Directed by: Wolfgang Reitherman
Written by: Ken Anderson/Larry Clemmons/Eric Cleworth/Vance Garry/Julius Svendsen/Frank Thomas/Ralph Wright
Based on story by: Tom McGowan/Tom Rowe
A guy walks into a talent agent’s office…
People kind of forget about this one. And…well…I can kinda see why. It’s certainly not a bad film, but it’s just sort of unmemorable. And it seems like an apology to cats after so many films made them into antagonists.
It’s 1910 in Paris and Duchess (Eva Gardner) and her three kittens are living it up as the spoiled pets of Madame Adelaide Bonfamille. She’s getting on in years, so she’s written a will that leaves all of her money to her cats until their passing. Then the money goes to her butler, Edgar. For some reason, instead of just taking care of the cats for the years that they have left and basically just having pets, Edgar feels like he needs to kill the cats so that he can get all of the money.
Edgar is probably the dumbest villain in Disney history.
He sedates the cats and leaves them out in the country, thinking that no one will suspect him. Unfortunately, he’s right. Madame is apparently non-too smart, either.
Lucky for Duchess and her kiddos, they meet up with the stray, Thomas O’Malley (Phil Harris). He saves their lives a few times, helps them get on a truck, and ends up going back to Paris with them. Naturally, there’s love in the air.
So…you’ve all seen Lady And The Tramp. Here it is in cat form.
Meanwhile, there’s a mouse named Rochefort who fancies himself a detective. He’s trying to figure out what happened to Duchess and the kittens, too. (We’ll see many more mouse detectives in just a few years. At least three.)
The Aristocats is a fun movie, but it’s certainly a let down after the strength of The Jungle Book. It’s just as jazzy and “Everybody Wants To Be A Cat” is pretty awesome. But it’s the only song anyone remembers from this movie. And pretty much the only sequence anyone remembers! It’s also super racist. Scat Cat is the leader of the band. He’s voiced by Scatman Crothers, which is pretty awesome, but he’s also pretty stereotyped. Then there’s Shun Gon, the Chinese pianist/drummer. He has buck teeth, plays piano with chopsticks and has a terrible accent thanks to British comedian Paul Winchell. Way to go, Disney.
This was the last film that Disney approved before he died. As such, it holds a special place in Disney lore. But it’s not one of their best. Too much-rehashed stuff going on. It was also the last animated feature to have songs by the Sherman Brothers. (They had written for the studio since 1961, including “It’s A Small World After All”.) They had one more Disney film in them (Bedknobs & Broomsticks), but were done with how they were treated after Walt died in 1966.
Also listen for Maurice Chevalier, who came out of retirement to sing the opening song.