Theatrical Release: December 24th 1970
Running Time: 79 Minutes
Director: Wolfgang Reitherman
The Aristocats may not be in many a top Disney film list, but I believe this film still holds its charm and grace. It may not be the best but it is still easy to fall in love with And being that it was the last film that Walt Disney gave the nod for, it has its key place in history and makes it a must see for anyone who hasn't seen it.
The film is set in 1910 Paris, and is about a mother cat, named Duchess, and her three kittens; Marie, Toulouse and Berlioz. When their loyal butler, Edgar, overhears that Madame Bonfamille wishes to leave everything to her cats he decides to kidanp the cats and take them out into the countryside. Once he gets out there in his motorcycle, he is attacked by two guard dogs and in the ensuing chaos the cats are left by a river. A stray alley cat, Thomas O'Malley, takes the family under his wing and helps them get back to Paris.
Phil Harris did the voice of Thomas O'Malley and if you have watched any other Disney features you may recognise his voice, as he also voiced Baloo in The Jungle Book (1967) and Little John in Robin Hood (1973). Eva Gabors' gorgeous voice is used for Duchess and you may recognise her voice from The Rescuers (1977) as Miss Bianca.
A few critics just see the film as a spin-off to the 1961 101 Dalmations:
'Remember the classic song-filled Disney animated movie about a sweet group of pets who are in peril due to the interference of dastardly schemers? No, I’m not talking about 101 Dalmatians, although it’s far more memorable than that nine-years-later imitator. I’m talking about The AristoCats, a nice enough Disney feature that some consider an under appreciated classic and others view as a movie that’s distinguished only by the inclusion of a handful of cool jazz tunes.'
Brian Webster, The Aristocats, 6th October 2010, [Online] http://www.apolloguide.com/mov_fullrev.asp?CID=5750
You must agree that there are similarities between 101 Dalmations and The Aristocats such as in both films there are incompetent kidnappers stealing pets. One aspects that lifts the film away from its doggie counterpart is the music, especially the jazzy number 'Ev'rybody Wants to be a Cat', from the Oscar winning combination of Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, who penned the songs for Mary Poppins. The music is the best part the film, like in most Disney features, and highlights the differences between Duchess' opera world and the street-smarts of Thomas' jazz friends.
Another amazing aspect of the film is how visually beautiful it looks. The film was made in a pre-digital age and the pain staking hours of drawing and painting shows. More than 325,000 drawings were completed for the movie over the course of four years, making for 1,125 scenes in total, using some 900 painted backgrounds. Here are just a few of the backgrounds:
The aspect that this film lacks, that makes it not as good as other Disney features is the absence of a lot of action and sense of place. The film is set in period Paris but with many of the actors sounding like they are from New York or London it is hard for the audience to buy into the french backdrop. And if the place of the film is not believable the action has to be, and alot of the film is cats wandering around. Although you can tell that the artists have studied cats' movements and it does add a certain charm to the film.