Aristocats /  Snow Buddies
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Aristocats / Snow Buddies

Stories about animals that can talk are as old as mankind. Even in the Bible the very first account concerning humans had a talking snake. Children especially are fascinated with animals that can speak and no one does it better than the Walt Disney Studios. When it comes to anthropomorphizing animals Disney has been in the business since the beginnings of film and television. Whether it is a talking mouse or a singing cricket Disney has been entertaining families for many decades. Now two films from this studio are coming to DVD and they feature the more familiar cats and dogs. The films are the classic 1970 animated film ‘Aristocats’ and the direct to DVD ‘Snow Buddies’. Wanting to believe animals can speak even stays with us as we become adults. Just look at the success of the sixties television series ‘Mr. Ed’ and the popularity of the post World War II ‘Francis the talking Mule’ flicks. Movies like this cannot be taken seriously; they are intended for younger children who still have the capacity to believe. For us adults the best way to watch with them is to surrender to that inner child, sit back and forget the worries of being a grown up.

The Aristocats

The Aristocats will most likely be more familiar to the parents watching. Its theatrical release was back in 1970 which place it in an unusual period of time. The baby Boomers where mostly teens back then but may have had younger siblings around that remember it. This movie was done in the old school style of Disney. The animation, a little primitive by today’s standards, was top notch for the day. It was also a musical like most of its Disney predecessors. It was also one of the last animated films directed by Wolfgang Reitherman. He was at the helm for the better known Disney classics such as ‘One Hundred and One Dalmatians’, ‘The Jungle Book’ and a couple of the Winnie the Poo movies. He knew the art of animation working in that capacity on such enduring films as ‘Dumbo’, ‘Pinocchio’, ‘Lady and the Tramp’ and ‘Fantasia’. The story was written by other long time Disney regulars such as Ken Anderson (Cinderella) and Ralph Wright (Peter Pan). There is a simple reason why such talented people tended to stay with t he Disney studio for so long, Disney created and defined the genre and remained the best for all those many years. ‘The Aristocats’ is one of the films considered in the Disney animated canon. These are animated movies made the old fashion way with people, paper and pencils. For the youngsters out there this was before computer graphics was even thought about. This is the kind of animation your parents and grandparents gew up on.

The DVD for the Aristocats is enabled with the InterActual Player for use on a computer. If you insert the disc in a regular home theater DVD player it goes straight to the fast play menu. However, if you put it into a computer you can opt to install the InterActual player which will access numerous extra features. Besides the film there are buttons to select the ‘Disney Movie Finder’, ‘Disney Birthday Club’, ‘Sweepstakes’, ‘New Letter’ and ‘Official Web Site’. All the features require internet access. The program takes 6.44MB of drive space and is retained after the DVD is removed.

The story begins in the city of Paris in the year 1910. Adelaide Bonfamille (voice of Hermione Baddeley) is a wealthy, retired opera singer. She lives with her butler Edgar (Roddy Maude-Roxby) and her cats. The mother cat Duchess (Eva Gabor) and her three kittens Marie (voiced by Liz English), Berlioz (voiced by Dean Clark) and Toulouse (voiced by Gary Dubin). Duchess feels a great affinity to the life style of her mistress and teaches her kittens the best in art, music and culture. The cats are friends with other animals living on the estate including Frou-Frou the horse (voiced by Nancy Kulp) and the little mouse Roquefort (voiced by Sterling Holloway). The madam has her lawyer over to discuss her will and Edgar eavesdrops and learns that she is leaving everything to the cats and that he will only get his chance with the wealth after the natural life span of the cats. Edgar is not the brightest guy around believing that this means nine lives for each, well over a century. Edgar puts a sleeping pill in the cat’s milk and when they are out takes them out of the city. The basket they were in falls in a river where they drift. Eventually they meet some street cats including Tom O’Malley (Phil Harris) who is rude and crude by Duchess’ standard but you know they are going to fall in love.

Extras on the disc include a virtual kitten, a language game and a deleted scene. The film is in anamorphic 1.75:1 video with Dolby 5.1 audio.

Snow Buddies

This is the latest in the very popular ‘Air Bud’ live action films. This style of film features real people along with the animal actors but the dogs can speak, even if only other animals can hear them. There is computer animation to get the lips of the animals to move rather realistically to the words being spoken.

Initially the series focused on a golden retriever named Bud who could play basketball. Through the series he ‘married’, settled down and had five puppies that first appeared in ‘Air Buddies. The puppies are Rosebud (voiced by Liliana Mumy), Bud-dha (voiced by Jimmy Bennett), Budderball (voiced by Josh Flitter), Mudbud (Henry Hodges), and B-Dawg (voiced by Skyler Gisondo). Each of the puppies lives with a different child and tend to reflect the personality traits of their humans. When they human children are off to school the puppies get out of the house, meet up and play ball. Each one prefers a different ball game; B-Dawg likes basketball, Budderball football, RoseBud plays soccer, Bud-Dha enjoys baseball, and MudBud plays volleyball. One day Budderball sneaks into an ice cream truck for a treat and the others have to get him out. Before long the refrigerated truck is packed in a cargo plan and is off to Alaska. There they meet two malamutes Shasta (voiced by Dylan Sprouse) and Talon (Kris Kristofferson). Back in California their owners and parents are worried about them but don’t know what happened. The pups have to make their own way back discovering some truths about life along the way.

This DVD is in anamorphic 1.78:1 video with Dolby 5.1 audio. Typical of a modern direct to DVD Disney release it is loaded with extras. There are the ever popular bloopers to start. From the Hannah Montana series there is a music video by Mitchel Musso (who plays Oliver Oken on the series.) There is a look at the puppy stars in a featurette called ‘Dogumentary’. Next there is a behind the scenes commentary by the ‘buddies’ and finally a featurette on the magic of the special effects.

This is a perfect weekend double feature for the family. First let the kids watch the Aristocats to see what we grew up with and then top it off with the Snow Buddies. Both films are very good for the young set and will even be enjoyable to the grown ups with them. If you have a long trip planned this is a great treat for the children.

Posted 01/26/08

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