The Aristocats (Special Edition)
US Rating: G - General Audiences
Film Length: 79 Mins
Aspect Ratio: 1:75.1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1,
Subtitles: Optional Spanish and French
The Film - out of
The vaults of Disney contain animated wonders great and small. These vaults are also home to a number of films that fall in the shadow of the cherished favorites from Disney’s rich catalogue. The 1970 movie from The Aristocats, the last ever to be green lit by Walt Disney himself, is one of those films. You don’t hear about it very much and wandering the Disney theme parks you would be hard pressed to find a character from the story. It fairs only reasonably well when compared to the upper echelon of Disney’s animated big guns, but it is however, still a charming animated tale that is warming to rediscover or to see for the first time with this latest edition.
Set in Paris in 1910, this familiar plotted story tells the tale of an eccentric millionairess, Adelaide Bonfamille, who lives with her feline companion Duchess, and Duchesses three young kittens. Adelaide decides to leave to her cat and kittens her entire estate in her will but her butler, Edgar, doesn’t like the sound of that idea when he overhears her plans and he soon decides to get rid of the cultured duchess and her polite and fun young ones.
He ‘catnaps’ them one night, dumping them miles away from their Parisian life of luxury, leaving the millionaires to pine for them while he gleefully waits for the day he can become rich.
When they find themselves in the middle of nowhere, Duchess and her kittens Marie, Berliose and Toulouse encounter Thomas O’Malley, an alley cat with ‘street suave’ and flirtatious tongue who, with his charming ways, offers to help them make the long road back to Paris.
And so these cultured cats, used to the finer things of life exploring the arts and fine music, form an unlikely alliance with the streetwise O’Malley the ally cat to make their way back home.
Meanwhile, the bumbling butler, Edgar,
With sweet and toe tapping musical numbers, friendly, fun and funny peripheral characters such as Roquefort, a friendly house mouse and Napoleon & Lafayette, two backwards country dogs, The Aristocats is really quite a simple but enjoyable family film, even if it lacks the excitement and flair of both the greats from Disney’s heavy hitters and more modern fare.
Nobody does ‘good versus evil’ better than Disney. Somehow they are able to tell tales of the cute and cuddly up against the grumpy and evil like no other. The bad guy isn’t particularly vile, or scary – but is just enough to be the right kind of fuddling greedy antagonist.
The voice talents of Ava Gabor (Duchess), Phil Harris (Thomas O’Malley) and Roddy Maude-Roxby (Edgar the Butler) are all very good. Ava in particular provides a real air of sophistication and a lovely calming character voice for the kind and caring Duchess.
The animation doesn’t have the pace or energy of Disney classics like 101 Dalmatians, Jungle Book or the like, but it has a lovely flow to it, almost every scene is like a whimsical moment in a ballet. The softer story and younger, simpler tone is also perfect for a quiet Sunday afternoon with the kids – when you are not looking for something to tame the unleashed energy of the pre-teens but merely to relax and enjoy some quality time together.
Of note is the title song, ‘The Arisocats’ sung by Maurice Chevalier. Though retired at the time this film was being made, after hearing a demo of the song, sung in the style of Mr. Chevalier, agreed to record the song for the film – becoming his last official studio recording.
Walt Disney brings The Aristocats to home video as a special edition for the first time. Presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.75:1 and enhanced for widescreen televisions. The last DVD was full frame only so, right out of the gate, this release is a vast improvement. The image has a lot going for it, but there is still a fair amount of dust and debris present on the print that begs for a full restoration. It is most notable during the times when Duchess is on screen. This digitally mastered version has never looked better and while it doesn’t have as much vibrancy as some other releases of Disney vault titles; it will surely delight any fans of the film who have been eagerly awaiting a better image than previously offered.
This special edition of The Aristocats comes with a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound option, though from listening to it, you might not be aware of that. The sound of the dialogue is clean and the musical numbers sound spotless but there is little depth or surround effect going on in the mix. A simple audio track that is a little wanting and not much to write home about. The Jazzy song at O’Malley’s place manages to provide some good plucking bass in the front speakers but at no time during the film is the sub-woofer given anything to do. Those seeking the experience of the original theatrical showing won’t be too happy that the original track is not included but may be happy to know that there really isn’t much 5.1 going on here anyway.
Deleted Song “She Never Felt Alone - (7:54) – Presented in non-anamorphic widescreen, this is a nice bonus feature. One of the staff writers for Walt Disney, who worked on The Aristocats shares the story behind the creation of the song and where in the film it would have appeared. The recording of the song was unfinished when it was decided to leave it out of the final film, but voice artist Roby Lester manages to sound just like the cats during the portion of the song that would have appeared at the beginning and sounds a lot like Adelaide when she sings the second part of the song that would have appeared again, slightly altered, later in the film.
Music & More - (10:51) – This bonus feature allows you to select any song from the film with optional onscreen lyrics for some nice ‘sing-a-long’ fun.
Games and Activities
Disney Virtual Kitten – This interactive game lets you pick a kitten, feed and play with it according to onscreen icons. Keep your kitten happy!
The Aristocats Fun With Language Game – This game helps you learn instruments – it is very simple but fun.
The Sherman Brothers: The Aristocrats of Disney - (4:23) – An interview with the songwriters, Richard and Robert, for the film’s songs and includes some footage with Walt Disney himself.
The Aristocats Scrapbook – This bonus feature contains an image gallery (18 pages) with multiple pictures per page that you can see full screen by selecting them.
The Great Cat Family (Excerpt) - - (12:50) – Hosted by Walt Disney, this fun ‘exploration’ of the cat family and the origin of their prominence as pets and fierce wild animals is playfully delivered.
Bonus Short: Bathday - (6:39) – Figaro the cat fights having to get a bath from Minnie Mouse. A cute little cartoon.
Sneak Peak - Sneak peaks for plenty of Disney movies.
The Aristocats may not be part of Disney’s strong franchise products – having come close to getting a direct to video sequel a couple of years back before projects that were not tied to commercial products were cancelled, but it has an undeniable charm when compared to the magnificent animated marvels coming from the Pixar studios today. Fans of the film or serious collectors will certainly be happy with this version when they get their hands on it, and I would recommend it, but those new to this particular story and film may find its slower, calmer, softer nature not quite enough to keep them (or their rug-rats) glued to the screen.