Aristocats [1970]

Duchess and her three kittens are enjoying the high life with their devoted human mistress until the wicked butler Edgar, with his eyes on a big inheritance, decides to dope them and get them out of the picture. How can these fragile creatures cope in the unfamiliar countryside and the meaner streets of Paris? Only by meeting the irrepressible alley cat O'Malley, a rough diamond with romance in his heart. After they get a taste of the wide dangerous world, he guides them home, and Edgar gets his just desserts at the wrong end of a horse. As always, it's really the voices rather than the animation that are the heart of the Disney magic: Phil Harris is brilliant as O'Malley, Eva Gabor as Duchess is... well... Eva Gabor; but perhaps the most memorable turns are by Pat Buttram and George Lindsay, who turn the old hounds Napoleon and Lafayette into a couple of bumbling Southern-fried rednecks. Their scenes with Edgar, and the musical numbers with Scat Cat and his cool-dude band, are classic. Most striking about seeing The Aristocats now is how deeply Disney's style of animation has changed since this was at the cutting edge in 1970. Perhaps the nostalgic, dated feel are just a result of being plonked down in Belle Epoque Paris, but the illustrations are fussier (a pity) and the animation and overall pace much less frenetic (sometimes a relief) than in more recent efforts such as Aladdin. --Richard Farr

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