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"Everybody wants to be a cat, because a cat's the only cat who knows where it's at..."
—"Everybody Wants to Be a Cat''' as sung by the legendary Scatman Crothers.
A man walks into a Disney talent agency and says, "Have I got an act for you!"The agent leans back in his chair and says, "Okay, tell me about this act."The man begins: "Talking cats!"Paris, 1910. The fabulously wealthy retired opera singer Madame Adelaide Bonfamille has decided to leave her entire fortune to her high-society pet cats. Her butler, Edgar, wanting the fortune for himself, drugs the felines with sleeping pills and abandons them in the French countryside... the night after the will was made... which isn't the least bit suspicious."Unlike cats in the real world, classy Duchess and her three kittens decide to make their way back home with the help of streetwise alley cat Thomas O'Malley. Along the way, he takes them to hang out with his alley cat friends, who treat the pets to some anachronistic jazz music (accompanied by even more anachronistic psychedelic graphics). No prizes for guessing the ending: Duchess hooks up with Thomas O'Malley, and Edgar gets what's coming to him courtesy of the alley cats."The agent looks baffled. "Wow... what do you call an act like that?"And the man replies with a smile, "The Aristocats!"The agent shakes his head and says, "I think you're on the wrong page — this is about the Disney Animation, the filthy joke is The Aristocrats."This marks the last film personally approved by Walt Disney himself, and is the 20th entry into the studio's extensive library.
This Disney animated classic provides examples of:
Borderline example is having swing music and a hippie cat in 1910. Though, jazz was already emerging. In a children's book of the film, they say that jazz comes from America, meaning one of the cats they met brought it to Paris.
Some of the cars and trucks seen in the film appears to be from the 1960s. Justified, considering where Disney got those vehicles from.
Averted with Georges Hautecourt's car; it's contemporary for the Edwardian Era, as is the milk truck. Both look quite beaten and aged, though.
Animal Talk: At the very least, cats, horses, mice and geese all speak the same language; a couple of talking dogs also appear, but we never see them interact with the cats. A joke right near the end implies that either Madame can speak the animal language, or she just believes they speak.
Artistic License – Animal Care: Pouring half a bottle of sleeping pills into a bowl of milk and feeding it to cats is a fantastic way to get them killed. If nothing else, it will do a mouse in quickly. However, he might have been trying to kill them, and then just dump their bodies.
Incidentally, while it was standard practice for a long time, giving cats milk (or mice, for that matter) isn't so good for their digestion - though if we assume it was goat milk, then it's not quite as bad.
Art Shift: It's subtle, but the cats are drawn slightly less anthropomorphic when the humans are talking.
Big "Shut Up!": Roquefort trying to get some quiet during the big fight so he can pick the combination padlock on the trunk. It actually works! Made all the more impressive by the fact that even Edgar, who shouldn't understand animal speech, stops dead in his tracks.
The Casanova: Implied with O'Malley, who lathers Duchess in praise like a pro. He later seems surprised by how true his comments were.
Cats Are Mean: Averted by the kindly Duchess and her kittens, who are friends with a mouse named Roquefort, and with O'Malley. Used straight when Scat Cat's gang tries to eat Roquefort, then immediately subverted when he manages to spit out O'Malley's name and tell them Duchess and the kittens are in trouble — they run off to go help.
Cats Are Snarkers: Mostly averted, even by O'Malley. The one exception is when he finally gets fed up with the Goose Sisters. Oddly enough, even though they are quite prim and proper British, it goes right over their heads:
O'Malley: Hiya, chicks.
Amelia *giggles profusely*: We're not chickens, we're geese!
Cats Have Nine Lives: The reason Edgar wants the cats out of the way; he figures that he will never inherit Madame's fortune because the cats will outlive him. Considering Edgar's age and that cats can live for over 20 years, he could be right about them outliving him even if he's wrong about the nine lives.
Cat Stereotype: Thomas O'Malley is a Lovable Rogue orange or cinnamon male cat and Duchess is an upper-class all-white female cat. Also, Toulouse (an orange male kitten) and Marie (an all-white female kitten) fit orange cat and white cat stereotypes respectively. However, Berlioz (a grey male kitten) doesn't fit any of the grey cat stereotypes.
Disappeared Dad: The father of the kittens is never seen or mentioned, although they express hope that O'Malley will take up the job which he does. Given the different looks and ages of Berlioz and Toulouse, there was probably more than one father actually. That's how it usually is with cats. Interesting to note: A sequel storybook was written sometime in the 80s. It obviously takes place after the movie as the geese sisters show up. But, O'Malley is completely absent from the story.
As Duchess is a pedigreed queen, it's likely that Madame had her bred to an equally well-bred tom belonging to some other high-society Kindhearted Cat Lover.
That still doesn't account for the kittens' different colors. In cats, black and orange fur are both dominant genes carried on the X chromosome, so a male can only carry (and pass on) one or the other. Marie's easy to account for (white fur is a completely different gene, and recessive), but Berlioz and Toulouse have to have different fathers.
Disney Animated Canon: Depending on how you look at it, this film is either the last of Disney's "Golden Era", or the beginning of their Dark Age. It was the last movie Walt personally green-lit before his death, but the first he never worked on directly (The Jungle Book was the last film he produced).
Distressed Dude: O'Malley bravely dives into the water to save Marie, but it backfires when he himself can't swim back to shore and has to be rescued by two very British geese. Or, alternatively, fromsaid geese.
Marie: Die muziek, daar ga je lekker van wippen! note The sentence translates to "it makes you waggle real good, that music!", but "wippen" can either mean "to waggle" or "to fuck" in Dutch. The latter one is much more common, although it flies over the heads of little children.
One of the characters (Uncle Waldo) is implied to be completely drunk in his debut scene. Lampshaded during this scene:
Waldo: *looking at a menu* Look! Look at this! "Prime Country Goose a la Provencale, stuffed with chestnuts"...? And "basted in white wine." *hiccups*
O'Malley: *looking disgusted* Basted? He's been marinated in it.
O'Malley: *after Waldo stumbles off with his nieces*: I think I like Uncle Waldo.
Duchess *giggles*: Especially when he's been marinated!
In the Norwegian version, during a pun based joke by the geese sisters (that wouldn't make any sense in English), Waldo is directly referred to as "drunk".
The scene with a sleepy Napoleon and Lafayette and a back-scratching Edgar is fairly full of innuendo.
Heck, even the Goose Sisters get in on the act. At one point, desperately trying to keep from drowning, O'Malley tries to grab them by their tail feathers. They dissolve in giggles and chide that this is "No time for fun and games!"
Their opinion of O'Malley immediately changes when they find out that he and Duchess aren't married, and are clearly under the impression that he has impure intentions toward her. Which, to be fair, he sorta did before realizing she had kids in tow.
Heel Realization: After making a lame excuse to avoid dealing with Duchess' kittens, O'Malley realizes, "You're not a cat, O'Malley, you're a rat!" and offers to help Duchess and her kittens.
Averted with Toulouse, who is the only character who suspects Edgar from the beginning. As he states near the end.
Toulouse: (when all of them are stuck in an oven) I told you it was Edgar!
Berlioz: Aw, shut up Toulouse!
Human Mail: Edgar attempts to mail the kittens and cats away to Timbuktu at the end of film. In the end, he himself gets thrown into the chest, and is mailed off.
Humiliation Conga: Edgar suffers three of these: twice when running into Napoleon and LaFayette, and once more as he is first attacked by O'Malley and Scat Cat's gang, then gets restrained in a halter, a bucket dumped on his head, kicked by a horse and finally sent to Timbuktu instead of Duchess and her kittens (as he had intended).
Hypocritical Humor: "That old birdcage? Poppycock! Elevators are for old people!" said by the lawyer, who has to be well into his 200s.
I Gave My Word: O'Malley promises to help Duchess out when they meet, mainly so he can romance her. He backs out of it when he realizes that she has kittens with her, but then he realizes he is being a rat to her and makes good on his promise to help Duchess and her kittens.
I Kiss Your Hand: George tries to do this to Madame, but misses and gets Duchess's tail instead. He doesn't notice the difference.
Intellectual Animal: All the animal cast. Edgar should have known better than to brag about his crime to Frou-Frou just because she's a horse, causing her and Roquefort to plot against him to thwart his scheme.
Kindhearted Cat Lover: Madam Adelaide Bonfamille. She is fine being single, but as Duchess says at one point, without her cats to love she really does feel alone.
Madam is a very good example of this. O'Malley doesn't like the idea of living with a human, but Duchess explains to him that Madam is not like any other human - she really loves the cats like they are her own kin.
Large Ham: Uncle Waldo, Georges, Lafayette, and Edgar.
The Load: The kittens can be seen this way - none of them really do anything useful for the story, aside from Marie occasionally providing a chance for the initially reluctant O'Malley to play the Papa Wolf.
Meaningful Name: Translated from French, Madame Adelaide Bonfamille's last name means "good family".
And her first name comes from a Germanic word meaning "of a noble kind".
No More for Me: At one point, a man sees Scat Cat and his gang of cats run past, with a mouse apparently in hot pursuit (Roquefort is just trying to catch up so he can tell the cats where to go) and promptly pours away his bottle of wine.
Overly Long Name: Thomas O'Malley's full name is Abraham De Lacey Giuseppe Casey Thomas O'Malley. He introduces himself with an "I Am" Song based on the name.
Stock Footage: It's pretty clear Disney was already experiencing the financial woes that forced them to make their next film, Robin Hood, so economically. The difference here is that the recycled animation is also from this film.
Unfortunate Name: Scat Cat, who's named for the Scat music, which is a kind of jazz using the voice instead of musical instruments, and his voice actor Scatman Crothers. That's not the unfortunate part, though, but the fact that Scat is also a polite term for animal poop.
Unwanted Assistance: O'Malley's reaction to Abigail and Amelia, who are under the mistaken impression that he's trying to teach himself to swim when he's really just trying to get to shore after saving Marie.
What Song Was This Again?: "Ev'rybody Wants To Be A Cat" becomes "Every cat is a musician" in the Greek version, "Everyone wants to play some Jazz" in the Italian version, "Cats need lots of music" in the German version, and "Everybody wants to be the Jazz cat".
White and Grey Morality: The protagonists are a family of good cats. The antagonist is a greedy butler who, on the other hand, probably served Madame Bonfamille his whole life before his greed and a poor grasp of the lifespan of a housecat drove him to take drastic measures.
This is actually a subversion of the trope, however: Edgar thinks he's a woobie, but if he'd listened to the whole will he would have learned that the inheritance will indeed pass on to the cats with him as their caretaker, so since cats can't actually use money, that basically meant he gets all the money if he'd just make sure the cats could lead the pampered lives they were used to.