Everybody Wants To Be A Cat

06/09/2014 //

I can’t die until the government finds a safe place to bury my liver.

No, that’s not one of Roger Sterling’s killer one-liners. That’s Phil Harris, who lent his voice to O’Malley (née Abraham de Lacy Giuseppe Casey Thomas O’Malley), the smooth alley cat in The Aristocats, as well as _The Jungle Boo_k’s Balloo the Bear; as such, his voice is soldered onto the brainstems of at least two generations of children.

Harris is mostly known for his Disney work nowadays, but he had a long, rich career as singer, songwriter, band leader, actor and comedian; he was Jack Benny’s music director for years before joining Benny’s main cast. I mention this simply because here’s a good example of a person whose large body of work most probably is lost to obscurity. Tears in the rain off the shoulder of Orion, etc.

As for The Aristocats, it’s rather special to me – in fact, it was the first movie I ever saw in a theatre; I think I was six at the time and let me tell you – it was amazing! (I had the soundtrack too, one of the few LPs I’ve ever owned, and having heard lots of Dixieland at home, Everybody Wants To Be A Cat quickly became a favorite.)

The movie is still utterly charming, but narratively, it’s far more scattershot than I remembered it being – to be fair, it’s been at least a decade since last I saw it. Visually, it’s from Disney’s “rough” period, so the artwork isn’t quite as pristine as their older stuff, but I quite enjoy that particular style, so no complaints from me.

Girlfriend pointed out that from a gender perspective, it’s a bit iffy that O’Malley has to save Marie from drowning while Duchess, the female lead, stands by transfixed and helpless, but I argued that O’Malley’s display of bravery was actually a subtle dig at her class – after all, he was an alley cat, living by his wits – in other words a doer – whereas Duchess was a member of the pampered bourgeoise. Let’s not forget they’re called “the idle rich” (unless you’re a Randian) for a reason. (It could also be argued that O’Malley is awesome.)

I was quite fascinated by Uncle Waldo; seeing a drunk — and by drunk I mean absolutely hammered — character in a cartoon was unexpected. You don’t really see that sort of thing in animated features aimed at kids anymore, though it used to be a pretty standard trope. (Legend of Korra’s first season ended with a murder-suicide, but that show probably wasn’t meant for kids.)

Lastly, the full name of the actress voicing Madame is Ruby Hermione Youlanda Clinton-Baddeley, which I thought worth mentioning.