The AristoCats, the last Disney canon film approved by Walt Disney himself, began the Bronze Age in Disney history as another comedic animal adventure. Featuring the voice talents of Maurice Chevalier, Eva Gabor, Phil Harris, and Pat Buttram, and music from George Bruns and the Sherman Brothers, the film released in 1970 to positive reviews and box office success.
Set in Paris, The AristoCats starts out simple, introducing the audience to the enchanting Madame Adelaide Bonfamille (that’s ‘good family,’ in case you were wondering), her exasperated butler Edgar, and the entire feline family—mother Duchess and kittens Toulouse, Berlioz, and Marie. Everything seems fairly normal and happy; why wouldn’t a wealthy cat lady with her own butler be happy? Then, the family gets a visitor: Georges Hautecourt, the family lawyer. With Edgar listening in through what I can only call the world’s first intercom system, we find out that Madame will be leaving her whole estate to her cats. This is where we find out just how villainous and slightly crazy Edgar is.
The entire conflict of The AristoCats stems from Edgar believing he must get rid of the cats so he can inherit everything. This premise disregards at least two major points: (1) Madame may live for a long time yet, and (2) what was Edgar planning to do to Madame after getting rid of the kittens? Following in the footsteps of Cruella de Vil, Edgar is one of Disney’s most frightening villains because he’s generically normal (he and Cruella would probably have a lot in common) and yet determined to cause serious trauma to both a family of kittens and their elderly owner. With his priorities slightly askew, how could he know that he would automatically inherit? What if his deception (Lord forbid) causes the will to come into effect prematurely? Would there be an active legal search for the kittens? Also, why couldn’t he just go for Madame to begin with and be in control of everything afterward? I mean, the cats inherit, sure, but they can’t exactly report him for embezzlement or fraud if he uses the money for his own benefit. Ultimately, there are a few too many questions surrounding Edgar’s decisions and his clear lack of experience in the criminal field.
Aside from the villainous Edgar, we come to the obligatory animated Disney romance—the wealthy Duchess falls for the charming alley cat, Thomas O’Malley (and her kids fall for him too). Aside from the rather calm but banterful romance, this is the part of the film where Marie proves the most annoyingly accident-prone of all cats. Ever. The whole sequence consists of Marie falling at most inconvenient times in the most inconvenient places. Alright, so she only falls twice. The second time, though, is straight into a fast-moving river. While bearably annoying, I can forgive Marie her clumsiness at this point because it brings the audience to arguably the best Disney sisters to ever be animated: Abigail and Amelia Gabble.
The Gabble twins help the entire group back to Paris, with incredible English wit and heartwarming giggles. In addition to cracking up the audience, the sisters introduce us to Uncle Waldo—“Prime Country Goose à la Provençale, stuffed with chestnuts and basted in white wine”—who proves to be one of Disney’s best drunks. Many of the best quotes from The AristoCats come from Uncle Waldo’s inebriated scene: “Basted? He’s been marinated,” “Being British, I would’ve prefered sherry,” “Birds of a feather must ‘hic’ together,” and several more background lines as he and his nieces head off through the streets of Paris.
The AristoCats, although not always considered one of Disney’s top classics, is a heartwarming showcase of a wonderful sense of humor and well-written banter, despite a loose story with a few holes. Much of the Bronze Age would follow a similar humor and use simple storylines. As the first era without Walt Disney’s distinct touch, the Bronze Age, led by The AristoCats, maintains the classical magic and artistry of early Disney films.
Do you love The AristoCats? Is it one of your Disney favorites?
Edited by: Kelly Conley