Sunday, May 20, 2012

D52 - Week 20 - The Aristocats

Kevin's Groovy Part:
It's tricky to judge The Aristocats as a whole because it comes across as more than one movie going on at a time. There's the story of a mother cat and her three children (what happened to their original father anyway?) making their way back home in an awfully familiar (101 Dalmatians-esque, down to recreating at least one certain scene) way and meeting an alley cat on the way. There's the story of a butler who seems to have pulled off the perfect crime but has to go back to cover his tracks, running afoul of two hounds in the process.There's a scene with a drunk goose (I notice his feathers have a tint of grey. I wonder what type of alcoholic beverage he prefers best?). There's a mouse solving a case with his ADORABLE LITTLE SHERLOCK HOLMES HAT AND COAT AWWWW. There's a group of swingin' alley cats, who are the characters I most identified with the movie for the longest time, largely due to the trailers (I remember when I was much younger not knowing what an aristocrat was and not yet having seen The Aristocats but having seen the trailers and assuming being an aristoc(r)at had something to do with playing music).
The Duchess story is sweet enough, helped by O'Malley not being as creepy as he could've been made out to be. But going back to the 101 Dalmatians comparison. Whereas there was a sense of danger that the dalmatians could be found by Cruella or her henchmen at any moment, here the only fear is...that Duchess's owner heart-broken. But it's quickly enough established that O'Malley will be a able to help them greatly on their way, and since the butler already thinks he's solved his problem we know he's not going out to look for them, so they don't really have any apparent threat to keep them from eventually coming back home. Imagine how boring "Homeward Bound" would be if the pets didn't encounter threats like bears, a lion and a porcupine. Not to say that I want to see animals in dangerous situations. I do have to say, though, that it is rather refreshing to see a "swept down a river" seen that does not end with a waterfall (not being sarcastic here)! It's funny how O'Malley considers it more of an annoyance whereas any other TV or movie character would be in danger since every single non-Aristocats on-screen river has currents too strong to allow simply swimming to the shore.
My favorite character is Roquefort. He deserves a spin-off or something. But what was up with that scene where he hung on to the motorcycle only to be tossed off and ... then...then he, gave up and went back home, or something? Seems like there was a scene missing there. As if it was leading to him, as a result of being dropped at that point, running into the geese, who he could tell to follow the butler or relay a message. As it was a distractingly loose thread. But speaking of the least necessary characters, why did the gabbering geese have to be in this picture? Just change the script so that O'Malley knows how to get to London on his own, and bam. No need for geese. I guess chattering ladies were just funnier back then, somehow. Uncle Waldo was even less important (his character's function seemed to be a reason for the girls to go off on their own), but at least he has some great facial animation. He deserves his own comic strip. The butler scenes as as funny as some of the better Disney shorts (and speaking of shorts, huh-huh!). Same with the scat cats sequence. They obviously have something to do with the main plot, but they also could've very well been just the stars of a Make Mine Music-style music video short. And how about that jumpin' number "Ev'ry body Wants to be a Cat?" Yeah! Now quick, name any of the other songs before it!
And overall the unjointedness doesn't make The Aristocats a poor movie, as most of its scenes can be fun to watch, but it makes it hard to consider the whole thing "a movie."

Walt Disney World-related note, hoping you're not sick of hearing about Walt Disney World already: Guess which of the characters from The Aristocats could be met and gret in the France pavilion in EPCOT, at least as of January 2011. You would think it would be the most memorable possible character, like...uh, maybe O'Malley, or Duchess? It'd be funny if it was the butler, with some sort of pants-dropping mechanism.

Answer: Marie. I wonder how many kids actually recognized her and knew which movie she was from, as opposed to the ones who just wanted to see "the cute kitty-cat."


Aristocats needs a sense of focus.  Even more, it needs a sense of its OWN focus.  When I watch this movie, I can't help but think about the other movies that came before it.  101 Dalmatians comes to mind with the hitch-hiking and cross-country trekking.  Jungle book comes to mind when meeting random characters just to have a quick scene and maybe a song.  Lady and the Tramp comes to mind when trying to have a pair of domestic animals enjoying a love scene. Even Melody Time comes to mind when I think of a bunch of cats playing a song in bizarre mood lighting.

What I really see here is the loss of Walt himself.  Of course we all know that the last film he was able to work on before his death was Jungle Book, and with Aristocats directly following it, it's very clear how much influence he had over every detail. Granted, he had moved much of his focus to live action by that time, but his approval was still all over every film that came through.  Therefore what I see in this film is a group of artists who had always had outside direction, now finding themselves without it and turning instead to what had already been finished and had passed approval before. "Remember when Walt liked that scene? Let's do that one again but with cats."

Favorite Character: George! Why can't all little old men grow up to be fun loving hilarious octogenarian hipsters?
Least Favorite Character: Ah, I can't say I have a least favorite character for this movie.  Everyone was relatively bland and everyone served a part if even a small one to the story, some less convincing than others.  If I had to pick, I guess I would pick the butler, Edgar.  His motives make no sense at all to me.  Even if she leaves her fortune to the cats, he'd only have to wait until they die and even while he was waiting, he'd still be living in the huge mansion with the power to use her riches as he saw fit as long as he could invent a silly excuse as to how it benefits the cats.  Least logical villian (also least intimidating) ever.
Overall: Just because there's no focus doesn't mean it's not fun to watch.  Every scene reminds you of some other movie, but that alone is pretty enjoyable.


  1. Are you implying that "Scales and Arpeggios" was not also a charming song?

    1. It's plenty charming, just not very memorable. Well, you remembered it, but I suspect it may be because you had just seen it recently. Would you say you'll remember "Scales and Arpeggios," say, a year from now? Well, maybe you'll remember it as a result of that challenge in itself, which may make this a self-defeating prediction.

      Only two Aristocats songs make it onto the 5-CD collection "Classic Disney: 60 Years of Musical Magic," "Scales and Arpeggios" not being one of them, which seems to say something about it classic-ness status. Or maybe it says more about the classic-ness status of "The Aristocats" as a whole...

      So I guess what I'm saying is that my assuming no one knows any other Aristocats songs has more to do with the way certain Disney songs are promoted much more heavily than others, rather than saying the under-promoted ones aren't actually any good. Songs such as "Someday My Prince Will Come" are easily remembered but they probably wouldn't be /so/ memorable if I hadn't heard them in so many other places outside of their own movies (like covers, medleys, promotions for Disney in general).

    2. Maybe it also says something about the nonclassicity of this one that I've already managed to forget one of the songs they DID include in that collection! Namely, "Thomas O'Malley Cat".


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