(On-demand Video, November 2012) Thirty-some years and countless more animated features later, this semi-classic hand-drawn Disney effort (“semi-classic” as in: not as favourably reviewed or best-known as many other Disney animated films, but still widely recognized) is still an impressive piece of work. Never mind the inconsistent inking: The Aristocats is an astonishing piece of work, the animation of the lead characters fluid and expressive enough to impress even at the digital age. The script may be straightforward, but the character work is impressive, and a pair of catchy songs give a lot of extra value to a film that is scarcely more than 75 minutes long. This is a kid’s film (the slapstick alone proves it) but the kitten protagonists are cute enough to melt anyone’s heart into a giggle of awwws. Extra points are to be given for a Maurice Chevalier song, and a cheerfully anachronistic sequence featuring jazzy cats with psychedelic lighting. The Aristocats is a very cute film, and that’s pretty much all the charm it needs to succeed even today.
(Second-through-fiftieth viewings, toddler-watching, In French, On Blu-Ray, January 2014) Here’s a new bit to add in the critical lexicon: “toddler-watching” a movie, or, what happens when you end up seeing a movie fifty times alongside a toddler. This does not mean sitting through a film fifty times entirely: it means catching the film in bits and pieces are the toddler wanders off, needs something from the kitchen, wants to see the same musical numbers five times in a row, or needs to skip over the scary parts. While the cinephile in myself is overtly horrified by this collage approach to watching a film, the parent with his finger on the remote is pretty happy that background movie-watching exists. So it is that endlessly revisiting The Aristocats remains a fun experience even the fiftieth time in. By the time I can hum even the incidental musical cues, the flaws of the film are obvious: the story meanders, some set-pieces exist in their own universe, the Paris-1910 setting is practically useless, there are a few unfortunate stereotypes, the animation is sub-standard by Disney standards (despite the gorgeous restoration work on Blu-Ray, the key-frame lines suddenly appear and disappear… to the point where the film is almost better seen on DVD) and the best musical numbers are a bit too short. On the other hand, it’s a film practically devoid of any kind of scary content, the animal characters are just adorable and the musical numbers are, indeed, quite enjoyable. (I particularly like the title song, the end of “Scales and Arpeggios” and, of course, the floor-shattering climax of “Ev’rybody Wants To Be A Cat”) If my daughter’s happy watching the cats sing and make their way home, then who am I to argue?