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The Aristocats - Blu-ray Review

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The Aristocats - Blu-ray Review

3 Stars

Disney’s 20th animated classic has the distinction of being the last film Walt himself approved for production, and the first made after his death. It was the first Disney film of the 1970s, and some animation historians believe it marker a distinct turn in the style of storytelling Disney would produce from them on—not necessarily for the better.

Set in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century, The Aristocats follows the story of four pampered kitties—Mother Duchess and her three kittens, Marie, Berlioz, and Toulouse—who live an pampered life, courtesy of their kind benefactor Madame Bonfamille. Unbeknownst to them, the butler Edgar is rather green with envy, and plots to usurp the cats in the rich old ladies will by taking them for a nice long drive out into the country. Having never been outside before, the spoiled foursome luck upon a streetwise stray cat named O’Malley, and with his help, they make the long and eventful trip back to their home.

What isn’t different about this film to previous entries in the Disney catalogue is there’s a fairly straight forward story for children to follow and invest in. It also fills its canvas with plenty of distinct and humorous characters, has likeable heroes, and moves along at an easily digested pace. The real distinct change was a kind of soft-peddling of the drama element in the story. In this, the cats don’t ever face any real threat; they come across geese, dogs, other cats, that hinder their progress in amusing ways; but Edgar, as a main antagonist, is rather weak when it comes down to it. You don’t ever get that sense of peril most Disney films possessed before this, and it is a less engaging film for it.

It’s not like Disney was in your face brutal with kids before, but they certainly weren’t afraid to tackle important themes like death or mortality to name but a couple. The Aristocats don’t take advantage of the obvious element of class in the story to any great effect; no conflict, apart from the obvious motivation of money from the butler, ever derives from these characters of different worlds. Everything is played for laughs; and while in a children’s film this is hardly a bad thing, Disney did not balance this story as well as most that came before it.

The animation, still brilliant, and worked on by some of Disney’s now infamous ‘Nine Old Men’, took on a rougher appearance than previous entries. This is not to imply that there was a drop in technique—all choices here are deliberate, and some suggest fiduciary—but the backgrounds are simplified considerably in detail, and there is a looser adherence to character’s lines, losing a more refined sense of movement that say Lady and the Tramp displayed. Considering this film explores the aristocratic point of view on the world, it is an interesting choice this reviewer doesn’t quite understand. If the film had been approached stylistically from O’Malley’s point of view, it would make more sense to me. 

A bunch of Disney voice staples of the era, including one of my favourites Phil Harris (who voiced Baloo the bear and Little John) and Green Acres star Eva Gabor, wonderfully flesh out these characters.

Overall, this is hardly a standout of the 51 (currently; two more on the way) in Disney’s classic series, but it is an enjoyable film, and if you have a soft spot for cats or turn of last century Parisian landscapes, it’s worth a look. It’ll give you a chuckle, and looks beautiful remastered on blu ray.

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The Aristocats - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: G for general audiences.
Director
: Wolfgang Reitherman
Writer: Larry Clemmons and Vance Gerry & Ken Anderson and Frank Thomas & Eric Cleworth and Julius Svendsen & Ralph Wright
Cast:
Phil Harris; Eva Gabor; Sterling Holloway; Scatman Crothers; Paul Winchell; Nancy Kulp
Genre: Comedy | Family | Animated
Tagline:
A purr-fectly wonderful new cartoon feature
Run time: 78n minutes
Memorable Movie Quote: "I've some news straight from the horse's mouth. If you'll pardon the expression, of course."
Distributor:
Buena Vista Distribution Company
Home Video Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Official Site: disneydvd.disney.go.com/the-aristocats-special-edition.html
Release Date: December 24, 1970
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
August 21, 2012

Synopsis: Disney's irresistible classic THE ARISTOCATS is all jazzed up in a spectacular Special Edition, complete with a new digital transfer. In the heart of Paris, a kind and eccentric millionairess wills her entire estate to Duchess, her high-society cat, and her three little kittens. Laughs and adventure ensue as the greedy, bumbling butler pulls off the ultimate catnap caper. Now it's up to the rough-and-tumble alley cat, Thomas O'Malley, and his band of swingin' jazz cats to save the day. Loaded with fun bonus features, including a new Virtual Kitten game, a heartwarming deleted song and more, THE ARISTOCATS is purr-fect for the whole family.

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The Aristocats - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie
 
Blu-ray Disc
3 Stars
 
3 Stars
     
Blu-ray Experience
3 Stars

The Aristocats - Blu-ray Special Edition (U.K.)

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray in U.S. - August 21, 2012
Screen Formats: 1.75:1
Subtitles
: English, French, Italian, German, Dutch, Turkish
Dubbed: French, Italian, German, Dutch, Turkish
Audio: DTS-HD 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Playback: Region-free (reviewed)

Pretty darn flawless restoration, I must say. The colours have never looked this bright and crisp. Framing, according to the stats online (I never saw the 2008 widescreen DVD), has been realigned to 1:66:1 1080p transfer as opposed to the DVD’s 1:75:1 cropped widescreen transfer. The new DTS-HD 5.1 sound mix is very clean, but hardly immersive; very heavy on the front speakers, hardly a peep from the rears. This is hardly unexpected, being a 42 year old movie! Extras are rather banal: some vintage stuff, and a few short featurettes covering things like the music and an alternate opening. Only for the voracious Disney fans.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

  • Music Featurette
  • Alternate Opening

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