The Aristocats is an American animated feature film produced and released by Walt Disney Productions in 1970 and features the voices of Eva Gabor, Hermione Baddeley, Phil Harris, Dean Clark, Sterling Holloway, Scatman Crothers, and Roddy Maude-Roxby. The 20th animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, the film is based on a story by Tom McGowan and Tom Rowe, and revolves around a family of aristocratic cats, and how an alley cat acquaintance helps them after a butler has kidnapped them to gain his mistress' fortune which was intended to go to them. It was originally released to theaters by Buena Vista Distribution on December 11, 1970.
The film is noted for being the last film project to be approved by Walt Disney himself, as he died in late 1966, before the film was released. He had, however, been working in the story development for The Rescuers (1977) as early as 1962. The Aristocats gained positive reviews on first release and was a box office success.
In Paris in 1910, a mother cat named Duchess and her three kittens, Marie, Berlioz, and Toulouse, live in the mansion of retired opera diva Madame Adelaide Bonfamille, along with her English butler, Edgar. She early on settles her will with her lawyer Georges Hautecourt, an aged, eccentric old friend of hers, stating that she wishes her fortune to be left to her cats, who will retain it until their deaths, upon which her fortune will revert to Edgar. Edgar hears this from his own room through a speaking tube and is unwilling to wait for the cats to die naturally before he inherits Madame Adelaide's fortune, and plots to eliminate the cats.
He sedates the cats by putting sleeping pills into their food and heads out into the countryside to release them in the wild. However, he is ambushed by two hound dogs, named Napoleon and Lafayette. Edgar escapes, leaving behind his umbrella, bowler hat, the cats' bed-basket, and the sidecar of his motorcycle. The cats are unharmed, but stranded in the countryside, while Madame Adelaide, Roquefort the mouse, and Frou-Frou the horse discover their absence. In the morning, Duchess meets an alley cat named Thomas O'Malley, who offers to guide her and the kittens to Paris. Marie, Berlioz, and Toulouse have a struggle returning to the city, briefly hitchhiking on the back of a milk cart before being chased off by the driver. Marie subsequently falls into a river and is saved by O'Malley. They then meet a pair of English geese, Amelia and Abigail Gabble, who are on a tour of France. The group head off, marching like geese, until they reach Paris and come across the girls' drunken Uncle Waldo. Abigail and Amelia then depart to take Waldo home.
Travelling across the rooftops of the city, the cats meet Scat Cat and his band, close friends to O'Malley, who perform the scat song Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat. After the band has departed and the kittens lie in bed, O'Malley and Duchess spend the evening on a nearby rooftop and talk, while the kittens listen at a windowsill. The subject of their conversation is the question of whether Duchess may stay and marry Thomas. Eventually, she turns him down, largely out of loyalty to Madame Adelaide. Edgar, meanwhile, retrieves his sidecar, umbrella, and hat from Napoleon and Lafayette, albeit with some difficulty, knowing that it is the only evidence that could incriminate him.
The cats return to the mansion, whereupon O'Malley departs sadly. Edgar sees Duchess and Kittens coming and captures them, places them in a sack and briefly hides them in an oven. The cats tell Roquefort to pursue O'Malley and get help. He does so, whereupon O'Malley races back to the mansion, ordering Roquefort to find Scat Cat and his gang. Edgar places the cats in a trunk which he plans to send to Timbuktu, Africa. O'Malley, Scat Cat and his gang, and Frou-Frou all fight Edgar, while Roquefort frees Duchess and the kittens. In the end, Edgar is tipped into the trunk, locked inside, and sent to Timbuktu himself.
Madame Adelaide's will is rewritten to exclude Edgar and include O'Malley (after ironically claiming that the will would have included Edgar after all). She starts a charity foundation providing a home for all of Paris' stray cats. The grand opening thereof, to which most of the major characters come, features Scat Cat's band, who perform a reprise of "Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat".
This film was the last one to be approved by Walt Disney himself, and the first one produced after his death in 1966. The film took four years to produce, at a budget of $4,000,000. Five of Disney's legendary "Nine Old Men" worked on it, including the Disney crew that had been working 25 years on average.
Cast of characters:
Eva Gabor as Duchess - Madame Adelaide's cat and mother of three kittens. She falls in love with Thomas and is forced to choose her life at home or a life with Thomas. Robie Lester provided the singing voice for Duchess.,
Phil Harris as Thomas O'Malley (full name: Abraham de Lacy Giuseppe Casey Thomas O'Malley) - A friendly alley cat who finds Duchess and her kittens stranded in the woods and befriends them, becoming a father figure to the kittens and falling in love with Duchess.,
Gary Dubin as Toulouse - the oldest kitten, he aspires to meet a tough alley cat and adores Thomas as a father figure. He acts very tough at times and often gets into Marie's and Berlioz's nerves. Toulouse is also a talented painter.,
Liz English as Marie - As the middle kitten, not only is she very bossy at times, but she also believes that by being female, she is the best of the three kittens, despite physically being the weakest and most accident-prone. She, like Toulouse, grows to love Thomas like a father.,
Dean Clark as Berlioz - the youngest kitten. He is somewhat timid and shy. Like Toulouse and Marie, he grows to love Thomas like a father. Berlioz is a talented pianist.,
Roddy Maude-Roxby as Edgar Balthazar - The main antagonist of the film as Madame Adelaide's butler who tries to get rid of the cats in order to inherit her fortune.,
Scatman Crothers as Scat Cat - Thomas's best friend and leader of a gang of jazz-loving alley cats. Scat Cat plays the trumpet.,
Sterling Holloway as Roquefort - A mouse and also a friend of the cats. He attempts to find them after they are catnapped, but is unsuccessful.,
Paul Winchell as Shun Gon - a Chinese cat in Scat Cat's gang. Plays the piano and drums made out of pots.,
Lord Tim Hudson as Hit Cat - an English cat in Scat Cat's gang. Plays acoustic guitar.,
Vito Scotti as Peppo - an Italian cat in Scat Cat's gang. Plays the accordion.,
Thurl Ravenscroft as Billy Boss - a Russian cat in Scat Cat's gang. Plays cello bass guitar.,
Pat Buttram as Napoleon - a Bloodhound who attacks Edgar when he intrudes in the farm, unknowingly saving the lives of Duchess and her kittens. Napoleon insists, whenever cohort Lafayette makes a suggestion, that he is in charge - then proceeds to adopt Lafayette's suggestion as his own.,
George Lindsey as Lafayette - a Basset Hound and Napoleon's companion. He sometimes proves to be smarter than Napoleon, despite Napoleon staunchly insisting that he is the leader of the farm dogs.,
Hermione Baddeley as Madame Adelaide Bonfamille - a former opera singer and owner of Duchess and her kittens.,
Charles Lane as Georges Hautecourt - Madame Bonfamille's lawyer, a senile but lively old man who denies his old age and refuses to accept Edgar's offer of using the elevator instead of the long staircase, resulting in brief chaos.,
Nancy Kulp as Frou-Frou - Roquefort's horse companion and who plays a part in subduing Edgar. Ruth Buzzi provided her singing voice.,
Monica Evans as Abigail Gabble - a goose who finds the cats and tries to help them get home.,
Carole Shelley as Amelia Gabble - Abigail's twin sister.,
Bill Thompson as Uncle Waldo - the drunken gander uncle of Abigail and Amelia.,
Peter Renaday - French Milkman/Le Petit Cafe Cook/Truck Movers (uncredited),
The Aristocats was re-released to theaters on December 19, 1980 and April 10, 1987. It was released on VHS in Europe on January 1, 1990. It was first released on VHS in North America in the Masterpiece Collection series on April 24, 1996, and on DVD on April 4, 2000 in the Gold Classic Collection line. The Aristocats had its Gold Collection disc quietly discontinued in 2006. A new single-disc Special Edition DVD (previously announced as a 2-Disc set) was released on February 5, 2008.
Disney released the film for the first time on Blu-ray on August 21, 2012. The 2-disc Special Edition Blu-ray/DVD combo (both in Blu-ray and DVD packaging) will feature a new digital transfer and new bonus material. A single disc DVD edition will also be released the same day.
The film was the most popular "general release" movie at the British box office in 1971.
Based on 29 reviews, the film has a 66% rating at Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 6/10, relatively low for a Disney animated feature, but still classified as "fresh". Of the reviews, 19 gave it "fresh" and 10 gave it "rotten".
The film was nominated for AFI's 10 Top 10 in the "Animation" genre.
"The Aristocats" - Maurice Chevalier. Ths title song from the film was written by Robert & Richard Sherman at the end of the eight-year tenure working for Walt Disney Productions. Actor and singer Maurice Chevalier came out of retirement to sing this song for the motion picture's soundtrack. It would be his last work before his death in 1972.,
"Pourquoi?" - A deleted song sung by Hermione Baddeley as Madame Bonfamille, who sings about her love for her cats while harmonizing with a recording of her own voice on a 78-RPM. Marie, voiced by Robie Lester, interrupts the song twice by asking her "Purr-quoi?", to which she replies "Because I am with you." The song, introduced by co-songwriter Richard M. Sherman (who recorded the demonstration recording), is featured among the extras in the 2008 Special Edition DVD.,
"Scales and Arpeggios" - Gary Dubin, Robie Lester, Dean Clark and Liz English,
"Thomas O'Malley Cat" - Phil Harris,
"Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat" - Phil Harris, Scatman Crothers, Thurl Ravenscroft, Vito Scotti, Paul Winchell. This song is sung by Crothers as Scat Cat, with the other members of his polyethnic jazz band. It was released as a now rare 45 rpm single, in a version sung only by Harris, which lacks the cartoon voices of the common release. The soundtrack CD released in 1996 contains an edited version of the song.,
The lines sung by "Chinese Cat", voiced by Winchell, were later deemed politically incorrect and removed. However, they remain in the song as featured in the DVD release.
"She Never Felt Alone" - Another deleted song, this number features a reprise of "Pourquoi?", sung by Robie Lester on her own with different lyrics, explaining why Madame loves her and the kittens. Lester's piano-and-voice demo is featured among the DVD extras, within the same section as "Pourquoi?",
"Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat (reprise)" - Harris, Crothers, Ravenscroft, Scotti, Winchell, Ruth Buzzi, and Bill Thompson. A reprise featuring all of the animal characters in the film.,
On Classic Disney: 60 Years of Musical Magic, this includes "Thomas O'Malley Cat" on the purple disc and "Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat" on the orange disc. On Disney's Greatest Hits, this includes "Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat" on the red disc.
In Italy the title was translated to Gli Aristogatti. Most of the characters maintained their original names but Thomas O'Malley was renamed Romeo, Er mejo der Colosseo ("The best of Colosseum" in Romanesco), and his origin changed from Ireland to Italy.