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Friday, January 6, 2017

Original Production Animation Cel of Duchess, Marie, and Madame Bonfamille from "The Aristocats," 1970


Original hand painted production animation cel of Duchess, Marie, and Madame Bonfamille from "The Aristocats," 1970; Walt Disney Studios; Set over a lithographic background; With original Art Corner Certificate sticker and custom engraved brass title plaque; Size - Duchess, Marie, and Madame Bonfamille: 9 x 10", Image: 9 1/2 x 11 3/4"; Unframed.

To purchase this cel or to visit the Art Gallery, CLICK HERE!

"Marie, my little one, you're going to be as beautiful as your mother. Isn't she, Duchess?" - Madame Bonfamille

"The Aristocats," 1970 is an animated feature film produced and released by Walt Disney Productions.  This was the last film project to be approved by Walt Disney himself, as he died in late 1966, before the film was finally released to theaters by Buena Vista Distribution on December 11, 1970. "The Aristocats" featured the voice talent of Eva Gabor, Hermione Baddeley, Phil Harris, Dean Clark, Sterling Holloway, Scatman Crothers, and Roddy Maude-Roxby.

The film is based on a story by Tom McGowan and Tom Rowe, and centers around a family of aristocratic cats. After the mistress's butler kidnaps them (to gain his mistress' fortune which was intended to go to the cats) an unlikely alley cat acquaintance helps them escape and be returned to their home.

Duchess is a long-haired purebred white Turkish Angora cat with blue eyes (shining like sapphires) and wearing a gold and jeweled collar that is studded with diamonds. She is the mother of three kittens; Marie, Berlioz, and Toulouse and her owner is the aristocratic Madame Adelaide Bonfamille. Duchess was voiced by Eva Gabor who was a Hungarian-born American socialite and actress. Robie Lester who was an American Grammy-nominated voice artist and singer, provided the singing voice for Duchess.

According to veteran Walt Disney animator Andreas Deja:
"Duchess was animated by quite a few artists, I would say that Ollie Johnston did some of the nicest scenes, educating the kittens etc.. Frank Thomas came up with good acting scenes as well, when Duchess meets O'Malley for the first time, and when she says goodbye to him at the end of the movie. Milt Kahl set her basic design based on Ken Anderson's drawings."


Close up of the original Art Corner Certificate sticker.

Marie is a slender white Turkish Angora kitten, and the only female of Duchess's three kittens. She is a hopeless romantic and daydreamer, with her two most famous lines in the film being "Ladies do not start fights, but they can finish them!" and "How romantic!" Marie frequently is seen lost in her daydreams and tends to sigh often and deeply. Unfortunately she is somewhat danger-prone, as she is consistently in harm's way throughout the film; including a perilous fall off of a railway bridge and into a stream. Marie was wonderfully voiced by Liz English.

Madame Bonfamille, also called Madame, is an elderly wealthy woman who apparently was a famous opera singer (she said that she once played the title character of George Bizet's Carmen, and was even seen dancing to the aria "Habanera").  She is also the owner of Duchess, a white Turkish Angora cat; along with her three kittens Marie, Berlioz, and Toulouse. Madame was voiced by the actress Hermione Baddeley, who also played a maid in the Walt Disney feature film "Mary Poppins." Grace Godino was the live action model for Madame Bonfamille. Grace was an inker at the Walt Disney Paint and Ink Department and, at one point, was a stand-in for Rita Hayworth. A bit of trivia: the name "Bonfamille" is derived from the French phrase for "good family" ("bon" being the masculine word for "good" and "famille" meaning "family").


Close up of the custom engraved brass title plaque.

According to veteran Walt Disney animator Andreas Deja:
"Here is another character Milt Kahl didn't particularly enjoy animating, but as usual he pulled it off beautifully. There was criticism at the time as to why Madame Bonfamille in "The Aristocats" looked so realistic. This lady was eccentric enough to will her fortune to her house cats, so why not design her as a nutty old woman? Milt's response was that the story guys thought of her as a beautiful, dignified elderly lady, as did Ken Anderson. So he refined what they gave him, not changing the character's concept. In an interview Milt said that it doesn't hurt to do your straight, realistic job once in a while, knowing that you will have other characters in the picture who are eccentric and more entertaining. And of course Milt did pride himself for being able to do assignments like this one that called for careful realistic handling. "Realism is not the problem, it's the way (other) people do realism that's a problem!" he said."

This is an absolutely fantastic cel, that is seen at the very opening of the film. Madame, along with her cat Duchess and her three kittens Marie, Berlioz, Toulouse; are ridding in a carriage drawn by Frou Frou and driven by Edgar. Madame says, "Marie, my little one, you're going to be as beautiful as your mother. Isn't she, Duchess?" This is a wonderful portrait image of Madame with a full figure Marie and a great image of Duchess; both of whom are snuggling under Madame's chin. Duchess's white fluffy tail can be seen to the right. Just a beautiful original production animation cel of three of the main characters of the film!