• Daniel Rae

The Aristocats Review

"The Aristocats", Walt Disney Pictures, 1970

Whilst I was enticed instantly by the charm and personality echoing from the quaint progression of the story and the beauty of Disney's hand-drawn style, its brevity prevents the film from exploring the class divide of Paris other ideas that it is merely presented.

This film presents one the most utterly self-contained, undemanding stories I've experienced in recent memory, which holds both its pros and cons. Whilst the screenplay hits very familiar narrative beats, the most apparent being jealousy that sparks the disruption to the equilibrium, the pristine way in which it is presented through was somewhat baffling. There is a fine balance that Wolfgang strikes perfectly between the naivety of the Cats and the human level of identification we share with Edgar's character motivations. This is achieved through brilliantly rounded animation that gives basic movement and the quest-like nature of the narrative as a whole a charming dynamic quality. The voice acting talent displayed also does a brilliant job in helping shape the characters, fitting harmoniously with their models - the standouts here being the Hepburn-inspired grace of Gabor's Duchess and Harris' Jazz-singer suaveness and tasteful bite he brings to Thomas 'O Malley. Accompanied by the pastel shades and colour palettes that is executed wonderfully, as well as the graceful music passages that guides the cause-and-effect style of narrative, there is an unprecedented sense of elegance as the diegesis unfolds, exercising a cool and breezy energy that dances around universal themes like family, belonging and social class.

As charming as I find this passive breeziness to be, the lack of any real grit when it comes to the treatment of the conflict not only leaves no room for real emotional engagement, but highlights a lack of nuance when it comes to the linkage between the Cat's journeys and Edgar's shenanigans. Whilst I can appreciate the focus the screenplay and the direction took towards the buoyant aesthetic that presents a safe and universal lens towards the naivety of youth (encapsulated by the kittens), I feel that the ideas and moods that this film darts around provide merely a stepping stone, rather than forming together to make an artistic statement like with other Disney classics. This can be seen with the notion of class. Rather than presenting class conflict that has the potential of understanding (perhaps between the ideology of ownership) and/or providing a moral compass for any particular character (possibly for Duchess and giving her children a more culturally enriching upbringing), there is no tension between these two worlds at all. Whilst the subplot involving Napoleon and Lafayette presents a caricature of the typical working class greediness, the relationship between the protagonists are strictly harmonious, resulting in an uninteresting and inconsequential story, despite the cuteness that surrounds it. This shadow of potential can also be seen with Abigail and Amelia. Although manifesting themselves in the story as plot contrivances, there is an individual tone that strikes when Thomas presents a masculine vulnerability, opening up for the idea of class manipulation and exploitation. The way it bleeds with the jolly atmosphere it is surrounded is actually smartly deceptive. This can also be seen with the imagery that cradles the introduction of Uncle Waldo, who cleverly personifies a less suave and grittily realistic notion of a working class pawn. However, their brushed-over presence in the 2nd and 3rd act undercuts any room for stylistic and tonal shifts, which in my opinion is needed.

overall, whilst the film's artistic charm is enough to explore a few topics and ideologies, its banal skeleton that holds it in place is not enough for me to be wholly invested in this world.

3/5 Stars

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