Once upon a time, there were three little kittens named Marie, Berlioz and Toulouse. They and their pretty and elegant mother, Duchess, lived with an elderly spinster in large, luxurious Parisian villa.
One day the lady of the house, due to her advanced age, decided to make out her will. Since she had no heirs, she chose with the help of her lawyer to leave everything to her cats.
The butler did not take the news well, because he had believed himself to be the only possible recipient of the inheritance. Enraged by the disappointment and by greed, he hatched a plot to get rid of the kittens.
He drugged them with sleeping pills and took them out by dark of night to leave them at the side of a road, far from home.
So begins the story of the Aristocats , a Disney classic directed by Wolfgang Reitherman in 1970.
Anyone who has seen the cartoon may ask, as I do, what would have happened to the kittens if they hadn’t met the comical, dashing, brave – and rather imprudent – Thomas O’Malley.
O’Malley is an alley cat, who lives for the moment without a thought about the future, but is streetwise and skilled at dealing with the constant dangers that stray cats face every day. He is the one who will determine the success of the journey home for Duchess and her kittens.
Duchess and O’Malley also fall in love on the way and return together to their home: she will finally have a husband and her children will have a father, which, as they themselves say several times, is something they want and need.
What the film shows quite clearly is that Duchess and O’Malley have different and complementary roles in the new family that they are creating. She is sweet, warm, and affectionate; she seems born to care for the children, lick their wounds, console them and encourage them. He is tough and daring, willing to risk his life to keep his wife and children safe; he seems to be born to protect his family from danger.
She is good with words; attentive to social relations and the feelings of others; he is rough, not very capable of talking through problems, but very clear and direct when necessary.
She seems to be a safe haven for the little ones, ready to smother them with an embrace if need be; he is more like a outward force that propels them into the world, and helps them lose their fear of getting involved in it.
In two words, which unfortunately are in danger of falling into disuse, she is a mother, and he is a father.
One wonders, watching this cartoon, why people want at all costs to destroy or ignore the differences between men and women, between fathers and mothers, when reality still speaks loud and clear.
It really isn’t necessary to take the Aristocats as a moral authority to claim that there is one model for a family; the point is that even in the cartoons of yesteryear, in a story about cats, the natural beauty of the collaboration between man and woman in the creation and care of children shines forth. Maybe this should lead us to ask a question or two about what is happening to the family in our times.