Cats Don't Dance

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Cats Don't Dance
Cats dont dance poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster by John Alvin
Directed by Mark Dindal
Produced by Bill Bloom
Timothy Campbell
Paul Gertz
David Kirschner
Screenplay by Roberts Gannaway
Cliff Ruby
Elana Lesser
Theresa Cullen
Story by Mark Dindal
Robert Lence
Brian McEntee
Rick Schneider-Calabash
David Womersley
Kelvin Yasuda
Starring Scott Bakula
Jasmine Guy
Matthew Herried
Ashley Peldon
John Rhys-Davies
Kathy Najimy
Don Knotts
Hal Holbrook
René Auberjonois
George Kennedy
Mark Dindal
Music by Steve Goldstein (Score)
Randy Newman (Songs)
Edited by Dan Molina
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • March 26, 1997 (1997-03-26)
Running time
75 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $32 million[1]
Box office $3,588,602[1]

Cats Don't Dance is a 1997 American animated musical comedy film, distributed by Warner Bros. Family Entertainment and notable as the only fully animated feature produced by Turner Feature Animation. This studio was merged during the post-production of Cats Don't Dance into Warner Bros. Animation after the merger of Time Warner with Turner Broadcasting System in 1996. Turner Feature Animation had also produced the animated portions of Turner's The Pagemaster (1994). The film was the directorial debut of former Disney animator Mark Dindal and stars the voices of Scott Bakula, Jasmine Guy, Matthew Herried, Ashley Peldon, John Rhys-Davies, Kathy Najimy, Don Knotts, Hal Holbrook, René Auberjonois, George Kennedy, and Mark Dindal. its musical numbers were written by Randy Newman and includes Gene Kelly's contributions as choreographer, after his death in 1996. The film was Kelly's final film project which is dedicated to him. Despite receiving positive reviews from critics, Cats Don't Dance failed at the box office. This was also the last film of Betty Lou Gerson before her retirement and death on January 12, 1999 from a stroke.


Danny (Scott Bakula), an optimistic cat, dreams of Hollywood stardom, so he travels from Kokomo, Indiana to Hollywood in hopes of starting a career there. He is selected to feature in a film that is in production alongside a cat named Sawyer (Jasmine Guy, singing by Natalie Cole). He is dismayed on learning how minor his role is and tries to weasel his way into more time in the limelight. Danny winds up angering Darla Dimple (Ashley Peldon), a popular, extremely spoiled child actress and star of the film, so she assigns her valet Max (Mark Dindal) to intimidate Danny into no longer trying to enlarge his part.

Danny learns from the studio's mascot Woolie the Mammoth (John Rhys-Davies) that human actors are normally given more important roles than animals, a fact that none of them are very happy with but know they must accept. Danny, however, longs for the spotlight and tries to make a plan that will encourage humans to provide animal actors with better parts — such as by assembling a massive cluster of animals and putting on a musical performance for the humans.

Later, he is given advice by Darla Dimple (while masking her true villainous personality with a sweet one, as she always does) through song on how to interest and satisfy audiences. Danny takes this information to heart and groups the animals for another performance in hopes of attracting the humans' attention. However, Darla, fearing that the animals are jeopardizing her spotlight, has Max help her flood Mammoth Studios while the director is giving an interview and getting the animals blamed and fired. Everybody is depressed at being barred from acting in Mammoth Studios (especially Danny, who was convinced by Darla that she was trying to help the animals). Danny comes up with a plan for attracting the humans' attention yet again.

Danny invites Sawyer, her friends, and Woolie to the premiere of the Darla Dimple film that was being shot, Lil' Ark Angel. After the screening and a battle with Max, Danny calls the audience's attention and the eight animals put on a musical performance that entertains and impresses its viewers. Meanwhile, Darla attempts to sabotage the show by tampering with the set and special effects equipment, but her attempts either enhance the show or cause her to injure herself. Maddened with frustration, she tries to ruin the show by pulling a big switch, but this sets off an enormous fireworks finale, making the animals' performance a complete success.

Furious at the animals, Darla berates Danny for trying to attract the focus away from her and then unintentionally confesses to flooding Mammoth Studios. Darla's screaming is picked up and amplified by a nearby microphone, revealing the truth about the "accident" to the audience, including L.B. Mammoth and Flanagan. Embarrassed, Darla tries to regain her fame by hugging Danny (like the fan that she hugged earlier), until Pudge pulls a lever, sending her down a trap door. At last, the animals' demands for larger roles are met and their dreams are fulfilled after so long.

The film ends with a selection of film poster parodies like Singin' in the Rain, Casablanca, The Mask, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Witches of Eastwick, Grumpy Old Men, Superman, Beetlejuice, Twister, Batman & Robin, and a parody of Free Willy called Free Tilly putting the animals in roles. It is revealed afterwards that Darla is now working as a janitor for her punishment for destroying the studio. She puts up a The End poster on a wall and it falls down and wraps around her.


  • Scott Bakula as Danny, an ambitious, optimistically naïve tabby cat who desperately wants to become a famous Hollywood star.
  • Jasmine Guy (speaking) and Natalie Cole (singing) as Sawyer, a beautiful, but disenchanted white cat secretary and Danny's love interest. Sawyer eventually supports Danny on him being a successful Hollywood star and reciprocates his feelings towards her the end of the movie.
  • Ashley Peldon (speaking) and Lindsay Ridgeway (singing) as Darleen "Darla" Dimple, the evil and psychotic human child star of Hollywood who conceals her anger and sinister nature from her fans and superiors through a facade of sweetness and innocence. She is referred to as "America's sweetheart, lover of children and animals!" Darla is an apparent parody of the famous former child star Shirley Temple.
  • Kathy Najimy as Tillie Hippo, a happy-go-lucky hippopotamus who tries to find the best in every situation. She is a hilarious hippopotamus, as hinted out by her giggling and snorting, and by how quickly she introduces lots of people (and fellow animals).
  • John Rhys-Davies as Woolie the Mammoth, the aging Indian Elephant mascot for Mammoth Pictures. He originally came to Hollywood to write and perform music and acts a mentor to Danny. Woolie is an obvious parody of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's mascot, Leo the Lion where fake tusks and a wig would be placed on him with doing the Mammoth Pictures icon.
  • George Kennedy as L.B. Mammoth, the human head of Mammoth Studios whose secret of success is "Simple, it's Dimple!"
  • René Auberjonois as Flanagan, the human director of "Li'l Ark Angel" who is constantly kissing up to both Darla and L.B.
  • Betty Lou Gerson as Frances Albacore, a sarcastic, cranky fish who dances with Cranston Goat and always holds a cigarette holder (like Gerson's most popular character Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmatians). It was Gerson's last film role before her death in 1999.
  • Hal Holbrook as Cranston Goat, a cranky elderly goat who surprisingly loves to dance. He is always seen with Frances and they always dance with each other, implying they have feelings towards each other.
  • Matthew Herried as Peabo "Pudge" Pudgemyer, a little penguin and Danny's first friend who looks up to him as a big brother.
  • Don Knotts (speaking) and Rick Logan (singing) as T.W. Turtle, a nervous and superstitious turtle who always relies on the fortunes from fortune cookies. He originally came to Hollywood hoping to be an Errol Flynn-type star.
  • Mark Dindal as Max, Darla's enormous manservant and evil assistant. He obeys Darla's every command and will not hesitate to punish anyone who crosses her. He serves as the direct force that Darla physically lacks as a child.
  • Frank Welker as Farley Wink, a human agent for animals who is blabber-mouthed and talks fast. He thinks Sawyer is cute despite the fact that she dislikes him.
  • David Johansen as Bus Driver, a human whose insults inspire Danny with his last plan to give the animals their long-awaited stardom.
  • Dee Bradley Baker as Kong, a gorilla whose only appearance is while Danny and Sawyer are going to Mammoth Studios.
  • Tony Pope as Al, an alligator who is seen around the song "Animal Jam".
  • Peter Renaday as Narrator

Musical Numbers[edit]

  1. Opening Song: Our Time Has Come
  2. Danny's Arrival Song (Hollywood)
  3. Little Boat On The Sea
  4. Animal Jam
  5. Big and Loud
  6. Big and Loud (Reprise)
  7. Tell Me Lies
  8. Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now
  9. Our Time Has Come (Reprise)


The film was launched in 1993 as a vehicle for Michael Jackson, who would produce, star, and be a consultant in the music and choreography. It would have been a hybrid live-action/CGI film.[2] The film was ultimately made without Jackson's involvement. At one point, David Shire and Richard Maltby, Jr. wrote songs for the film before Randy Newman was hired. The film was intended to be set on Broadway with less anthropomorphic animals before the plot began to evolve.[3]


At that point the core team of filmmakers was assembled and it was time to begin casting the roles. As is the tradition in animation, the voice actors are videotaped as they record the voices of their characters; this enables the animators to use specific body language from each of the actors to lend dimension to their characterizations.

Scott Bakula, best known to audiences as the star of the hit television series "Quantum Leap," was cast as Danny. Explains Paul Gertz, "People will be very surprised when they hear Danny and realize that it's Scott's voice doing all that singing. Scott had a successful career starring on Broadway before he began working in television and film. He's a very experienced singer and dancer, and he was a natural choice for Danny."

Sawyer, Danny's verbal sparring partner and, eventually, his lady love, is voiced by Jasmine Guy, who became known to television viewers as snooty Whitley Gilbert on the hit series "A Different World." Sawyer's singing voice is provided by recording diva Natalie Cole. "There was something special about working with Natalie, who's a wonderful talent on her own, and whose father, Nat, was a part of Hollywood's fabulous past," says David Kirschner. "Somehow I think it shows up in her interpretation of the music; there is a classic charm and romance to it."

Other character voices were provided by such talents as George Kennedy, Hal Holbrook, Rene Auberjonois, John Rhys-Davies, Kathy Najimy, Betty Lou Gerson (the voice of the animated Cruella DeVil) and Don Knotts. "Many of these actors have worked in animation before, and many others have done radio drama, which has trained them in using every expressive nuance in their voices," says Kirschner. "We wanted each character to be an individual -- to sound as if they looked, moved and acted a certain way."

The scheming star Darla Dimple was voiced by nine-year-old Ashley Peldon, who has herself been acting since her toddler days and is most recently seen in the acclaimed live-action drama "The Crucible."

The voice casting of the cute penguin Pudge is its own version of the classic Hollywood story, recalls Mark Dindal. "A group of animators was eating lunch together in an outdoor cafe one day and a little boy came over to ask us for directions. Someone answered him and he walked away. At that same moment, another animator blurted, `That's Pudge exactly!,' and we all realized it was true.

"So we rushed after him and asked if he'd ever acted -- which he hadn't -- and if he'd like to -- which he would -- and the rest is moviemaking history. Little Matthew Herried became a terrific voice for Pudge."

During production, management at Turner Feature Animation changed repeatedly and each head that came in attempted to take drastic revisions, including updating the setting to the 1950s rock-and-roll era. "It's pretty hard to try and keep what you have finished so far, and then suddenly transition into a different period of time or introduce a different character or have a completely different ending that doesn't seem to fit the beginning you have," said director Mark Dindal.[3]

Dindal's portrayal of Max was initially a scratch track and was never intended to be heard on the film. Dindal wanted Max to be voiced by a professional actor, but as the film started running out of money, he kept his own vocals in.[3]


During the animation on "Cats Don't Dance," Randy Newman was creating songs that gently poked fun at the idealism of the `30s movie hopeful while capturing the melodic, danceable sound that has made so many of those songs into classics.

Production PhotoMuses Mark Dindal, "One of the things that stuck in my mind after we spoke with people who'd been part of Hollywood's Golden Age was the number of times they described an effect or stunt that they had never done before. They said, `We just did it, and if it worked, we left it.'

"We're more analytical about film today -- we have more history to look back on, and the cost of making movies is so high that it leaves less room for experimentation. But we're still trying to push the boundaries of the possible, and some of that pioneering, risk-taking outlook is still what makes today's movies great.

"I like to think that we've kind of tipped our hats to the best of both worlds with `Cats Don't Dance' -- it's an homage to the past, but created with the talents of the present and the technology of the future. And the message -- giving everyone a chance to be his or her best by pursuing what they truly love -- is timeless."


Warner Bros. attached "Pullet Surprise", a newly produced Looney Tunes short featuring Foghorn Leghorn, to the original theatrical release, and "The Big Sister", a Dexter's Laboratory What a Cartoon! short, following the film in its original home video release.

Critical reception[edit]

Cats Don't Dance was released to mixed to positive reviews (it has a 69% 'fresh' rating on Rotten Tomatoes)[4] It was the first non-Disney animated film to have won the Best Animated Feature award and Randy Newman won the Best Individual Achievement: Music in a Feature/Home Video Production at the 1997 Annie Awards.[5]

Box office[edit]

Cats Don't Dance became a casualty of the Turner/Time Warner merger: it received a traditional theatrical release in 1997 but without fanfare and did not draw an audience, perhaps due to minimal advertising, a lack of promotional merchandise (only two book adaptations and a set of toys from Subway) and having only one theatrical trailer prepared. The film's total domestic theatrical gross was $3,566,637,[1] making it a box office bomb in contrast with its $32 million production budget.[1] Director Mark Dindal was angry with Warner over the lack of advertising and the failed marketing campaign.[3]

Cult Following[edit]

Cats Don't Dance received a small cult following, calling it a classic[citation needed]. An example is the song, Tell Me Lies. The movie also received a unofficial fansite, complete with fan fictions, fan art, and so forth. Along with fansites, people on the internet call this one of the greatest Warner Brothers animated movies of all time[citation needed].

Home media[edit]

Cats Don't Dance got its first home video release on VHS and Laserdisc on August 19, 1997 by Warner Home Video. While a standard 4:3 VHS, the Laserdisc was special in the fact that it remains to this day the only home video release of the film in its theatrical widescreen format in North America (the film is available on DVD in widescreen in Europe). The Laserdisc was never re-released and has become very rare. The VHS re-released for its second and final time on March 2, 1999. Home media sales improved more than its box office.

The film saw its first DVD releases on August 19, 1997 and September 3, 2002, as a 4:3 pan-and-scan DVD with bonus features. The most recent release was a re-release of the same DVD, but bundled with Quest for Camelot, which was released on May 2, 2006. In July 2008, Cats Don't Dance was released on DVD in widescreen in Germany, Spain, and the Benelux countries (Belgium/the Netherlands/Luxembourg).


  1. ^ a b c d "Cats Don't Dance". The Numbers. Retrieved 22 August 2011. 
  2. ^ Michael hard at work on 'Cats Don't Dance'. Reading Eagle (June 15, 1993)
  3. ^ a b c d Strike, Joe (November 2000)Mark Dindal's Place in the Sun. Animation World Magazine (Issue 5.8).
  4. ^ Cats Don't Dance at Rotten Tomatoes
  5. ^ "25th Annual Annie Award Nominees and Winners (1997)". Annie Awards. Retrieved 6 June 2014. 

External links[edit]