie.
Judi Dench as Mrs. Caloway. Duncan Marjoribanks served as the supervising animator for Mrs. Calloway.
Jennifer Tilly as Grace. Mark Henn served as the supervising animator for Grace.
Cuba Gooding Jr. as Buck. Michael Surrey served as the supervising animator for Buck.
Randy Quaid as Alameda Slim. Dale Baer served as the supervising animator for Slim.
Charles Dennis as Rico. Russ Edmonds served as the supervising animator for Rico.
Charles Haid as Lucky Jack. Shawn Keller served as the lead animator for Lucky Jack.
Carole Cook as Pearl. Bruce W. Smith served as the supervising animator for Pearl.
Joe Flaherty as Jeb the Goat. Sandro Cleuzo served as the supervising animator of Jeb.
Steve Buscemi as Wesley. Mark Henn served as the supervising animator for Wesley.
Richard Riehle as Sam the Sheriff. Sandro Cleuzo served as the supervising animator of the Sheriff.
Lance LeGault as Junior the Buffalo. Dale Baer served as the supervising animator for Junior.
G.W. Bailey as Rusty. Mark Henn served as the supervising animator for Rusty.
Patrick Warburton as Patrick
Estelle Harris as Audrey the Chicken
Sam J. Levine as the Willie Brothers. Russ Edmonds served as the supervising animator for the Willies.
Ann Richards as Annie
Before he pitched the idea for Pocahontas to the Disney studio executives, director Mike Gabriel came up with an "idea that might combine Captains Courageous with a Western." When production on Pocahontas commenced, Gabriel developed his concept into a forty-page film treatment and sent it to Peter Schneider and he wrote back, "Wow." Soon after, the project, then titled Sweating Bullets, went into development." The story originated as a supernatural western about a timid cowboy who visits a ghost town and confronts a cattle hustler named Slim. It was later reconceived into a story about a little bull named Bullets, that wanted to be more like the horses that led the herd. In 1999, in an attempt to salvage the production and retain the existing characters and background art, story artist Michael LaBash suggested a different approach to the story with one that involved three cow protagonists who become bounty hunters to save the farm. Building on the idea, fellow story artists Sam Levine, Mark Kennedy, Robert Lence, and Shirley Pierce developed into a new storyline. However, in 2000, Mike Gabriel and co-director Mike Giaimo were removed from the project because of the persistent story problems. Returning to Disney Feature Animation after the completion of The Road to El Dorado, Will Finn, who was originally slated to be the supervising animator on Maggie, and John Sanford were brought onboard to direct by October 2000.
In February 1998, Alan Menken had signed a long-term agreement with the Walt Disney Studios to compose songs and/or scores for animated and live-action motion pictures. Following this, according to Menken, he was attached to provide music for Sweating Bullets "maybe a year and a half after Hercules". Shortly after winning the ASCAP/Richard Rodgers New Horizons Award in 2000, lyricist Glenn Slater was brought to the attention of Menken, who later invited Slater to work with him on Sweating Bullets. Together, they wrote the first of the film's six original songs back in 1999; the first of which was "Little Patch of Heaven" recorded by k.d. lang before Finn and Sanford were brought on board as directors. The following songs including the villain song "Yodel-Adle-Eedle-Idle-Oo," which incorporates the "William Tell Overture," Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and the "1812 Overture" into the yodel dance, were added following several story changes throughout production. Following the September 11 attacks, Menken composed the song "Will the Sun Ever Shine Again" in reaction, which was performed by Bonnie Raitt.
Home on the Range was scheduled for a 2003 release, while Brother Bear was originally slated for a spring 2004 release. However, Disney announced that Brother Bear would be released in fall 2003, while Home on the Range was pushed back for a spring 2004 release. Contrary to speculation, news writer Jim Hill stated the release date switch was not because Home on the Range was suffering from story rewrites, but to promote Brother Bear on the Platinum Edition VHS and DVD release of The Lion King.
Home on the Range was released on VHS and DVD on September 14, 2004. It was released on Blu-ray on July 3, 2012.
Rotten Tomatoes reported that 54% of critics gave positive reviews based on 125 reviews. The site's general consensus is: "Though Home on the Range is likeable and may keep young children diverted, it's one of Disney's more middling titles, with garish visuals and a dull plot". On Metacritic, the film has a score of 50 out of 100, based on 30 critics, indicating "mixed or average" reviews.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 2.5 out of 4 stars, saying that "A movie like this is fun for kids: bright, quick-paced, with broad, outrageous characters. But "Home on the Range" doesn't have the crossover quality of the great Disney films like Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. And it doesn't have the freshness and originality of a more traditional movie like Lilo & Stitch. Its real future, I suspect, lies in home video. It's only 76 minutes long, but although kids will like it, their parents will be sneaking looks at their watches."
Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times reviewed the film saying that "This feature-length Disney western cartoon comedy is intermittently funny, but so pumped up for action that it may qualify for a slap on the wrist from Major League Baseball for banned substance abuse. At the very least, the movie may be the first film to require cortisone treatments from jamming its elbow in the audience's ribs so often. Roseanne Barr is the voice of Maggie, a show cow who's now homeless; her spiky, slightly sour delivery gives "Range" some needed breathing room. Her owner was forced to sell his farm after the rustler Alameda Slim (Randy Quaid) cleaned him out of cow and home. Maggie is deposited at Patch of Heaven, a dairy farm, where she meets up with two other heifers: the prim Brit Mrs. Caloway (Judi Dench) and Grace (Jennifer Tilly). When Patch of Heaven, also on the verge of failure, is about to be put on the auction block, Maggie convinces her new friends to capture Slim; the bounty on his head is just enough to save the farm from extinction. The laughs from the audience come at widely spaced intervals, since everyone is reacting to something entirely different; Range seems to exist in several time zones simultaneously. Unrestrained energy is hardly a bad thing for animation — the best cartoons are built on the contradictory pursuit of meticulously arranged anarchy—but they never seem needy, or desperate for laughs, as Home on the Range does. The film seems hungrier for a pat on the head than a chuckle."
Nell Minow of Common Sense Media gave the film four out of five stars, saying that "I love it when Disney doesn't take itself too seriously. No one tried to reach for the stars or make this into a classic. Home on the Range is just a cute little story about some not-so-contented cows who save the day. It modestly aspires to be nothing more than a lot of fun, and it does that job very well.
On its opening box office weekend, Home on the Range grossed about $14 million in box office estimates, opening fourth behind Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, Walking Tall, and Hellboy. Following the disappointing box office weekend, financial analysts predicted that Disney would be forced to have write-down the production costs, which totaled more than $100 million. Following the later release of The Alamo which also met poor box office returns, it was reported that Disney would have to write-down about $70 million. The film ended its box office run earning $103,951,461 worldwide.
The musical score for Home on the Range was composed by Alan Menken, with original music written by Menken and Glenn Slater.
A soundtrack album of the film was released on March 30, 2004 by Walt Disney Records. It contains vocal songs performed by k.d. lang, Randy Quaid, Bonnie Raitt, Tim McGraw, and The Beu Sisters along with the film's score composed by Alan Menken.
- "(You Ain't) Home On The Range" – Chorus
- "Little Patch of Heaven" – k.d. lang
- "Yodel-Adle-Eedle-Idle-Oo" – Randy Quaid and Chorus
- "Will the Sun Ever Shine Again" – Bonnie Raitt
- "(You Ain't) Home on the Range" – Echo Mine Reprise – Chorus
- "Wherever the Trail May Lead" – Tim McGraw
- "Anytime You Need A Friend" – The Beu Sisters
- "Cows in Town/Saloon Song"
- "On the Farm"
- "Bad News"
- "Storm and the Aftermath"
- "Cows to the Rescue"
- "My Farm Is Saved/Little Patch of Heaven – Finale (Score)"
- "Anytime You Need a Friend" – Alan Menken