With the help of a smooth talking tomcat, a family of Parisian felines set to inherit a fortune from their owner try to make it back home after a jealous butler kidnaps them and leaves them in the country.
Year 1, Day 256
BEFORE: My leftover chain rolls on with some more animated films, this time with The Aristocats. A late addition to the chain as it was winding up in February, it was suggested after I had been watching a whole bunch of traditional Disney classics. This is a movie I have seen before and was one of my favorites (the characters and the songs were among the most memorable) so it should be fun to watch again. Not to mention this should tie in nicely with the last two animated films tomorrow and Friday before the leftovers transition to a different genre.
AFTER: My fond memories of The Aristocats thankfully held up and in some ways exceeded what I remembered as a child. The voice actors with the very humorous animation still entertain and the songs (especially “Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat”) also bring a lot to the film. But I was also surprised at how ridiculous the premise of the film was; something that never struck me as a child but is blatantly obvious now.
Like Aladdin, Peter Pan, and Cinderella among other animated films I watched in February, The Aristocats gets the characters perfectly. In a combination of the animation and the voice acting, characters like Thomas O’Malley (Phil Harris), Scat Cat (Scatman Crothers), and the three kittens Toulouse (Gary Dubin), Marie (Liz English), and Berlioz (Dean Clark) provide countless laughs and great entertainment from beginning to end. They have such distinctive and memorable voices (I could identity Phil Harris’ and Sterling Holloway’s - the mouse Roquefort - easily as those also in The Jungle Book) and many scenes remain to this day classics. The kitten’s painting and singing lessons, chase between Edgar (Roddy Maude-Roxby) and the dogs Napoleon (Pat Buttram) and Lafayette (George Lindsey), and of course the singing in O’Malley’s pad were some of my favorite scenes as a kid and stand up today. The effectiveness in the simplicity of these scenes of basic cinematography and editing delivers both comedy and suspense that keep you constantly interested.
Something that I do not remember as a kid, and that shocked me now as an adult, is how stupid the premise of this film is. As a kid all you care about is the cats are taken away by the evil Edgar on their journey back they run into the love able Thomas O’Malley and shenanigans ensue. Looking at it more than ten years later, I found three major flaws in the story: the inheritance, the sleeping pills, and the father figure. Edgar becomes the antagonist after learning Madame Adelaide is bequeathing her entire estate to her cats rather than him, a devoted butler of many years. The problem with this? After the cats pass he is the sole inheritor and while the cats are the first heirs, Edgar would actually control everything because, well, cats can’t. It’s easy to think Edgar should be upset because he doesn’t get what he wants (the estate) when in fact he would be the actual heir, just not in name. The second comes after this as Edgar abducts the cats to take them out of the house. He dumps not just a few pills into their crème de la crème, but the entire bottle; an amount that would easily kill a human, let alone a handful of cats. Sure, emptying the bottle is an easy way to show there’s a lot of sedative going into the food, but there has to be an easier way to get that message across without using a fatal dose. My final nitpick point is regarding the kitten’s father and the absence of a father figure. This isn’t as annoying or strong as my other two points as it is slightly resolved by the end, but for the majority of the film, especially after O’Malley is introduced is, my thought process consisted of, “No one has mentioned these kitty’s father yet. Really?”
The Aristocats, for the most part, holds up to this day as a classic Disney animation and one of the great films from childhood. It has a whole cast of unique and memorable characters that you’ll remember for the rest of your lives (week, at least until old timers kicks in). But here’s the issue I’ve run into. All the problems I had with the film are either things I didn’t realize as a kid or didn’t care about. The inheritance, the sleeping pills, and the father figure weren’t important then but now, as an at least-partially educated adult, stand out like a sore thumb. What I’ve decided to do is mark off for these plot issues but I’ll still give it a high recommendation, especially for kids. Even with these issues, The Aristocats is still a very entertaining film.
RATING: 4 out of 5