The Aristocats was recently re-released for a limited run in Australian cinemas, along with a number of other Disney classics, and it got us thinking: what are some of our favourite Disney cats. There have been so many over the years, from the animated to the live action kind, to the dishonourable mentions of the more than vaguely racist.
Cats are more often that not depicted as villains in films, so it is pleasing to see so many Disney cats are hero cats. These guys are the best of the best, and would be just as comfortable on a big adventure as they would be curling up on your favourite sweater.
Fiagro – Pinocchio (1940)
Not many cats have been into the belly of a whale and lived to tell the tale, but Geppetto’s tuxedo cat can tick that particular extreme sport off his bucket list. In Pinocchio, Figaro has a rivalry with the goldfish Cleo, but his role doesn’t real extend beyond this. However, thanks to animator Eric Larson – one of Disney’s legendary “Nine Old Men” who animated most of the classic ‘toons between them – and the voice of Mel Blanc (Warner Bros. Looney Toons.), Figaro went on to lead a second life in Disney animated shorts. He often appeared as Minnie Mouse’s pet cat, and he was even given his own series of cartoon shorts. Appearing more recently in Mickey Mouse Works and House of Mouse, he got a CGI makeover for Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and was a major character in the short-lived 2011 spin-off, Minnie’s Bow-Toons.
Cheshire Cat – Alice in Wonderland (1950)
Not technically one of Disney’s own creations, as so few adaptations are, but it is arguable that Disney made the character their own in this film. Very few cats can stand on their heads, let alone detach them to do so. With a permanent smile on his face, and the ability to disappear at will, he shares much with regular cats. You can try to control him, but he’s just going to do his own thing anyway. Not to be confused with the somewhat sinister CGI creation for Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (2010).
Thomas O’Malley Cat – The Aristocats (1970)
In a film filled with so many terrific cats, including the adorable Marie and Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong himself as Scat Cat, you have to be a pretty cool cat to stand out. Thomas O’Malley Cat is a feline so groovy that he gets his own song that tells us he’s “king of the highway/Prince of the boulevard/Duke of avant-garde”. Street-wise, he knows all the local bands, and they play for him on cue. He’s a real player, and all the cute kitties want to be with him. Nevertheless, he’s faithful to the last, standing by his Duchess when she and the kittens are in trouble. What a guy. Fact: his full name is Abraham de Lacy Giuseppe Casey Thomas O’Malley, and he is still cooler than you. Deal with it.
Jake – The Cat from Outer Space (1978)
Does your cat have mental powers and possess the ability to levitate thanks to a special collar? Probably. Who knows what they get up to when we aren’t looking. It’s also a fact that cats are from space, and indeed Zunar-J-5/9 Doric-4-7, or Jake (voiced by Ronnie Schell) is from a race of cat-like aliens. Long before E.T. took Elliot’s bike on a moonlit ride, Jake levitated a motorbike across an air base to make an escape from the military. Jake the cat was played by two different Abyssinian cats: Rumple and his sister, Amber. So this cat is so good that it took two kitties to portray him. Here’s your fact of the paragraph: Sandy Duncan, who played Dr. Liz Bartlet in the film, is actually allergic to cats. Did she not read the title of the film when she was handed the script?
Simba – The Lion King (1994)
It’s hard not to include the king. Everything the light touches was eventually his, but not before an hour or so of Hamlet-esque indecision. After almost getting himself killed in an elephant graveyard, then actually getting his dad trampled on when he is lured into an obvious trap set by his uncle Scar, he spends his entire formative years in the jungle with a warthog and a meerkat, learning to eat bugs and sing catchy tunes. He also lets his kingdom go to ruin before he does anything, but dude – it’s the freakin’ lion king! All hail to Kimba! We mean Simba!
Case in point is Shun Gon, the Chinese cat in The Aristocats. Buck-toothed and playing a piano with chopsticks (which is actually kind of impressive), his contribution to the “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat” song is “Shanghai, Hong Kong, Egg foo young / Fortune cookie always wrong. Oh, that a hot one!”. For shame, Paul Winchell – who also voiced honorary cat Tigger! The Siamese Cats from One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) could also readily fit into this category.
What are some of your favourites? Let us know in the comments below!