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DISNEY

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Wolfgang Reitherman
Cast:
Phil Harris, Eva Gabor, Liz English, Gary Dubin, Dean Clark, Sterling Holloway, Roddy Maude-Roxby, Scatman Crothers
Writing Credits:
Ken Anderson, Larry Clemmons, Eric Cleworth, Vance Gerry, Tom McGowan, Tom Rowe, Julius Svendsen, Frank Thomas, Ralph Wright

Tagline:
Meet the cats who know where it's at ... for fun, music and adventure!

Synopsis:
Disney's 20th full-length animated masterpiece, The Aristocats is an unforgettable mix of wild adventure, colorful characters, and jazzy music your family will find absolutely irresistible! This enchanting tale begins in Paris, when a kind and eccentric millionairess wills her entire estate to her family - a family of adorable high-society cats. But when Edgar, the greedy butler, overhears her plan, he catnaps Duchess, the elegant, soft-spoken mother, and her three mischievous kittens and abandons them in the French countryside. Soon, they're being escorted home by the charming Thomas O'Malley, a rough-and-tumble alley cat, who takes them to his "pad" along the way, where Scat Cat and his band of swingin' jazz cats perform the memorable "Ev'rybody Wants To Be A Cat." Enriched by "high-style Disney animation" (The New Yorker) and toe-tapping music by Academy Award(R)-winning songwriters the Sherman brothers, The Aristocats is a timeless treasure and the last animated feature to get the nod from Walt Disney himself.

Box Office:
Budget
$4 million.

MPAA:
Rated G

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Surround 2.0
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 79 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 4/4/2000

Bonus:
• Theatrical Trailer
• Read-Along Storybook
• Trivia Game
• Preview Trailers


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Aristocats: Disney Gold Classics Collection (1970)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 4, 2008)

And so began the era of Walt Disney Studios after the death of its founder and guiding light. This new world started not with a bang but with a... purr. The Aristocats, the first animated film to emerge from Disney that did not include the direct involvement of Walt, appeared in 1970. Although it did okay at the box office, it didn't exactly inspire confidence in the studio's ability to prosper without their leader.

1967's The Jungle Book was actually the first animated offering to hit screens after Walt died in December 1966, but most of the film was completed at the time of his passing. Walt wasn't really all that involved in the creation of the movie, since he'd become much more interested in other affairs such as the theme parks, but information indicates that his simple existence offered a kind of moral support and reassurance they would be lost without him. Walt may not have been a very active participant, but he remained invaluable.

In actuality, The Aristocats wasn't a completely unknown property at the studio before Disney died. The story originally was planned as a candidate for a live-action TV movie, but Walt preferred to develop it as an animated film. Despite that start, no real work on the picture seems to have begun prior to Walt's demise, so The Aristocats required the crew of old stalwarts at Disney Animation to prove that they could succeed on their own. In that regard, it wasn't a very promising sign.

While I can't call The Aristocats a terrible movie, it's a pretty blah one. The film seems much more derivative than most Disney pictures, especially since the plot takes a lot of 101 Dalmatians mixed with a little Lady and the Tramp. Both those films were excellent, but that doesn't ensure success for a melange of the two. Instead, it simply reminded me of the greater pleasures of those movies and made me wish I was watching them instead.

Although the plot resembles Dalmatians, the film's structure really mirrors that of The Jungle Book. Both that movie and The Aristocats have a nominal story but the picture seems much more interested in presenting random encounters with colorful characters than it does forwarding the narrative. As such, The Aristocats meanders badly much of the way, as entire subplots just vanish for extended periods of time. This movie seems awfully long for one that's less than 80 minutes in length.

The characters in the film are wholly unmemorable. For The Aristocats, Disney continued the questionable and lazy practice started in The Jungle Book whereby the characters are little more than animated extensions of their actors, rather than truly distinctive personalities to which the actors add additional components. The process seems even less worthwhile in The Aristocats since ennui dictated that one of Book's most notable actors - Phil Harris - would return with a major part in the new film. Indeed, J. Thomas O'Malley comes across as nothing more than a feline version of Baloo, with a little Tramp tossed in for good measure. Bizarrely, the crew couldn't even get O'Malley's name correct all of the time. In his introductory song, he runs through a list of monikers included in his full title, but not a single one starts with "J"!

As Duchess, Eva Gabor plays... Eva Gabor, although in slightly-modified cat form. She'd really broaden her horizons six years later when she'd voice a mouse in The Rescuers. Shockingly, that film's Bianca also bore a tremendous resemblance to Gabor herself. (What are the odds?!) None of the other actors do much to distinguish themselves either, though stalwart Sterling Holloway makes Roquefort more compelling than he probably should be.

Not that the characters really seem worth the effort from the actors anyway. Probably worst of the bunch is our nominal villain, Edgar the butler. I suspect it's possible that Disney have featured a baddie less interesting and menacing than Edgar, but I doubt it. He's bumbling, he's stupid, and he presents no true threat whatsoever, which makes the story's machinations to make him seem nasty all the less realistic and provocative.

The Aristocats also presents some of the worst animation I've seen from Disney. The style of the art is interesting, as it's clear the animators based much of the imagery after the styles of French painters. However, this somewhat sketchy appearance does not look good on screen, as it causes lot of trouble for the clean-up artists and often seems terribly sloppy. Lots of small sketch lines can be seen throughout the film, and it looks quite messy at times. Even without that issue, the animation as a whole seems surprisingly bland and generic for a Disney picture

Yes, The Aristocats is the sight of Disney Studios on autopilot, and it's hard to blame them. The loss of Walt clearly was a blow to the organization, and it may have been unrealistic to expect anything more than a semi-competent, workman-like effort right off the bat. (Unfortunately, as we'll discover with subsequent releases, the trend wouldn't right itself for quite some time, but no one knew that in 1970.)

I really want to like The Aristocats, if just because the film possesses serious sentimental value for me; I still recall my days as a toddler when I'd crank the soundtrack and rock out to "Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat". I even have a photo that shows my four-year-old self dancing as I stare excitedly at the record's cover.

Unfortunately, memories don't make a movie good. The Aristocats is not wholly without charm, and it makes for a reasonably watchable film. However, I really like all sorts of Disney animated movies, and this is one of the few that largely bores me. It's a very bland, uninspired film that doesn't live up to the fine Disney legacy.


The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio B-/ Bonus D

The Aristocats appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. It seems completely unclear whether or not 1.33:1 duplicates the original theatrical ratio or not. IMDB indicates that the film's aspect ratio was 1.75:1. That may well be correct, but at this point, I don't think I'm going to find a definitive answer. All I do know is that I noted no signs of cropping on the sides of the frames at any point during the movie, so this edition does not seem to represent a "pan and scan" transfer. The original theatrical release may have used slight matting to achieve 1.75:1, but I also saw no evidence of too much space at the top or bottom of the frames; 1.33:1 looked about right to me.

For example of what I mean, look at the scene where the three kittens play "train" and they line up in a row. The cats are perfectly framed on the sides. We see each kitten from nose to tail with no loss of even a whisker. While the cropping required by a mildly matted ratio like 1.75:1 would not be severe, we would have noticed some loss of side image, and I noted absolutely no indication this happened. While this discussion won't settle the argument about the original aspect ratio, I hope it will at least put your mind at ease and you won't fear that the image will be cropped on the sides.

As far as the quality of the picture went, it was generally decent but not better than that. Sharpness usually was fairly good, though the vagueness of much of the art lent the film a much more tentative look than usual. Some softness could be noted at times in wider shots, and the movie failed to demonstrate terrific clarity. No moiré effects appeared, and jagged edges were minimal, but I saw some light edge haloes. Print flaws seemed essentially absent. I noticed a few small specks and blotches but nothing heavy.

Colors were inconsistent. For the most part, they appeared clean and vivid, but at times they could look somewhat muddled and blotchy. Take the "Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat" sequence with its "psychedelic" overtones. These hues seemed flatter and paler than they should. Colors weren't a real problem with the film, but I simply felt they had some occasional weaknesses.

Black levels were also a bit of a concern because some parts of the image seem darker than they should. Dark tones appeared nicely deep, but the shadow detail could be weak. Look at dark-furred kitten Berlioz and dog Napoleon; you could barely see any detail in their faces or bodies much of the time. To be honest, I thought this flaw was the most annoying problem with the image. It simply shouldn't be that difficult to make out the faces of some cartoon characters! Despite these issues, the overall quality of The Aristocats seemed fair.

The film's Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack also seemed decent but unexceptional. What was originally a monaural soundtrack has been remixed into a passable surround mix, with unspectacular but acceptable results. Really, the audio remained largely monaural with little more than music coming from the side and rear speakers. A few minor effects popped up on the sides, but nothing memorable occurred. Other than the minor stereo music – which failed to develop good delineation – this was essentially a mono track.

The quality of the audio appeared generally acceptable. Voices seemed pretty clean and natural, and effects were clear and free from distortion. Some of the foley choices were odd - such as a squeaky shoe that showed no resemblance to that noise - but they were reproduced with acceptable definition. The music occasionally came to life to a minor degree, but the score and songs usually seemed fairly thin and undefined. Ultimately, The Aristocats sounded decent for a 37-year-old movie, but it lacked much pizazz.

A few extras complete the package. We find what appears to be the original theatrical trailer plus a pretty easy 17-question trivia game meant for kids. There’s also a disc-based storybook that allows children to read along with a retelling of the plot. The text is accompanied by drawings and you can go through it with or without narration. All this amounts to something, which is generally better than nothing, but not by much in this case.

A few ads open the DVD. We get promos for Dinosaur, The Fox and the Hound, The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea and Toy Story 2. These also can be accessed through the Preview Trailers menu.

I'm a serious fan of Disney animation, and I'll buy every release they see fit to throw my way. It feels idiotic at times, but that's the burden that goes with being a completist. As such, I own a copy of The Aristocats but I won’t watch it much. It’s a bland, forgettable flick. The DVD presents decent picture and audio but lacks substantial extras. This turns into a mediocre release for a dull movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.0526 Stars Number of Votes: 19
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main