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.