Steve’s Wonderful Reviews of Disney: The Aristocats

The Aristocats

Release Date: December 11th, 1970 (released nationwide December 24th)

Inspiration: “The Aristocats” by Tom McGowan and Tom Rowe

Budget: $4 million

Domestic Gross: $55.7 million

Worldwide Gross: $191 million

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 66%

IMDB Score: 7.1/10

Storyline (per IMDB): Retired opera star Adelaide Bonfamille enjoys the good life in her Paris villa with even classier cat Duchess and three kittens: pianist Berlioz, painter Toulouse and sanctimonious Marie. When loyal butler Edgar overhears her will leaves everything to the cats until their death, he drugs and kidnaps them. However retired army dogs make his sidecar capsize on the country. Crafty stray cat Thomas O’Malley takes them under his wing back to Paris. Edgar tries to cover his tracks and catch them at return, but more animals turn on him, from the cart horse Frou-Frou to the tame mouse Roquefort and O’Malley’s jazz friends.

Pre-Watching Thoughts: We now enter a new decade as we roar right into the 1970s with the 20th film that Disney has released, and it is crazy to think that this is only the 20th film since Snow White came out back in 1937. This is one of those films that has garnered an interesting reputation as some think it is a fun film that still holds up to this day while others feel it is a lackluster installment and that time has not been kind to. This is another film that I always had a fondness for when I was a kid and it has been a very long time since I last saw it, so we will see if I feel it lands in the first opinion or the second opinion.

Voice Cast: As I have mentioned in the last few reviews, the number of returning actors is seemingly going down with every film going forward though we do have a few familiar voices for this film. For the returning actors, we have Phil Harris back as he voices Thomas O’Malley in a memorable role though I do wonder how many people watching this after watching the Jungle Book and realized it was the same actor that voiced Baloo since he does have a very distinctive voice. We also see Sterling Holloway return as he voices Roquefort the mouse in a fairly memorable role, and we also see Thurl Ravenscroft return as well as he voices Billy Boss of the Scat Cat Band in a good role. We also have the return of Tim Hudson as he voices Hit Cat of the Scat Cat Band in a fairly small role, and the final returning actor is Bill Thompson as he voices Uncle Waldo the goose in a small role. Leading the charge of the new voices is legendary actress Eva Gabor who voices Duchess in a very memorable and it wouldn’t be the last time we heard her in a Disney film, and a note is that Robie Lester provides the singing voice for Duchess. We then have the trio of Gary Dubin, Liz English, and Dean Clark as the kittens Toulouse, Marie, and Berlioz and they do a good job in giving the kittens their own personality and they have good singing performances as well. Next we have Roddy Maude-Roxby as Edgar Balthazar and he does a fine job in making this villain still have class and dignity for the most part, and then we have jazz artist Benjamin “Scatman” Crothers who voices Scat Cat and also provides the singing voice. Rounding out Scat Cat’s band were Paul Winchell who voices Shun Gon in a fairly controversial role and Vito Scotti as Pippo as they both provide pretty memorable moments during their appearances. We then have Pat Buttram and George Lindsay as Napoleon and Lafayette the dogs in a pair of fun roles, and they would become regular voices that we will hear throughout the rest of the decade. Next we have Hermione Baddeley who voices Madam Adelaide Bonfamille in a small role, but she makes the most of it even though we don’t get to hear her sing since the character was an opera star. We then have legendary actor Charles Lane who voices Georges Hauthcourt as he was starting to wind his career down, and then we have Nancy Kulp who voices Frou-Frou the horse in what would be her final film role and we should also mention Ruth Buzzi who provides the singing voice. We then have Monica Evans and Carole Shelley as Abigail and Amelia Gabble the geese and this wouldn’t be the last time they starred in a film together, and finally we have Peter Renaday who voices a few of the other humans that don’t play much of a role. There are a couple of actors here that would become regulars for the next couple of years as we transition out of the old guard from the last few decades and get a new group of carry the films for the next few years.

Hero/Prince: We do have a hero to talk about for this film and that is the street cat Thomas O’Malley, or as he reveals as his full name Abraham de Lacy Giuseppe Casey Thomas O’Malley the alley cat. We first meet him traveling the countryside when he comes across Duchess and the kittens after they were left behind by Edgar, and he helps get them back to Paris while keeping them out of danger including saving Marie on two occasions. After regroups with Scat Cat and his band, O’Malley returns Duchess and the kittens to their home only for Edgar to capture them again and Roquefort lets O’Malley know so he can help. While Roquefort gets Scat Cat and the band, O’Malley battles with Edgar and eventually Scat Cat and his cats arrive to help O’Malley free Duchess and the kittens while sending Edgar into the trunk to be shipped to Timbuktu. In the end, O’Malley, Scat Cat and his band are welcomed into Bonfamille’s home and he becomes like a father to the kittens. O’Malley is an interesting character in that he is clearly smitten with Duchess and she comes to like him, but she realizes her place is with her owner and O’Malley is willing to accept that as he thinks he is nothing more than an alley cat until he is welcomed in by Bonfamille. While he ultimately won’t rank that high when compared to the other heroes and princes, he is a good hero for this film.

Princess: N/A

Villain: Up to this point, we have had characters that are bad from the get-go and they are easily defined as villains, but for this film we have a villain that doesn’t start out like that and gets worse as the film goes on. This character is Edgar Balthazar who serves as Madam Adelaide Bonfamille’s butler and he is very faithful to her and the cats, but he begins to turn when he learns that the cats will inherit Bonfamille’s fortune before he will which leads him to plot to get rid of the cats. He first tries to dump them in the countryside only to run into Napoleon and Lafayette who chase him though he escapes albeit losing some items, and he returns to the same site to retrieve his items and put the dogs in their place. He thinks he has succeeded only to learn that Duchess and the kittens have been returned thanks to O’Malley so he decides to send them to Timbuktu in a trunk, but O’Malley, Scat Cat, and his friends save them while leaving Edgar in the trunk to be sent to Timbuktu instead. Edgar is an interesting villain in that he genuinely enjoyed serving Bonfamille and the cats, but as they say greed is a powerful motivator and he was willing to do anything to get rid of the cats so he could claim the fortune. He is a bit of a bumbling idiot and the fact that he is beaten by a bunch of animals does make him a bit of a loser, but he is still a good villain for this film even though he doesn’t rank too highly as a memorable villain.

Other Characters: It is a bit funny that I am including many of the main characters in this category, but that’s only because they don’t fit into any of the other categories so they have to be mentioned in here. Right at the top of that list is Duchess and her kittens Marie, Berlioz, and Toulouse who are under threat of Edgar who tries to get rid of them, but Thomas O’Malley takes care of them and eventually saves them before becoming part of their family. We then have the dogs Napoleon and Lafayette who deal with Edgar twice during the film and they steal some of his items after their first encounter, but Edgar gets his revenge and recovers his missing items while outsmarting them in the end. We then have Roquefort the mouse who is friends with Duchess and the kittens as he does what he can to help as well, including nearly being eaten by Scat Cat and his band before he mentions that he is a friend of O’Malley. Speaking of Scat Cat and his band, we have them next as they show their skills to Duchess and the kittens before helping O’Malley save them from Edgar and they are also welcomed in by Bonfamille. We then have Abigail and Amelia Gabble the geese who first “help” O’Malley from drowning before leading the cats into Paris where they meet up with their Uncle Waldo who is nearly turned into a meal by a chef. We also have Frou-Frou the horse who mainly keeps to herself until the end when she helps O’Malley and the cats save Duchess and the kittens before kicking Edgar into the trunk. We also have Madam Adelaide Bonfamille who is a retired opera singer who looks to leave her vast fortune to her cats which leads Edgar to try and get rid of them, and finally we have her lawyer Georges Hauthcourt who is a very eccentric man and helps Bonfamille pen her will. There does seem to be a trend of animals being the main characters and the humans playing a minor role, and we will see how much longer that lasts before the page turns on that.

Songs: Going into watching this film, I was under the belief that there were only two songs in the film but there were actually two other ones that I had forgotten about only because the two I remembered were far more memorable as we will talk about. The first song to mention is the title song “The Aristocats” sung at the beginning and a fun note is the man who sings it, Maurice Chevalier was brought out of retirement to sing it and it would be his last major film contribution prior to his death two years later. The next song to mention is “Scales and Arpeggios” sung by Duchess and the kittens which was a fine song though not that memorable, and then we have “Thomas O’Malley” which Thomas sings as he introduces himself to Duchess and he makes himself very likable through the song. Finally we have the song that is best remembered from this film which is “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat” sung by Scat Cat and his band, and it is a really fun song that has a real catchy beat and makes you want to dance. Once again, the majority of these songs work well for the film though they aren’t as memorable as some of the other songs that we have heard to this point and they won’t hold up well against songs yet to come.

Plot: Going into re-watching this film, I never knew that it was actually based off a novel and I always thought that it was just an original idea conceived by the folks at Disney, and not only that apparently the story was also inspired by a real life family of cats that inherited a fortune. This family of cats is owned by a former opera singer and she plans to leave her vast fortune to them much to the chagrin of her butler who is set to inherit the fortune when the cats pass away, and he tries to get rid of them so he can take the fortune for himself. A random alley cat named Thomas encounters Duchess and her kittens and he offers to take them back to Paris, and they encounter his friend Scat Cat and his band as he and Duchess start to bond though she can’t leave her owner behind. Thomas returns them to the house only for the butler to kidnap them again and try to ship them to Timbuktu, but Thomas and his friends Duchess and the kittens while leaving the butler to be sent to Timbuktu and Thomas is welcomed into the family. The plot itself was fairly basic with the classic trope of the street-tough boy meeting and falling in love with the high-class girl, and interloping that with having the once loyal worker turn bad to take the fortune for himself was not too much and helped keep the story going until the end.

Random Watching Thoughts: We are back to having a title song for the film; It is unique watching the animation in the background during the opening credits knowing we will see it again at some point in the film; The opening credits mention a song titled “She Never Felt Alone” which was ultimately cut from the film, so it was weird to see it called out here since we never hear it in the film; So this film was set in 1910 and Paris was looking as beautiful with no one realizing what was coming with World War I in a few years; Berlioz didn’t just ride on Frou-Frou’s back, he was on top of her head; Edgar seemed like such a loyal butler, it’s almost a shame what happened to him when greed took over; We never know what Hauthcourt’s age is though he has to be close to 100 if he says he’s not as spry as when he was 80; How many houses back in 1910 actually had an elevator inside them?; Hauthcourt seems to have that type of luck that he would escape any injury while Edgar takes the brunt of it; Bonfamille must’ve amassed a vast fortune from being an opera singer that she has that big of a mansion just for herself and her cats; I have always wondered if Hauthcourt and Bonfamille had feelings for each other or if they really are just good friends considering he serves as her lawyer; Amazing they are able to dance so seamlessly without stepping on either of the kittens as they go for their feet; Why would Hauthcourt first think Bonfamille wants to sue someone when she pretty much lives like a recluse?; I always find it weird when someone leaves their fortune to their pets, what are they really going to do with it? It would make more sense to donate it as I’m sure someone will put it to good use; Bonfamille must be real confident that Edgar will outlive the cats; Now the greed officially takes over Edgar and he becomes the villain; Strong words from Toulouse for saying that females never fight fair; Duchess is really trying hard to make sure the kittens are well-behaved, but kittens will act like kittens; A weird animation note I saw was Duchess’ paws turning to fingers when she adjusts Marie’s bow before going back to paws; For being a kitten and using his paws, Toulouse made a pretty good portrait of Edgar even though he was making fun of him; Berlioz got Duchess to break a bit when he called Edgar “Pickle-Puss”; Considering that he dumped the entire bottle of sleeping pills into the milk, it’s makes you wonder if Edgar was just wanting them to fall asleep or he wanted to kill them; Edgar nearly blows everything by almost tasting the milk; Berlioz is quite the piano player; Berlioz was just wanting to play the piano and Toulouse had to butt in, especially with his paws covered in paint; Crème de la crème de la Edgar; You would think that given how many sleeping pills he put in the milk that the cats would’ve gone out immediately; Of all the things Roquefort has to go with the milk, it would be a cracker; Why would Edgar poke his head out of the cat door and not just open the door slightly to see if anyone was there?; Do Napoleon and Lafayette belong to anyone as they are just there to go after any vehicle that drives past them if Lafayette says they bit 6 tires today?; I do wonder where Edgar was taking the cats before the dogs attacked him; Lafayette really put a hurting on Edgar’s leg by biting it repeatedly like that; That must be the weakest windmill ever if it got pushed that easily when Edgar ran through it; Somehow Toulouse managed to stay in the basket while the rest got thrown all over the place; Toulouse was onto Edgar the whole time as he briefly opened his eyes and saw him before they drove away; Of course Bonfamille would have a nightmare about Duchess and the kittens on the night that they are kidnapped by Edgar; It was admirable for Roquefort to go out into the storm to find Duchess and the kittens even though it would be for naught; What kind of a name is Abraham de Lacy Giuseppe Casey Thomas O’Malley and how did he come about getting that name?; Toulouse is thrilled to see an alley cat while Marie sees it as a potential love story between Thomas and Duchess; The way Thomas says this makes it seem like he’s pulled this same thing on other cats; Duchess immediately through Thomas’ sweet talk for a time; Now he refers to himself as J. Thomas O’Malley though none of his names start with a “J”; Thomas must have a lot of confidence that the truck is going to Paris and not going somewhere else; So I did look up about the idea of cats having 9 lives and they really don’t, but the saying comes from their ability to land on their feet and can withstand accidents without being fatally wounded; Thomas is quick to judge that humans don’t care about pets while Duchess thinks otherwise; The shot where Bonfamille is standing at the window with the light on makes it look like she is Lady Tremaine from Cinderella; Edgar was so proud of himself that he pulled off the perfect crime before realizing that he left some of his things behind as potential evidence; That was quite lucky that the truck that Thomas stopped was a food truck that had a thing of cream for the kittens to drink from; How many trains have the kittens actually seen that Toulouse knew what sounds to make?; That was a nice catch by Duchess; Marie nearly lost her life and Toulouse is upset that she fell off the bridge; So Abigail and Amelia are on vacation from England, but that was quite a journey for them to take; They see Thomas in the water trying to get to shore yet they think that he is learning to swim; Thomas tells the geese that he’s not Duchess’ husband and they immediately assume he is trying to play Duchess; They set them up in a V like when a flock of geese fly together and then they all have to waddle like them though you’ll notice Thomas walks normally; Waldo goes to Paris for a vacation and he nearly becomes the special of the day for the café, yet he’s upset that they used white wine and not sherry; Did Roquefort really think he was going to make it in that broken light the whole way?; So in a fun fact, Napoleon and Lafayette were only supposed to be in the one scene where they chase Edgar away, but the animators enjoyed the actors so much they added this extra bit where Edgar goes back to reclaim his missing items; Another fun fact is that Edgar was supposed to have an accomplice/romantic interest named Elmira who worked as a maid for Bonfamille and they were even going to have a duet in the film, but she was scrapped entirely and Edgar was made the sole villain; Edgar took a long time to realize his shoes were squeaking so loud that he finally had to take them off; Give Napoleon credit for guessing the type of shoes Edgar had just by listening to the squeak; He realizes the hat is getting pulled up yet Napoleon doesn’t think to look up; Leave it to having to scratch Napoleon repeatedly to finally reclaim his hat; What was the item that Napoleon referred to as a “bumbershoot”?; Lafayette says that he wasn’t hurt because he was hit on the head; I do wonder how the time worked to when Edgar was dealing with Napoleon and Lafayette if Duchess, Thomas, the kittens, and the geese arrived to Paris; He says that his pad is peaceful and quiet, but on cue the band starts playing and he knows Scat Cat and company are there; In another fun fact, legendary jazz artist Louie Armstrong was set to voice Scat Cat but had to pull out due to illness; In today’s stuff you would never see in 2020, Shun Gon the Chinese cat and his pretty racist dialogue; The kittens were complaining that they were tired, yet they had plenty of energy to sing and dance with the rest of the cats; I wouldn’t be surprised if some people suffered from epileptic seizures during this scene with the flashing lights; Given how loud some of the music was, it’s amazing that the whole city wasn’t shouting to turn it down especially as they were dancing and playing in the streets; You can tell that Duchess wants to be with Thomas but is not willing to leave Bonfamille so Thomas makes the sacrifice to take them back home; Roquefort’s way to stop Edgar is to tie his shoelaces together; So Edgar had time to get to his feet, untie his shoelaces, and grab a sack before letting the cats in; Kudos to Marie for being able to remember the whole name to try and tell Roquefort; Roquefort has so much trouble remembering Thomas’ name for Scat Cat and the gang and it is only when they are about to kill him when he is able to remember so they can get on his side; I don’t blame that guy for dumping out that wine when he sees Roquefort running behind the cats, he probably is questioning everything in life at that moment; It is weird of all the places that Edgar decides to send the cats, he chooses Timbuktu; Edgar made a quick recovery to getting knocked over by Frou-Frou to chasing after Thomas with that sickle, and then he made another quick recovery after getting knocked over on the ladder to trying to find Thomas in the hay with the pitchfork; Roquefort tells everyone to be quiet and they oblige so that he can open the padlock, and then they get back to what they were doing; Again, Edgar must have great pain tolerance if he took a giant haybale right to the head and didn’t get knocked out; Edgar gets knocked into the trunk and the padlock is not there, yet when it slides outside it looks like it has been padlocked shut; The way they talk about Edgar makes you wonder if they had him factored in some other way, but he was so obsessed with getting rid of the cats that he ultimately missed out; Thomas had quite the look on his face when Bonfamille mentioned potential future kittens; Roquefort appears when he hears the word “cheese” and gets blinded by the flash; She is quite the gracious host to be willing to welcome any and all of the alley cats of Paris; Again, the music is so loud that we see the geese dancing and singing to it, and even Napoleon and Lafayette can hear it out in the countryside; Napoleon says that as the leader he determines when it is the end, but then the actual words hit him in the side of the head so he decides it’s the end.

Overall Thoughts: Overall, this was a very solid film that was still very enjoyable though it was a step down from the Jungle Book, but in fairness it was going to take a great effort by this film to match the perfect score of that one. This is one of those films that some people are going to really like and some people are going to think it is a disappointment, and I’m on the side in that it was a good film and I was entertained. We are entering a very tumultuous decade for Disney as they were without their patriarch though they still had big things planned including the new theme park in Orlando, and we will see how the rest of the decade plays out for the animation department. As for this film, it is a pretty solid film that does hold up fairly well with time though it is not a classic like some of the films I’ve seen to this point.

Final Grade: 7/10

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