The Aristocats

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The Aristocats
Aristoposter.jpg
Original theatrical release poster
Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman
Produced by Winston Hibler
Wolfgang Reitherman
Written by Ken Anderson
Larry Clemmons
Eric Cleworth
Vance Garry
Julius Svendsen
Frank Thomas
Ralph Wright
Based on "The Aristocats" by Tom McGowan and Tom Rowe
Starring Phil Harris
Eva Gabor
Hermione Baddeley
Gary Dubin
Dean Clark
Sterling Holloway
Roddy Maude-Roxby
Liz English
Music by Score:
George Bruns
Songs:
Richard and Robert Sherman
Floyd Huddleston
Al Rinker
Terry Gilkyson
Production
company
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution
Release dates December 11, 1970 (premiere)
December 24, 1970 (regular)
Running time 78 minutes
Country United States
Language English
French
Budget $4 million[1]
Box office $55,675,257[2]

The Aristocats is an American animated feature film produced and released by Walt Disney Productions in 1970 and features the voices of Eva Gabor, Hermione Baddeley, Phil Harris, Dean Clark, Sterling Holloway, Scatman Crothers, and Roddy Maude-Roxby. The 20th animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, the film is based on a story by Tom McGowan and Tom Rowe, and revolves around a family of aristocratic cats, and how an alley cat acquaintance helps them after a butler has kidnapped them to gain his mistress' fortune which was intended to go to them. It was originally released to theaters by Buena Vista Distribution on December 11, 1970.

The film is noted for being the last film project to be approved by Walt Disney himself, as he died in late 1966, before the film was released. He had, however, been working in the story development for The Rescuers (1977) as early as 1962. The Aristocats gained positive reviews on first release and was a box office success.

Plot

In Paris in 1910, mother cat Duchess and her three kittens, Marie, Berlioz, and Toulouse, live with retired opera diva Madame Adelaide Bonfamille, and her English butler, Edgar. While preparing her will with lawyer Georges Hautecourt, Madame declares her fortune to be left to her cats until their deaths, and thereafter to Edgar. Edgar hears this through a speaking tube, and plots to eliminate the cats. Therefore he sedates the cats by sleeping pills in their food, and enters the countryside to abandon them. There, he is ambushed by two hounds, named Napoleon and Lafayette, and the cats are stranded in the countryside, while Madame Adelaide, Roquefort the mouse, and Frou-Frou the horse discover their absence. In the morning, Duchess meets the alley cat Thomas O'Malley, who offers to guide her and the kittens to Paris. The group briefly hitchhike in a milk cart before being chased off by the driver. Later, while crossing a railroad trestle, the cats narrowly avoid an oncoming train, but Marie falls into a river and is saved by O'Malley; himself rescued by two English geese, Amelia and Abigail Gabble, who accompany the cats to Paris. Edgar returns to the country to retrieve his possessions from Napoleon and Lafayette, as the only evidence that could incriminate him.

Travelling across the rooftops of the city, the cats meet O'Malley's friend Scat Cat and his musicians, who perform the scat song Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat. After the band has departed, O'Malley and Duchess converse on a nearby rooftop while the kittens listen at a windowsill. Here, Duchess' loyalty to Madame prompts her to decline O'Malley's proposal of marriage. Duchess and the kittens return to Madame's mansion, but Edgar places them in a sack and prepares to ship them to Timbuktu; whereupon they direct Roquefort to retrieve O'Malley. He does so, and O'Malley returns to the mansion, ordering Roquefort to find Scat Cat and his gang. This done, the alley cats and Frou-Frou fight Edgar, while Roquefort frees Duchess and the kittens. In the end of the fight, Edgar is locked in his own packing-case and sent to Timbuktu himself. Madame Adelaide's will is rewritten to exclude Edgar, with Madame expressing surprise at Edgar’s departure. After adopting O’Malley into the family, Madame establishes a charity foundation housing Paris' stray cats (represented by Scat Cat and his band, who reprise their song).

Production

This film was the last one to be approved by Walt Disney himself, and the first one produced after his death in 1966. The film took four years to produce, at a budget of $4 million. Five of Disney's legendary "Nine Old Men" worked on it, including the Disney crew that had been working 25 years on average.[3]

Cast of characters

  • Eva Gabor as Duchess - Madame Adelaide's cat and mother of three kittens; but forced to choose between loyalty to Madame and her own attachment to Thomas O'Malley, until the end of the film. Robie Lester provided the singing voice for Duchess.
  • Phil Harris as Thomas O'Malley (full name: Abraham de Lacy Giuseppe Casey Thomas O'Malley) – A feral cat who befriends Duchess and her kittens, becoming a father figure to the kittens and falling in love with Duchess.
  • Gary Dubin as Toulouse - the oldest kitten, who idolizes all alley-cats and especially Thomas. He is also a talented painter.
  • Liz English as Marie - Second-eldest kitten; often imperious or snobbish to her brothers, but her mother's especial companion. Something of a singer.
  • Dean Clark as Berlioz - the youngest kitten. He is somewhat timid and shy, but a talented pianist.
  • Roddy Maude-Roxby as Edgar Balthazar - Madame Adelaide's butler who tries to get rid of the cats in order to inherit her fortune.
  • Scatman Crothers as Scat Cat - Thomas's best friend and leader of a gang of jazz-playing alley cats. Scat Cat plays the trumpet.
  • Sterling Holloway as Roquefort - A house mouse and also a friend of the cats, who assists in the expulsion of Edgar.
  • Paul Winchell as Shun Gon - a Chinese cat in Scat Cat's gang. Plays the piano and drums made out of pots.
  • Lord Tim Hudson as Hit Cat - an English cat in Scat Cat's gang. Plays acoustic guitar.
  • Vito Scotti as Peppo - an Italian cat in Scat Cat's gang. Plays the accordion.
  • Thurl Ravenscroft as Billy Boss - a Russian cat in Scat Cat's gang. Plays the double bass.
  • Pat Buttram as Napoleon - a Bloodhound who attacks Edgar when he intrudes in the farm where Napoleon lives. Napoleon insists, whenever cohort Lafayette makes a suggestion, that he is in command, then adopts Lafayette's suggestion as his own.
  • George Lindsey as Lafayette - a Basset Hound and Napoleon's companion. He sometimes proves smarter than Napoleon, but is also more timid.
  • Hermione Baddeley as Madame Adelaide Bonfamille - a former opera singer and owner of Duchess and her kittens.
  • Charles Lane as Georges Hautecourt - Madame Bonfamille's lawyer: an eccentric, lively old man who provides comic relief by attempting stairs too steep for himself.
  • Nancy Kulp as Frou-Frou - Roquefort's horse companion, who subdues Edgar. Ruth Buzzi provided her singing voice.
  • Monica Evans as Abigail Gabble - a goose who befriends the cats.
  • Carole Shelley as Amelia Gabble - Abigail's twin sister.
  • Bill Thompson as Uncle Waldo - the drunken gander uncle of Abigail and Amelia.
  • Peter Renaday - French Milkman/Le Petit Cafe Cook/Truck Movers (uncredited)

Release

The Aristocats was re-released to theaters on December 19, 1980 and April 10, 1987. It was released on VHS in Europe on January 1, 1990. It was first released on VHS in North America in the Masterpiece Collection series on April 24, 1996, and on DVD on April 4, 2000 in the Gold Classic Collection line. The Aristocats had its Gold Collection disc quietly discontinued in 2006. A new single-disc Special Edition DVD (previously announced as a 2-Disc set) was released on February 5, 2008.

Disney released the film for the first time on Blu-ray on August 21, 2012.[4][5] The 2-disc Special Edition Blu-ray/DVD combo (both in Blu-ray and DVD packaging) will feature a new digital transfer and new bonus material.[6] A single disc DVD edition will also be released the same day.[7]

Reception

The film was the most popular "general release" movie at the British box office in 1971.[8]

Based on 29 reviews, the film has a 66% rating at Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 6/10, relatively low for a Disney animated feature, but still classified as "fresh". Of the reviews, 19 gave it "fresh" and 10 gave it "rotten".[9]

The film was nominated for AFI's 10 Top 10 in the "Animation" genre.[10]

Soundtrack

  1. "The Aristocats" - Maurice Chevalier. Ths title song from the film was written by Robert & Richard Sherman at the end of the eight-year tenure working for Walt Disney Productions. Actor and singer Maurice Chevalier came out of retirement to sing this song for the motion picture's soundtrack. It would be his last work before his death in 1972.
  2. "Pourquoi?" - A deleted song sung by Hermione Baddeley as Madame Bonfamille, who sings about her love for her cats while harmonizing with a recording of her own voice on a 78-RPM. Marie, voiced by Robie Lester, interrupts the song twice by asking her "Purr-quoi?", to which she replies "Because I am with you." The song, introduced by co-songwriter Richard M. Sherman (who recorded the demonstration recording), is featured among the extras in the 2008 Special Edition DVD.
  3. "Scales and Arpeggios" - Gary Dubin, Robie Lester, Dean Clark and Liz English
  4. "Thomas O'Malley Cat" - Phil Harris
  5. "Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat" - Phil Harris, Scatman Crothers, Thurl Ravenscroft, Vito Scotti, Paul Winchell. This song is sung by Crothers as Scat Cat, with the other members of his polyethnic jazz band. It was released as a now rare 45 rpm single, in a version sung only by Harris, which lacks the cartoon voices of the common release. The soundtrack CD released in 1996 contains an edited version of the song.[citation needed]

The lines sung by "Chinese Cat", voiced by Winchell, were later deemed politically incorrect and removed. However, they remain in the song as featured in the DVD release.[citation needed]

  1. "She Never Felt Alone" - Another deleted song, this number features a reprise of "Pourquoi?", sung by Robie Lester on her own with different lyrics, explaining why Madame loves her and the kittens. Lester's piano-and-voice demo is featured among the DVD extras, within the same section as "Pourquoi?"
  2. "Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat (reprise)" - Harris, Crothers, Ravenscroft, Scotti, Winchell, Ruth Buzzi, and Bill Thompson. A reprise featuring all of the animal characters in the film.

On Classic Disney: 60 Years of Musical Magic, this includes "Thomas O'Malley Cat" on the purple disc and "Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat" on the orange disc. On Disney's Greatest Hits, this includes "Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat" on the red disc.

International versions

In Italy the title was translated to Gli Aristogatti. Most of the characters maintained their original names but Thomas O'Malley was renamed Romeo, Er mejo der Colosseo ("The best of Colosseum" in Romanesco), and his origin changed from Ireland to Italy.

References

  1. ^ "Magical Kingdoms". Magical Kingdoms. 1970-12-24. Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  2. ^ "The Aristocats, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved January 10, 2012. 
  3. ^ "The Aristocats at the Disney Archives". Disney.go.com. 1970-12-24. Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  4. ^ "The Aristocats (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Special Edition in Blu-ray Packaging)". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  5. ^ "The Aristocats (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Special Edition in DVD Packaging)". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  6. ^ "The Aristocats: Special Edition | Now On Blu-ray and DVD Combo Pack". Disneydvd.disney.go.com. Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  7. ^ The Aristocats (Special Edition). "The Aristocats (Special Edition)". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  8. ^ The Times [London, England] December 30, 1971: p. 2; The Times Digital Archive; accessed July 11, 2012.
  9. ^ "The Aristocats at Rotten Tomatoes". Rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  10. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-11-27. 

External links