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  • The Aristocats (Special Edition)

    Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on February 9th, 2008

    Overall
    Film
    Video
    Audio
    Extras
    (out of 5)

    The Aristocats has the distinction of being the very last animated project that was greenlit by Walt Disney himself before his passing. The film reveals all of the classic elements that Walt believed a good animation project should contain. He went to the famous Sherman Brothers to provide sing-a-longable songs and utilized the best voice talents in the Disney arsenal. While the animation is not quite as good as some of the other films made during this animation golden age, it still met the high standard Walt Disney had already established. You won’t find quite so fluid movements as The Jungle Book and there certainly isn’t the stylish charm from The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh, but the spirit of Walt can certainly be felt if not always seen.

     

    The story is in every way a Disney story. Duchess (Gabor) lives the good life. She’s a cat of leisure and owns the heart of her “Madam” (Baddeley) so much so that Madam decides to change her will and leave everything to Duchess and her kittens under the conservetorship of her butler Edgar (Maude-Roxbury). When Edgar overhears the plan, he decides to get rid of the felines so that he can get the fortune directly. He drugs the four cats and dumps them out in the country miles away from their home in Paris. Together Duchess with her kittens: Marie (English), Toulouse (Dubin), and Berlioz (Clark) befriend a self loving alley cat named Thomas O’Malley, voiced by The Jungle Book’s Big Baloo himself Phil Harris. O’Malley agrees to get the kittens home, but not before introducing them to his pal Scat Cat (Crothers) and his all cat band. Once home, the kittens immediately fall unsuspecting into Edgar’s clutches yet again. With the help of Roquefort, the mouse voiced by Winnie The Pooh himself, Sterling Holloway, O’Malley and his cohorts are warned just in time to save the kittens and dispose of Edgar for good. No, they don’t clip him, just send him on a long journey. The familiar voices of Harris and Holloway recall such pleasant memories that you can’t help but fall in love with these characters. Scatman Crothers is his own swingin’ self, and the tunes are likely the most upbeat and lively songs from this era of Disney animation features.

     

     

     
    Video

    The Aristocats has been wonderfully restored for this addition, and I can safely say you haven’t seen a better version than this 1.75:1 anamorphic transfer since the film was brand sparkling new in the theaters. Colors are quite vibrant and belie the 40 years of time that’s passed since the film’s release. There is no question it beats the previous DVD version, which still featured a criminal full frame presentation. Most noticeable in this master is how solid the black levels are. Previous versions of the film have been overly bright and often washed out. Here you get solid contrast with far more natural lighting, allowing you to enjoy the animation exactly as the artists intended it to be.

     

    Audio

    The audio is less of an improvement, offering a new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that adds little to previous encounters. While there might very well be a better feeling of depth from this mix, it can hardly be described as either dynamic or aggressive. No fault here, really, as the original could hardly have anticipated home video, let alone such digital sound fields as are available today.

     

     

    Special Features

    Virtual Kitten: This is one of 2 games included on the disc. It’s very much like those Japanese handheld virtual babies that were the rage about 10 years or more ago. You need to pay attention to prompts that advise you of your kitten’s needs and wants. You use your remote control to provide the attention needed for your kitten’s health and happiness. I expect your kids simply won’t have the patience to get very far into this game.

    Fun With Language The title of this game is a little misleading. You play a word association game to learn the names of the instruments in Scat Cat’s band.

    Deleted Song: Richard Sherman demonstrates a song written and even produced for the film that was eventually cut. It was to have actually taken part in two segments of animation that were never created. The song, She Never Felt Alone, is presented as originally recorded and visually through storyboards of the cut scenes.

    Music And More: As with all of these Disney musical features, you can access the songs directly, with or without lyrics on the screen.

    The Sherman Brothers – The Aristocats Of Disney Songs: These long time Disney composers are profiled through the use of current and vintage clips.

    The Great Cat Family: This is a 1956 segment from Disney’s television show and features Walt talking about large cats. You see actual footage as well as Disney versions of lions and their kin.

    Bath Day: This is a standalone cat cartoon from Walt Disney. It features Minnie caring for the cat, Figaro.

     
    Finally there is the expected extensive Gallery of stills from the film and production.

     

     

    Final Thoughts

    While I have a greater fondness for the other animated features of this time, I can still remember seeing The Aristocats as a child. I’m sure it must be a special treat when you can turn your own kids or maybe even your grandkids on to something from your own childhood. If you have the earlier release, this DVD makes that one completely obsolete and need to be replaced. This is as good as it’s going to get, even as we sit in the dawn of hi-def media. Pick this one up and save it for one of those rare moments when the entire family’s together, and check out “some swingin’ cats”.

    Posted In: 1.78:1 Widescreen, Animated, Disc Reviews, Disney, Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), DVD, Family

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