Along with a slew of other lower priority animated titles, Disney saw fit to release 'The Aristocats' in a special edition Blu-ray that doesn't even coincide with a well-rounded anniversary. It's another movie, like 'The Rescuers' (which was also just released) that doesn't really contain any really memorable Disney characters. You don't see anyone strutting around Disneyland in a Thomas O'Malley cat costume. It's just not a go-to title, so I can see why Disney decided to bring this one to Blu-ray kind of under the radar. It's still a movie that completest collectors will want to own, but a title that the casual fan could probably pass up.
The reason 'The Aristocats' is such a lukewarm type of movie is that its plot never really seems all that dire. It's simply turns into another "journey home" type of story. Duchess (Eva Gabor) is the pet of a wealthy Parisian woman who has decided to leave her entire estate to her beloved cats. Her butler (Roddy Maude-Roxby) doesn't particularly like that idea. See, he's next in line to receive the inheritance, so if the cats mysteriously disappear, he'll be a rich man someday. So the plan is to cat-nap Duchess and her three kittens, drive them out to the country, and never hear from them again.
Even for a Disney movie, the idea of willing an entire estate to felines seems quite unbelievable and silly. What's even sillier is the great lengths the butler goes to in disposing of the cats (I assume drowning the kittens in a plastic bag in a river was considered a little too mean for a Disney movie). Soon Duchess and her kids find themselves lost in the countryside, desperate to get back home to their pampered lifestyle.
They soon meet up with Thomas O'Malley (Phil Harris) the alley cat who provides them with companionship, and also provides the movie with its necessary opposing character conflict. Duchess is prim and proper, while O'Malley is rough around the edges and likes to sing about how great life is when you're out on your own. He soon takes a liking to Duchess and her brood and offers to get them back home safely.
As with all journey home movies, there must be a cast of eccentric characters encountered along the way. Here we meet two rambunctious dogs who like to attack passing motorists, two English geese on vacation, and a group of hip-swinging cats that sing a song ("Everybody Wants to be a Cat") which will stick in your brain forever. As I write this review the chorus plays over and over in my head like a broken record.
'The Aristocats' is an easy way to pass the time, but doesn't require much – if any – emotional investment. The song numbers are cute and the characters are innocuous enough. The villain is the only truly annoying part as he never really feels all that evil or memorable. On the long list of Disney villains, I'm sure "the butler" from 'The Aristocats' ranks somewhere near the bottom, right above Sykes from 'Oliver and Company' but below Governor Ratcliffe from 'Pocahontas.'
What I really like about this movie is its old-time animation style. It's very rough around the edges, but speaks to the type of animation going on at that time. Animation is so bright and shiny nowadays, it's nice to see a coarsely animated movie like 'The Aristocats' every once in a while.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a two-disc set. It's a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack. It comes with a 25GB Blu-ray Disc. The set comes with a slipcover that has the same artwork as the case. The set also has a Disney Movie Rewards code inside. It's a region free release.
The key word here is "faithful," because Disney has been just that. Its 1080p presentation is a faithful representation of this movie that was originally animated in 1970. The first thing you'll notice is that the animation isn't even remotely clean. There are dozens of sketch lines that appear and disappear around characters, but that's the way it's meant to be. It's a very rough style of animation, however, it's the way it's mean to be seen.
Now, you may recall I gave other movies like 'All Dogs Go to Heaven' and 'The Secret of NIMH' low video scores even though they were similarly gritty in presentations. The difference here is that there isn't anything in 'The Aristocats' video presentation that shouldn't be there. Those other MGM titles were full of noise and never even looked like MGM had taken the time to upgrade them for HD presentation. Disney does look like it's produced an authentic cinematic representation of this film. Yes, the movie shows its age, and it isn't as "clean" as modern day animated films, but this is the way it's supposed to look.
Even with the irregular style of animation, the movie's colors are still as bold as ever. Especially during the "Everybody Wants to be a Cat" musical number where the colors change to bright pinks, purples, greens, and blues. People expecting a perfectly clear video presentation will probably be disappointed, but people who are animation fans and like to see these kinds of faithful video presentations will love it.
'The Aristocats' has been given a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that does the movie justice in just about every facet. Its musical numbers are given ample room to perform. I really enjoyed the "Everybody Wants to be a Cat" scene which features a nice omnipresent sound which travels to each channel. The bass beats of that song reverberate through the sub-woofer, offering a nice steady dun-dun-dun.
Dialogue is pleasantly clear. The track, even though the movie is on the old side, is free from any hissing or crackling, which is very nice. Directionality, like cats knocking over things off screen or a motorcycle zooming from one side of the frame to the other, is handled fairly seamlessly. Disney has done a good job creating a realistic audio mix here. One that will envelope its listener.
I enjoy 'The Aristocats' more for its style of animation than for its story. Its villain and plot are pretty ho-hum and nothing really memorable happens (besides the trippy color-changing musical number). It's never been considered amongst the cream of the crop when it comes to Disney animated titles. Yet, Disney has provided a faithful video presentation that has been coupled with a well-put-together audio presentation. Fans will no doubt be excited with the outcome. Even though this isn't a huge Disney release, it still comes recommended.