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Blu-ray Review The Aristocats: Special Edition Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Aug 13, 2012.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    One wonders how conscious the writers of The Aristocats were of their blatant stealing of the core storyline of Lady and the Tramp for their own movie. Oh, sure, they used cats instead of dogs for the main characters, but pampered lady house pet separated from home but coming under the helpful paw of a mongrel male animal of the same species? It’s Lady and the Tramp all over again except that the adventures here aren’t as exciting, fast paced, or romantic. Disney instead pumped up the film with an all-star voice cast and some Sherman Brothers tunes, but in terms of memorable entertainment, The Aristocats is strictly second tier Disney.





    The Aristocats: Special Edition (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
    Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman

    Studio: Disney
    Year: 1970
    Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1   1080p   AVC codec
    Running Time: 78 minutes
    Rating: G
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish
    Subtitles:  SDH, French, Spanish

    Region: A-B-C
    MSRP: $ 39.99


    Release Date: August 21, 2012

    Review Date: August 13, 2012




    The Film

    3/5


    When he learns that he’s second in line for a large inheritance from retired opera star Adelaide Bonfamille (Hermione Baddeley), butler Edgar (Roddy Maude-Roxby) decides he must eliminate those who are first in line to inherit: the madame’s prized cast Duchess (Eva Gabor) and her three kittens Berlioz (Dean Clark), Marie (Liz English), and Toulouse (Gary Dubin). He drugs them and puts them into a basket and takes it far out of Paris. When the four cats finally regain consciousness, they are at the mercy of the hostile environment they find themselves in, but luckily for them, Thomas O’Malley Cat (Phil Harris) happens by and much taken with the glamorous Duchess, agrees to get them back to Paris and their beloved mistress. Along the way home, they encounter a roaring train, a pair of eccentric goose sisters (Monica Evans, Carole Shelley), and a jazz band led by the irrepressible Scat Cat (Scatman Crothers). But Edgar isn’t going down without a fight, and he plans an even more diabolical plan to rid Paris of these cats once and for all.


    The seven writers given screen credit (with two additional ones who get a story credit) haven’t really found much of excitement for the cats to do on their journey back to Paris. Rather than stuff the movie with hair-raising adventures and lethally close calls, there’s one momentary drop into a river that isn’t milked for much tension at all, and then it’s all rather nothing but pastoral events before getting back home. Having lost incriminating evidence at the scene where he dumped the cats, Edgar must retrieve his basket, derby, and umbrella from two rather slow-witted pooches (voiced by Pat Buttram and George Lindsey), but even the slapstick there isn’t pushed to the max. Despite the gorgeous animation, the film is altogether too light and fluffy for the fairly ugly avariciousness at its base (think of the evil rat, the menacing dog catcher, and the dark-toned dog pound sequence in Lady and the Tramp in comparison), and, of course, it’s filled with anachronisms in this Paris of 1910 (the “hep cat” talk of Phil Harris’ O’Malley, the swinging jive of Scat Cat’s band, the southern drawls of the two dogs with no explanation how they got to be in France). The songs don’t amount to much either though the jazz riff on “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat” is infectious even if it is out of period.


    Having scored well with an all-star voice cast for The Jungle Book, Disney repeated the trick here (using some of the same voices, too). There’s no mistaking Sterling Holloway’s friendly mouse Roquefort or Phil Harris’ sassy way with words as O’Malley. You’d swear Eva Gabor was still doing Green Acres from her voice work as Duchess, even mispronouncing words in the same style as Lisa Douglas on that show (her singing voice is dubbed, and very nicely, by Robie Lester). You’d swear Roddy Maude-Roxby’s Edgar was actually being voiced by Reginald Gardiner with his crisp, clipped diction, and there’s no disguising Thurl Ravenscroft’s bass voice as the Russian Cat in the jazz combo. Nancy Kulp does a nice job with her few lines as Frou-Frou, the cart horse.




    Video Quality

    4.5/5


    The film has been framed here at 1.66:1 (the enclosed DVD uses a 1.75:1 aspect ratio) and is presented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The movie looks very clean and colorful with color hues mostly in pastel mode until that psychedelic jazz sequence when colors come the closest to blooming. The lines in the artwork are rock solid and show no aliasing whatsoever (just look at the same sequences in the 480i bonus features where the artifacts are rampant) though there is some minor banding in the backgrounds a bit. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.



    Audio Quality

    4/5


    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is primarily front focused with only parts of the songs and George Bruns’ background score offering much in the way of surround extension (and then only slightly). The train sequence also allows the LFE channel to show some momentary signs of life. Dialogue has been excellently recorded and has been tracked into the center channel.



    Special Features

    3/5


    Unless otherwise stated, the bonus features are in 480i.


    “The Lost Open” features host/composer Richard Sherman describing the planned opening of the movie with a maid character who was eliminated along with two counterpoint songs which we hear demos of with his brother Robert providing the other voice. The songs “How Much You Mean to Me” and “Court Me Slowly” were the eliminated tunes. This runs 9 ½ minutes in 1080p.


    “Oui Oui, Marie” is remixed into a music video which runs 2 minutes in 1080p.


    Richard Sherman discusses another eliminated song “She Never Felt Alone” in an 8-minute sequence where Robie Lester is given credit for the singing voice of Duchess. We also see how the song was finally used in the movie as a bit of background score and a couple of the lyrics spoken by Eva Gabor.


    “The Sherman Brothers: The Aristocats of Disney Songs” is a 4 ½-minute fluff piece on the two brothers who were in-house composers for Disney for more than a decade. They play and sing bits of their contributions for The Aristocats.


    "The Great Cat Family" is a 12 ¾-minute excerpt from a 1956 episode of Disneyland featuring an entertaining animated look at the history of the domesticated cat.


    A sing along section plays the four parts of the movie which feature extended songs with lyrics titled on the screen. They can be played together or separately. They are “The Aristocats” (2 ¼ minutes), “Scales and Arpeggios” (1 ¾ minutes), “Thomas O’Malley Cat” (2 ½ minutes), and “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat” (4 ¼ minutes). These are in 1080p. The viewer also has the option of playing the film from the beginning with song lyrics turned on.


    “Bath Day” is a 1946 Minnie Mouse/Figaro cartoon that runs 6 ¾ minutes.


    The 1080p promo trailers on the disc are for Finding Nemo 3D, Cinderella, Secret of the Wings, The Rescuers/The Rescuers Down Under, Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3, and Planes.


    The second disc in the set is the DVD copy of the movie.



    In Conclusion

    3.5/5 (not an average)


    Even with the Nine Old Men in charge, The Aristocats is only middling entertainment. The animation is beautiful, and it’s certainly a pleasant and safe film for all members of the family, but compared to the classics of Disney’s past, it just doesn’t quite measure up. The Blu-ray does feature a beautiful video transfer and more than adequate audio and most (but not all) of the bonus material from the previous DVD release.



    Matt Hough

    Charlotte, NC

     
  2. Escapay

    Escapay Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for the review, Matt!
    One question: Is the DVD copy just a SD version of the Blu-Ray, with the 1.75:1 aspect ratio and the same extras? Or is it a repressing of the 2008 Special Edition? I'm hoping it's the latter, as it included the SD extras mentioned here, along with a 68-still scrapbook and a "Disneyland" excerpt called "The Great Cat Family," neither of which looks to be carried over to the Blu-Ray.
     
  3. Mark-P

    Mark-P Producer

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    1.66:1? Didn't expect that. I guess they are going for a compromise between the academy aperture of the ONEG (1.37:1) and the theatrical aspect ratio (1.75:1). I can live with that. What is the date of the files on the DVD? If it's 2008 then the included DVD would just be a repressing of the last DVD release which would explain the 1.75:1 aspect ratio.
     
  4. Jason_V

    Jason_V Lead Actor

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    Already have this one on pre-order...even though I've never seen it. The Disney BD releases has been a real good way for me to revisit certain films I always bypassed for some reason.
     
  5. Guest

    It's an okay movie. Kind of a poorer version of Dalmatians.
     
  6. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    Well, as you can see, I have added "The Great Cat Family" to my review which I completely skipped over in my notes as I was transcribing them for the review. That IS on the Blu-ray. The stills section is not. I'll check out the DVD later tonight to see if the bonuses are any different.
     
  7. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    It appears to be a repressing (with new promo trailers in the "sneak peek" section) of the last DVD because the menu and features seem identical. The scrapbook and games not on the Blu-ray are on the DVD.
     
  8. Escapay

    Escapay Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks. :)
    Now I can sell my 2008 DVD since it'll be included in the Blu-Ray combo pack.
     
  9. Mark-W

    Mark-W Producer

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    It does seem like an even mix of elements of 101 Dalmatians and Lady and The Tramp.
     
  10. Ejanss

    Ejanss Banned
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    The AC's felt like such a flat-out retread of Lady & the Tramp, for years watching them as a kid, I'd confused them into one big blur and thought Phil Harris was the voice of Tramp. (In those days, Phil Harris was in every Ron Miller movie, being their Jungle Book "WWWD?" lucky charm.) Having seen the two, I've since become glad he wasn't.
     
  11. Martino

    Martino Supporting Actor

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    This is one of the worst, post cleanup movies that Disney ever made. With every release getting a better video transfer, the errors in post production become even worse. There is a feather boa on one of the main characters that has a mind of its own. It looks like the animators just scribbled something on the character, and then never went back and cleaned it up. There are numerous sketch marks that appear/disapear on the characters - these are marks the animators use for reference that should be removed in the process - but for some reason this film is just full of them. I have a hard time not being distracted by all of these errors...
     
  12. FoxyMulder

    FoxyMulder 映画ファン

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    Does it look anything like the UK version, all film grain aggressively removed and absolutely no detail left in the image, the DVD looks better, the Blu ray looks like it was shot in bluravision. ( Might look watchable on a TV with sharpness engaged - On a projector it looks poor and i'd give it 2/5 if i was being generous )
     
  13. Mark Oates

    Mark Oates Supporting Actor

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    In the early 1960s, Ub Iwerks pushed for the adoption of transferring pencil artwork to cel by Xerography to eliminate the need for the "trace" function of the paint and trace department. Of the classic animations, Xerography was used on One Hundred and One Dalmatians, Sword In The Stone, Mary Poppins and Jungle Book before being used on Aristocats. The idea was to give the animation more immediacy (and save on employing artwork tracers). The trade off was a more sketchy line to the animation, and occasionally animators' drawing techniques getting through into the final image. The "Xerox style" is an integral part of the movie, and "cleaning up" the animation would be vandalism on a par with DNRing all of the grain and detail out of (say) Casablanca.
    I've watched the UK version and it is very flat, but really classic drawn-animation is supposed to be flat IMHO. I don't recall Aristocats ever being particularly grainy. My impression of the movie was that it looked pretty much the way it was supposed to.
    BTW, a few years back I did a Media Studies course as part of a degree and I did a presentation on Disney animation that was fairly well received except that the tutor took exception to my using the (correct) Americanized pronunciation of Ub Iwerks (Ub Eye-works). It was, according to him, "Oob Earwax". Suffice to say, I have had a very dim view of Media Studies tutors ever since.
     
  14. Mark-P

    Mark-P Producer

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    None of the Disney animated classics which have been released on Blu-ray have a single speck of grain, and that is by design. They are purposely reinventing them to remove all resemblance of film. Most people like it, but of course it has been a topic of great debate here on the forums.
     
  15. Guest

    Maybe I should feel guilty, but I love the Snow White blu-ray so much. It has given me a great deal of pleasure...my favorite Disney movie (and the best memories of seeing it at the theater, and taking in every moment and character because I knew I wouldn't see them again for years) and the one I am most proud to own. Shoot me, but I think it is beautiful.
     
  16. David Norman

    David Norman Producer

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    Not so much a compromise in aspect ratio, but a return to the fully drawn cels which were done at 1.66. I guess similar to opening up a Super 35 except the opened up area in animation was
    probably meant to be seen.
     
  17. Mark-P

    Mark-P Producer

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    Yes it is an opening up of the frame, but you are incorrect in stating that The Aristocats was animated at 1.66:1. From 1961 to 1973 all the Disney animated features were animated at 1.37:1. The first DVD shows nearly the full camera aperture (only a small sliver is cut off the sides)
    From first DVD release:
    [​IMG]
    From Blu-ray (www.blu-ray.com)
    [​IMG]
    From first DVD release:
    [​IMG]
    From Blu-ray (www.blu-ray.com)
    [​IMG]
     
  18. David Norman

    David Norman Producer

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    I forgot to check the dates so my apologies. When did Disney switch to primarily 1.66 animation or am I screwed up there as well?
    This whole concept has been a baffling discussion of exactly which ratio is the most correct and continues obviously.
     
  19. Mark-P

    Mark-P Producer

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    The Rescuers (1977) was the first animated feature to use a 1.66:1 aspect ratio on the negative. Then it gets a little muddy in the 1980s as various aspect ratios were used. Once Disney started using the CAPS system starting in 1989 with The Little Mermaid, pretty much everything was 1.66:1.
     
  20. David Norman

    David Norman Producer

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    The Rescuers and RDU must have been what I was thinking about. That whole period between Sleeping Beauty and the new wave Disney Little Mermaid+ just messes with my brain trying to
    figure them all out. i know Sword and the Stone, Fox and the Hound, Robin Hood, Jungle Book, and that period seems to always be thrown around to the point i have no idea what correct really is for those -- I think I've just learned the word acceptable Aspect Ratio rather than correct for that whole group.
     

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