Archive for the ‘The Aristocats’ Category

DVD Review – ‘The Aristocats’ Special Edition

February 9, 2008
Image © Disney.

For the first time in eight years, Disney’s 1970 classic arrives on DVD with a fun story and clear restoration, but the lackluster bonus material questions its overall value.

By Blake

Originally posted February 9, 2008.

Now that I come to think of it, I don’t think one specific country has been the setting for an animated Disney movie more than France. Beauty and the Beast and Ratatouille prominently display the French setting in their respective films, and a touch of France is also subtly seen in Cinderella. Another Disney movie set in France, 1970’s The Aristocats, isn’t on the same grand scale as any of those three films, but still has plenty of charm, innocence, enduring characters, beautiful animation, and heaps of fun.

Originally advertised as a two-disc set to be released in March 2007, the new DVD of The Aristocats was eventually pushed back and degraded to a single-disc version, for reasons that are unknown. So, to say the least, it’s nice to have The Aristocats released again on DVD after an eight-year absence from the shelves.

The Aristocats Special Edition
Total Approx. Disc Running Time: about 122 minutes (about 2 hours, 2 minutes)
Highlight of Disc: Feature Film
Highlight Runner-Up: Deleted Song

The film itself (about 79 minutes) tells the story of a cat named Duchess and her three kittens, who are treated like royalty by their owner and are stolen by their greedy butler Edgar, who wants to take the fortune that their owner has left for the cats in her will. When the cats get lost and meet up with street alley cat Thomas O’Malley, he shows them Paris like they’ve never seen it before, filled with angry humans, wacky geese, and a jazzy bunch of alley cats. The film has lovable characters, catchy songs, and looks great – the new restoration only ups its value higher. The digital transfer is not too scratchy, yet not too gussied up, either.

Image © Disney.

Additionally, if you listen closely, you’ll recognize several Disney character voices from other films. Eva Gabor (Miss Bianca in The Rescuers) voices Duchess, Phil Harris (Baloo in The Jungle Book) voices Thomas O’Malley, Sterling Holloway (Kaa in The Jungle Book, Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, and Winnie the Pooh) voices Roquefort the mouse, Bill Thompson (White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, Mr. Smee in Peter Pan, Jock in Lady and the Tramp, and King Hubert in Sleeping Beauty) voices Uncle Waldo the goose, Hermione Baddeley (Ellen in Mary Poppins) voices Madame Bonfamille, and Paul Winchell (Tigger) voices the Chinese Cat.

So, the film is superb and the voice cast is great – but does the DVD package as a whole live up to the film? Well . . .

Bonus Features

Deleted Song (about 8 minutes) – Some DVD sets that include deleted scenes or songs would just have excluded portions of the film with no introduction or explanation as to why they weren’t used. Fortunately, that’s not the case here, where songwriter Richard Sherman presents two songs that weren’t used in the final cut of the film. First Sherman plays a rendition of the songs on piano, and then shows us behind-the-scenes footage of the voice-over recordings for the songs. Then the original recording of each song is played, accompanied by storyboard drawing to show us what might have been happening on screen when the songs were being sung in the film.

Disney Song Selection (about 11 minutes) – This feature simply plays the four songs from the movie consecutively with the lyrics on screen.

Disney Virtual Kitten (time varies) – Apparently Disney thought this game would be the definite favorite on this disc, because it’s been the “big draw” they’ve been advertising on the DVD’s commercials. However, I wasn’t expecting too much out of the Virtual Kitten – and my expectations were just about correct. The game is mainly aimed for the toddler/preschool set, but strains to be entertaining. Players simply do various activities to take care of their kitten, and then are rewarded a virtual surprise at the end.

Aristocats Fun with Language Game (time varies) – Another seemingly pointless activity, this game involves a voiceover person (a different one than the Virtual Kitten, though) listing several instrument names and showing the corresponding instrument image on screen. After he’s gone through the entire list of instruments, a name of each instrument is spelled on screen, and players have to match the word with one of the instrument images. Although its intent may be nice, I just don’t see an audience for this feature. It’s probably aimed at kindergarteners and first-graders who are just learning to read, but the instrument names such as “saxophone” and “violin” are simply beyond the kindergarten and first grade level. As for older children who can identify the words, they probably wouldn’t find any entertainment in this feature. So it’s a lose-lose situation here.

The Sherman Brothers: The Aristocrats of Disney Songs (about 4 minutes) – This feature really just guides us through the creation of the two used songs the songwriters Robert and Richard Sherman created for The Aristocats. As fascinating as this feature may be, I got really excited there for a minute only to be misled . . . they honestly could have come up with a better title.

Aristocats Scrapbook (time varies) – This is a very fascinating compilation of concept art, storyboards, sketches, paintings, publicity posters, and many more images (in fact, enough to fill up 18 pages of a virtual “scrapbook”). It’s also nice that, unlike many DVD art galleries, this one actually features captions so that we know what exactly we’re looking at. The only downside to this is that after every virtual “page” of the scrapbook, we have to return to the menu screen, turn the page, and click on an image to continue the slideshow. It does get annoying, but the images’ quality suffices that flaw.

The Great Cat Family (about 13 minutes) – An excerpt from a 1956 episode of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color television series, this is simply painful to watch and very “un-Disney”-ish. It begins with a brief introduction by Walt Disney, and then delves into the rather boring history of housecats. Having really nothing to do with The Aristocats whatsoever, I really question why this feature was even here in the first place.

Bath Day (about 7 minutes) – A feature to seem more and more common on Disney DVDs these days is a bonus classic cartoon short, and it certainly is nice to see these shorts highlighted once again on various DVD sets. The one featured here, Bath Day, is borrowed from 2006’s Walt Disney Treasures: The Complete Pluto Volume 2 DVD and is one of only three cartoons to have the main star be Figaro, Minnie Mouse’s pet cat (ironic, right?) that originally debuted as Gepetto’s cat in 1940’s Pinocchio. In this short, Figaro is given a bath and gets all gussied up, resulting in ridicule by the street alley cats and a humorous showdown between Figaro and the leader of the alley cats.

Figaro is featured in the short Bath Day. Image © Disney.

Sneak Peeks

The sneak peeks menu features previews for My Friends Tigger & Pooh, Handy Manny: Fixing It Right DVD, Little Einsteins: Race For Space DVD, Twitches Too DVD, 101 Dalmatians Platinum Edition DVD, Wall*E, Snow Buddies DVD, Hannah Montana: One In a Million DVD, and Disney Movie Rewards. Additionally, we’re treated to relatively new previews for Sleeping Beauty Platinum Edition, Tinker Bell, and The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning DVDs. One thing I took notice of in the new trailers was that they seemed very prestigious. I can’t exactly put my finger on what was different than Disney promos in the past, but they seemed to be less cheesy, less knock-off-ish, and more refined. Whatever it was, it worked, because now I’m super pumped for October to be here. 😉

Wrapping It Up

The Aristocats is a charming and often-neglected Disney animated classic that’s pure fun to watch. The new restoration has the film looking better than ever, but the bonus material fails to live up to the standard the movie sets. While the deleted scene and bonus short are nice touches, the games aren’t entertaining, and the 1956 TV excerpt is just boring. Fans that already have the film in their DVD collection have no need to upgrade, but those that don’t own the film will find it a happy addition to their set.

How do I rank The Aristocats Special Edition DVD? (Bolded is my choice.)
Good movie + Not good bonus features =

  • Aaah!
  • Blech
  • Not good
  • Good
  • Very good
  • Brilliant

The Aristocats Special Edition DVD will most likely please: Disney Fans – Toddlers (ages 1-2) – Preschoolers (ages 3-4) – Kids (ages 5-7)

By Blake; posted February 9, 2008. All images © Disney.


BlakeOnline Special – Reader’s Character Picks

March 10, 2007

Readers share their favorite Disney characters.

by Blake

Originally posted March 9, 2007.

Earlier, I asked who readers’ favorite Disney characters were. So, here now, are the BlakeOnline Reader’s Character Picks!

Thomas O’Malley from The Aristocats

Coming from an era of lesser-remembered Disney animated films, The Aristocats in none-the-less a charming tale of fancy Paris kittens and their mother that get lost in the wilds of France. Along the way, the kittens and their mother Duchess meet up with Thomas O’Malley, who teaches them how to live on the wild side.

Cool, calm, and laid back, O’Malley loves to just relax and take things pretty easy. Although this is entirely different than the way Duchess is used to living, Thomas O’Malley soon shows her how to see things his way, without worries.

What I found particularly odd about The Aristocats was that the most (for me, at least) humorous and entertaining parts of the movie did not feature cats, but dogs. The hounds Napoleon and Lafayette always earn several laughs from me throughout the film.

Baloo from The Jungle Book

Baloo is the living spirit of “chill.” Not having a care in the world, he proudly protects the “man cub” Mowgli and explores and plays with him around the jungle. Luckily, he had Bagheera the black panther to watch over him and keep him out of trouble! Figuratively, Baloo may be more of a child than Mowgli!

Reader Kenny wrote a poem about why he likes Thomas O’Malley from The Aristocats and Baloo from The Jungle Book:

“I know that you will find this odd
Which characters will get the nod

There were so many,
I didn’t know who
I couldn’t pick one
So I picked two!

The first pick of mine lives in an alley
Not many will not him
He’s C. Thomas O’Malley!

The second one smells and needs some shampoo
But he’s still one of the best
You guessed it – Baloo!

Now here’s where it’s weird
Like plaster of Paris
They’re both played by the same voice – Phil Harris!”

The next entry is part of Pirates Countdown 2007
Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean

Captain Jack seems to be Disney’s #1 most popular character right now, and with good reason. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (released in July 2006) was the #1 highest-grossing Disney film of all time and is only one of the THREE films in history to gross over one billion dollars. You’ll probably find Jack Sparrow in any mall of Wal-Mart you walk into lately – Disney tries to make the most of any character or movie when it’s successful, often overdoing themselves.

Jack Sparrow – sorry, Captain Jack Sparrow – is truly the ultimate villain: cunning, egocentric, clever, haughty, rude, greedy . . . yet we don’t view him as the bad guy. Instead, we view Davy Jones as the main villain. And we should – he’s definitely more powerful and more evil than Jack. But he’s on a different level of a villain. If you really want to get technical, the powdered-wigged generals at Port Royal are the good guys! If the good guys always won in the Pirates movies, the old guys at Port Royal would have Will and Elizabeth put to justice and Jack (permanently) dead.

In the Pirates films, the difference of good and bad is night and day compared to other films (especially Disney films). Jack Sparrow is really a villain, yet everyone is rooting for him (including me). But even now, as we are about to enter the third film in the series this May, the villain level turns on us again in a surprising plot twist.

What did readers say about Captain Jack? Readers Denise, Hunter, and Colton think that “Jack Sparrow is the very best Disney character ever designed.”

That’s quite a statement: and one that I’d gladly agree with.

Minnie Mouse from classic Disney cartoon shorts

Minnie is purely the ideal girlfriend. All for Mickey, she makes picnics, goes on outings, watches Mickey’s pet, bakes, plants, sews, shops, and so much more. Of course, the two wouldn’t want to be to sudden about their relationship – they would be rushing things if they got married after nearly 80 years of dating!

Minnie is loyal to her pals, particularly Daisy Duck. However, Daisy often gets Minnie into so many precarious situations (particularly in the television shows Mickey’s Mouse Works and House of Mouse) that Minnie wonders why she always puts up with Daisy! Daisy proclaims Minnie is her “only friend in the world.” Though, through compassion, mercy, and patience, Minnie always pulls through for Daisy when the duck needs it most.

Reader Lacey wrote an essay about why Minnie is her favorite character:

“‘Why?’ You ask. What’s not to like, she has cute clothes, long eyelashes, wonderful shoes, and a dashingly handsome boyfriend!!!

I would love to have that really cute red dress with the white dots on it. Everyone loves polka dots! And, you know those yellow shoes just set it off. Also, the bow . . . now that is an accessory! Every girl looks good with a bow in her hair.

She also has such a sweet voice, and she is kind to everyone. Now, the world could take a lesson from her. A soft voice and a kind spirit . . . think how much better the world would be if we all tried to be a little more like Minnie Mouse!”

Reader Melissa wrote a creative poem about Minnie:

“She’s got a smile on her face
And a twinkle in her eye
She loves to go shopping
And she dates a real cool guy.

Her name is Minnie Mouse
You can find her at Disney World.
Strutting around Ton Town
She’s quite a swingin‘ girl.

Her kitchen’s got cool gadgets
Her yard has pretty flowers.
She has a lot of friends
She’s the queen of Girl Power.

She’s been in lots of movies
Some would say she’s a star
Maybe you’ve gotten her autograph
Or seen her riding in a car.

I met Minnie one day
And she was very, very nice.
I even saw her ice skate
In a show: Disney on Ice!

Over the years Minnie has changed
But she’s still a real sweet gal
Lovin, laughin, making friends
And Mickey’s still her #1 pal!”

Pluto from the classic Disney cartoon shorts

Pluto may be the most complicated Disney character of them all. Because he doesn’t speak, his movements of face expressions have to clearly define his mood or thoughts. In the 40’s, when Pluto’s collection of shorts were in their “golden age,” animators would put mirrors at their desks to make faces in so they could successfully capture the expressions they wanted Pluto to use!

I’ll compare this subject to the walk-around characters at the Disney parks. Because most of the characters that are there to meet don’t have to capability to speak, it’s necessary to make head and arm movements to capture the characters’ feelings.

It’s the same situation with Pluto. Because he doesn’t speak, he has to move, walk, or look a certain way for the audience to understand how Pluto is feeling or what he’s thinking. He’s purely a dog. Loyal, dependant, protective, and yappy! As for Goofy . . .

Reader John wrote a poem concerning the Pluto/Goofy matter:

Poor Pluto

“Goofy, the dog, acts so crazy
And he’s surely not a scholar.
Things seem just a little hazy,
But he has clothes – you, a collar.

Pluto, on all fours you must walk
Goofy, meanwhile, can walk upright.
You can only bark, but he can talk.
Disney, it just does not seem right!

And, as if these things weren’t enough;
You’ve got no teeth, Goofy has TWO!
It seems to me you have it rough,
But, if it helps, we love you! Goofy, too!”

Peter Pan from Peter Pan

Peter Pan is truly a child in every sense. He loves to play, and takes every chance he gets to have some fun. He barely has any worries, which can sometimes get him into troublesome situations, especially involving pirates.

Reader Denise says, “He truly defines fantasy with a bit of most people’s reality. A little escape to a kid-like, fun filled, action packed, story land is always a dream for me, and many other adults I am sure!”

Well, that wraps up the Reader’s Character Picks! 🙂

By Blake; originally posted March 9, 2007. All images (C) Disney.