The Aristocats marks the beginning of the transitional period between the Walt era and the Renaissance that took the studio by storm in the late 80s and 90s, and as such is full of lasts and firsts. Most notably, this was the last story that Walt approved and the first film to be completed after his death.
The voice talent in this film is absolutely fabulous:
- Maurice Chevalier had actually already retired when the film was in production, but when the Sherman brothers wrote the title song for the film, they knew there was only one person who could do it justice; so, using family connections, they sent Chevalier the demo and asked if he would record the song–and Chevalier agreed.
- Bill Thompson, the original voice of Droopy Dog and who had brought to life such Disney characters as the White Rabbit, Mr. Smee, and Jock the Scottie dog passed away a year after the film was released, making Uncle Waldo his final role.
- This film marked the first Disney roles for Eva Gabor and Pat Buttram. Incidentally, at the time they recorded the audio for The Aristocats, they were both appearing on Green Acres but they actually don’t share any scenes in the The Aristocats. Both would come back to the Disney studio at least twice more: Gabor as Miss Bianca in the Rescuers movies and Buttram as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood and Chief in The Fox and the Hound.
- Among some of the other better known actors on the film were Sterling Holloway, Carole Shelley (for our Wicked fans, this is the same person who would go on to play Madame Morrible), Paul Winchell, and George Lindsey (best known to fans as Goober of The Andy Griffith Show).
- This film also features one of my absolute favorite voice actors to ever work for the studio: Phil Harris. I adore Phil Harris. I love the characters he voiced (Baloo, O’Malley, Little John, and Patou from Rock-a-Doodle). Harris was one of the first character actors that I remember knowing by name (thank you, Robin Hood credits!) While each of his characters was different, they were all very distinctly Phil Harris characters.
Carrie and Brandie have both talked in recent weeks about the use and reuse of pieces in animation, but I recently realized that Disney didn’t just recycle animation–they also recycled bits of score, too. During a recent viewing, while I was watching the chase sequences between Edgar, Napoleon, and Lafayette, I noticed that if I closed my eyes I didn’t see this chase but rather the end of Robin Hood where Robin is breaking everyone out of the castle. There were some appropriate sound effect differences, but the underlying score is the same. I guess when you have the same people doing the music each time, it’s expected, but somehow, I don’t think Walt would have approved.
Finally, no post about The Aristocats would be complete without talking about one of True Classics’ favorite Disney characters of all time: Marie. She is feisty, adorable, sweet, not afraid to fight with her brothers, and not above calling on her mom when she things don’t go her way. She delivers some of my favorite lines, including the title of this post and, “Ladies don’t start fights. But they can finish them.” She is just too cute for words.