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Toon Tuesday: Disney's "The Aristocats" ... The Animated Series ?!

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Toon Tuesday: Disney's "The Aristocats" ... The Animated Series ?!

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Today, the "Special Edition" version of "The Aristocats" DVD goes on sale.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

And while it's hard to find fault with this 1970 Walt Disney Productions release itself (Which remains just as charming as ever. With Duchess the filthy rich feline falling for Thomas O'Malley the alley cat ...

 Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

... not to mention the amusing antics of Duchess' pampered offspring, Toulouse, Berlioz & Marie), ...

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

... as you watch this single disc edition of "The Aristocats" ... It's hard to get all that excited about the meager assortment of "Bonus Material" that Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has placed on this DVD. I mean, yet another interview with Richard M. & Robert B. Sherman? Zzzzz ...

Don't me wrong, folks. I grew up listening to the Sherman Brothers. So I love these guys and greatly admire their work. But that said, when you watch as many WDSHE releases as I do, it seems like Dick & Bob are interviewed for every single DVD that Disney puts out. And -- to be honest -- I'm getting kind of tired of looking at these guys.

Surely there must be someone else left on the planet who actually worked on "The Aristocats." Another person who could then offer some fresh perspective on how this picture -- the very last animated feature that Walt Disney personally put into production -- came together?

But if that's really not possible ... Okay. Then how's about we expand the definition of what "Bonus Material" is? Wouldn't it be fun if WDSHE chased down someone from DisneyToon Studios to talk about that "Aristocats 2" home premiere that they had in the works a few years back? Or -- better yet -- got someone from the Disney Channel to talk about "Aristocats: The Animated Series" ?

Copyright 2003 Disney. All Rights Reserved

What's that? You never heard about this project? This was way back in 2003 or thereabouts. Right after then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner had just gone on one of his "We-have-to-start-getting-more-value-out-of-our-pre-existing-library-of-characters" jags. And given that the theme parks & the Disney Stores were moving a startlingly large amount of Marie-themed merchandise, it was then decided that "The Aristocats" might be a franchise that was worth revisiting.

Or should I say "reinventing" ? Given that the very first thing that the folks at the Disney Channel did was kick Duchess and O'Malley to the curb (You see, adults are boring). Next they turned Marie ...

Copyright 2003 Disney. All Rights Reserved

... and her brothers, Toulouse and Berlioz ...

Copyright 2003 Disney. All Rights Reserved

... into teenagers. And then give Marie (Who was supposed to be the main character of this new "Aristocats" show) someone new to bounce off of, they then basically invented this teenaged version of O'Malley the alley cat and called him Delancey.

Copyright 2003 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Who (To give you some idea of how cool Delancey was supposed to be, circa 2003) could dance like a combination of Justin Timberlake and Usher.

And then -- to round out the cast (as well as give Marie et al characters that they could then be in conflict with) -- the Street Cats were created.

Copyright 2003 Disney. All Rights Reserved

The basic idea here was to reinvent "The Aristocats" so that this franchise would then appeal to your typical Disney Channel / Toon Disney watcher. And while Glen Hanson really did do a great job of updating the look of these classic characters (More importantly, then making it possible to do Disney's "Aristocats: The Animated Series" in Flash) ... In the end, Mouse House management thought that ... Well, maybe this Marie,-Berlioz-and-Toulouse-as-teenagers idea was too big a departure from the original 1970 film.

Which is why it was then decided to introduce the Marie-as-a-teenaged-character concept in an "Aristocats" home premiere. And then -- if that film was successful -- then the Disney Channel would use "Aristocats II" as the jumping-off point for Disney's "Aristocats: The Animated Series."

But then in January of 2006, the Walt Disney Company acquired Pixar Animation Studios. And John Lasseter -- with the hope that this one move might then make the movie-going public appreciate Disney's animated films once again -- got the Mouse out of the unnecessary sequel business. And "Aristocats II" -- right along with "Chicken Little 2" and "Meet the Robinsons 2" -- wound up getting cancelled.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

But that said ... All of the development art that was done for "Aristocats: The Animated Series" and "Aristocats 2" is still sitting in drawers in the Frank Wells building. And wouldn't it have been more fun to see all of that stuff on "The Aristocats: Special Edition" DVD? Rather than having to listen to Dick Sherman tell his "We-didn't-write-that-title-song-thinking-that-Maurice-Chevalier-would-actually-come-out-of-retirement-in-order-to-perform-it" story again.

Again, no disrespect intended toward Dick & Bob. I'm just looking for WDSHE to freshen up the sort of "Bonus Material" that it features on its DVDs ... Your thoughts?

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  • I would tend to agree that it's actually fairly easy to find fault with "The Aristocats".  While it does feature some nice animation and enjoyable moments, the story just feels like a watered down "Lady and the Tramp" crossed with "101 Dalmatians" with a light sprinkling of "Jungle Book" all frosted in cat.  You never get the feeling that O'Malley really represents another view of life and humans the way Tramp did.  And Duchess is just so constantly sweet and understanding that you don't get the tension between the characters that made "Lady and the Tramp" work.  And unlike in "101 Dalmatians", I never really believed that these cats were in danger or anything more than minorly inconvenienced.  Their journey back to Paris seems like a pleasant stroll compared with the dalmatians trek back to London.  All that and an ending that's largely recycled from the film's big musical number.

    From the concept art, I kind of wonder if the Disney higher-ups were also concerned that going from a film with relatively realistic talking cats to a TV show where they stand up on their hind legs and generally act more like humans would be too much of a leap.

  • Jedited> All I know about MTR2 is that it was going to be subtitled "First Date" or something. But I think MTR would be best served with a Shonen Jump spinoff manga since it's already inspirational, friendship-driven and full of crazy characters. Artist-wise, I think Hiroyuki Takei ("Shaman King") would be a good match.

  • I guess I'm not complaining 'bout the Sherman brothers - I want their commentary for as long as I can get it.  Think of how many interviews are missing in the larger documentaries for the platinum editions simply because the artist is no longer with us.  Think of how more complete the Disneyland Secrets treasure movie would have been if we'd had input from (or about) Ward Kimball, or Marc and Alice Davis, or *especially* Mary Blair, who went almost completely unmentioned on disc one, and only a side mention on disc 2.

    There will be a time when the Sherman Brothers aren't here anymore and one can hope we've had the chance to capture on film everything they might want to say about Walt, their music, and their contributions before it's too late.

    My real complaint is why *just* the Sherman Brothers?  Why no animators talking about the films of this time (Sword and the Stone also got the cheap treatment of just a Sherman Brothers bit and nothing more).  How about a discussion on the background artists whose style so pervades 101, Aristocats, Robin Hood, Rescuers, and so many others in this time?

  • Sacre Bleu! Had this abomination of an "Aristocats" Flash animated TV series seen the light of day, I most certainly would have taken up knitting and parked myself by the nearest French guillotine while calling for Michael Eisner's head...

  • The list of reasons why Disney SHOULDN'T do sequels only gets higher and higher.

    The reason why this abandoned series would not be mentioned is because Lasseter is trying to get people focused on more original material, rather than recycling the same pre-existing material. I mean really, the Aristocats series would've just been another in the Disney Channel's one-size-fits-all programming.

    You can only use the same tea bag so many times before the taste is gone.

  • I'm glad this never came to pass, but I love the designs. They remind me of Chuck Jone's "Gay Purr-ee." My favorite is Delancey, though the "Justin Timberlake-Usher" description made me gag.

    Ilsoap, I liked '101 Dalmations' the series too, but what I liked most about it was instead of reinventing the movie, they combined elements from both the movie and the original book (IE: Cadpig was in the book, but not the movie) to create something new. And it didn't pander to trends.

  • I am totally flabbergasted that you would prefer material from the proposed "Aristocats" TV cartoon series over Richard Sherman.

    Disney DVD marketers would be salivating that Disneyphiles might prefer a piece of a rejected ripoff gathering dust in the vault -  rather than paying out dollars to record a new interview with a man whose "only claim to fame with The Aristocats" was that he cowrote a number of the songs that appeared in the movie.

    Richard Sherman is almost 80 years old -  He is not going to last forever! He should be given as much opportunity as possible to pour out as much as he can about his work with Disney before it is too late.

    How ironic that it was not long ago that this column was lamenting the neverending inferior animation sequels & TV ripoffs, and how they were damaging the Disney animation brand.

    Scrap all plans for a commentary and new interviews for the up and coming "101 Dalmatians" DVD reissue - replace them with episodes of "101 Dalmatians: The Animated Series" guys. The money we'll save on new interviews will go towards the Executives' Christmas Party!

  • I wish Disney had done this animated series. The love the look of the characters. I remember the 101 Dalmatians cartoon (which also axed the parents, Pongo and Perdita) as well as the re-imagined Jungle Book series Jungle Cubs. Both of those toons were really great...perhaps Disney might revisit this idea...

  • Linklewtt, Pongo and Perdita were in the series. They just didn't have as big a role.

  • No. Just NOO. I mean seroisly they almost RUINED a classic (that gets NO recanition)...

    Marie being a girly girl. Berlioz being a goody two shoes and Toulouse just being a....slob or something.

    And for Marie to "fued" with a gang of cats?? Oh COME ON that is SOO unlady-like

    Were is Duchess and O'Malley.....So apparently they stand on 2 legs??? Now to make them look human?

    I Didnt like the idea of the ArisoCats II.....Disney these days

    Kids will grow up and not learn the CLASSIC AristoCats....

  • To be honest, I would have loved if they continued to create the sequel and the cartoon, but I don't think I can get used to the fact they originally used Marie as a main character.  Sure, I loved her as a kid (I still do now), but she's so overrated.

    And  for the cartoon, I don't think I like the idea of "hip Hop" cats, it ruins the whole ordeal of being in Paris in the 19th century. I mean. Seriously, hip hop in the 19th freaking century  I doesn't seem to fit.

  • I agree that it would have been cool to see "The Aristocats:The Animated Series" in action. I would have loved to meet Delancey  and the Street Cats gang and see what their personalities where like. I guess the world will never know.=(

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