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The Aristocats Gold Collection DVD Review

"The Aristocats" movie poster The Aristocats

Theatrical Release: December 24, 1970 / Running Time: 79 Minutes / Rating: G

Directors: Wolfgang Reitherman

Voice Cast: Phil Harris (Thomas O'Malley), Eva Gabor (Duchess), Sterling Holloway (Roquefort), Scatman Crothers (Scat Cat), Hermione Baddeley (Madame), Roddy Maude-Roxby (Edgar), Paul Winchell (Chinese Cat), Lord Tim Hudson (English Cat), Vito Scotti (Italian Cat), Thurl Ravenscroft (Russian Cat), Nancy Kulp (Frou Frou), Pat Buttram (Napoleon), George Lindsey (Lafayette), Monica Evans (Abigail), Carole Shelley (Amelia)

Songs: "The Aristocats", "Scales and Arpeggios", "Thomas O'Malley Cat", "Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat", "She Never Felt Alone"

Click to buy The Aristocats: Special Edition, now available on Disney DVD.
On February 5, 2008, Disney re-issued The Aristocats in a Special Edition DVD. This new disc boasts a digitally remastered, enhanced widescreen transfer and new Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. It also includes a deleted song featurette, an extensive scrapbook, a Sherman Brothers featurette, the Figaro short "Lend a Paw", Disney Virtual Kitten set-top and DVD-ROM activity (with screensaver and wallpaper), an additional game, Disney Song Selection, and an excerpt on cats from Walt's "Disneyland" anthology series.
Click here to buy The Aristocats: Special Edition from Amazon.com, click here to read our complete Aristocats: Special Edition DVD review, or read on for a full critique of the out of print Gold Collection disc.


The year: 1910. The place: Paris, France. The movie: The Aristocats,
Disney's 20th animated classic and one of the studio's first released after the death of Walt Disney.

According to Madame Adelaide Bonfamille's new will, her housecat Duchess and three kittens will be inheriting their owner's fortune. That is, unless Edgar, her unappreciated butler and next-in-line, gets his way and eliminates his competition to the family riches. With visions of money in his head, Edgar drugs them and leaves them in the middle of nowhere.

While that premise may sound dark, The Aristocats is anything but. A lighthearted, free-spirited comedy about cats, this film eschews a simple label of "good" or "bad" and finds itself instead smack in the middle. While this probably puts it in the lower spectrum of Disney's unequivocally strong animated canon, it is worth reiterating that The Aristocats is not, by any means, a bad film.

Toulouse, Duchess, and Marie enjoy exploring Scales and Arpeggios. Duchess meets J. Thomas O Malley, feline rounder.

Far from home, Duchess and her kittens make the acquaintance of Thomas O'Malley, who is without a doubt, the most impressionable persona in the film, even if he feels (and sounds) a lot like Baloo in cat form. The smooth-talking O'Malley helps get them on their way home to Paris.

Along the way, they run into some British geese, a couple of dim-witted hound dogs, and a swinging band of jazz cats from all over the world.

The film plays it safe, resulting in a number of familiar Disney elements together without a particularly distinct personality to make this feature stand out. Some moments are more inspired than others, but throughout it all, The Aristocats remains fun and spirited.

Buy The Aristocats from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Animation Aspect Ratio)
Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English
Closed Captioned
Release Date: April 4, 2000
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Out of Print
Re-Released as Special Edition

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VIDEO and AUDIO

The movie is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1, which is almost certainly the aspect ratio of the original animation, even if the case implies that a modification has occurred. Picture quality is consistently satisfactory. The transfer is mostly clean, crisp, and sharp, though the animation style is a bit rough around the edges. There did not appear to be any significant problems with the video. A minor issue of some graininess in certain scenes was about all.

The Aristocats is presented in Dolby 2.0 Surround 2.0. The musical numbers and sound effects breathe life into the audio presentation. The dialogue is always easy to hear and is never overpowered by the ambient sounds or music. The "Ev'rybody Wants To Be a Cat" sequence is particularly rambunctious in surround. Overall, the soundtrack is well done.

The kittens, left to right: Marie, Toulouse, and Berlioz. "Ev'rybody...ev'rybody...ev'rybody wants to be a cat!"

BONUS MATERIALS

As a Gold Collection DVD, there is an unsurprising lack of bonus material. First up, there is a 68-second Theatrical Trailer of The Aristocats. From this you can see how the film was marketed and how much better the DVD transfer looks than the video content in this preview.

There is a Read Along, which tells the entire plot over a few dozen screens, which you can choose to have read to you or read yourself.

Main Menu The Aristocats Read Along The Aristocats Trivia Game

The Aristocats Trivia Game asks 17 questions on the plot and characters. Both correct and incorrect answers are followed up with short sound clips.
Though the questions are fairly easy, the consensus seems to be that The Aristocats is rather forgettable, so you may not ace it ("The Cat's Meow") without having watched the movie recently.

There's supposed to be a Music Appreciation Booklet, according to the back of the case, and there may very well be in select copies. But there was none in this rental, probably because someone took it or because Disney stopped printing them. If you don't have one, you're not missing out on too much. This "Fun with Music" booklet, aimed at parents who are buying the video for their children, insists that music is important to early childhood development. Included are suggestions on how to involve children with music, and quotes on the importance of music by the likes of Einstein, Beethoven, and Bill Clinton.

The disc starts with the opening to Dinosaur, and DVD previews for The Fox and the Hound, The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, and Toy Story 2. The "Preview Trailers" menu option plays all of these; there's no individual access, besides skipping. That's what you'll have to do, anyway, just to get to the very basic, static 4x3 menu screens.

Psychedelic cat dancing. Out of sight!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

There are the Disney films that everybody knows and loves, there are the package features that few know, and then there is a film like The Aristocats. A charming and good-natured musical comedy, The Aristocats is only lacking when compared alongside the studio's crowning achievements in animation. This Gold Collection disc is a pretty basic release, almost certainly the only DVD that this film will receive. As such, completists need no encouragement to buy it, and those who often hold off in anticipation for super-duper re-releases have no reason to hesitate. As a film and as a DVD, The Aristocats should leave most viewers satisfied.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com Marketplace

Buy from Amazon.com

On February 5, 2008, Disney re-issued The Aristocats in a Special Edition DVD. This new disc boasts a digitally remastered, enhanced widescreen transfer and new Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. It also includes a deleted song featurette, an extensive scrapbook, a Sherman Brothers featurette, the Figaro short "Lend a Paw", Disney Virtual Kitten set-top and DVD-ROM activity (with screensaver and wallpaper), an additional game, Disney Song Selection, and an excerpt on cats from Walt's "Disneyland" anthology series.
Click here to buy The Aristocats: Special Edition from Amazon.com and here to read our full Aristocats: Special Edition DVD review.

Related Reviews:
The Aristocats: Special Edition (1970)
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977) | Robin Hood (1973) | The Rescuers (1977)
Lady and the Tramp (1955) | 101 Dalmatians (1961) | The Fox and the Hound (1981) | Dumbo (1941)
The Jungle Book (1967) | Oliver & Company (1988) | The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
The Three Lives of Thomasina (1964) | The Million Dollar Duck (1971) | The Barefoot Executive (1971)

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Reviewed April 2, 2004.