The Aristocats

20 Jun

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The year is 1970; the setting is Paris. A wealthy elderly lady is writing her will when her butler overhears some news he’s not too keen on; rather than bequeath her fortune to her trusted butler, she has instead decided to leave it all to her cats (for the record, a decision I fully support and endorse). Being the jealous (and greedy) type, the butler decides to kidnap the feline quartet and dump them far from home, sensing that the old lady will change her mind and leave her money to him.

I first watched The Aristocats when I was a very young child, and watched it quite a lot whilst still young. I’d say it must be 15 years or so since I last saw it and I have very fond memories of it. This being the case, I decided to give it a re-watch to see how it held up.

First of all I must say that, having watched this on blu-ray, the film transferred beautifully. I found the upscaled visuals to be crisp and sharp, whilst still capturing the animation styles of a bygone Disney era. I had worried that this might not the be the case and I was risking letting a (hopefully) more mature analysis run roughshod over some fond childhood recollections. I am thankful that this proved not to be the case; it may not have the impressive production values of modern day Disney behemoths like Toy Story, but it holds up well.

The story is simple, but classic Disney fare. When the posh cats are dumped out in the country, they come across a tomcat called O’Malley (Phil Harris). He immediately falls for Duchess (Eva Gabor) the mother of the three kittens, and vows to get her back to Paris. He then becomes a little more reluctant when the kittens – Berlioz (Dean Clark), Marie (Liz English) and Toulouse (Gary Dubin) – make themselves known, and decides he can’t help them. It doesn’t take long for him to have a change of heart though, and he’s soon joined the family on their journey to get back home.

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The main cats in this story are nicely outlined. There isn’t too much depth to their characters, but they’re all likeable. The kittens are playful and mischievous, and are given life and personality in the very unique way that only Disney seem truly able to achieve from animated characters. O’Malley too is an excellent character. Right from his introduction we know he’s a more streetwise kind of cat. During his opening song he walks and sings with what might today be termed ‘swagger’ (a word I tried my best to avoid due to the fact it is awful and I hate it).

Alongside their journey is the story of two dogs, Napoleon (Pat Buttram) and Lafayette (George Lindsay). Their task becomes holding up the butler, the unmistakable villain of the piece, and generally irritating him on his travels. They’re mainly there for comedic effect really. When I look at a couple of notes I scribbled quickly during the film, I notice I wrote that I found their little side story a bit dull and occasionally a bit irritating. Well, now I wish to say “Boo! Hiss!” at myself. Whilst I believe those things to be true, they are notes written by me as a 25 year old, watching a film with the basis of a review being formed in my mind. I remember very well that the six years old me loved the dogs. This being a children’s film,that seems the more important consideration.

As you expect of Disney, the baddie is well crafted. He’s the archetypal villain. His dastardly plot, which he explains to himself in a short monologue, is to fill the cat’s milk with sleeping pills. Then once they nod off, that’s when he transports them to the country. At times, his battles with Napoleon and Lafayette verge on caper-ish, and he borders on being a villain of pantomime-proportions.

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The Aristocats proved to be a very welcome trip down memory lane for me. I basically found what I expected; an imperfect film full of charm. Watching as an adult, you will find things that you don’t like and I’d guess that you’d be a bit bored by parts of it. The characters are nicely outlined but aren’t afforded the depth we might see in a modern Disney epic. This is no real problem though; this is a film for children, and I can tell you from my many, many viewings of this film as a child that these are characters that warm your heart. Disney have an incredible knack for creating films for a young audience, they just ‘get it’ is this to me is another example of that.

I would like to think that a child could watch this film today and love it as I much as I did. It might have quite the same visual appeal of a Toy Story or Monsters Inc but it does have a heartwarming story and loveable characters (though unfortunately reverts to some awful stereotyping with the short cameo of the ‘Chinese Cat’. I’m talking buckteeth and everything. The ‘70’s eh?). It might not be a great, but it does deserve to sit proudly in Disney’s immense back catalogue. In ‘Everybody Wants To Be A Cat”, it also contains one of the catchiest songs I’ve ever heard in a Disney film. Although my score is an average one, I will say it is based more around watching the film now, and not being it’s target audience. I’m really very fond of this film and would strongly encourage anybody with children to show it to them.

6/10

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One Response to “The Aristocats”

  1. xtg120 June 20, 2013 at 23:14 #

    Reblogged this on xtg120.

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