Review by Michael Jacobson
Voices: Phil Harris, Eva
Gabor, Sterling Holloway, Scatman Crothers, Paul Winchell, Roddy Maude-Roxby,
Pat Buttrman, George Lindsey
Director: Wolfgang Reitherman
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.75:1
Studio: Walt Disney
Features: See Review
Length: 79 Minutes
Release Date: February 5, 2008
“Monsieur O’Malley, you could have lost your life!”
“So, I have a few to spare!”
The Aristocats was the last animated film greenlit by Walt Disney, and the first one released after his passing. Though it may lack some of the style and grace of his earlier films, it’s still a wonderfully funny and frequently romantic offering, filled with some delightful feline characters.
It all centers around Duchess (Gabor), an uptown cat with three little kittens living in her mistress’ house in Paris. Being that the lady has no heirs, she intends to leave her fortune to her precious pets, which doesn’t sit well with Edgar (Maude-Roxby), her scheming butler. But, as it turns out, in the event of the cats’ demise, he will inherit it all. When are people in movies going to learn you NEVER put provisions like that in your will?
Edgar catnaps Duchess and her family and take them out in the middle of nowhere, where the pampered pets will have to deal with real life for the first time in their nine lives. Enter Thomas O’Malley (the immortal Harris), an alley cat with street smarts and an eye for the pretty Duchess. It will be up to him to get Duchess and her kids safely home, tend to Edgar, and have a few comical misadventures along the way.
It’s light stuff, but quite entertaining, especially when a terrific song score by Richard and Robert Sherman, including “Scales and Arpeggios”, although they didn’t pen the bouncy, jazzy “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat”.
The Disney studios had gone into a period of animation where Xerox processes were used, and the lines seemed a bit harsher as a result. Duchess and Thomas lack the softness of earlier Disney cute felines, but what they lacked in that department, they more than made up for by being realized by some talented voice actors. Harris, who was hand picked by Walt to play Baloo in The Jungle Book reprises the kind of carefree charm that would work for him again later as Little John in Robin Hood.
The Aristocats demonstrates, in other words, an artistic transition following the death of Walt Disney. Some of the later 70s and 80s offerings wouldn’t find quite the same success or audience affinity, until a movie called The Little Mermaid put the studio back on the map for good. Seemed that good old Walt had a few lives of his own.
BONUS TRIVIA: The character of Scat Cat was originally to be voiced by Louis Armstrong, but when he dropped out, the great Scatman Crothers took over.
The Aristocats have some gorgeously drawn backgrounds, and they come to life in this anamorphic transfer. Colors are rich and beautiful, and grain is minimal. The only complaint is that sometimes you can see the pencil sketches underneath the drawings.
It's not Beethoven, but it sure bounces. The 5.1 mix swings…not a lot of dynamic range or surround effects, but the music sounds great and everything is clean and clear.
The extras include a look at the Sherman brothers and their music, plus an excerpt from The Wonderful World of Disney where Walt hosts a look at the real life members of the cat family that inspired their animation. There is a deleted son “She Never Felt Alone”, plus a virtual kitten pet and a language game. A bonus Figaro short “Bath Day” is included, plus an interactive scrapbook for the film.
The Aristocats has remained good family fun for three decades, and should continue to do so with this quality DVD offering from Disney.