Friday, June 12, 2015

Tonight's Movie: The AristoCats (1970) at the El Capitan Theatre

Last night I attended another very enjoyable Throwback Thursday screening at Disney's El Capitan Theatre. The occasion was a showing of the animated feature THE ARISTOCATS (1970).

THE ARISTOCATS is a movie we own on DVD which my children have seen over the years, but I don't think I had actually sat down and watched it all the way through since I saw it on its initial release.

I've had fond memories of the movie ever since then, and have owned a stuffed Marie kitten from Disneyland for more years than I can remember! More recently I added the Marie mug seen here to my Disney collection.

I didn't recall much about the film since that childhood viewing, but I found it to be a total delight, funny and with some nice musical interludes.

The story concerns an elegant cat named Duchess (Eva Gabor) and her three kittens, Marie (Liz English), Berlioz (Dean Clark), and Toulouse (Gary Dubin). They live in Paris as the pampered companions of Madame (Hermione Baddeley), who instructs her lawyer (Charles Lane) to draw up a will leaving her estate for the care of her beloved cats. When the cats are gone, the remainder of the estate will go to Madame's butler Edgar (Roddy Maude-Roxby).

Edgar, upon learning this news, determines to get rid of the cats and dumps them far away in the country, where they meet Thomas O'Malley (Phil Carey), an alley cat who helps them get back home to Paris. Once back home, they must deal with the evil Edgar before they can live happily ever after...and will the romance of the refined Duchess and the wilder O'Malley continue?

Although the storyline has the potential to be rather dark, it's all handled with a light touch, not quite as suspenseful as a Disney film such as ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS (1961). Fortunately Edgar doesn't try to actually kill the cats, he just wants to "move" them to another location! And the cats have assistance from many kind animals along the way.

The movie has overtones of LADY AND THE TRAMP (1955), not to mention a touch of THE JUNGLE BOOK (1967), but it stands on its own as an amusing and well-constructed film.

Of course, when O'Malley starts talking it's hard not to hear "Baloo" at first, but O'Malley soon takes on a life of his own. Phil Harris made indelible contributions to Disney animation in this era; in addition to THE JUNGLE BOOK and THE ARISTOCATS he also voiced Little John in Disney's animated ROBIN HOOD (1973).

A highlight of the film is Harris, Scat Cat (Scatman Crothers) and company singing "Ev-rybody Wants to Be a Cat." As a friend said to me, it's hard not to tap your feet during that number!

"Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat" was written by Floyd Huddleston and Al Rinker, with "Thomas O'Malley Cat" by Terry Gilkyson and the rest of the score by the Sherman Brothers.

Pat Buttram, who like Harris was also later in ROBIN HOOD, is wonderful as Napoleon the dog ("I'm the leader!"), with George Lindsey as his pal Lafayette. They have some very funny bits listening to vehicles and the sound of someone walking.

Also hilarious are Monica Evans and Carole Shelley as the geese, Abigail and Amelia, who rescue O'Malley from drowning. They had a couple of moments which were laugh-out-loud funny. Evans would go on to voice Maid Marian in ROBIN HOOD (1973), with Shelley appearing in that film as the voice of Lady Cluck.

Winnie-the-Pooh himself, Sterling Holloway, voices Roquefort the mouse, who dresses in a Sherlock Holmes style outfit to go search for his friends the cats. (The friendship of a mouse and a cat family is one of the cute things about the movie). The film's other voices include Nancy Kulp as Frou-Frou the horse and Paul Winchell and Thurl Ravenscroft as some of Scat Cat's pals.

THE ARISTOCATS was directed by Wolfgang Reitherman. It runs 78 minutes.

THE ARISTOCATS is available on DVD, Blu-ray, and VHS.

This Throwback Thursday screening seemed as though it was more lightly attended than previous TBT screenings, and (perhaps due to school being out in some areas), there were also more children in the audience than normal. Some of the small fry were on the restless side, but hopefully they were paying enough attention to take home the same kinds of happy memories which I had of the first time I saw this film roughly 44 years ago!

The next Throwback Thursday screening will be on August 6, 2015, and it will be a Pixar film. I cast a vote for THE INCREDIBLES (2004).

Previously: Tonight's Movie: Lady and the Tramp (1955) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: Cinderella (1950) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: Peter Pan (1953) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: Mulan (1998) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: The Little Mermaid (1989) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: Mary Poppins (1964) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: Sleeping Beauty (1959) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: Swiss Family Robinson (1960) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: Alice in Wonderland (1951) at the El Capitan Theatre; plus Tonight's Movie: The Jungle Book (1967) at the TCM Classic Film Festival.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

My son often puts "The Aristocats" on what feels like an endless loop and it drives me round the bend! There's some laziness in repeating animated scenes that irks me. Sometimes my enforced repeated viewings will turn me into a fan of something I dislike initially. That has yet to happen with O'Malley and the gang.

7:49 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Caftan Woman, interested to have your opinion as you are such a knowledgeable viewer of animated films. Very interested to hear this one doesn't work for you.

I wonder if I'm at all influenced by the fact this was one of the first animated Disney cartoons I ever saw? (Back when we could only see them in theaters, LOL.) And I suppose I kind of enjoy picking out the influences of its predecessors, seeing the film as sort of a tribute to the earlier movies.

Would love to know how it strikes others!

Best wishes,

9:15 PM  

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