Thursday, February 07, 2008
Written by Senora Bicho
The Aristocats has always been one of my favorite Disney cartoons, so when given the chance to review this new special edition DVD, I pounced! The film was originally released in 1970 and then re-released in 1980 and 1987. It was first made available on VHS in 1996 and then on DVD in 2000, which was then discontinued in 2006. This new special edition set was originally announced as a 2-disc set but upon release is actually only 1-disc.
The story takes place in Paris in 1910 and revolves around a high society cat, Duchess, and her three kittens: Marie, Toulouse, and Berlioz. They are owned by Madame Adelaide Bonfamille, a retired opera singer. Since she is getting up there in age, she asks her lawyer to draw up her will leaving everything to her cats with her butler, Edgar, to inherit once the cats have all passed. After overhearing this information, Edgar decides to get rid of the kittens to clear the way to his inheritance. He drugs the cats and heads out into the country to drop them off. A run-in with some country dogs causes Edgar to lose the cats and go running back into town. The cats, now lost, are on their own. Luckily, they run into a friendly alley cat, Thomas O'Malley, who rescues them and takes them on the adventure of their lives. This wouldn’t be a true Disney animated film if there wasn’t some romance thrown in too.
The Aristocats offers a host of well-known and beloved Disney voiceover regulars along with some new ones. Thomas O’ Malley is voiced by Phil Harris who voiced Baloo in The Jungle Book and Little John in Robin Hood. Pat Buttram perfectly plays the hound dog, Napoleon, and can also be found in Robin Hood, The Rescuers, and The Fox and the Hound. Paul Winchell, the famous voice of Tigger from the Winnie the Pooh movies, makes a brief appearance as a Siamese cat. The newcomers include Eva Gabor, who beautifully plays Duchess as an extension of her character on Green Acres, and Scatman Crothers as Scat Cat, the leader of an alley cat band.
The music in The Aristocats is definitely not as strong as other Disney films. The best song by far is “Everybody Wants to be a Cat”. It is a great jazz number and while the song is great on its own, the scene accompanying it is the best part of the film. The colors look fantastic and it is fun to watch. The only other song worth mentioning is the title song sung by Maurice Chevalier. This was his last performance and the songwriters were able to talk him into coming out of retirement to sing it. He is perfect in setting the tone and atmosphere during the opening credits.
The new Special Edition looks great. While the animation is older and rougher, the visuals work to create the look of Paris 1910, more specifically the paintings of the time. The extras are not overly exciting unless you have small children. There is a deleted scene, which one of the songwriters discusses, and the original sketches and storyboards are shown during the song. It was a good decision to cut it from the film as it didn’t really add anything. A cartoon featuring Figaro, the cat from Pinocchio, is also included, it is a weak choice and I would never watch it again.
“Music and More” provides the ability to jump to any song and play that scene. You can also add lyrics to the bottom of the screen during all of the songs while watching the movie to make your own karaoke.
“Backstage Disney” includes “The Sherman Brothers” which provides interviews with them and additional information on the film’s music. The Sherman brothers were staff songwriters at Disney for many years and their additional credits include Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and many more. There is also a scrapbook and an excerpt from an old show entitled The Great Cat Family hosted by Walt Disney.
“Games and Activities” allows viewers to adopt their own kitten and care for it while playing “Disney Virtual Kitten,” and kids can play along and learn the names of musical instruments in “The Aristocats Fun with Language Game”.
The Aristocats is not as good as lot of the other Disney films released around the same time such as The Jungle Book, Robin Hood, and The Rescuers, but it is still fun and entertaining for the whole family.