|Directed by||Wolfgang Reitherman|
|Produced by|| Walt Disney (Uncredited)
|Written by|| Ken Anderson
|Starring|| Phil Harris
|Music by|| George Bruns
The Sherman Brothers
|Studios|| Walt Disney Productions
|Distributors|| Buena Vista Distribution
|Release date (s)|| December 11th, 1970 (Premiere)
December 24th, 1970 (Official Release)
|Preceded by|| The Jungle Book
|Followed by|| Robin Hood
Disney began production of a sequel, The Aristocats II, in December 2005, set to release in 2007, but production was cancelled in early 2006.
The film is noted for being along with The Jungle Book (1967) the last film project to be approved by Walt Disney himself, as he died in late 1966, before the film was released. While the film gained overall favorable reviews and a solid box office performance, it did not match the earlier succces of 101 Dalmatians or The Jungle Book. Today, while the film is very iconic, it is seen as a modest success by the Disney company.
In Paris, France, in 1910, a mother cat named Duchess and her three kittens -- Marie, Berlioz and Toulouse -- live in the mansion of retired opera singer Madame Adelaide Bonfamille, along with her English butler, Edgar Balthazar. She early on settles her will with her lawyer, Georges Hautcourt - an aged, eccentric old friend of hers - stating that she wishes the "faithful" Edgar to look after her beloved cats until they die. Only then will he inherit the fortune himself. Edgar hears this from his own room and believes he will be dead before he inherits Madame Adelaide's fortune, and so plots to remove the cats from a position of inheritance (clearly not thinking about how he would be essentially in control of the fortune, despite having to take good care of them).
Edgar sedates the cats by putting an entire bottle of sleeping pills into their food and then heads out into the country side to dispose of them. However, two hound dogs named Napoleon and Lafayette attack him. After the conflict, Edgar escapes, leaving behind his umbrella, hat, the cats' bed-basket and the sidecar of his motorcycle in the process. The cats are left alone and afraid in the countryside, while Madame Adelaide, Roquefort the Mouse and Frou Frou the horse discover their absence. In the morning, Duchess meets an alley cat named Thomas O'Malley, who offers to guide her and the kittens to Paris.
They have a struggle returning to the city, briefly hitchhiking on the back of a milk cart before being chased off by the driver. Marie subsequently falls into a river and is saved by O'Malley. They then meet a pair of British white geese, Amelia and Abigail Gabble, who are travelling to Paris. The group head off, marching like geese, until they reach Paris and come across the girls' drunken Uncle Waldo. Abigail and Amelia then depart to take Waldo home. Travelling across the rooftops of the city, the cats meet Scat Cat and his band, close friends to O'Malley, who perform the song Everybody Wants to Be a Cat. After the band have departed and the kittens lie in bed, O'Malley and Duchess spend the evening on a nearby rooftop and talk, while the kittens listen at a windowsill. The subject of their conversation is the question of whether Duchess can stay and be with Thomas.
Reluctantly, Duchess sadly turns him down, largely out of loyalty to Madame Adelaide, pointing out that Madame really does love her and her kittens - some cuts to Madame Adelaide show that she truly is very unhappy without her cats, and feeling very much alone. The listening kittens are disappointed, although they too wish to go home. Edgar, meanwhile, retrieves his sidecar, umbrella, and hat from Napoleon and Layafette with some difficulty.
The cats make it back to the mansion, whereupon O'Malley departs sadly after he and Duchess have heartfelt farewell moment. Edgar sees Duchess and Kittens coming and captures them, places them in a sack and briefly hides them in an oven. The cats tell Roquefort to pursue O'Malley and get help. He does so, whereupon O'Malley races back to the mansion, ordering Roquefort to find Scat Cat and his gang. Edgar places the cats in a trunk which he plans to send to Timbuktu, Africa. O'Malley, Scat Cat and his gang, and Frou-Frou all fight Edgar, while Roquefort frees Duchess and kittens. In the end, Edgar is tipped into the trunk, locked inside, and sent to Timbuktu himself. Madame Adelaide's will is rewritten to exclude Edgar and include O'Malley. She starts a charity foundation providing a home for all of Paris' stray cats. The grand opening thereof, to which most of the major characters come, features Scat Cat's band, who perform a reprise of Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat.
This film was the last one to be approved by Walt Disney himself, and the first one produced after his death in 1966. The film took four years to produce, at a budget of $4,000,000. Five of Disney's legendary "Nine Old Men" worked on it, including the Disney crew that had been working 25 years on average.