Now that we’ve passed our one-year anniversary of Disney Odyssey, the Fella and I got comfy and celebrated with a viewing of The Aristocats. It was never a favorite of mine growing up, but how can you resist chubby French kittens? We couldn’t help but notice some similarities in plot between this and 101 Dalmatians, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying it thoroughly. It isn’t just #20 on our list, it heralds the arrival of the animated Bronze Age (1970-1988)! This is extremely exciting, folks, because with just a few more films we’ll hit the big streak of our age bracket’s Favorite Disney Movies of All Time! I’m excited. The Fella’s excited. Are you excited?!
The Film: The Aristocats (1970)
- The film is inspired by a true story of a family of Parisian cats who inherited a small fortune in 1910. (Man. Cat people! They’re nuts, I tell ya.)
- It is the first animated feature to be completed entirely after Walt’s death in 1966.
- The character of Scat Cat was designed to look like Louis Armstrong, as the famous musician was slated to provide the voice for the character. Due to illness, Armstrong had to bow out, and was replaced with Scatman Crothers, who was told “Act like Satchmo.”
- Marie’s brothers, Toulouse and Berlioz, are named after famous Frenchmen Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (painter) and Hector Berlioz (composer). And of course the dogs are named after Napoleon Bonaparte and Marquis de Lafayette.
- Resident musical powerhouses the Sherman brothers convinced the famous Maurice Chevalier to actually come out of retirement in order to sing the film’s title song. The Aristocats was thus Chevalier’s last work before his death in 1972.
- It was originally intended to be half of a two-part live action special for Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color in 1954.
- Russian Cat is voiced by Thurl Ravenscroft, whose voice can also be heard in Disney attractions such as The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Enchanted Tiki Room.
- The film was nominated for the AFI’s 10 Top 10 in the “Animation” category.
- The opening credits are really cute – there are half-finished sketched animation sequences from the film superimposed over a plain but psychadelic background as the credits roll. It reminded us of 101 Dalmatians.
- Madame is absolutely a Crazy Cat Lady – who takes their cat and three small kittens out for a carriage ride like that, without putting them in a carrier, basket, purse, or something???
- Also how young are Tolouse, Berlioz and Marie? They can’t be more than a month or two old, right? And if so…where is their father? What’s that backstory look like?
- So Edgar is this dotty old English butler and the so-called villain of the movie – but in his defense, who leaves their entire estate to a bunch of cats like that? Madame is surely mad.
- Not only are they mysteriously fatherless but Duchess’ kittens are baby geniuses too! Toulouse paints like his namesake (although his style is quite modern and abstract) and Berlioz plays piano (like his namesake). Marie is learning to sing like her mother and like Madame who (as it turns out) is a retired opera star.
- “Because I’m a lady, that’s why.” BOOM MIC DROP MARIE THANK YOU
- Lafayette and Napoleon are these hillbilly good ol’ boys who want to chase motor vehicles and bite butts. Amazingly, the short one is named Lafayette and the tall one is Napoleon. #antithesis
- Enter Thomas O’Malley the Alley Cat – who is basically Baloo, but instead of an Indian Sloth Bear, he’s a rugged, handsome, untamed tom cat with a roguish American accent. His intro song is even the same sort of lyrics as “Bare Necessities.” And he’s voiced by Phil Harris.
- Enter the plucky geese sisters Amelia and Abigail – like nosy neighbors from a Jane Austen novel – they can’t keep their beaks out of other people’s business and they can’t stop giggling about everything and it’s hysterical how much O’Malley dislikes it, even after they’ve saved his life.
“We’re not chickens, we’re geese. We’re also English. BAHAHAHAHAHA WHAT AN HILARIOUS MISUNDERSTANDING!”
- New headcanon: the mouse Rochefort is a member of the Rescue Aid Society.
- It’s interesting that the villain storyline kind of devolves into a ridiculous physical comedy sideplot with Edgar and the country dogs. Edgar catnaps the cats but he never really harms them (although he does put them in the oven at one point it isn’t with the intent to cook them or kill them).
- YYYYYYYES THE JAZZ SEQUENCE! I remember distinctly the part where they drop from floor to floor in that old apartment building, piano and all, the party never stopping. These cats are the original party rock.
- Oh no. Oh no. Oriental Cat. *FACEPALM* It’s 1970 and we’re still getting things like Oriental Cat. Sighhhhhhhh.
- OoooOOOOooooh O’Malley and Duchess’ romantic rooftop moonlit conversation… which leads to TAIL-HOLDING!
- Can we take a moment to appreciate Froufrou? The horse? As someone who is very careful to acknowledge and adore all Disney horses I am ashamed to admit I completely forgot there even was a horse in The Aristocats, not to mention a female horse with actual speaking lines! Froufrou is BOSS. She seems pretty happy in her job but the second something fishy is up with Edgar she’s over it. (Also, he uses what might be considered a racial slurb by saying “straight from the horse’s mouth.”)
- But Edgar gets his comeuppance, the animals triumph, and just like in Lady and the Tramp, O’Malley gets adopted into the family.
- And to top it all off, we get a lovely, swinging, fourth-wall breaking farewell (like a curtain call!) from all the animal characters in the film, and a final nod to Napoleon and Lafayette’s running gag: “I’m the leader, I say when it’s over! ….it’s over.”
- The End!
Up Next: Ladies, hold on to your hats – and your confusing childhood attraction to foxes… get ready for Robin Hood!
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