51 Days of Disney (Day 20): the Aristocats

The year is 1970 and the Disney Studios are still trying to recover from the loss of Walt Disney. The Studio is now being run almost entirely by Roy Disney as he is now the chairman, CEO, and president, but the company really doesn’t have any sort of momentum or a driving force. The Aristocats marks the last film green-lighted by Walt, but also the first one made completely without him. It is also the first film since Sleeping Beauty to not be part of the British Cycle of Disney films, but that is not something that is going to stick.

The Aristocats takes place in Paris in the year 1910 and follows a family of cats, Duchess (Eva Gabor, who also voiced Miss Bianca in the Rescuers films) and her children Berlioz, Marie, and Toulouse, who are all owned by a retired opera singer, Madame Adelaide Bonfamille. Madame Bonfamille decides that she is going to bequeath her entire estate to her cats, much to the chagrin of her long-time butler, Edgar (Roddy Maude-Roxby), who will inherit the fortune after her cats have all passed away. Edgar is obviously not pleased with this, so being a completely reasonable englishman, he decides that he’s going to kidnap them and drown them in a creek. This, of course, does not work as planned due to the involvement of two hound dogs named Napoleon (Pat Buttram, Sheriff of Nottingham from Robin Hood and Chief from the Fox and the Hound) and Lafayette, as if it did work we wouldn’t have a movie.

Duchess and her kittens are rescued by Abraham de Lacy Giuseppe Casey Thomas O’Malley, the alley cat (O’Malley for short). He is tasked with helping them get back to Paris, so they all hop onto the back of a milk truck and ride back to the city, until they’re found by the driver, run off, and forced to walk the way back. When they eventually reach the city, O’Malley, Duchess, and the kittens run into some of O’Malley’s friends: Scat Cat (Scatman Crothers), Shun Gon (Paul Winchell, originated Tigger and surprisingly (to me at least) was Gargamel in the Smurfs), Hit Cat (Tim Hudson), Peppo (Vito Scotti), and Billy Boss (Disney legend Thurl Ravenscroft) and stay the night before finally heading home. What follows is the standard comeuppance that usually follows in this kind of movie and a ending that can best be described as a cross between the endings of Lady and the Tramp and One Hundred and One Dalmatians.

This is one of the few movies in the post-Walt Disney and pre-Disney Renaissance era that is still genuinely good. The music by George Bruns is around the level that it was at in previous films and the Sherman Brothers, once again, made some more great and catchy songs, the best of which is “Ev’rybody Wants to be a Cat” which will be stuck in my head for the next week. The animation, while being as high quality as ever, has some very glaring construction and stray lines on many of the characters. It is most noticeable on the human characters, but not quite as much on the cats. The backgrounds follow the same style as the Jungle Book with a much more detailed and beautiful style to them.

The Aristocats is a fun film with jazzy music that should probably be a bit more popular than it is.

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