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Disney Is Giving ‘The Aristocats’ a Live-Action Makeover

Everybody wants to be a cat...

Duchess, a white cat, talks with Thomas, an orange cat, in the animated movie 'The Aristocats'

Continuing along with the studio’s recent string of live-action remakes, the next classic animated Walt Disney Studios film to get the remake treatment is 1970’s The Aristocats, originally directed by Wolfgang Reitherman. This isn’t the first we’ve heard of a live-action Aristocats movie in the works at Disney: Deadline first reported in January 2022 that Disney had their eye on adapting the feline-led musical. A year later, and we finally have movement: Disney has just announced that Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Oscar-winning director of Summer of Soul and drummer for the Roots, will be helming the film.

The new version of The Aristocats won’t be shot solely in live-action, though—follow in the footsteps of 2019’s Lady and the Tramp “live-action” remake, which featured a combination of live-action footage and hyper-realistic 3D animation.

What’s the plot of The Aristocats?

The plot of the original The Aristocats followed a wealthy family of cats who find out they’re about to inherit their owners’ fortune, only for a butler to kidnap them in an attempt to take the fortune for his own. The feline family matriarch, Duchess (Eva Gabor), teams up with the roguish but charming tomcat Thomas O’Malley (Phil Harris) to to find her way back home and save the lives of her three children, Marie, Berlioz, and Toulouse. Peter Rabbit 2‘s Will Gluck and Onward scribe Keith Bunin will adapt the story originally written by Ken Anderson, Larry Clemmons, Eric Cleworth, Vance Gerry, Julius Svendsen, Frank Thomas, and Ralph Wright.

Will the live-action remake feature any major changes?

There’s no mention yet of casting, though it is worth noting that the film’s script/cast will feature at least one significant departure from the original: the 1970 film infamously features a pair of siamese cats that sing a musical number as racist caricatures of Asian stereotypes. The film has long since been condemned for the portrayal, and it’s a sure bet that Disney will either rework these characters or write them out of the film entirely.

As for Questlove, a drummer and music producer may not seem like the most obvious choice to direct a live-action Disney adaptation, but Thompson is already an Academy Award-winning documentary director for his work on Summer of Soul. He also recently starred in Pixar’s Soul in addition to serving on an internal “cultural trust” as a consultant on the film.

Questlove also seems like a natural fit given his experience within jazz and soul music: The Aristocats famously features a number of jazz-playing cats who tote upright basses, saxophones, and other instruments for impromptu numbers like “Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat.” Despite the fact that the film’s score and soundtrack are clearly heavily influenced by soul and jazz music, two genres pioneered by Black artists, the film originally featured just one Black actor—Benjamin “Scatman” Crothers as Scat Cat—and had no Black writers, producers, or composers. With Questlove at the helm, Aristocats will no doubt make use of his tremendous musical talent as well as directorial expertise.

What is the release date for the live-action Aristocats remake?

Considering The Aristocats has only just entered pre-production and found its writer/director, it’s safe to say that we won’t be seeing Marie, Toulouse, and Berlioz in live-action for at least a few years. But while there’s no release date yet, it’s possible the film could fill one of several “Untitled Disney Animation” slots in the studios’ vast upcoming slate: Earlier this year, the studio released a massive list with more than a dozen open dates for possible new releases. Assuming it takes at least a year or two to film, edit, and animate, the earliest we may be able to catch The Aristocats in theaters or on streaming is early 2025, though your guess is as good as mine.

(via Deadline, featured image: Disney)

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Lauren Coates (she/her)is a freelance film/tv critic and entertainment journalist, who has been working in digital media since 2019. In addition to her writing at The Mary Sue, her other bylines include Nerdist, Paste, The A.V. Club, and The Playlist. In addition to all things sci-fi and horror, she has particular interest in queer and female-led stories. When she's not writing, she's exploring Chicago, binge-watching Star Trek, or planning her next trip to the Disney parks. You can follow her on twitter @laurenjcoates.