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The Aristocats
DVD disk
02.15.2008 By: Jason Adams
The Aristocats order
Director:
Wolfgang Reitherman

Actors:
Eva Gabor
Phil Harris
Pat Buttram

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Madame Bonfamille lives with her beloved cats in early 20th century Paris. When she one day draws up her will, her greedy butler learns that he’s second in line to the Madame’s fortune behind the house’s feline occupants and decides to take the four-legged family out to the country for some R ‘n R (Rest and Relocation). Now on their own, the pampered Duchess and her children must rely on a frisky street-smart tomcat to get them back home.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
When Leona Helmsley left her dog $12 million last year I thought it was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard. However, when Madame Bonfamille bequeaths her fortune to her pets in THE ARISTOCATS, it’s endearing. In a fair and logical world, the butler Edgar has every right to be pissed off. They’re spoiled, lazy, naďve animals and the guy spends his time serving them like little children. The thought of such creatures getting money to use as kitty litter is enough to justify catnappery and kitticide, yet in the end we still side with those stupid cats. That’s the charm of Disney for you.

THE ARISTOCATS has a lot going for it, but I wouldn’t consider it one of classic-era Disney’s best movies. It takes a little while to get started, and even once it does the story occasionally wanders with some weird pacing, leaving the main characters for random anecdotes and animals. As much as I love to see a drunk goose stumble around, the entire Uncle Waldo sequence, for example, failed to add anything of substance. It’s all enjoyable stuff, but for the sake of the story it could’ve used some tightening.

All its flaws are easy to overlook with the classical animation, which is as gorgeous as ever. The character designs are flawless, and just the entire weight and movement of the images bring life to the title animals in ways that are hard to match. The other thing that really works in the film is the music. The swingin’ jazz tunes have always given me fond feelings for THE ARISTOCATS, even when the plot itself was long forgotten. The whole Scat Cat sequence is such a joy to watch, even with the incredibly racist Siamese cat. Future SHINING victim Scatman Crothers is perfectly cast (in a role originally meant for Louis Armstrong), leaving you singing “Everybody’s a Cat” for days to come.

THE ARISTOCATS definitely feels very familiar in its story, themes and characters (almost like a feline version of LADY AND THE TRAMP), but that doesn’t really make the experience of watching it any less enjoyable for its audience, young and old.
THE EXTRAS
If you were like me and expecting something as comprehensive or jam packed as Disney’s two disc Platinum Editions, you may be a bit disappointed by this single disc Special Edition. Still, there’s enough here to please both parents and their children.

Deleted Song (7:54): One of the film’s original songwriters hosts this look at an excised musical number that, along with original storyboards and recordings, illustrates the bond between pet and owner.

The Great Cat Family (12:50): An excerpt from an old TV program hosted by Walt Disney, which gives an animated history of the feline species.

The Sherman Brothers (4:23): A sit down with brothers Robert and Richard Sherman, the men responsible for all of the songs in the film.

Music and More (10:51): Jump to any of the songs and sing along with optional lyrics. Not really an extra, as much as it is glorified Scene Selection.

Bath Day (6:39): A cute cartoon short starring Minnie Mouse’s pet kitten Figaro, who really does not enjoy getting cleaned.

Games: A Virtual Kitten game, which gave me horrible flashbacks to that whole Tamagotchi craze, and a Fun with Language activity that teaches young ones the names of instruments.

There’s also a Scrapbook full of artwork and Previews, including a LITTLE MERMAID prequel subtitled ARIEL’S BEGINNING, which disappointingly isn’t just footage of her dad waterplowing her mom.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
I’m not a cat person, but THE ARISTOCATS made me forget that for a full 79 minutes. There are some hindrances to its “classic” status, but it’s still a beautifully animated, traditional Disney story worthy of family viewing.

Extra Tidbit: THE ARISTOCATS II was in production for a 2007 release until Pixar took over and John Lasseter had those responsible summarily executed.
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