Phil Harris, Eva Gabor, Liz English, Gary Dubin, Dean Clark, Sterling Holloway, Roddy Maude-Roxby, Scatman Crothers
Ken Anderson, Larry Clemmons, Eric Cleworth, Vance Gerry, Tom McGowan, Tom Rowe, Julius Svendsen, Frank Thomas, Ralph Wright
Meet the cats who know where it's at ... for fun, music and adventure!
Disney's 20th full-length animated masterpiece, The Aristocats is an unforgettable mix of wild adventure, colorful characters, and jazzy music your family will find absolutely irresistible! This enchanting tale begins in Paris, when a kind and eccentric millionairess wills her entire estate to her family - a family of adorable high-society cats. But when Edgar, the greedy butler, overhears her plan, he catnaps Duchess, the elegant, soft-spoken mother, and her three mischievous kittens and abandons them in the French countryside. Soon, they're being escorted home by the charming Thomas O'Malley, a rough-and-tumble alley cat, who takes them to his "pad" along the way, where Scat Cat and his band of swingin' jazz cats perform the memorable "Ev'rybody Wants To Be A Cat." Enriched by "high-style Disney animation" (The New Yorker) and toe-tapping music by Academy Award® winning songwriters the Sherman brothers, The Aristocats is a timeless treasure and the last animated feature to get the nod from Walt Disney himself.
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 2.0
Runtime: 79 min.
Release Date: 8/21/2012
• “The Lost Open”
• Deleted Song
• “Oui Oui Marie” Music Video
• “The Sherman Brothers: The Aristocats of Disney Songs” Featurette
• “The Great Cat Family” TV Show Excerpt
• Disney Song Selection
• “Bath Day” Bonus Short
• Sneak Peeks
• DVD Copy
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The Aristocats [Bu-Ray] (1970)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 14, 2012)
And so began the era of Walt Disney Studios after the death of its founder and guiding light. This new world started not with a bang but with a... purr. The Aristocats, the first animated film to emerge from Disney that did not include Walt’s direct involvement, appeared in 1970. Although it did okay at the box office, it didn't exactly inspire confidence in the studio's ability to prosper without their leader.
1967's The Jungle Book was actually the first animated offering to hit screens after Walt died in December 1966, but most of the film was completed at the time of his passing. Walt wasn't really all that involved in the creation of that movie, since he'd become much more interested in other affairs like the theme parks, but information indicates that his simple existence offered a kind of moral support and reassurance that would be lost without him. Walt may not have been a very active participant, but he remained invaluable as a general “guiding light”.
In actuality, The Aristocats wasn't a completely unknown property at the studio before Disney died. The story originally was planned as a candidate for a live-action TV movie, but Walt preferred to develop it as an animated film. Despite that start, no real work on the picture seems to have begun prior to Walt's demise, so The Aristocats required the crew of old stalwarts at Disney Animation to prove that they could succeed on their own. In that regard, it wasn't a promising sign.
While I can't call The Aristocats a terrible movie, it's a pretty blah one. The film seems much more derivative than most Disney pictures, especially since the plot takes a lot of 101 Dalmatians mixed with a little Lady and the Tramp. Both those films were excellent, but that doesn't ensure success for a melange of the two. Instead, it simply reminded me of the greater pleasures of those movies and made me want to watch them instead.
Although the plot resembles Dalmatians, the film's structure really mirrors that of The Jungle Book. Both that movie and The Aristocats boast nominal stories but they seem much more interested in presenting random encounters with colorful characters than they do in forwarding the narrative.
As such, The Aristocats meanders badly much of the way, as entire subplots just vanish for extended periods of time. This movie feels awfully long for one that's less than 80 minutes in length.
The characters in the film are wholly unmemorable. For The Aristocats, Disney continued the questionable and lazy practice started in The Jungle Book whereby the characters are little more than animated extensions of their actors, rather than truly distinctive personalities to which the performers add additional components. The process seems even less worthwhile in The Aristocats since ennui dictated that one of Book's most notable actors - Phil Harris - would return with a major part in the new film.
Indeed, J. Thomas O'Malley comes across as nothing more than a feline version of Baloo, with a little Tramp tossed in for good measure. Bizarrely, the crew couldn't even get O'Malley's name correct all of the time. In his introductory song, he runs through a list of monikers included in his full title, but not a single one starts with "J"!
As Duchess, Eva Gabor plays... Eva Gabor, although in slightly modified cat form. She'd really broaden her horizons six years later when she'd voice a mouse in The Rescuers. Shockingly, that film's Bianca also bore a tremendous resemblance to Gabor herself. (What are the odds?!) None of the other actors do much to distinguish themselves either, though stalwart Sterling Holloway makes Roquefort more compelling than he probably should be.
Not that the characters really seem worth much effort from the actors anyway. Probably worst of the bunch is our nominal villain, Edgar the butler. I suspect it's possible that a Disney film features a baddie less interesting and menacing than Edgar, but I doubt it. He's bumbling, he's stupid, and he presents no threat whatsoever, which ensures the story's machinations to make him seem nasty become all the less realistic and provocative.
The Aristocats also presents some of the worst animation I've seen from Disney. The style of the art is interesting, as it's clear the animators based much of the imagery after the styles of French painters. However, this somewhat sketchy appearance does not look good on screen, as it causes lot of trouble for the clean-up artists and often seems terribly sloppy. Lots of small sketch lines can be seen throughout the film, and it looks quite messy at times. Even without that issue, the animation as a whole seems surprisingly bland and generic for a Disney picture
Yes, The Aristocats offers the sight of Disney Studios on autopilot, and it's hard to blame them. The loss of Walt clearly was a blow to the organization, and it may have been unrealistic to expect anything more than a semi-competent, workman-like effort right off the bat. Unfortunately, as we'll discover with subsequent releases, the trend wouldn't right itself for quite some time, but no one knew that in 1970.
I really want to like The Aristocats, if just because the film possesses serious sentimental value for me; I still recall my days as a toddler when I'd crank the soundtrack and rock out to "Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat". I even have a photo that shows my four-year-old self dancing as I stare excitedly at the record's cover.
Unfortunately, memories don't make a movie good. The Aristocats is not wholly without charm, and it makes for a reasonably watchable film. However, I really like all sorts of Disney animated movies, and this is one of the few that largely bores me. It's a bland, uninspired film that doesn't live up to the fine Disney legacy.
The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus C
The Aristocats appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The transfer brought the film to life well.
I thought the film exhibited pretty nice definition, and I noticed little significant softness. Sharpness remained a consistent positive here, without notable problems along the way; a few quick soft shots appeared but that was it. No moiré effects or jagged edges appeared, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws were a non-factor, as the movie remained clean and clear.
Colors were positive. They showed nice clarity and definition throughout the film, with warm, full hues. Dark tones appeared nicely deep, and shadow detail was solid. Across the board, this was an appealing presentation that looked better than expected.
The film's DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack seemed decent but unexceptional. What was originally a monaural soundtrack has been remixed into a passable surround mix, with unspectacular but acceptable results.
Really, the audio remained largely monaural with little more than music coming from the side and rear speakers. A few minor effects popped up on the sides, but nothing memorable occurred. Other than the minor stereo music – which failed to develop good delineation and usually sounded like broad mono – this was essentially a one-channel track.
The quality of the audio appeared generally acceptable. Voices seemed pretty clean and natural, and effects were clear and free from distortion. Some of the foley choices were odd - such as a squeaky shoe that showed no resemblance to that noise - but they were reproduced with acceptable definition. The music occasionally came to life to a minor degree, but the score and songs usually seemed fairly thin and undefined. Ultimately, The Aristocats sounded decent for a 42-year-old movie, but it lacked much pizzazz.
How did this Blu-ray compare to the 2008 Special Edition DVD release? Audio was a wash, as the lossless track couldn’t do much with the 42-year-old source. However, visuals demonstrated a strong improvement, as the Blu-ray was significantly tighter, cleaner and more vibrant than its predecessor.
The Blu-ray replicates many of the DVD’s extras and adds some new ones. First comes a Deleted Song called “She Never Felt Alone”. In this seven-minute, 56-second clip, composer Richard Sherman discusses the cut tune and we hear a few different renditions of it. We also see where it would have fit into the final film during this satisfying presentation.
In the “new” category falls The Lost Open. Also hosted by Richard Sherman, it goes for nine minutes, 31 seconds and shows an alternate opening for the film as well as cut characters and songs. Like “She Never Felt Alone”, this offers a useful look at deleted sequences.
Under “Music and More”, we find Disney Song Selection. As also found on other Disney releases, this allows you to watch the movie’s four songs with karaoke-style lyrics. It seems harmless.
Next we find a Music Video for “Oui Oui Marie”. This shows snippets from the movie accompanied by a really weird dance version of various sound bites. Who thought this was a good idea?
A featurette called The Sherman Brothers: The Aristocrats of Disney Songs goes for four minutes, 24 seconds as it includes comments from composers Richard and Robert Sherman. They offer some short comments about a couple of the flick’s songs. I like their notes, but this piece is too short to offer much information.
An excerpt from a 1956 episode of the Disney TV show called The Great Cat Family runs 12 minutes, 51 seconds. Here Walt introduces us to an animated history of the house cat. It works better as a historical curiosity than anything else, though it provides some minor fun.
Finally, a bonus short called Bath Day fills six minutes, 39 seconds. Minnie Mouse cleans up Figaro, a fact that leaves the cat open to the mockery of other felines. Figaro never became one of Disney’s stars, probably because he failed to present a lively personality. This short suffers from that factor, as the kitty doesn’t emerge as a winning character. It’s a relentlessly ordinary cartoon that lacks a strong story.
As the disc starts, we encounter ads for Cinderella and Finding Nemo. These also show up under Sneak Peeks along with promos for Disney Parks, Secret of the Wings, Planes, The Rescuers, The Rescuers Down Under and Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3. No trailer for Aristocats shows up here.
Does the Blu-ray lose any extras from the 2008 DVD? Yup – it drops some games and a still gallery. I don’t mind the omission of the former, but the absence of the art and photos disappoints. Blu-rays regularly omit old DVD still galleries, and I don’t understand why.
The package also includes a DVD Copy of Aristocats. This gives us a full retail version with a handful of extras.
Does the Blu-ray lose any extras from the 2008 DVD? Yup – it drops some games and a still gallery. However, these appear on the included DVD, so they’ve not vanished entirely; except for a change in previews, that disc duplicates the 2008 DVD.
As a Disney completist, I own a copy of The Aristocats but I won’t watch it much. It’s a bland, forgettable flick. The Blu-ray presents acceptable audio, some average supplements and an attractive transfer. This remains a mediocre film, but at least it looks better than ever here.
To rate this film visit the original review of THE ARISTOCATS