The Aristocats has been an old friend’s favorite Disney animated feature for as long as I have known her. Growing up, I only remember seeing bits and pieces of the film, and it wasn’t one that gained any measure of popularity in my house once VHS and Beta home video became a thing (though we owned practically every other Disney film).
After overhearing Madame Bonfamille creating her will and leaving her entire fortune to her cats, Edgar (her butler) becomes disgruntled and catnaps them. After abandoning them in the countryside far outside Paris, he goes back to his butler job, hoping the cats will simply die or never find their way back.
Fortunately for the cats, they find a free-swinging alley cat named O’Malley who offers to help them get back to their Paris home. The rest of the film deals with their adventures as they make their way back, and with them dealing with Edgar’s treachery.
The animation in The Aristocats is done in a rough style similar to that used in some of the other Disney films (One Hundred and One Dalmatians, The Sword in the Stone, The Rescuers). I thought it worked well for this story, even though it is not my favorite style of animation. The colors chosen for the film were also very avante garde, which makes sense for a film set in and around Paris of the early 1900s.
My friend’s favorite song in the film, “Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat”, is my least favorite of the songs. My favorite is actually the title song, written by the Sherman Brothers. While I am a fan of a lot of jazz, this soundtrack never really grew on me. That said, it worked well in the film, which is the most important consideration for the soundtrack. Never once did the score feel out of place or shoehorned into The Aristocats.
O’Malley is played by Phil Harris, known for his Baloo in The Jungle Book and Little John in Robin Hood. All of those characters are really the same character, as the voice Harris used for them didn’t really vary at all. Scatman Crothers did a great job as Scat Cat, basically playing himself as a cat. Eva Gabor (the nice Gabor sister) plays a sophisticated and demure Duchess.
Overall, the film is pretty average. There isn’t anything which really stands out in the animation, the music, the story, or the voice acting to bring The Aristocats to a higher level. Despite that, it’s an average Disney film, so that makes it a little better than other average films. Kids will definitely enjoy it, and perhaps it will inspire them to become jazz musicians.
Release Date: December 24, 1970 (USA)
MPAA Rating: G
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (minor social drinking and smoking)
Violence: 1 (mostly slapstick, some scary moments)