Tuesday, January 24, 2012

#20: The Worst One So Far

(c) Disney
 The Aristocats, 1970
watched January 15, 2012

In case you're like me and never bothered to see The Aristocats, you are not missing much. Needless to say, this was one of the worst Disney animated films I've ever watched. We haven't gotten to Home on the Range though. So I am thinking perhaps we haven't hit rock bottom yet. Yikes.

I'm not quite sure what to say about a film that I really didn't like. I've maintained a fairly optimistic voice on this blog, but it's hard not to be critical of this one. Watching this film reminded me of all the reasons I love the other ones, and how this one fell short on so many levels.

An engaging story
One of the strengths of animated films is that the story is established before any drawing happens. This is why the best animated films are so seamless. All the editing happens in advance, and only the crucial, important moments are captured. Aristocats "rambles" on in ways that made me wonder why certain sequences were kept in. The scenes when Edgar the butler is being chased by the two dogs feel especially random and unimportant. I found myself wanting to get back to the main characters, Duchess and Thomas, instead of wasting time on the gags of Edgar crashing into a windmill and repeatedly losing his umbrella. Who cares about that? 

Characters that you can relate to (or, for you grammar snobs, "to which you can relate")
The main character is a Parisian cat (with a mysteriously Hungarian accent) who lives in a mansion with her extremely wealthy mistress. Duchess is pampered, proper and poised, with no experience in the 'real world'. While this bears striking resemblance to Lady and the Tramp, Duchess does not possess the same qualities of Lady's vulnerability and charm, and I felt little sympathy for her. Her character does not seem to have any emotions; she is neither happy nor sad nor frightened enough for me to feel connected to her story. Additionally, Thomas O'Malley, the street-wise alley cat Duchess meets, seems two-dimensional and predictable. Been there, done that.

A threatening and complex villain
Pretty much the entire plot is ruined when we are introduced to the villain. The butler, named Edgar Balthazar, overhears his mistress Adelaide Bonfamille creating her will, indicating that her entire fortune is to go to Duchess and her kittens. The jealous, greedy butler decides to take action so that he can inherit her wealth. Now, if I were in this situation, I would probably just kill the cats and get it over with. End of story, right? He could have easily poisoned them with something more deadly than sleeping pills. So, when Edgar instead "catnaps" them and drops them off into a river (inside a basket, so they wouldn't drown), I was pretty much ready to throw in the towel on the whole film. Why go any further when the whole threat rests on the stupidest villain move in the history of villains?

Memorable melodies
My favorite Disney animated films contain some of the best songs. Their melodies are not only the kind that can get stuck in your head for days, but they also embody the heart of the film's story, express the characters' innermost thoughts, and captivate the audience. In Aristocats, all we get is a jazzy rendition of "Everybody Wants to be a Cat," performed by a gang of racially stereotyped alley cats. Don't get me started on the "Chinese" Siamese cat who plays the piano with a couple pairs of chopsticks, while singing "ching chong" speak. Ugh.

Beautiful animation
After watching films like Bambi and Sleeping Beauty, the artistry in Aristocats is extremely disappointing. There is something compelling about how most Disney films use color, brush strokes, and shapes in a style that can only work with animation. It creates a sense of wonder and fantasy, further pulling the audience into the story. Aristocats is, in a word, sloppy. The lines were rough, the colors rather garish, and the backgrounds were stiff and boring. The characters are portrayed as if the animators were rushing through the drawings. At the end of the day, the medium did nothing to serve the purpose of telling an already uninteresting story any better.

So, ladies and gentlemen, now you know that yes, even a Disnerd such as myself can actually say something negative about a Disney movie. This makes me even more eager to get to the Renaissance movies! Can't wait for March to come!


  1. Yeah, this one was TERRIBLY boring!
    However, I think the only interesting part of this movie was the jazzy rendition of "Everybody Wants to Be a Cat." I obvously wanted to vomit when I saw the racial stereotypes, but there's something about scat and jazz that's just really fun.

  2. I think this one is rock bottom. The plot and even some of the rotoscoping is straight out of 101. In "Range" you've got some fun gags but this... ugh.