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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Comedy > Animals > The Aristocats – Special Edition (Disney DVD)

The Aristocats – Special Edition (Disney DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Film: C+



Big meow, but definitely no wow.  The Aristocats is another ‘classic’ Disney animated feature that has been recently re-released on DVD.  The film originally premiered in theaters in December of 1970 and was a moderate success.  The twentieth release from Disney Studios (actually distributed by Buena Vista in theaters) is probably one of the most lackluster and forgettable Disney animated, musical ventures.  This is the second release of The Aristocats on the DVD format (first appearing in the Disney Gold Collection Series) and overall is not anything improved over the past release.  Besides a few added extras and a tiny bit (very tiny bit) of restoration, this new release is nothing to write home to momma cat about.


The basic premise surrounding this feline inspired romp is that an old, rich and retired opera singer has stipulated in her will that upon her death all of her assets will go to her beloved butler Edgar; if and only if her adored four cats live to their natural lifespan (apparently 12 years each).  The four cats are a mother cat named Duchess (Eva Gabor) and her three kittens Marie, Berlioz, and Toulouse.  Overhearing this cat-astrophic news, Edgar decides that if he were to follow the old-bag’s will and testament he would never get to see his inheritance; this only being because the dimwitted butler thinks cats each have 9 lives at 12 years each.  Edgar decides if he ever wants to see his fortune he will have to take matters into his own hands and dispose of the lock on his future wealth, the cats.  In the middle of the night Edgar drugs the cats with sleeping pills, scoops them up in a sack, and plans to toss them in the river.  Before Edgar has the opportunity to dispose of the cats two farm dogs, Napoleon and Lafayette, thinking Edgar is an intruder bite him right down to his knickers and scare him off; leaving behind his motorcycle sidecar, an umbrella, his hat, and of course the cats.


The scared momma cat and her kittens soon find a friend in the charming and worldly stray named Thomas O’Malley.  The cats all together begin to travel back to the mansion, on the way stopping to have a fantastical musical adventure with some friends of Thomas O’Malley’s like Skat Cat who are smitten with Jazz; meanwhile Edgar sets out to retrieve his lost belongings before the police can.  The adventure home continues while Adelaide Bonfamille (old rich lady) continues to worry. Will Edgar get caught?  Do the cats find their way home?  Does Disney need to keep releasing these titles?  The answer to all of these questions lies in this new DVD release, and this reviewer is not about to let the cat out of the bag.


The technical features of this single disc special edition are like the film itself, in that they are nothing fantastic.  The picture quality is dark and gritty in its 1.75 X 1 aspect ratio (original to the film) and its enhancement for 16 X 9 televisions.  The imperfections are still clear, the colors are all over the place and seem to bounce, which is highly unacceptable for a film that was issued and produced in three-strip dye-transfer Technicolor and for a digital Disney transfer it is just simply bad quality.  The Aristocats next release probably will be seen on Blu-ray alone, but if these imperfections aren’t fixed TOTALLY for the higher definition format it may leave viewers scratching up the wall.


The sound is not quite as bad as the picture in its Dolby Digital 5.1 surrounds, but to this reviewer he could barely hear the use of the surrounds and felt more like a 2.0 stereo release.  The music of The Aristocats was never top notch to begin with (sorry Sherman Bros.) and with the poor sound quality, it only makes the bland soundtrack even more obvious.  The extras, as with most Disney Special Editions (not Platinum), are mostly directed at children offering up an array of virtual pet games and a dreadfully boring language game.  The more adult features include a look at a couple deleted songs with minimal commentary and a look at the history of cats featurette; both lackluster and forgettable.  The Aristocats is one of the more disappointing Disney releases in recent times and has always been one of the lesser Disney animated features.


The ugly step child of a Disney film took a while to get re-released on DVD and for good reason; it is bland and forgettable at the same time.  The ode to old, crazy, cat ladies thing just didn’t work.  There were moments here and there to chuckle at and maybe even the occasional toe-tap to a song, but this reviewer must cite the film as a miss.  There are more superior Disney films that could have done better with a revisit, but The Aristocats was not one of them.



-   Michael P Dougherty II


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