The Aristocats Blu-ray Review
The Aristocats Blu-ray is the latest 2-Disc Blu-ray and DVD combo pack from Disney. As you will read in our Aristocats Blu-ray review, Disney has done well with The Aristocats, giving it true “Special Edition” treatment with a new enhanced digital restoration. More on that later.
Given that The Aristocats was originally released in 1970, I’m not sure how necessary a fully-fledged review of the film really is here. Chances are that you’ve seen it and have formed your own opinion or that you have mastered the fine art of “Google” and can find one of the hundreds of film reviews from critics more respected than I.
In case you want my thoughts on the film for some reason, I will say this: although I don’t think the plot of The Aristocats is especially strong, and it has quite possibly one of the weakest Disney villains ever, these faults are more than offset by the charming characters and memorable musical numbers. To me, The Aristocats is a film that’s more about the journey than the destination. I can forgive the plot because I’m having so much fun just enjoying the ride. Thomas O’Malley, Scat Cat and his jazz cats, Duchess, Marie, Berlioz, and Toulouse, and even Georges Hautecourt are excellent characters who I feel have been overlooked due to The Aristocats status as a “mediocre” Disney animated film. Thomas O’Malley Cat and Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat (who doesn’t feel compelled to get up and dance when they hear Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat?!) are two of my favorite Disney songs. Overall, I think the film is very underrated.
Video & Audio:
As I am a fan of The Aristocats, I own the previous Special Edition DVD release. I remember being pretty impressed by the transfer of that DVD back when I bought it, but after firing it up again following my viewing of the digitally restored Blu-ray to see just how “digitally restored” it was, I was shocked to find that the transfer of the DVD wasn’t quite as good as I recollected. Maybe that’s unfair–the more accurate statement is that the Blu-ray is superb. Not only is there almost zero noise, but it appears to me that some stray pencil marks have been cleaned up, too.
Actually, when I watched the Blu-ray, one thing I noticed was the number of pencil lines present in the film. It wasn’t bad by any means, and I won’t go as far as calling The Aristocats sloppily animated as it was probably the visual style the animators wanted, but even in the Blu-ray, they were noticeable at times. These pencil marks are much more noticeable in the DVD. When comparing the transfers side by side, it’s easy to see how excellent of a job Disney did with the Blu-ray restoration. There were a couple of times when there were shifts in brightness, but other than that, it was perfect. No noise, no artifacts, only a few pencil marks (and it appears that many of these have been cleaned up). Suffice to say, this Blu-ray likely looks better than the film did when it originally appeared in theaters!
The sound is solid, especially during Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat, which is the most dynamic portion of the film. The 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack is solid and well-mixed.
There are two new extras on The Aristocats Blu-ray, one of which is awesome and the other which is odd. Incredibly odd. The rest of the extras are all the same as those found in the previous DVD release. The extra that is excellent is “The Lost Open,” which is a storyboard sequence narrated by the always engaging Richard Sherman, who also sings two lost songs. This features a deleted maid character who is in love with the butler and ultimately winds up in the same plot-progression of the original opening, but gets there by very different means. It’s very interesting that an entire character could be cut. It’s also great to hear Richard Sherman sing one of his songs. As for the weird extra, it’s called “Oui Oui Marie,” and I’m not quite sure what to say about it. If you like weird club remixes, you’ll love this song. I’m not really sure what Disney was thinking with this, but I don’t want to spoil it. It’s so off the wall that I had to watch it twice. It’s almost so bad that it’s good. Both of these extras are in HD.
As for the rest of the extras, they’re all in standard definition. The Sherman Brothers’ extras are the highlights in a pretty decent slate of extras. They’re all definitely worth checking out if you haven’t seen them.
Overall, this is a purchase that I highly recommend any fan of Disney animation make, even those who already own The Aristocats on DVD. Of course, I’m admittedly biased, as I don’t see this as the mediocre film that many critics see it as. For me, the big upgrade here is the video, which is a substantial upgrade from the DVD. I was actually a bit shocked at how much of an improvement it was when I compared them. The new extras probably don’t justify the upgrade, but I think the video does (for Blu-ray owners). If you’re not a fan of The Aristocats, you probably don’t need to mess with this release (then again, why are you reading a Blu-ray review of the movie if you don’t like it in the first place?). Likewise, those who aren’t overly concerned with picture quality probably could just pick up a used copy of the previous DVD release instead. For everyone else, especially Disney animation fans, I view this as a must-purchase. It may not have the “Diamond Edition” branding (likely because it’s not a big enough title to warrant taking up one of the two yearly Diamond slots), the digital restoration is Diamond-quality.
Buy this Blu-ray/DVD on Amazon by clicking here. Have you seen The Aristocats? Share your thoughts about it in the comments!
Cover photo taken with the Sony RX100 point & shoot camera.
Thanks for the review. I think the animation lines are actually part of the enjoyment for me. It certainly was part of the style during the 60’s and 70’s but perhaps not in the way you may think. Clean-up animation wasn’t as extensively utilized during this period. This was because Disney was now using the ‘new’ Xerox technology to transfer the animator’s pencil lines directly to the cel. This omitted the laborious hand inking process which used to give a much cleaner feel to the animation (i.e. Sleeping Beauty). This also eliminated the possibility of having coloured character outlines; everything had to be grey/black. Xerox was touted at Disney as preserving the animator’s authenticity by directly transferring their drawings. No ‘middleman’ so to speak. I quite like this style but it does give the animation a more fluid and ‘rough’ quality. I think this is something the animators really liked. Clean up drawings were taken more seriously in the Renaissance which is why Little Mermaid looks much cleaner. Having said that, Glen Keane’s rough animation of Ariel is spectacular.
Thanks for this comment. That’s a very interesting point. So, from your perspective, if what I’m saying about the lines being cleaned up is true (and I think it is–but it might be “line-like noise” that was cleaned up), would this Blu-ray actually be less desirable for you?
Regardless of the lines, a lot of noise was cleaned up, too.
I think possibly, yes. I’ll explain why (a bit long winded):
I collect original Disney animation art used in production and it is actually amazing how much emotion and detail is in the original animator’s rough drawing. You can really begin to see an animator’s ‘style’. When that same drawing is sent to the clean-up department it loses some identity. This is why rough animation drawings are more highly desired than clean-ups on the market.
In terms of Xerox transfers with cels from the 60’s and 70’s, some of that rough quality is converted to what you see on screen. It has a particular identity. There’s something really special about hand drawn animation. I like to tell someone drew it, that it came from someone’s imagination. 2D animation in the modern era looks too crisp and clean (I think it looks mechanized – because it sort of is). It’s still lovely but I feel a bit more disconnected from it. So seeing the extra lines and rough look from this era is important to preserve. It’s how it was meant to be seen (in my opinion).
How amazing is it that someone drew these images on paper, then another person/s painted them using special colours Disney mixed themselves? That’s lost now animators draw directly onto computer and are computer coloured. It also means that Disney original art is no longer produced.
Check out the cels of the dwarfs next time you’re at Carthay Circle – you’ll perhaps see what I mean.
I can see your point about identity with respect to art that is collected, but you lose me on it being present in the movie. The movie should be a cohesive piece of finished art, not an assembly of the identities of various individual artists. I think if you’re busy noticing pencil lines and that sort of thing, you’re distracted from the movie itself.
However, I can see your point about the ‘disconnect’. I get that same feeling from heavily-CGI’d films. So I guess it’s one of those personal preferences type things…
The animation art for The Princess and the Frog was hand drawn on paper and then scanned.
I’m not particularly a fan of the heavy-handed xerography look of the films of the late ’60s. I think it was just a little too rough for me, though I did like the way it was used more tightly and cleanly in 101 Dalmatians.
True. Apparently the animators didn’t like their tablets which is fair enough.