Revisited: The Aristocats

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In Paris in 1910, a mother cat named Duchess and her three kittens, Marie, Berlioz, and Toulouse, live in the mansion of retired opera diva Madame Adelaide Bonfamille, along with her English butler, Edgar. She early on settles her will with her lawyer Georges Hautecourt, an aged, eccentric old friend of hers, stating that she wishes her fortune to be left to her cats, who will retain it until their deaths, upon which her fortune will revert to Edgar. Edgar hears this from his own room through a speaking tube and is unwilling to wait for the cats to die naturally before he inherits Madame Adelaide’s fortune, and plots to eliminate the cats.

He sedates the cats by putting sleeping pills into their food and heads out into the countryside to release them in the wild. However, he is ambushed by two hound dogs, named Napoleon and Lafayette. Edgar escapes, leaving behind his umbrella, hat, the cats’ bed-basket, and the sidecar of his motorcycle. The cats are unharmed, but stranded in the countryside, while Madame Adelaide, Roquefort the mouse, and Frou-Frou the horse discover their absence. In the morning, Duchess meets an alley cat named Thomas O’Malley, who offers to guide her and the kittens to Paris. Marie, Berlioz, and Toulouse have a struggle returning to the city, briefly hitchhiking on the back of a milk cart before being chased off by the driver. Marie subsequently falls into a river and is saved by O’Malley. They then meet a pair of English geese, Amelia and Abigail Gabble, who are on a tour of France. The group head off, marching like geese, until they reach Paris and come across the girls’ drunken Uncle Waldo. Abigail and Amelia then depart to take Waldo home.

Travelling across the rooftops of the city, the cats meet Scat Cat and his band, close friends to O’Malley, who perform the song Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat. After the band has departed and the kittens lie in bed, O’Malley and Duchess spend the evening on a nearby rooftop and talk, while the kittens listen at a windowsill. The subject of their conversation is the question of whether Duchess may stay and marry Thomas. Eventually, she turns him down, largely out of loyalty to Madame Adelaide. Edgar, meanwhile, retrieves his sidecar, umbrella, and hat from Napoleon and Lafayette, albeit with some difficulty, knowing that it is the only evidence that could incriminate him.

The cats return to the mansion, whereupon O’Malley departs sadly. Edgar sees Duchess and Kittens coming and captures them, places them in a sack and briefly hides them in an oven. The cats tell Roquefort to pursue O’Malley and get help. He does so, whereupon O’Malley races back to the mansion, ordering Roquefort to find Scat Cat and his gang. Edgar places the cats in a trunk which he plans to send to Timbuktu, Africa. O’Malley, Scat Cat and his gang, and Frou-Frou all fight Edgar, while Roquefort frees Duchess and the kittens. In the end, Edgar is tipped into the trunk, locked inside, and sent to Timbuktu himself.

Madame Adelaide’s will is rewritten to exclude Edgar and include O’Malley (after ironically claiming that the will would have included Edgar after all). She starts a charity foundation providing a home for all of Paris’ stray cats. The grand opening thereof, to which most of the major characters come, features Scat Cat’s band, who perform a reprise of “Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat”.

REVIEW:

It seems that the internet is covered with cats. As a matter of fact, I’m a fan of about 3 or 4 cat pages on facebook. With that in mind, I figured it was time to watch a cat movie. My all time favorite Disney film is The Aristocats. I’ve long wondered why this isn’t more popular. Guess there is no accounting for good taste, is there?

What is this about?

When Madame Adelaide Bonfamille leaves her fortune to her prized cat Duchess and Duchess’s kittens, her butler plots to steal the money and kidnaps the heirs, leaving them out on a country road.

What did I like?

Cats. I love cats. I hate, despise, and detest dogs. A film about cats is right up my alley. Disney knew what he was doing when he decided to step away from the slew of dog films that were coming down the pipeline (no offense to Old Yeller, 101 Dalmatians, etc.). Each of the cats has a distinct personality that really makes this entertaining and worth watching.

Music. The jazzy soundtrack is what initially attracted me to this film, as did the character of Scat Cat, a trumpet playing cat that is obviously influenced by Louis Armstrong. I believe he was actually supposed to have lent his voice, but scheduling didn’t permit it. We did get to get “Disney Songs the Satchmo Way”. Back to the film, though, even if you have no interest in it at all, the songs will, at the very least put a smile on your face. The show stopping “Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat” is sure to get you up and dancing, though.

Animation. In the late 60s and 70s, there was a style o drawing and animation that involved heavy outlines. Disney is not the only ones to do this, go look at Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, and pretty much any cartoon that was made during that time and you’ll see what I’m talking about. It was a style thing, I believe. Some people don’t care for it, but I actually like it. The effect is gives to this film, which is set in Paris during the early 1910s, when things aren’t exactly modern, but not medieval, either, really adds to the effect.

Out of retirement and the last seal of approval. The great French actor Maurice Chevalier was coaxed out of retirement to sing the theme song. The act that he willingly did is a real testament to how much Disney films meant to people at one time. I wonder if they could have convinced him to do a character as well. Also, a slight bit of trivia, this is the last picture that Disney himself approved before his death shortly before its release.

What didn’t I like?

Father. This is actually a very small complaint. I’m sure it was done just to make things easier for the animators, but Berlioz and Toulose resemble Scat Cat and Thomas O’Malley, respectively. Now that I think about it, they have similar characteristics, as well. Obviously, since she never met either before this film, they aren’t the father, but one has to wonder where/who the dad actually is.

Scared. This is not pertaining to the film, but rather some copies of it. It would appear that a couple of scenes have been removed from later edition of this film. The first is the whole goose segment. I’m not sure how much of it is removed, but it would seem that they jump from meeting the geese to O’Malley’s pad, conveniently removing the “marinated” Uncle Waldo. I guess they think that reference to alcohol was too much. The other part that I hear has been removed is in the song “Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat”. The part where the Asian cat is singing his lines (and playing the piano with chopsticks) has been taken out for “politically correct” reasons. I can see how this is offensive, but one must remember that this is a different time, and it could have been much worse. What’s next, taking the crows out of Dumbo?

Back in March, I was in Disneyworld and looked up and down that place for anything having to do with The Aristocats. All I found was Marie stuff in the little girls section of one of the stores and someone dressed as Marie down Main Street. This is a reason no one knows anything about this film, they don’t give it any marketing. I’m also a little biased towards Berlioz. Now, should you see this? Without a doubt you should see this! There is something here for everyone. Music, comedy, action, adventure, mystery, intrigue, romance, they’re all there. What are you waiting for? Go find a copy of one of the all-time best (and severely underrated) Disney films ever made!

5 out of 5 stars

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One Response to “Revisited: The Aristocats”

  1. […] talked him out of retirement to sing the French lyrics to the theme from my favorite Disney film, The Aristocats and then there is that episode of I Love Lucy where he plays himself playing an actor who looks like […]

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