The Aristocats Reviews
Disney's The Aristocats is such a charming, almost compelling story that I wished the narrative didn't need to interrupt itself so sporadically with jazz-fueled musical numbers amongst not only cats, but dogs and a variety of other animals. The musical interjections, that push this Disney film over the edge into being a full-blown musical like most of their films in this respective era, unfortunately disrupts the magic these feline characters manage to conjure up when they are just trying to sift their way through their poor circumstance.
The result, as one can expect, is a film that you say "aww" to over a dozen times and a film that has you either tapping your foot or rocking your legs in melodic harmony with the music. The Aristocats is a simplistic story, concerning a wealthy woman named Madame Adelaide (voiced by Hermione Baddeley) in 1910 Paris that has just signed a will granting her lavish estate to her cat Dutchess (Eva Gabor) and her three kittens. This move greatly upsets her jealous, hot-headed English butler Edgar (Roddy Maude-Roxby), who has slaved away at serving Madame Adelaide for years and has ostensibly gotten nothing in return. As a result, Edgar conjures up a plan to get rid of the cats so when Adelaide dies, he can inherit the estate. He rounds up the four cats and throws them into the street, where the four homebody felines must learn to survive in order to be reconnected with their Madame.
On the long, rainy, and uncertain road back home, Duchess meets a gentle feral cat named Thomas O'Malley (Phil Harris), who has been living off the land for many years. O'Malley is kind to Duchess, as he recognizes their predicament, but most important to note is how well he responds to her kittens, playing with them and assisting them whenever they need it. Both him and Duchess strike up an affable relationship as the gang tries to get back home, but not without a few musical numbers slowing them down along the way.
The Aristocats, in a strange way, could almost be seen as a parable for single parent-dating or "getting back out there," especially for a woman who has children, which is no easy process. The film showcases such a challenge with admirable conviction and a willingness to have long stretches without musical numbers or any kind of distractions in order to allow this relationship to build. For an animated film in the modern day, even some of the best ones stamped with the Disney or Disney Pixar approval can't help but feel a bit scatterbrained in some sense, stepping over their toes to try and cover all the bases in subplots, character relations, and cause-and-effect relationships that are questionably worthy of being a focus in said film.
The Aristocats was birthed in a time when animation took a more relaxed and reserved approach, which is why we could see Duchess, O'Malley, and Duchess's kittens do everything from hop aboard a train to meet two snobby swans in a river below a bridge. This kind of fluid, real-time focus on the characters makes the process and narrative development all the more natural. Of course, the film cuts back to Madame Adelaide desperately trying to find her cats, along with Edgar's conniving plan to make sure the furry beasts will never come home, and the jazzy musical numbers occasionally get in the way of a film that's already extremely short (a mere seventy-eight minutes). However, nothing truly distracts from The Aristocats being simple, effervescent entertainment with a plethora of fun characters, a timely moral, and, okay, some pretty catchy jazz numbers as well.
Voiced by: Edna Gabor, Phil Harris, Hermione Baddeley, and Roddy Maude-Roxby. Directed by: Wolfgang Reitherman.