The Aristocats

tn_aristocatsFor some reason I am reviewing THE ARISTOCATS. You gotta fuck around and try out different shit sometimes, as my dear grandmother used to say.

THE ARISTOCATS is not one of the better Walt Disney pictures in my opinion. It was the first one they made after Disney’s death, although he’d approved it before he died. It seems to rehash parts of LADY AND THE TRAMP and 101 DALMATIONS without being as good as either. At the beginning a nice old rich lady in Paris is drawing up her will and since she has no living relatives she wants to leave it all to her cat Duchess (Eva Gabor, the same voice as Miss Bianca in THE RESCUERS) and her three kittens. This is upsetting to her human butler, who responds by giving the cats date rape drugs and abandoning them out in the country.

For a second I was thinking I’d already seen this, it was so familiar, but then I realized I was thinking of GARFIELD: A TALE OF TWO KITTIES, which had almost the same plot. But great minds think alike, you know.
Duchess immediately runs into Thomas O’Malley (Phil Harris, the same voice as Baloo in THE JUNGLE BOOK). His low voice made me think it would be cool if Johnny Cash played him, but then I realized how much he sounds like John Wayne, and that’s really the type of character he is.

Thomas claims to be an alley cat, so I’m not sure why he’s out in nature. But he flirts with Duchess, calls her “baby” alot, and helps them travel back to Paris to confront the butler.

The crazy part is when Thomas brings these Aristocats over to the ramshackle house where he stays when he’s in Paris. He doesn’t have an owner – this is a squat or a flophouse or something. He hears that his friends the Scat Cats (led by the voice of Scatman Crothers) are in there and he says they should go somewhere else, ’cause “They’re not your type” and “they’re real swingers!” But Duchess wants to go in. She’s adventurous.

still_aristocatsThe Scat Cats play a song for them, “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat.” They’re jazz musicians. Man, I’ve seen THE CONNECTION, I know what’s going on here. These cats are shooting heroin in the bathroom. That’s probly why they wear hats and ties and stuff, to cover the track marks. Or to have something to tie off with. You can see why Thomas didn’t want to bring the kids in here. They get crazed, everything starts flashing different colors. During the climax the camera starts shaking up and down, even though they’re just drawings. That’s some intense music. Good song. Although I gotta say I could do without the out-of-the-blue Asian caricature, a cat playing piano with chopsticks. It doesn’t even fit the jazz theme. They had to go out of their way to get some racism in there.

Now let’s address the class issue. This is a story for the one-percenters who would think it was bad for a butler to be upset that he loyally served this lady for decades but she would rather give her estate to fucking animals than to him. It acts like he’s the crazy asshole. It’s suspicious of the help like white ladies in THE HELP.

I want to repeat, he is a human being who has bent over backwards to serve her needs for years and years and years. They are animals who eat out of a bowl on the floor and shit in a box. It is true that this is a world where animals can speak English to each other, fall in love and play jazz music, but no human knows about this, and even if they did, it would be clear that there is no sane reason to give your money to them and not to the human. They don’t have any way to use money, and if they did I guarantee you the Scat Cats steal it and blow every last cent on dope. Money is a human system, in my opinion, it was never meant for domestic animals. Where would they keep their wallets.

That’s how bad classism is. Even to a nice old lady like this, the servant class are lower than box-shitting domestic creatures that puke up hair on the floor all the time and think nothing of it. So there is some serious class conflict going on here. But within the animal world there’s not so much division. There’s a mouse named Rocquefort (Sterling Holloway, the same voice as Winnie the Pooh) who lives at the mansion and is more upset than anyone about the disappearance of the cats. He tries to investigate, but doesn’t call in the Rescuer Society. Maybe they don’t do cat cases. Or maybe he’s a dead beat dad or something and they’d bust him if he called them.

There’s also some geese who don’t fear the cats. The only inter-species tension is between Rocquefort and some alley cats, who threaten him until they find out O’Malley sent him. This suggests again that it’s a class issue. In this movie only the poor or working class have malice in their hearts.

To her credit, Duchess never seems put off by Thomas’s lower status or hobo lifestyle. She just thinks he’s great, and more in an accepting grandmotherly way than in a condescending touristy way, though obviously she knows she’s going back to her mansion ASAP. The rough part is how the movie acts like he’s this wonderful free-spirited cad, but at the end he lives with them at the masnion, and Madame even combs his hair like a square. I know it’s a happy ending because they’re in love and he likes those kids and everything, but this means no more wandering for Thomas O’Malley. No more falling into rivers. No more jazz? Well, I guess his junkie friends do come over at the end.

Anyway, not a great movie, but one of the only Disney cartoons about homeless junkies. And the background paintings are nice.

This entry was posted on Sunday, February 10th, 2013 at 10:18 pm and is filed under Cartoons and Shit, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

33 Responses to “The Aristocats”

  1. I can honestly say that I did not expect this to be your next review. Although I haven’t seen this movie since I was a kid and remember little about it except for that jazz freak-out scene, I do appreciate that you tackle issues of class and race even in a review of a below average Disney kids flick about talking cats. That’s what keeps me coming back here.

    It also reminded me of 1988’s OLIVER & COMPANY, Disney’s dog-centric, New-York-set, animated retelling of Oliver Twist. Not sure if the homeless dogs were junkies, although I’m pretty sure the chihuahua smoked a lot of weed.

  2. Shit, Vern, get out of my head! Just yesterday I had this movie running in the background while doing other stuff and thought “I wonder if Vern will review it one day”.

    Anyway, I have to admit that this is one of my favourite Disney movies. It’s not exactly deep and tries more to be an entertaining comedy, than an epic fairy tale, like most other Disney cartoons, but it always makes me smile when I see it.

  3. Oliver and Company. One of the few Disney films to teach children about the dangers associated with borrowing from a loan shark. I always wonder what the dude borrowed money for that he ended up living in a warehouse with stray dogs and why he thought teaching them to be pickpockets would be lucrative.

  4. This is the article that’s gonna finally get Vern over the 1,000 “likes” threshold on the face-book.

  5. Oooookay, I think I get what this review is aiming for. It’s meant to be a litmus test or a cautionary tale-type dealie, drawing its inspiration from that one OG Star Trek episode where the transporter goes wonky, and Evil Spock (w/the goatee) and Evil Kirk show up on the Enterprise from a parallel dimension, and wacky hijinks ensue.

    I looked it up, and that ST episode’s title is Mirror, Mirror… which takes its name from a quote from Snow White, a fairy tale that later became (ahhhhhh, wait for it…) an animated Disney movie. Coincidence, or a fiendishly clever inference?

    Do you see where I’m going with this? There’s an alternate/parallel dimension out yonder in which a website called http://www.suburbanitevern.com exists, and its admin guy reviews animated Disney movies and coming-of-age teen comedies starring Mandy Moore, Amanda Bynes, Lindsay Lohan, etc., and Owen Wilson yuckfests like Marley & Me, You Me and Dupree, and Marley, Me, Dupree, and You-Who All Group-Hug, Then Go To Costco.

    No Steven Seagal. No UNISOL movies. No exploration into the unique dementia that fuels the directorial efforts of Bob Goldthwait. Nothing even remotely BadAss.

    This review is giving us a small, brief (some might say daunting) glimpse into that parallel dimension. As far as object lessons go, it’s a doozy. I dunno about y’all, but I’d much rather be HERE [points at own computer monitor] than THERE [points out window at unseen computer monitor in a far-off constellation].

  6. talk about unexpected, but you should review more Disney movies Vern, I’m serious

    the only thing I remember about this one though is the “we are Siamese if you please!” song

    also Amazing Larry, no offense but Vern can review whatever movie he wants and often reviews flicks outside of his action movie wheelhouse, what’s wrong with him reviewing the occasional Disney flick? I like it when he mixes things up (see: The Fountainhead review)

  7. Griff, that Siamese song was in LADY & THE TRAMP. This movie had just a line about how “fortune cookie always wrong”.

  8. And Vern also reviewed MARY POPPINS too. I’m hoping for a CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG review some day.

  9. well shit, I guess I didn’t see The Aristocats then

  10. CrustaceanHate – Wasn’t O&C the one where I think Billy Joel voiced the dog or something? Considering his substance abuse history….yeah I think your theory pans out without having seen said movie. (I know I saw it as a tater tot in the theater, but nothing more.)

  11. Useless trivia: James Mangold was one of the writers of OLIVER & COMPANY.

  12. This is a landmark review, since I think it might just make Vern the only movie critic who has reviewed both THE ARISTOCATS and THE ARISTOCRATS. Plus I like imagining the former being used as the punchline to the joke that the latter is about.

    Anyway, this is one of those Disney movies from the interesting period right after Walt died, when the animation department, not being under his supervision any more, went off in a few different directions. The results were mixed. Some of the movies from this time still have their fans and share of acclaim (THE RESCUERS, THE FOX AND THE HOUND), others are, well…THE ARISTOCATS. Or the recycled-animation-heavy ROBIN HOOD. Actually, it’s interesting that in addition to THE ARISTOCATS (“101 DALMATIANS with cats”), this era also spawned BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS (“MARY POPPINS with Nazis”). So they were rehashing/recycling stuff all over the place.

  13. BTW, OLIVER & COMPANY is a remarkable snapshot of late ’80s cultural memes, now that I think about it. I mean, it’s got Billy Joel, Cheech Marin, and Dom DeLouise in the cast, and Huey Lewis did the theme song. I’m surprised they couldn’t find a part for Tiffany somewhere in there.

  14. Are you kidding about ROBIN HOOD? I’m pretty sure that’s the stealth favorite of all those movies you mentioned. I know tons of people, on this sight and in real life, who don’t really give a fuck about animation but love ROBIN HOOD. I’m the same way. If there’s any Disney animated movie that could be said to be a legitimate cult classic, it’s that one.

    Also THE BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER. People love that shit all out of proportion to the merchandising dollars it generated.

    Speaking of which, I got an idea the other day for a movie called CRAP. It would be live action but with CGI characters. It would be like BLT or TOY STORY, where stuff comes to life when people aren’t looking, but it would just be random bric-a-brac. Weird lamps, knick-knacks, ashtrays, the odd detritus of consumer culture. The story would be that the ugly secondhand possessions of a pair of stoner roommates (obviously the titular crap would be voiced by popular comedic actors. Seth Rogen is a given. Luis Guzman, too, probably) whose stuff comes to life and smokes their weed whenever they’re out of the room. Then one of the humans gets ahold of something some villains wants and hides it in one of the pieces of crap, which then gets taken by the villains, so the other pieces of crap go after it. This pits the various factions of people against each other, Tarantino knockoff style, since they think they keep getting double-crossed when the crap keep appearing where it’s not supposed to be. Then the end of the movie is the bad guys shoot each other and the crap gets put in the evidence locker, where they get to smoke confiscated weed to their hearts’ content.

    This movie would be terrible and it would make millions of dollars. Any takers?

  15. I do like ROBIN HOOD better than some of the other movies from that era, it just seems to be the one that gets brought up the most to show how they would recycle animation from older movies to cut corners (I think Snow White dancing with the dwarves was used in a similar scene with Maid Marian). But at least it’s a fun, mostly cohesive movie.

    I know a lot of people who love THE FOX AND THE HOUND, for whatever reason. And THE BLACK CAULDRON. That movie is often held up as the point at which the Disney animators said, “what the fuck are we doing, guys?”, and went on to make generally better-regarded movies, but it still has its fans. It’s kind of a mess, but I suppose if you were a kid in 1985 you might still have some nostalgia for it. IDK.

    I loved THE BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER when I was little, but it’s really bizarre in some ways. For a cartoon movie about cutesy anthropomorphic appliances, it has a lot of surprisingly dark, edgy stuff in it.

  16. Griff— It was a joke, homeslice. You may want to brush up on your sense of irony.

  17. Peter Ustinov’s performance alone makes ROBIN HOOD great. And he even voices Prince John in the German dubbing too! Completely flawless! Same with Christopher Lee in THE LAST UNICORN, but that’s not from Disney. But Phil Collins sings his songs for TARZAN in German, which is actually very difficult to understand at times. (“Sswei wäldn einä Familiäää!”) Danny DeVito recently also did the German version of THE LORAX. I only saw clips of it, but he is very easy to understand, despite his heavy accent.

    Anyway, if you feel the urge to review another Disney movie again, please consider ROBIN HOOD.

  18. My favorite hammy performance in an animated movie has got to be Vincent Price as the evil rat in THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE.

  19. And THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE should be reviewed by Vern after ROBIN HOOD. I’ve never heard the original language track of it, but Vincent Price said a few times that Ratigan was his favourite role.

    Anyway, I hope you don’t mind if I switch to Disney animation for TELEVISION, but am I the only one who thinks that this song is deliciously fucked up?


  20. Capefearwx: I almost wrote “The Aristocats!” as the last line of the review, but I think a buddy of mine already made that joke.

    It’s true, ROBIN HOOD has a very dedicated following. I know alot of people who list that as their favorite Disney movie even. I don’t get it.

  21. “I do like ROBIN HOOD better than some of the other movies from that era, it just seems to be the one that gets brought up the most to show how they would recycle animation from older movies to cut corners (I think Snow White dancing with the dwarves was used in a similar scene with Maid Marian). But at least it’s a fun, mostly cohesive movie. ”

    capefearwx – Another was THE JUNGLE BOOK, which if I remember wikipedia correctly was maybe the biggest hit movie the year it came out. Regardless

    ” But Phil Collins sings his songs for TARZAN in German”

    CJ Holden – ……why?!? If the unofficial international langua franca tongue of pop is English, then…I don’t understand why Collins did that then. Weird. (News flash, people don’t care about the lyrics to be quite frankly honest, its all about the sound/beat.) Reminds me of EMI making the Beatles re-record some of their hits into German, thus “She Loves You” becomes “Sie Liebt Dich.” (Folks, say that one 3 times fast.)

    “My favorite hammy performance in an animated movie has got to be Vincent Price as the evil rat in THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE.”

    capefearwx – Now that’s a forgotten title, really the beginning of the Disney Renaissance if you ask me. I’m quite fond of it. Not a great movie, but a decent movie that’s a decent execution of a decent concept. The climax is tops, and you gotta love Price’s part stopping his big musical number to kill off a henchman and then go right back to it.

    “BTW, OLIVER & COMPANY is a remarkable snapshot of late ’80s cultural memes, now that I think about it. I mean, it’s got Billy Joel, Cheech Marin, and Dom DeLouise in the cast, and Huey Lewis did the theme song. I’m surprised they couldn’t find a part for Tiffany somewhere in there.”

    But the JETSONS movie did, if I remember right she was brought in and re-recorded the lines done by the actress who had done that part since the original cartoons. Opps.

    Which is something that never made any fucking sense to me. What fans of actors will go pay to watch a movie where they can hear their voice? I’ve never understood that logic. Nevermind that starpower is lost when you dub the movie for overseas.

    If anything, cartoon starpower seems more important for studios than moviegoers. The only instance where that can be excused was maybe when Pixar had TOY STORY and Disney wanted stars to get attached to such a very risky project at that time. But otherwise its pointless.

    (Hell what do you know, Sandra Bullock has just been announced to voice the villain for The Minions movie. The power of Sabu-that-doesn’t-crash-through-tables!)

  22. RRA: Because it’s probably better PR to have someone like Angelina Jolie to voice your film than Billy West. I’m sure that’s part of the studio’s reasoning behind it. I definitely get where you’re coming from, especially considering voice work is it’s own industry.

  23. RRA: I don’t get the famous-celebrity- in-a-cartoon thing, either, unless that celebrity has a distinctive voice that adds to the character they’re voicing. Vincent Price as Ratigan? Fantastic. But there’s really no point to Billy Joel per se voicing Dodger in O&C, unless it’s so you can market your movie as having Billy Joel in it. Aside from his one musical number, his voice is pretty standard “tough New Yorker” fare.

    This is one reason that Pixar gets acclaim for what they do, because they seem to cast voice actors based on their actual voices, instead of how many tickets just their names will sell.

    I think THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE sort of got swept under the rug as far as late ’80s animated movies go largely because AN AMERICAN TAIL came out later that same year, and that movie was a huge phenomenon at the time. That was also during the period where Don Bluth’s movies were a legitimate threat to Disney on the animation front, and it looked as if Bluth was going to be the next big thing (this didn’t last too long, though).

  24. Useless trivia: THE JUNGLE BOOK is the most successful movie in Germany ever!

  25. Everybody who lists ROBIN HOOD as one of their favourite Disney films is a closet furry. Sorry to out you like this, Mr M.

    And yes, of course the casting of big-name celebs is for marketing purposes. You can’t have some nobody voice actor shamelessly pimping your latest talking animals sequel on Letterman. When it comes to kid flicks, the marketing, PR and merchandising is king. The movie is an afterthought.

  26. Mr. M, how much money do you need to make CRAP a reality? Kickstarter that shit!

  27. Say what you want about Disney films from this era, but their choice of voice actors was spot on. Today’s CGI movies could learn a lot about the way that Disney choice voice actors for their voice rather than their goddamn marquee presence. I also agree that Peter Ustinov’s role as Prince John is far and away one of the best performances of his career. There are so few villains out there that manage to be the butt of the joke and at the same time can become a viable threat. The way his vocals swing from humor to outright villainy is unmatched. I’m giving myself away here, but Robin Hood is probably my favorite Disney film (The Sword and the Stone rivals it a bit). It’s the only Disney film I actually own on DVD, and I’ve watched the damn thing at least a dozen times since childhood. It’s one of the few kid’s movies that I feel is just as entertaining as an adult (I try to steer clear of unnecessary nostalgia).

  28. “Peter Ustinov’s performance alone makes ROBIN HOOD great. And he even voices Prince John in the German dubbing too! Completely flawless!”

    This is flabbergasting news. PJ is maybe my most-quoted Disney character, and to hear the same voice doing those strident German consonants would be next level.

    I don’t think reviewing this is quite as weird for Vern as THE FOUNTAINHEAD, but whatevs! Funny to see all the Disney nerdishness it brought out of the woodworks. A lot of these Disney movies suck compared to how you remember them from your childhood…SWORD AND THE STONE was a pretty smarmy little rip off of a movie when I revisited it.

  29. I enjoyed Robin Hood quite a bit as a kid and was surprised to learn later that it had such a poor reputation.

    I think a main reason it’s fondly remembered by a lot of people is that you could actually freaking see it. Back in the 80s, the only Disney animated films that ever seemed to play on TV (even on the Disney Channel) were Robin Hood, Alice in Wonderland, Sword in the Stone, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. All of which I think were considered second-tier quality at the time, which was probably why they weren’t jealously guarded in the Disney vaults like all the others. So if you had a VCR you could tape them off TV and then watch them whenever you wanted, which wasn’t the case with, say, Snow White.

    Also, the fact that Robin Hood is (if I remember right) kind of an easygoing light-hearted comedy throughout, with no really big wrenching emotional scenes a la Pinocchio or Bambi, probably adds to its appeal. Sometimes the more innocuous movies have more rewatchability than the heavier capital-M masterpieces.

  30. Oh, and another pro-Robin Hood theory…

    Most of the old Disney cartoons either had a female protagonist that cared about dresses and tea parties and singing and playing house, or a male protagonist who was wide-eyed and clumsy and naive. Robin Hood is I think the only one of the old Disney cartoons that had a grown-up male hero who is kind of cool and gets to defy authority in a Ferris Bueller kind of way. It’s also less sentimental overall, as I recall. So it maybe has an extra appeal to boys that the other ones lack, even if the others are better movies overall.

    Unless it’s actually girls who are sticking up for Disney’s Robin Hood, which would blow my theory. Man, I haven’t even thought about this movie in ages. Thanks, guys, for bringing it up.

  31. For some reason I used to watch this a lot with my kid sisters back in the late 90’s. With that said if I ever hear “Everybody Wants to be a Cat” ever again I’ll probably choke a bitch.

  32. Oh yeah and I’d much prefer to watch THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE than any of those Guy Ritchie Sherlock movies any day of the week.

  33. I had no idea Vern had reviewed this till I saw the link in the ROCK-A-DOODLE piece.

    From time to time on the internet someone will pose the question, “Which movie villain was right?” and people will chime in mentioning Killmonger and the EPA guy from GHOSTBUSTERS, and fair enough. But the true answer is Edgar the butler. Just imagine suffering through decades of back-breaking work for that monstrous millionaire, only to be told that all of her money is going to her cats.

    The film is set in a time when sacks of kittens were routinely drowned in rivers, but Edgar just releases them into the countryside. Even in the depths of his extremity, as his plans are crumbling about him, he never wants to kill the cats. He tries to ship them in a crate to Timbuktu. And for an instant, there’s a hint of a better movie that might have been. Imagine a cross between Disney and Peter Rabe’s THE BOX, where Duchess and her kittens are driven mad during the voyage by the weeks of claustrophobia and isolation, and finally emerge from their crate into the harsh Mali sunlight — blinking, trembling, and hellbent on revenge.

    But no, the alleycats show up and save them all. This film is trash.

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