The AristoCats (1970)

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Released 21-Nov-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Animation Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Gallery-The Aristocats Scrapbook
Featurette-Cousin Country
Karaoke-Ev'rybody Wants To Be A Cat
Featurette-Making Of-The Sherman Bros.
Game-O'Malley's Singing And Painting Game
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1970
Running Time 75:38
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (63:52) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Wolfgang Reitherman
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Phil Harris
Eva Gabor
Sterling Holloway
Scatman Crothers
Paul Winchell
Lord Tim Hudson
Vito Scotti
Thurl Ravenscroft
Dean Clark
Liz English
Gary Dubin
Hermione Baddeley
Roddy Maude-Roxby
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music George Bruns
Floyd Huddleston
Richard M. Sherman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Portuguese Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Greek Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Hebrew Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Spanish
Portuguese
Greek
Hebrew
English for the Hearing Impaired
Croatian
Slovenian
Estonian
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    If there is one Walt Disney Classic that you could refer to as 'cool' then The Aristocats must be it. And it's not due to the storyline or the characters, rather it's due to one particular song, the jazzy, "Ev'rybody Wants To Be A Cat". This particular song goes beyond catchy and ends up sticking in your head for a very, very long time.

    Set in Paris at the turn of the last century, Madame Adelaide Bonfamille (Hermione Baddeley), a millionairess with a special love for her cats, Duchess (Eva Gabor) and her kittens, Berloiz (Dean Clark), Marie (Liz English) and Toulouse (Gary Dubin), plans to leave her entire estate to them and then, after their deaths, the estate transfers to the Butler, Edgar (Roddy Maude-Roxby). By an unfortunate miscalculation, Edgar decides that he cannot wait for the cats to live out their natural lives and decides that they must go so he can inherit immediately. So he proceeds to drug them and then takes them out into the French countryside, where he abandons them, hoping that they will never find their way back to the house.

    Luckily Duchess and the kittens meet up with a suave alley-cat named Thomas O’Malley (Phil Harris) and two very English geese, Abigail (Monica Evans) and Amelia (Carole Shelley) Gabble who together help the cats return to Paris. Once in Paris, Thomas makes a stopover in his ‘pad’ where his friend Scat-Cat (Scatman Crothers) and the Alley-gang are jamming the night away. Before they can safely return to the house though, they are going to need to get rid of Edgar. Here, they enlist the help of Roquefort the mouse (Sterling Holloway), Frou-Frou the horse (Nancy Kulp) and Scat-Cat’s entire gang for a final showdown where either the cats or Edgar will see themselves off for an extended vacation in Timbuktu.

    Although this was the 'last' animated feature that Walt Disney personally approved, the story was developed and animated after his death and to some extent has a not-quite-ready-yet feel about it. As such, The Aristocats is not amongst Disney’s best efforts, but it is still much better than the great majority of the Disney library. Anyway, it is meant for young children and it hits that market pretty well; and the jazz really isn’t all that bad.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This feature uses traditional, stylized animation which applies a rough, almost sketchy look to the drawings; thus many little scratches and marks in the animation are in fact simply part of the style and not source artefacts (for example 3:59, 15:12).

    The main feature is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 Fullscreen and is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer exhibits very fine detail and is for the most part very sharp, except for a few rare occasions where it loses focus and becomes soft, such as at 37:12 and 72:44. Likewise, there is only a very slight grain present except for one extended period during the cats' overnight stay in the French countryside (for example 21:48, 26:14) where I suspect the graininess is more a deliberate effect than an artefact, but I am unsure. There is no low level or chroma noise apparent. The black levels are perfect and the shadow details are mostly good, which is extremely important as several scenes are very dark and rely on the shadow details. I can’t help but feel that the light levels are just a little too dark, especially when struggling to resolve fine shadow detail on Berloiz for instance. The white levels are very good and provide a very nice contrast range. There are a few occurrences of sudden brightness change that is common with cel based animation - examples can be found at 30:21, 36:33, 44:09, 46:06, 64:41 where it darkens momentarily and at 56:48 where it brightens.

    The colours are absolutely beautiful and completely natural. This feature uses a very wide and very daring colour palette ranging from a mixture of very dark greys to Parisian style watercolours and pastels and finally a good sampling of fully saturated rich vibrant colours to throw some life into the mix. The skin tones, or in one case, the mouse ear tones are absolutely precise and very natural. The only colour artefact I spotted was when one of the characters suddenly changed shade of colour from brown to orange at 15:04.

    There are no MPEG artefacts. There is an odd effect, resembling posterization, which affects the white colouring on the mother cat, Duchess and her daughter Marie. This effect appears every once in a while throughout the feature and is most visible at 9:16 & 13:48. Aliasing appears very rarely and can be seen at 5:32 (door), 34:33 (newspaper) and 4:37 and 66:31 (stairs) for instance. These occurrences are extremely minor and are only mentioned for completeness.

    Film artefacts are never frequent or severe enough to be considered more than a minor annoyance with examples at 3:50, 22:56, 49:50 (black and white flecks), 64:10 (vertical black stripe), 28:17 (yellow smudge) and 63:15 and 64:10 (scratch marks). There is also some very mild telecine wobble that borders on unnoticeable.

    I sampled a good 20 minutes each of the English and English for the Hearing Impaired subtitle streams and found them to be absolutely perfect in every regard.

    This disc is an RSDL disc with the layer change occurring at 63:52. It is excellently placed, occurring during a fade to black scene change whilst the sound is also muted -- as such it passes by almost unnoticed.

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

Audio

    Consistent with many animation titles, this soundtrack does not demand much from the surround and subwoofer channels. The voices are almost unilaterally focused in the centre speaker and the music soundstage spans from the left to right. The surround speakers provide only periodic and limited support for the music, effects and some ambience.

    I listened to the default Dolby Digital 5.1 English soundtrack and found it to be very good except there is a very slight, almost inaudible, white noise hiss present throughout, which can be best heard at 35:17 for example. There is also a Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish track, and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded Hebrew, Greek and Portuguese tracks. I sampled these other tracks and all-in-all they were quite good, albeit somewhat flatter in the front.

    The dialogue is always clear and distinct even when considering the various deliberate accents. The lip sync is also exceptionally good for an animated feature where the concept is a little onerous.

    The music is one of the greatest aspects of this feature, especially the "Ev'rybody Wants To Be A Cat" song by Floyd Huddleston, which serves not only as a great introduction to jazz for children, but is also a good fun track for the adults. The music was written by George Bruns and the Sherman brothers team again, Robert B. Sherman & Richard M. Sherman, who are the award-winning team responsible for the music in several other classics including "Mary Poppins", "The Jungle Book" and "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh". The music in The Aristocats is integrated differently in this feature when compared to others. Instead of concentrating on carrying or furthering the story, the music here provides atmospheric support as background theme music and a light-hearted break between the various plot developments. It is well integrated into the story and ranges from lively jazz styled numbers to sweeping symphonic styled pieces. One final note about the music: the opening theme song was sung by Maurice Chevalier who came out of retirement especially to record just this song.

    The surrounds are used very sparingly to add ambience to some of the music, not all, and to support some sound effects during the presentation.

    Although the subwoofer remains mostly idle it does wake up every once in a while to support a little bass in the music or to give the thunderstorm some mild thunder. It is reasonably well integrated except for a single case where it over-emphasises the double-bass strings at 57:16.

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

Extras

Main Menu

    The main menu is animated and supported with background music. It is clear and simple to navigate with animated transitions to the submenus.

The Aristocats Scrapbook

    18 Galleries, 68 Pictures. This is a reasonable gallery of high quality images including: early concept art (various settings and character proposals), storyboards for the Jazz scene and haystack scene, character development artwork (including the missing maid character), some behind the scenes shots (storyboard process, live action models, stunt actors, voice actors (all of the major ones) and Maurice Chevalier (title song)), publicity materials, Christmas materials, additional merchandising and finally photos from the premiere (which exhibit shocking black levels).

Featurette -- "The Country Cousin"

    Duration 8:56. This is one of the original "Silly Symphonies" released in the 1960s. I happen to own the original of this version on the limited edition DVD release and a direct comparison shows several flaws with this version: The top and bottom of the image are significantly cropped (this is obvious in the opening credits), the use of edge enhancement is severe to say the least, the images are interlaced from a video source and the brightness levels are far too high which, coupled with a contrast correction, causes the colours to become oversaturated. In general it is a much harsher image than the properly restored version. It tells the story (without dialogue) of a country mouse who comes to live with his cousin in the city and finds out that it is not all that it is cracked up to be.

Sing-Along Song -- "Ev'rybody Wants To Be A Cat"

    Duration 2:23. Very average video transfer of the captioned, sing-along version of this classic song. Unfortunately it was trimmed in length and feels somewhat incomplete as a result.

Featurette -- "Making Of"

    Duration 7:00. This is an enjoyable documentary of the Sherman Brothers who were responsible for the award winning songs in The Aristocats, Mary Poppins, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, The Jungle Book.

O'Malley's Singing and Painting Game

    Two separate games. The first requires you to answer a series of questions to play the first notes of the song "Scales and Arpeggios". (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) Solution: C, D, E, F, G. The second game is simply painting by numbers and offers little challenge except to the youngest of audiences. When you complete the pictures you are rewarded with a short animation relevant to the still picture that was just coloured in.

R4 vs R1

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

    This disc is available in R1 and R2 although the R2 features are hard to determine as most of the review sites are not available in English.

    The R4 version misses out on:

    The R1 version misses out on:

    I suspect that the interactive games on each version may also be slightly different. On the basis of the reviews, I believe the video and audio quality is likely to be very similar, so our PAL formatting and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio makes the R4 the winner.

Summary

    The Aristocats is cool, or at the very least the music is. The story, whilst more interesting and original than many other Disney productions, is lacking in coherency, yet it remains enjoyable to most ages nonetheless.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is also very good.

    The extras are reasonable, but not great, nor are they really extensive--I have seen much better.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Michael S Cox (to bio, or not to bio?)
Sunday, November 10, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplayJVC Interiart Flat 68cm Display 16:9. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3802
SpeakersFront LR - NEAR MainMast, Center - NEAR 20M, Surround LR - NEAR Spinnaker DiPoles, Rear LR - NEAR MainMast-II, Subwoofer - NEAR PS-2 DiPole

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
a lot of fun - orangecat (my kingdom for a decent bio) REPLY POSTED