The AristoCats: Special Edition (1970)

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Released 5-Mar-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Family Deleted Scenes-Deleted Song :"She Never Felt Alone"
Featurette-The Sherman Brothers : The Aristocrats of Disney Songs
Featurette-The Great Cat Family : from 1956 Disneyland episode
Featurette-FIGARO cartoon : "Bath Day" 1946
CD-ROM-Two juvenile games, wallpaper, screensaver
Gallery-Photo-The Aristocrats Scrapbook of concept art.
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1970
Running Time 75:39
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Wolfgang Reitherman
Studio
Distributor
Disney
Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Phil Harris
Eva Gabor
Liz English
Gary Dubin
Dean Clark
Sterling Holloway
Roddy Maude-Roxby
Scatman Crothers
Paul Winchell
Lord Tim Hudson
Vito Scotti
Thurl Ravenscroft
Pat Buttram
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music George Bruns
Will Schaefer
Tom Acosta


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Russian Dolby Digital 2.0 (384Kb/s)
Greek Dolby Digital 2.0 (384Kb/s)
Hebrew Dolby Digital 2.0 (384Kb/s)
Bulgarian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Romanian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Estonian
Russian
Greek
Hebrew
Bulgarian
Romanian
Ukranian
Latvian
Lithuanian
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    When The Aristocats opened for Christmas 1970 the production had taken four years to complete at a cost of four million dollars and there were some clouds hanging over the future of Disney animation. The previous Disney animated feature had been The Jungle Book, the last production supervised by Walt Disney himself, and production costs on that feature had been heavy, mainly in relation to extensive re-editing. As a consequence The Aristocats, the last project chosen by Uncle Walt before his death, was pre-planned with meticulous care and caution. Perhaps this safe, unadventurous approach accounts for the fact that there is little Disney magic in The Aristocats, but despite some lukewarm reviews the movie grossed $10.1 million in its original US domestic release, and a further $16 million overseas. The commercial success of The Aristocats removed the clouds of doubt threatening the future of Disney animation.

    The Aristocats is the story of a "catnapping", the victims being a mama cat, Duchess (Eva Gabor with vocals by Robie Lester) her three offspring, Toulouse (Gary Dubin), Berlioz (Dean Clark) and Marie (Liz English). These felines are the loved pets of  Madame Bonfamille (Hermione Baddeley) and as such are the heirs to her fortune, much to the annoyance of the evil, greedy, old butler, Edgar (Roddy Maude-Roxby), who kidnaps them so that he can claim the inheritance for himself. His dastardly scheme backfires when the Aristocats are rescued by Thomas O'Malley (Phil Harris), a large ginger tom with a heart as big as his ego; a little mouse called Roquefort (Sterling Holloway) and a band of alley cats led by Scat Cat (Scatman Crothers). Also involved are a pair of hounds named Napoleon and Lafayette, Frou-Frou the mare (Nancy Culp) and a couple of delightful spinster geese, Agatha and Abigail. The plot moves quickly, leaving no time for youngsters to become restless. A wide variety of characters constantly weave in and out of the story and the musical numbers are terrific.

    Many experienced members of the Disney team worked on The Arsitocats including composer George Bruns, and surviving members of the "Nine Old Men", writer Frank Thomas, directing animators Milt Kahl, Ollie Johnston, Frank Thomas and John Lounsbery, and character animator Eric Larson. Former animator, a team member since 1934's Funny Little Bunnies, Wolfgang Reitherman was director. Resident Disney composers The Sherman Brothers (Mary Poppins) were commissioned to write three songs, all three still listed in the credits although only two made it to the completed film, the title song (Maurice Chevalier) , and the delightful Scales and Arpeggios (Duchess and the kittens). The lovely She Never Felt Alone was dropped, but can be heard in the bonus features on the disc. In addition Terry Gilkinson (Banana Boat Song) provided Thomas O'Malley Cat  for Phil Harris,  and Floyd Huddlestone and Al Rinker penned Everybody Wants to Be a Cat as a duet for Harris and Scatman Crothers. Chevalier's over the credits title song gets the movie off to a flying start. This legendary entertainer came out of retirement to record the song as his tribute to Walt Disney, and this recording is the last recorded performance made by Chevalier, who died in 1972. As often has been the case with Disney movies, the music is an integral part of the film,  the "jazzier" sequences having been decided upon after the success of the music in The Jungle Book. It was Phil Harris's "hit" performance in that film that no doubt led to his voicing Thomas O'Malley. Phil Harris was always a personality distinguished by his gravelly "sleepy time down south" voice, which is, sadly, very wrong for the French setting of  The Aristocats, so firmly established with the title song. Harris's "southerness" continues to grate through the film, especially as there is the distinct contrast with the heavily accented Eva Gabor. OK, the Gabor Sisters were Hungarian, but at least her voice is from the right continent. Normally accents don't bother me, but the juxtaposition of these two voices is just a bit too jarring.

    There is a lot to enjoy in The Aristocats, even if it never comes near the heights of the earlier animated greats. The human characteristics of the animals are very cleverly conveyed, the highlight being the geese. The story is briskly handled by director Reitherman never dwelling too long on any sequence or character, and George Bruns'  score complements the screen action quite vibrantly at times - again the goose sequence stands out. The kids audiences in the early 70s loved it, as I'm sure they still do today. It is only silly old grumps like me who recall the glories of the Disney past - and who have seen the glories that were yet to come. Still, this is good Disney entertainment and a surefire hit with the under tens.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer of this movie is very good, the source material appearing to be identical to that used for the previous Region 4 release.

    The feature is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. This aspect ratio is my major problem with this reissue. The major target audience, children, will be happier with their widescreen TV screens filled from side to side, but this movie was drawn 1.37:1 and was generally projected  at 1.66:1. If the Disney team are to be considered as "artists", which they surely have always been, what has been done has been to take a considerable slice from the top and bottom of each frame in order to fill the shape of our new 16x9 screens. The first obvious example of image loss occurs almost as soon as the movie starts at 02:53. In the earlier 1.33:1 release the kitten is plainly in frame on the top of the horse's head, while in this new release the kitten goes off the screen for some frames. Apart from these specific "losses" there is a general "wrongness" to the look of the image. Obviously the entire composition of the image is compromised by making the it fit a frame for which it was not intended. I personally dread the day when movies such as Gone With the Wind and The Letter are no longer available in their original ratios.

    The image is very clean and sharp, with very little low level noise and a modest amount of grain. Shadow detail is very good.
    The colours are excellent - to my eye identical to the earlier release.
    There are no film artefacts in the transfer.

    The only blemishes on the image are those which derive from the original transfer of the drawings to film - the occasional black speck that was missed by the technicians. As stated above, this appears to be the identical original source as that used for the previous Region 4 release, and there has not been an extensive clean-up, which is the case with titles released under the Disney "Platinum Editions" banner. The blemishes are very minor, and are only worth commenting on as we now can be given absolutely immaculate clean-ups of older animated titles. There are, of course, the purists who refuse to use the word "restoration" when referring to pristine, spotless animated reissues, correctly pointing out that earlier animation never was totally "clean", so these titles are not actually being "restored" to original condition.

    Despite my problems with the transfer, what is on the screen looks great.

    The English subtitles were sampled for dialogue and song, and were accurate.

    There is no layer change during the movie.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

       Considering the limitations of the original mono audio, this is an extremely good aural experience.    

    There are six language tracks on this DVD. The default is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. In addition there are Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in Russian, Greek, Hebrew, Bulgarian and Romanian.
    The dialogue was centred, totally clear and understandable and there were no sync problems.
    Little use was made of the surround speakers. I specifically listened for separation as a car drove off screen right, but all sound stayed centred.
    However, good use is made of the surround system with the music in the film. From cute novelty songs, to jazzy combos and full orchestrated score, the music is a highlight of the film, and is beautifully reproduced making excellent use of separation between the front speakers. The songs, as well as the score by George Bruns are a pleasure to listen to with full, rich reproduction.
    There is little activity for true subwoofer activity in the film, but one sequence that did stand out was when a threatening tram thunders across a bridge (37:30).
        
   

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Although this is a single disc "Special Edition" there is a generous number of extras on the disc, with a wide range of age appeal.

Main Menu

    The menu is attractive and simple with all screens 16x9 enhanced. Most screens have animation, and all have audio of music from the film.
    The start-up screen gives the options of  "Main Menu" or automatic "Fast Play" if no selection is made. This obviously makes playing simpler if the controls are in the hands of a child.
    The main menu screen is animated, the "camera"  moving past windows of multi-storeyed house with the jazz quartet jamming in the attic. The options on this screen are:
        Play
        Scene Selection : Accesses five screens, each with four thumbnails, music audio but no animation.
        Bonus Features : Details below.
        Set-Up : Languages: Selecting gives these options : English, Bulgarian and Romanian in Dolby Digital 5.1, and Russian, Greek and Hebrew in Dolby Digital 2.0
                       
                      Subtitles :   English, English for the Hearing Impaired, Russian, Greek, Hebrew, Bulgarian, Romanian, Ukrainian, Latvian/Lettish, Lithuanian, Estonian

    
Deleted Song (07:55) : 
    
Composer Richard Sherman is seen (1.66:1 not enhanced) describing the creation and eventual cutting of the song Pourquoi / She Never Felt Alone. This is an informative and fascinating glimpse into the creative process, and includes the original vocals by Hermione Baddeley and Robie Lester. Actual completed footage does not exist so storyboards are used  for the visuals (1.33:1).

Music and More (10:25) :
    
This is a juke box of the songs from the film, with the option to select a title or "Play All". All are presented 16x9 and Dolby Digital 5.1 as in the film itself.
    There is an option for lyrics "on" or "off" - "on" giving subtitles synchronised with the audio. The "tracks" are:
        The Aristocats
        Scales and Arpeggios
        Thomas O'Malley Cat
        Ev'rybody Wants To Be A Cat

Games and Activities :
    Disney Virtual Kitten : This is a simple but cute game designed for very young children. It involves "clicking" on one of the kittens in a basket, which you then adopt.
                                       The player then responds to a visual cue telling you what the kitten's need is at that moment. Click on your response, and with ten correct
                                       responses your kitten comes down to the screen and rubs against the screen to show its affection for you as a caring owner. A cute little game, which
                                       has some embellishments in the DVD ROM version.

    The Aristocats : This is a language vocabulary game, again designed for the very young. It involves clicking the picture of a musical instrument picture on screen after a visual and 
                               aural prompt.

Backstage Disney :
    The Sherman Brothers : The Aristocats of Disney Songs : (4:24)
        
This featurette is presented 4:3 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.
        This short featurette gives some interesting background to the creation of the film, principally the story regarding Maurice Chevalier's participation.

    The Aristocats Scrapbook :
        This is a scrapbook of concept art from the film. There are 18 "pages", each with a few examples. Individual items can be selected and enlarged to full screen with great    
        quality and clarity 

    The Great Cat Family : (12.51)
        This is a segment taken from Disneyland's The Wide World of Make Believe, originally telecast in September 1956. The quality is fairly grainy but the content, as was the norm for
        the Disneyland series, is excellent.

Bath Day : (06:39)
        This is a real gem. An original 1946 cartoon starring Figaro, the mischievous kitten from Pinocchio. In very good original condition and presented 1.33:1 full screen.


DVD ROM Extras:

        Disney Virtual Kitten : Same game as above with minor embellishments - such as a printable adoption license.
        Screensaver : Kittens make alternate crossings of screen.
        Wallpaper : Movie themed similar to screensaver.
  

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This release is identical to the recent Region 1 release.

Summary

    This is a very good, though not great, Disney feature, with wide audience appeal - greatly aided by the excellent music.
    The story is fast paced and will hold the interest of the younguns, and the cleverly conveyed "humanity" of the animals will appeal to adults.
    Though not up to the image standard of today's knock-out animation, the picture looks and sounds very good.
    There is a nice selection of extras, with appeal to the littlies and the  interested older fan.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo-SP500, using Component output
DisplayPhilips Plasma 42FD9954/69c. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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