The Aristocats (1970)

*Warning: This was one of my favorite Disney movies as a child, and after re-watching it I can firmly say that it remains as amazing as ever, so prepare for some pretty obnoxious fangirling.*

Paris. Jazz music. CATS. This was the absolute perfect blend of features for little-kid Jess that I could ever imagine, even before I consciously realized how amazing it was.

The Aristocats tells the story of a pretty white cat named Duchess and her three kittens. They live with a wealthy woman in the center of Paris, where they live a happy, privileged life.  That is, until the day when their owner’s butler, angry at being behind the cats in the line of succession in the lady’s will, kidnaps the cats, puts them in a basket, and drives them out of town.

The bulk of the movie focuses on their journey back to Paris and their loving owner.  Aided by the street-wise Thomas O’Malley (whose full name rivals Albus Dumbledore as longest of all time), the team of acts journeys across France and meets an assortment of odd characters in their quest to reach home.

The story itself is fairly straight-forward.  What makes The Aristocats so wonderful is the colorful cast of characters.  Each character has their own unique, distinct personality.  None feel superfluous and each adds a little something to the overall story.

My favorite character has always been Marie, the precocious little white kitten who is sweet and sassy all at once, and who I’m fairly certain influenced my entire knowledge of what a true lady is.

 

I love Marie more than I rationally should, but I don’t care.

One of my favorite interactions involves Duchess and her kittens meeting Scat Cat and his band, a jazz-loving group of alley cats who welcome the aristocats with open arms.

Although I didn’t love that some of the cats were blatant stereotypes (particularly the Siamese cat) overall this was a fun scene with an incredibly catchy song (“Everybody Wants to be a Cat” still gets stuck in my head every time I think of this movie).

The cats ultimately make it home and defeat the bumbling butler Edgar, at which point Duchess’s owner adopts Thomas and opens her home to all the alley cats in Paris (basically, exactly what I would do if I was a rich old lady.)

There are simply so many enjoyable aspects of this movie that it’s impossible to write about them in a flowing narrative. I find myself wanting to jump around and focus on anything and everything.  So, how about a list? We all know how I love lists.  This time, it’ll be a list of the wacky, enjoyable characters that make this movie as good as it is.

-Roquefort, the intrepid little mouse who does everything he can to help find Duchess and her kittens (and who is voiced by Sterling Holloway, a Disney staple of the time who would later go on to famously voice Winnie the Pooh.)

-Napoleon & Lafayette, the farm dogs who prove to be a perpetual thorn in Edgar’s side as he tries to dispose of the cats.  They also offer some of the more humorous lines in the film.

-Abigail and Amelia, frustratingly talkative English geese who lead the cats to Paris before meeting up with their eccentric and inebriated Uncle Waldo.

-Edgar, the primary antagonist of the film, who is far more of a bumbling idiot than a villain in the true sense of the word.

-Madame, the cats’ owner who is both kind and exceedingly glamourous. If ever I was to be a crazy cat lady, I’d want to be just like her.

-Lastly, George, Madame’s lawyer who is quite frankly older than dirt but still lively and entertaining.  Also, subtly hinted that he and Madame had/have a thing, which for some reason makes me incredibly happy.

These characters, along with so many others, each has their own distinct personality and adds to the fluffy fun that is this story.  Disney created a story here that not only has truly unique characters but that also tells a very clear story.  Whereas some of their earlier films felt as though characters were going from one vignette to the next with little to tie the scenes together, The Aristocats manages to create a seamless story that is engaging from start to finish. Perhaps it’s because I have such a fondness for this film, but I can’t help but think this might be the start of a new era for Disney movies, with more fully realized stories.  After some of the less polished films of Disney’s early days, I’m certainly excited to get into some of the more classic Disney films, and for me at least, The Aristocats certainly falls into this category.

-Jess

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