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The Aristocats
BLU-RAY disk
Sep 5, 2012 By: Mathew Plale
The Aristocats order
Director:
Wolfgang Reitherman

Actors:
Eva Gabor
Phil Harris
Scatman Crothers

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A group of Parisian cats try to get back home and thwart a butler from claiming their wealthy owner's inheritance, set to be left to them.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Cat owners are some of the strangest people to ever walk the planet, so it’s easy to accept that millionaire Madame Adelaide Bonfamille (voice of Hermione Baddeley) would put in her will that her entire estate go to her four cats: Duchess (Eva Gabor, singing by Robie Lester), Marie, Berlioz, and Toulouse.

They’ll retain the fortune until their own deaths, when the spoils will go to Madame Adelaide’s butler, Edgar (Roddy Maude-Roxby). And if Cruella de Vil can plot to slay 100+ dogs and turn them into coats, then Edgar has every right to drown a quartet of cats in the French countryside for a life of unending wealth.

Of course, the felines don’t die in the first act. So they set out on a journey back to Paris and their gourmet food, offering plenty of excuse to run into a wide list of characters, including alley cat Tom O’Malley (Phil Harris, also Baloo in The Jungle Book), jazz-loving Scat Cat (Scatman Crothers), chatty geese Abigail and Amelia Gabble (Monica Evans and Carole Shelley), helpful mouse Roquefort (Sterling Holloway, best known as the voice of Winnie the Pooh), and Basset hounds Napoleon and Lafayette (Pat “Mr. Haney” Buttram and George “Goober Pyle” Lindsey).

The Aristocats, released in 1970, was the 20th animated feature at Disney and the last to be approved by Walt Disney himself. It was directed by Wolfgang Reitherman (of the famed Nine Old Men) who, up to that point, had also helmed such greats as Sleeping Beauty and The Jungle Book, and worked on other classics like Pinocchio, Dumbo and Cinderella.

With four other Old Men on the animation team, The Aristocats is definitely essential Disney, even though it gets kicked aside by all but six or seven of the features that came before it (we’re thinking Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros rank closer to the bottom). That could be the lack of a princess or entirely charming animals (Bambi is a noble hero, Lady and the Tramp are in love--Duchess and her kittens just want to be pampered heiresses). Whatever the reason, it’s not entirely just.

The Aristocats is good entertainment, with terrific animation and fun songs (“Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat” being the standout). As it stands, it’s one of the stronger efforts from Disney from the years leading up to the pre-Renaissance failures.
THE EXTRAS
Blu-ray:

The Lost Open (9:30): Songwriter Richard M. Sherman (half of the famed Sherman Brothers) introduces this deleted opening/song with the aid of production sketches.

The Sherman Brothers: The Aristocats of Disney Songs (4:24): This is a very brief look at the work of the songwriting duo. For a more comprehensive appreciation, watch the 2009 documentary The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story.

The Great Cat Family (Excerpt) (12:51): Walt Disney introduces this short animated film that originally aired in 1956.

Also included are a Music Video for “Oui Oui Marie” (remixed by D!tto), a Deleted Song (“She Never Felt Alone”), Disney Song Selection, and a Classic Bonus Short (1946’s Bath Day).

DVD:

Disney Virtual Kitten lets kids (we hope) “adopt [their] own virtual kitty.”

The Aristocats Fun with Language Game: This game lets the little ones “play along and learn the names and sounds of a variety of musical instruments.”

The Aristocats Scrapbook hosts concept art, storyboard sketches, character drawings, behind the scenes photos, publicity material, merchandise, premiere photos, and Disneyland attractions snapshots.

This DVD also includes the following material from the Blu-ray: The Sherman Brothers: The Aristocats of Disney Songs, The Great Cat Family (Excerpt), Deleted Song (“She Never Felt Alone”), Disney Song Selection, and Bonus Short (Bath Day).
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
The Aristocats may not have the prestige of, say, Snow White, Dumbo or Beauty and the Beast, but it’s still a solid effort from Disney from the years leading up to the studio’s pre-Renaissance rut. With contributions from five of the legendary Nine Old Men and songs by the famed Sherman Brothers, it’s easy to recommend The Aristocats. While the special features on this disc lack any complete insight, the video and audio transfers are worth the purchase.
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