The AristoCats (1970)
O'Malley & The Pretty Kitty
Boy! Your eyes are like sapphires - O'Malley
Whilst I am sure younger audiences love their CGI animations such as "Finding Nemo" I am a lover of old school animations and one of my favourite is "The AristoCats" reportedly the last of the cartoons green lit by Walt Disney himself before his death. Everything about "The AristoCats" works from the drawings through to the soundtrack but most significantly the characterisation with Phil Harris seeming to be giving us John Wayne crossed with Tony Curtis as he voices Thomas O'Malley. In a way what works about "The AristoCats" is that it is infectious and even if you start off watching not in a great mood by the time the movie ends you will be smiling and singing along.
When Edgar, the loyal butler to Madame hears that her cat Duchess and the kittens Marie, Berlioz and Toulouse are set to inherit everything before him he decides to get rid of them. Having dumped them out in the French country side and escaped a couple of hounds Edgar thinks he's done it but come morning Duchess and the kittens meet the rough and ready but smooth talking Thomas O'Malley who helps them get back home, growing fond of Duchess and the kittens in the progress.
I don't know if this was the case but "The AristoCats" feels like someone took elements from other Disney animations and combined them into a simple story with cats as the focus. As such it often feels like bits of "101 Dalmatians" have been mixed with "Lady and the Tramp" to create this simple storyline but even so there is nothing wrong with it. In fact in many ways this storyline which is little more than Duchess and O'Malley falling for each other as he escorts her home and helps beat the nefarious Edgar is perfect as it is simple enough for children to enjoy whilst providing a platform for lots of memorable humour and characterization.
That is in many ways what makes "The AristoCats" so memorable especially Phil Harris' voicing of Thomas O'Malley which as already pointed out reminds me of the roughness of John Wayne crossed with the charm of Tony Curtis. It is so much fun watching O'Malley trying to charm Duchess comparing her eyes to sapphires and then going all rough and ready when he reverts back to being an alley cat. It's not just Harris's voicing and Eva Gabor is just as good as Duchess giving us a sort of Leslie Caron thing going on with this sexy, posh tone. And as for the trio of Dean Clark, Liz English and Gary Dublin who voice the kittens well they deliver cuteness and fun.
But the voicing is only part of why "The AristoCats" is so good and the actual animation work is fantastic. I suppose modern audiences may not understand the charm of the actual look with the visible drawing marks but to me it looks classy and the way everything has been brought to life is fantastic. I am not just on about the drawings of the cats which are all great especially when it comes to the kittens but the humorous attention to detail. When Edgar is riding along on his bike, every time it splutters his hat flips up, it's a small thing but a brilliant thing which adds to the amusement and it is this detail which makes every scene fun.
And of course there is also a musical side to "The AristoCats" from O'Malley's musical introduction as he meets Duchess through to the swinging number with Scat Cat and his gang. It shouldn't be a surprise but all these musical numbers are catchy and you find yourself singing them long after the movie has finished. It's part of the reason why "The AristoCats" is so memorable because if you start singing a song you remember the scene and before long you are remembering all the fun which is packed into it.
What this all boils down to is that "The AristoCats" is one of my favourite animations from Disney and whilst it is now over 40 years old it hasn't lost any of its charm since the first time I watched it as a small child. Modern audiences may not be so keen on the purposefully looking hand drawn animations but to me it makes it classy and combined with fantastic voicing, music and so much humour it never becomes boring.
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