Saul Steinberg once drew a bedraggled cube with a trail of bubbles overhead. In the largest bubble was a perfect cube, its sides impeccably straight. The cartoon was dreaming about its platonic ideal. If Saturday morning TV cartoons dreamed, the feature in the top bubble would be The Aristocats, the latest full-length feature from the Disney fun factory. Other animations, such as Heinz Edelmann's Yellow Submarine, may show more audacity. The melodies in Disney's earlier efforts have been richer. But for integration of music, comedy and plot, The Aristocats has no rivals.
Its story, like all children's tales, is elementary malignance v. unvanquishable virtue. A kindly old Parisienne intends to leave her francs to her cat and three kittens. Upon their demise, the fortune will fall to Edgar, the butler. Hmmmm, mulls the villain: a cat lives twelve years, felines have nine lives, twelve times nine is"I'll be gone by then." Being a Disney Wrongo, instead of speeding up the process he merely abducts his rivals to a pastel pays, from which the troupe works its way back chez eux. En route, the plains and suburbs produce a supporting cast that is nothing less than Dickensian. Among the featured players: Roquefort the intrepid mouse, a scatsinging feline jazz band from the era of Sidney Bechet, a pair of American expatriate hound dawgs with IQs slightly lower than Corner Pyle'sand, most important, O'Malley, the alley cat. O'Malley's voice, as supplied by Phil Harris, could be poured on waffles. His inamorata, Duchess, is furnished with a Hungarian purr that could only have issued from the vocal cords of Eva Gabor. They and the rest of the players sing a number of numbersall of them delightful, and one of them (Ev'rybody Wants To Be a Cat) absolutely true. The animals' exuberance is so infectious and their "acting" so true to human life that by the fadeout The Aristocats does, indeed, give the audience paws for reflection.