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DISNEY

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Wolfgang Reitherman
Cast:
Phil Harris, Eva Gabor, Liz English, Gary Dubin, Dean Clark, Sterling Holloway, Roddy Maude-Roxby, Scatman Crothers
Writing Credits:
Ken Anderson, Larry Clemmons, Eric Cleworth, Vance Gerry, Tom McGowan, Tom Rowe, Julius Svendsen, Frank Thomas, Ralph Wright

Tagline:
Meet the cats who know where it's at ... for fun, music and adventure!

Synopsis:
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.

Box Office:
Budget
$4 million.

MPAA:
Rated G

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.75:1/16X9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English

Runtime: 79 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 2/5/2008

Bonus:
• Deleted Song
• Disney Song Selection
• Disney Virtual Kitten
• “The Aristocats Fun with Language” Game
• “The Sherman Brothers: The Aristocrats of Disney Songs” Featurette
• “The Aristocats Scrapbook” Gallery
• “The Great Cat Family” TV Show Excerpt
• “Bath Day” Bonus Short
• Sneak Peeks


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Aristocats: Special Edition (1970)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 4, 2008)

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 the direct involvement of Walt, 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 the movie, since he'd become much more interested in other affairs such as the theme parks, but information indicates that his simple existence offered a kind of moral support and reassurance they would be lost without him. Walt may not have been a very active participant, but he remained invaluable.

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 very 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 wish I was watching them instead.

Although the plot resembles Dalmatians, the film's structure really mirrors that of The Jungle Book. Both that movie and The Aristocats have a nominal story but the picture seems much more interested in presenting random encounters with colorful characters than it does 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 actors 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 the effort from the actors anyway. Probably worst of the bunch is our nominal villain, Edgar the butler. I suspect it's possible that Disney have featured 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 makes the story's machinations to make him seem nasty 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 very bland, uninspired film that doesn't live up to the fine Disney legacy.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus C

The Aristocats appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.75:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although not a ton of problems emerged, the transfer wasn’t consistent enough for a high grade.

Sharpness was good, though the vagueness of much of the art lent the film a much more tentative look than usual. Nonetheless, I thought the film exhibited pretty nice definition, and I noticed no significant softness. No moiré effects or jagged edges appeared, and I saw only light edge haloes. Print flaws seemed modest. I noticed a few small specks and blotches but nothing heavy. I admit that the sketchiness of the artistic style could make it tough to differentiate source defects from sloppy clean-up work, though.

Colors were generally positive. They showed reasonable clarity and definition throughout the film, though they could be a little inconsistent. Still, they were usually nice and never created real distractions.

Dark tones appeared nicely deep, and shadow detail was usually solid. A few low-light shots suffered from a little denseness, but those instances weren’t significant. Most of the film displayed good definition in the darker scenes. Overall, the movie earned a “B-” for its generally positive but inconsistent presentation.

The film's Dolby Digital 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 38-year-old movie, but it lacked much pizazz.

How did the picture and audio of this 2008 Special Edition compare to those of the original 2000 DVD? Although the new disc went with a 5.1 track instead of its predecessor’s 2.0 mix, I thought the two were very similar. If the 5.1 audio altered the 2.0 track, I couldn’t detect any improvements.

Picture quality was a different matter. The biggest change came from the aspect ratio; the old disc gave us a 1.33:1 presentation, while this one provided a 1.75:1 widescreen image. Fans continue to debate which one more accurately represents the original aspect ratio, especially since the 1.75:1 version loses some information from the old version’s top and bottom. Whether or not we were supposed to see that material is a different matter, though, and I won’t state a decided preference for one of the other. I thought the framing of the 1.33:1 image was fine, and the 1.75:1 presentation seemed more than acceptable as well.

In terms of actual transfer quality, I felt the 2008 release offered improvements. It looked a little sharper, and it also provided slightly tighter colors. Shadow detail presented more noticeable growth, though. A couple low-light shots were still a little iffy, but at least we got better delineation in the dark elements most of the time. At no point did this become a great transfer, but it seemed a bit more satisfying than its predecessor.

We get a few new extras on this Special Edition, but don’t expect a ton of quality materials. First comes a Deleted Song called “She Never Felt Alone”. In this seven-minute and 54-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.

Under “Music and More”, we find Disney Song Selection. As also found on other DVDs, this allows you to watch the movie’s four songs with karaoke-style lyrics. It seems harmless.

“Games and Activities” includes two elements. Disney Virtual Kitten. This is a simple simulation piece that requires you to care for an animated kitten. It’s cute but insubstantial. Note that a DVD-ROM version also appears here along with this “set-top” edition.

Next comes the The Aristocats Fun With Language” Game. This teaches us a little about some musical instruments and then quizzes us on them. This takes you through three settings and appears to repeat them forever; it doesn’t look like there’s a conclusion or a reward for successful completion. Little kids may learn something from this, but anyone over the age of seven should skip it. (By the way, I have no clue why it’s called “Fun With Language” when it’s all about musical instruments.)

Within “Backstage Disney”, we get three components. A featurette called The Sherman Brothers: The Aristocrats of Disney Songs goes for four minutes, 23 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.

Some stills show up under The Aristocats Scrapbook. Across 18 thumbnailed screens, we find 67 examples of concept art, storyboards, behind the scenes photos, publicity and merchandise. It’s a good little collection of elements.

An excerpt from a 1956 episode of the Disney TV show called The Great Cat Family runs 12 minutes, 50 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 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. 4/10.

A few ads open the DVD. We get promos for 101 Dalmatians, WALL-E, Sleeping Beauty, SnowBuddies and Disney Movie Rewards. These also can be accessed through the Sneak Peeks menu along with additional clips for Hannah Montana: One in a Million, The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning, Little Einsteins: Race for Space, Twitches Too, Tinker Bell, My Friends Tigger and Pooh, and Handy Manny: Fixing It Right.

This 2008 SE drops some components from the old DVD. We lose a trivia game, a storybook and the film’s theatrical trailer. I don’t care about the first two, but it’s a shame this disc doesn’t include the original trailer.

I'm a serious fan of Disney animation, and I'll buy every release they see fit to throw my way. It feels idiotic at times, but that's the burden that goes with being a completist. As such, I own a copy of The Aristocats but I won’t watch it much. It’s a bland, forgettable flick. The DVD presents decent picture and audio along with some minor extras. This turns into a mediocre release for a dull movie.

Which is exactly how I described the original DVD for Aristocats, even though this one improves on the earlier package. It’s clearly the superior DVD of the two, but don’t take that as a glowing endorsement. The film itself remains ordinary, and nothing about this set stands out as remarkable. It’s a step up from the prior disc but not anything memorable.

To rate this film visit the original review of THE ARISTOCATS

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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main