The Disney Marathon: ‘The Aristocats’


You’d think with the social distancing of 2020 we’d have plenty of time to crank out these reviews, but in between teaching my classes at home while simultaneously homeschooling my kids…I’ve mostly been tired!

Expect a few more in the coming days though, because we’d booked the next week off to go to, ironically, Disneyland Shanghai and Hong Kong. Instead we’re stuck at home with a hundred-odd LEGO sets and Disney+. Could be worse off.

For those just joining us, this is a movie marathon with a twist. Myself (cranky 30s blogger), my son Josh (stoic 9 year old Nintendo obsessive) and my daughter Amelia (drama llama 7 year old princess wannabe) are watching Disney movies in a random order and ranking them. We hope to see interesting differences in how we organise our lists.

Film: The Aristocats

Released: 1970

Director: Wolfgang Reitherman

Cast: Eva Gabor, Phil Harris, Gary Dubin, Liz English, Dean Clark, Roddy Maude-Roxby, Scatman Crothers

Plot: Upon learning that his employer – a wealthy Parisian woman – intends to leave her fortune to her cats, the butler abandons them in the wild. The upper-class Duchess and her three kittens rely on alley-cat Thomas O’Malley to get them home.

Review: Well…in an era when I’m compelled to write about rich people being the despicable villain of modern horror watching this movie leaves a bad taste. The plot boils down to a highly privileged woman learning to enjoy the novelty of poor people on her one outing from the gated estate. Once the family of cats has been dumped on a roadside we follow them on a roadtrip, encountering one stereotype after another.

This movie isn’t without its charms, but it emerged at a time when Disney was on the back foot and doesn’t do much to distinguish itself from other recent releases. The Paris, 1910, setting was intended to be a distinct aspect of the movie, but as it doesn’t add much to the visual style of the story it feels incidental. The Aristocats is one of the movies that was heavily recycled into Robin Hood, including most of the voice cast, which is plenty distracting for those who grew up watching that classic. The sketchy style of art used throughout this era is another factor that hasn’t aged terribly well.

It may sound like I don’t like this movie, which isn’t the case as it’s a fun family adventure. The voice cast is superb throughout and the sequence with Scat Cat and his Jazz loving gang of alley-cats carries most of the personality in the film. The legendary Scatman Crothers lends his voice to Scat Cat, and the signature number of ‘Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat’ is one of the best musical sequences in the Disney canon. It’s a song that sees the band playing without missing a beat as they come crashing through the floors of a collapsing building and just keeps on going.

Unfortunately we also have one of the more egregious racial stereotypes in the form of Shun Gon. It’s Mr. Yunioshi levels of uncomfortable.

“Shangai, Hong Kong egg foo yung, fortune cookie always wrong.”
This line of the song is not like the others.

Some poorly aged aspects aside, this is a harmless tale for younger audiences. It’s not going to do anything to challenge the viewer. With the story being as thin as it is, there’s quite a bit of padding, including a pair of comedic dog characters who keep popping up even though they never even meet the lead characters. It’s a movie that is…competent. And briefly very racist.

Best Song: ‘Ev’rybody Wants to be a Cat’ is always a banger.

Weirdest Trivia: There was a 2005 CGI sequel on the slate for a short while…John Lassaestsr canned that along with sequels to Chicken Little and Meet the Robinsons.

Rating: SIX out of TEN

THE RANKING

ME

Click on the titles if you want to see what we said about these films!

When you’re dealing with such an impressive track record as Disney Animation you need to do more than ‘competent’.

  1. Robin Hood
  2. Aladdin
  3. Big Hero 6
  4. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  5. Emperor’s New Groove
  6. Fantasia
  7. The Aristocats
  8. Treasure Planet
  9. Chicken Little

AMELIA

No doubt having a goose names ‘Amelia’ helped endear this movie to the youngest member of the family. She says that it was a really nice movie, with an easy to understand story, and rated it quite highly.

  1. Robin Hood
  2. Emperor’s New Groove
  3. The Aristocats
  4. Aladdin
  5. Treasure Planet
  6. Big Hero 6
  7. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  8. Chicken Little
  9. Fantasia

JOSHUA

Joshua described this movie as ‘mostly ok’, but nothing stood out to him as memorable. He was a bit horrified at the butler being shipped in a crate at the end for some reason.

  1. Big Hero 6
  2. Aladdin
  3. Emperor’s New Groove
  4. Treasure Planet
  5. Robin Hood
  6. The Aristocats
  7. Fantasia
  8. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  9. Chicken Little