Written by Hombre Divertido
In anticipation of the release of The Aristocats – Special Edition on February 5th, Disney recently held a special showing of the film at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. The Aristocats marks a time of simple elegance for the filmmakers at Disney. The story is simple but fun, and the animation is elegant. Set in Paris, the animators capture not only the environment but the era as well by keeping it simple and allowing each cel to serve as an artistic impression. This is most noticeable in the scenes of the city. The story is quite simple and bares some similarities to Lady and the Tramp which Disney released fifteen years earlier.
In The Aristocats we meet Duchess, voiced wonderfully by Eva Gabor, and her three kittens (Marie-Liz Kitchen, Toulouse-Gary Dubin, and Berlioz-Gary Clark) that live quite well in a beautiful mansion that they have the run of. When their owner; Madame Adelaide Bonfamille (Hermione Baddley) makes out her will, she leaves her fortune to the cats, and nothing to her butler Edgar (Roddy Maude-Roxby) who has served both her and the cats faithfully for many years. Upon finding out the contents of the will, Edgar decides to foil the feline fortune by disposing of the Aristocats. Edgar kitty-naps them in the middle of the night and abandons them in the middle of the countryside. Being the rich spoiled cats that they are, they are completely out of their element and unable to find their way home. Luckily they are discovered by O’Malley the Alley Cat voiced by the always enjoyable Phil Harris. With the help of O’Malley, and their friend from home Roquefort the Mouse, voiced by the legendary Sterling Holloway, the Aristocats manage to survive an adventurous trip home. During the trip, Duchess and O’Malley develop an appreciation for each other that leads to our happy ending.
Though an all-star cast of vocal talent was used on this film, including Scatman Crothers, Paul Winchell, and Pat Buttram, it is the inclusion of some that make for the primary flaw in this Disney effort. The use of Phil Harris and Sterling Holloway proved to be nothing more than distracting. These gentlemen are incredibly talented, but both had been featured prominently in Disney’s far more successful The Jungle Book just three years earlier, and Holloway had established himself as the voice of Winnie the Pooh long before that. Their roles in The Aristocats were not as demanding as previous projects, and certainly could have been handled by actors with less familiar voices.
With that said, the film is fun for the whole family, and a worthy addition to any collection. The animation is classic in its style, and the characters are fun with enough depth to allow each to be endearing to the audience. The new release features a virtual kitten game, a nostalgic behind-the-scenes featurette that showcases the music of the immortal Sherman Brothers, a deleted song, and more.
The special viewing at the El Capitan was attended by Gary Dubin (Toulouse) who was kind enough to answer a few questions. Dubin who continues to act and was most recently seen in a guest-starring role on 24 was only five at the time that he co-starred in The Aristocats, but you can still recognize the voice if you are standing in the theatre with him after just seeing the movie. Dubin, who was seeing the film for the first time since its original release, said that he had fond memories of filming the movie, and that he appreciated the simplicity of it and how that allows it to differ from the special-effects laden and computer-animated films of today. Dubin was accompanied by his wife who commented that he had grown up to be a lot like Toulouse. You’ll have to see the film to appreciate that comment.