THE ARISTOCATSOriginal medium: Theatrical animation
Produced by: Disney
First Appeared: 1970
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The Aristocats was the third and last Disney animated feature to have "urban pet adventure" as its theme, after Lady & the Tramp (1955) and 101 Dalmatians (1961). It was the only one of the three that came out after Walt's 1966 death, but he still had a direct influence on it. In fact, it was the very last movie
of any sort that he personally set in motion with his approval. It premiered on December 11, 1970 and had its general release that year's Christmas Eve.
The story took place during the glory days when 20th century conveniences were starting to come into use, but before World War I devastated Europe. Duchess, a cat, lived in splendor with her three kittens (Toulouse, Marie and Berlioz) in Paris, with the wealthy retired opera singer Madame Adelaide Bonfamille. The cat had the misfortune to be named in Madame Adelaide's will, and the further misfortune that the changing of the will was overheard by Edgar, Madame Adelaide's butler, who had been hoping to be her heir.
Reasoning that if the cats were gone, he could still inherit, Edgar grabbed them that night and transported them to the countryside far away. While Edgar was congratulating himself on having dealt with his problem Duchess and her brood made their way back, with the help of Thomas O'Malley, an alley cat they'd picked up with. When they arrived, after O'Malley had reluctantly left, Edgar tried again to get rid of the cats, but they managed to get word out. He was quickly back with friends from their journey, to rescue them from a crate bound for Timbuktu. In the following fracas, Edgar wound up in the crate and was hauled away. The will was changed to make sure Edgar was excluded and to include O'Malley, who stayed to live with Duchess and be foster father to the three kittens.
Duchess's voice was provided by Eva Gabor (Miss Bianca in The Rescuers) and O'Malley's by Phil Harris (Baloo in The Jungle Book). Madame Adelaide was Hermione Baddely (Auntie Shrew in The Secret of NIMH) and Edgar was Roddy Maude-Roxby (who lacks other toon connections). The kittens were Gary Dubin (who has also done some animé), Liz English (who also lacks other toon connections) and Dean Clark (yet another), respectively. Others heard include Scatman Crothers (Hong Kong Phooey), Thurl Ravenscroft (Tony the Tiger), Sterling Holloway (Amos Mouse) and Bill Thompson (Droopy).
It was directed by Wolfgang Reitherman (Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland). A majority of Disney's "nine old men" who had been him since the early Mickey Mouse days, worked on it the last time so many of the studio's old-timers worked together on a film.
Like a majority of Disney's animated features before it, but relatively few after, The Aristocats was adapted into a comic book by Gold Key (Moby Duck, Bongo Bear). Also, an attempt was made through Gold Key to spin off a couple of its characters they published nine issues each of The Aristokittens and O'Malley & the Alley Cats between 1971 and '75.
Critical acceptance was generally positive, but not overwhelmingly so. Still, it was better received than the next Disney feature, Robin Hood, the first totally post-Walt feature, which inaugurated a series of less-than-stellar films that lasted until Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988).
A direct-to-video sequel was planned for 2007, but plans were dropped in '06.