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14 Fun Facts About The Aristocats

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The tradition of seeing a movie on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day is one that’s been going on for a long time—and that tradition is exactly what Disney was counting on when they released The Aristocats on December 24, 1970. Here are a few facts about everyone's favorite jazzy felines.

1. It was intended as a live-action film.

Originally slated to be a two-part live-action series on The Wonderful World of Disney, Walt himself decided it was a story better told with animation. Sadly, Disney died before he could see it through.

2. It was the first Disney film to be produced after Walt Disney's death.

Though some critics thought the loss of Walt’s direction hurt the movie, The New York Times raved about it, saying, “Bless the Walt Disney organization for The Aristocats, as funny, warm and sweet an animated, cartoon, package as ever gave a movie marquee a Christmas glow.”

3. It was the last film to be approved by Walt Disney directly.

As such, it’s the last movie to end with the line, “A Walt Disney Production.”

4. Six of Disney’s original “Nine Old Men” worked on the film.

This included producer Wolfgang Reitherman, character animator Eric Larson, and directing animators John Lounsbery, Ollie Johnston, Frank Thomas, and Milt Kahl.

5. Some of Duchess’s dance moves were later reused for Maid Marian’s moves in Robin Hood.

They start at 1:06 below, but the whole thing is worth watching if you haven’t seen it:

6. Louis Armstrong was the intended voice actor for Scat Cat.

But Armstrong fell ill right around the time the studio began recording. So they recruited the appropriately nicknamed Scatman Crothers instead, later known for his roles in The Shining and for voicing Meadowlark Lemon on the animated TV series The Harlem Globetrotters. He also provided the voice for everyone's favorite bumbling canine superhero, Hong-Kong Phooey.

7. Disney Legend Phil Harris is the man behind the voice of Thomas O'Malley.

Harris was also Baloo in The Jungle Book. "I was terribly enthused about doing Aristocats," Harris once said. "I'm just playing myself again. They even let me change some of the lines to make them fit my personality. I think that all the credit goes to the director, producer, and the animators because all we actors do is stand there and deliver the lines and they put the whole thing together."

8. The movie coaxed one legend out of retirement.

Famous French actor and entertainer Maurice Chevalier came out of retirement to sing the theme song for the movie.

9. Eva Gabor was only the speaking voice for Duchess.

All of the singing was done by Robie Lester, who also sang for Gabor’s Bianca in The Rescuers.

10. Edgar originally had a partner-in-crime: a maid named Elvira.

She would have been voiced by Elsa Lanchester, a Mary Poppins alum (she played Katie Nanna). Lanchester was also famous for her role as the Bride of Frankenstein.

11. At one point, there was also a fourth kitten named Waterloo.

He was removed because four kittens felt like too many characters.

12. The version of “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat” that was released on the soundtrack has been edited.

The original version contained some now-politically incorrect lyrics from by a Chinese cat named Shun Gon. Check it out at 2:50:

13. In 2003, Disney Channel considered making Marie, Toulouse, and Berlioz grow into teenagers for a syndicated show.

The idea was scrapped.

14. The idea of making The Aristocats II in 2005 was also scrapped.

It was supposed to have been like a murderless-Murder on the Orient Express.

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Pop Culture
Why Mickey Mouse Could Soon Be in the Public Domain
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Mickey Mouse debuted to the world in the 1928 animated short Steamboat Willie, and has since transformed into an icon recognized around the world. But the mouse’s status as Disney's exclusive property is under threat. As Ars Technica reports, Steamboat Willie is set to enter the public domain in 2024, and unlike in previous years, there have been no moves from Congress to stop that from happening. Once it does, in theory, anyone could use Mickey's image for free.

This is the third time the cartoon has been on the verge of losing its copyright protection. The first came in the 1970s, back when copyright terms only lasted 56 years. That meant every book, song, and movie made in 1923 was scheduled to lose its protected status in 1979, and Steamboat Willie would follow on its 56th anniversary in 1984. But in 1976, under pressure from companies like Disney, Congress extended the statute to 75 years, keeping all works made after 1923 from becoming public domain until 1998 or later. Mickey remained safely out of the public domain for another two decades. Then, when copyright terms were again scheduled to expire in 1998, Congress extended them a second time, this time to 95 years.

Now, the clock is ticking down for these older works once again as the 2018 expiration date of that copyright extension nears. Only this time, it looks like Congress may let them become public property without a fight.

Today’s constituents tend to care more about copyright law now than they did in 1976 or even in 1998. The rise of online streaming and easily accessible pirated content has made the issue more relevant to the life of the average person than ever before. The defeat of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in 2012 made this clear to legislators. That bill, which would have empowered law enforcement to punish or block sites sharing pirated content, was so controversial that it sparked protests across the web. Because of the sheer scale of that public response, lawmakers are now hesitant to change any existing copyright protections, including those set to expire on January 1, 2019.

But even if those protections expire, Disney could still find a way to prevent rival studios from using Mickey’s image when 2024 rolls around. While copyrights are designed to be temporary, trademarks have the potential for serious lasting power. That’s because copyrights only protect a single work of artistic expression (in this case, the film Steamboat Willie), while trademarks are attached to images and logos that represent a brand (so Mickey Mouse, the character). As long as Disney can prove that Mickey has evolved beyond his first screen appearance into a symbol that’s synonymous with its corporation, he’ll remain a protected property. And if you take a look at their theme parks, cruise ships, media, and the dozens of Hidden Mickeys they've hidden in their movies, you’ll see that they can easily make that case.

But few works of art made in the 1920s have taken the same path to corporate dominance as Mickey Mouse, even other works made famous by Disney (like Winnie the Pooh, first introduced in A.A. Milne's stories in 1926). Even if Disney manages to protect Mickey, the public should have a big new batch of copyright-free content to access in the next few years.

[h/t Ars Technica]

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The One Phrase Disney Theme Park Characters Aren't Allowed to Say
Matt Stroshane, Disney/Getty Images
Matt Stroshane, Disney/Getty Images

The 14 Disney theme parks located around the world attract so many attendees each year that the company recently decided to increase admission for peak times by 20 percent to help decrease crowd congestion. Anaheim’s Disneyland is such a popular tourist attraction that some days the park is actually at capacity.

What keeps visitors packed in like sardines? The promise of a suspended reality—one that treats the various Disney characters as though they had just stepped out of a movie. There’s a laundry list of employee policies to help sustain that illusion, and Travel + Leisure recently uncovered one of the most interesting ones: Actors dressed as Disney characters are never allowed to say “I don’t know” to guests.

The motivation is understandable: Disney never wants people to feel as though they need to wander around looking for information. If they pose a question to, say, a Disney Princess, the actor is expected to communicate with other employees or areas of the park in order to find the answer. If Elsa doesn't know where the nearest restroom is, she's tasked with finding out before your kid's bladder gives up.

If a guest is looking for general directions, there’s also protocol for how to point. Performers are not allowed to use their index finger by itself. Instead, they use it in conjunction with their middle finger. In addition to index finger-pointing being considered rude in some cultures, legend has it that the gesture was partly inspired by Walt Disney himself, who once roamed the park grounds pointing at structures with two fingers that pinched a cigarette.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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