20 Weeks of Disney Animation: ‘The Aristocats’

The Aristocats was released in 1970, four years after the death of Walt Disney. It was the last animated film he approved before his passing, and was developed by those who worked closest with Walt including Woolie Reitherman, Ken Anderson, Ollie Johnston, and the Sherman Brothers. Because of this, the film is largely akin to the films that came before and is truly “A Walt Disney Production”.

The film itself is quite a lot like previous films that had come from the studio. In fact, it is in many ways similar to One Hundred and One Dalmatians. Focusing on a group of high-class cats, the setting is in Paris. After setting One Hundred and One Dalmatians in London, it was felt that placing the story in a major city was effective in telling their story. Therefore, The Aristocats was set in Paris. This was reflected in the animation, but also in the opening song, written by the Sherman Brothers. By this opening theme of the film we are swept away to this city of romance and luxury and into the home of these cats. In fact, this opening theme was sung by the bonafide Frenchman Maurice Chevalier, who was convinced by the Sherman Brothers to come out of retirement to record it for the film. Interestingly, only two of their songs made it into the final film, those being the title song and “Scales and Arpeggios”. The other few songs were written by various other composers. In fact, this was the last animated film for which the Sherman Brothers composed music for many years. Following this film and 1971’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks, they left the studio and worked on other projects until finally returning almost 30 years later for 2000’s The Tigger Movie.

Disney fans will be quick to recognize the voices that appear here. Eva Gabor, later the voice of Bianca in The Rescuers movies, voices Bianca, the head cat. Phil Harris also lends his talent to the role of Thomas O’Malley, following his work as Baloo in The Jungle Book. His distinct voice is instantly recognizable and fun to hear again. Finally, legendary voice artist Sterling Holloway, best known as Winnie the Pooh, voices the character of Roquefort the Mouse.

Though somewhat light on story, The Aristocats is a great movie that, above all, offers a fun viewing for audiences of any age. Though it is not necessarily a Disney classic, it is worth watching with kids or revisiting as an adult.

Live-action remake: There are currently no plans to remake this in live action.

The Aristocats in the theme parks: There is almost no Aristocats in the theme parks except for an appearance in “It’s a Small World” at Hong Kong and Tokyo Disneyland and some rare appearances at parades.

Sequel/Spin-off:  During the height of the DisneyToon sequels in the early 2000s, one such sequel that was planned was The Aristocats II. The film was far enough in development that it had a plot and storyboards completed. However, like Dumbo II, the film was cancelled and never saw the light of day. In addition, The Aristocats: The Animated Series was a project that was planned but also cancelled. It was to focus on teenage versions of the kittens we got to known in the original film.

The Aristocats on stage: Disney Theatrical Licensing has adapted a short, musical version of the film for young performers. Titled The Aristocats KIDS, it features a mix of original and songs and is intended for local schools and community theatres to produce.

The Aristocats is currently available to stream on Disney+.

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