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
Ashley Peldon
John Rhys-Davies
Kathy Najimy
Don Knotts
Natalie Cole
Hal Holbrook
Music by Steve Goldstein (Score)
Randy Newman (Songs)
Edited by Dan Molina
Production
company
Turner Feature Animation
Distributed by Warner Bros. Family Entertainment
(USA and Japan)
Turner Pictures Worldwide
(International)
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).

Set in a world where human beings and anthropomorphic animals live side-by-side, it focuses on a cat named Danny who wants to break into show business in Hollywood. The film stars the voices of Scott Bakula and Jasmine Guy, and was the directorial debut of former Disney animator Mark Dindal, its musical numbers, written by Randy Newman, and for 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 as well as the first to be animated by Lauren Faust who later worked in Quest for Camelot, The Iron Giant, The Powerpuff Girls, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, and Wander Over Yonder.

Plot[edit]

Set in 1939, Danny (Scott Bakula), an optimistic feline, dreams of becoming a film star, so he travels from Kokomo, Indiana to Hollywood, California in hopes of starting a career there. He is selected to feature in a film that is currently in production alongside a female cat named Sawyer (Jasmine Guy, sung by Natalie Cole), but is dismayed upon learning how minor his role is and tries to weasel his way into more time in the limelight. However, Danny winds up angering the star of the film, Darla Dimple (Ashley Peldon), a popular, but extremely spoiled child actress, so she assigns her valet, Max, to intimidate Danny into no longer trying to enlarge his part in the film.

Later, 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 come up with a plan that will encourage humans to provide animal actors with better parts, such as by assembling a massive cluster of animals and trying to put on a musical performance for the humans to see. 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, and Danny takes this information to heart and groups together the animals for yet another performance in hopes of attracting the attention of the humans. But Darla, fearing that her spotlight is in jeopardy with the animals around, has Max assist her in flooding Mammoth Studios while the director is giving an interview on his latest film and getting the animals blamed and fired. Everybody is depressed by 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 and her friends, and Woolie, to the premiere of the Darla Dimple film that was being shot, "Lil' Ark Angel", after the screening, Danny calls the audience's attention and the eight animals put on a musical performance for everyone that entertains and impresses its viewers. Meanwhile, Darla attempts to sabotage and shut down the show by pulling a big switch, but finds out she inadvertently enhancing it more instead. Finally, Darla, maddened with frustration, shouts at Danny for trying to attract all of the focus away from her, and confesses to flooding Mammoth Studios. Unfortunately, Darla's screaming is inadvertently picked up and amplified by a nearby microphone, unveiling the truth much to the dismay of the audience, Mr. Mammoth, and Flanigan. Embarrassed, Darla tries to regain her fame by hugging Danny (like the fan that she hugged earlier), until Pudge pulls the lever for the trap door, meeting her demise. So, the animals are rewarded with larger parts from then onward, their dreams coming true. The film ends with a selection of film poster parodies (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), putting the animals in certain roles, before Darla as a janitor puts "The End" poster on a wall and it falls down on her.

Cast[edit]

  • 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 cynical and pessimistic feline secretary and Danny's love interest.
  • Ashley Peldon (speaking) and Lindsay Ridgeway (singing) as 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 Woolly the Mammoth, the aging Asian 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.
  • George Kennedy as L.B. Mammoth, the human head of Mammoth Studios whose secret of success is "Simple, it's Dimple!"
  • Rene Auberjonois as Flanagan, the human director of "Li'l Ark Angel" who is constantly kissing up to both Darla and L.B. Mammoth.
  • Betty Lou Gerson as Frances Albacore, a sarcastic, cranky fish who dances with Cranston 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 she died 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.
  • Matthew Herried as Peabo "Pudge" Pudgemyer, a little penguin and Danny's first friend. He looks up to Danny as a big brother.
  • Don Knotts (Rick Logan, singing) as T.W., 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 she is just a child.
  • Frank Welker as Farley Wink, a human agent for animals he is blabbermouthed and talks fast. Although 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, an ape who is seen while Danny and Sawyer were going to Mammoth Studios. He isn't seen after that.
  • Tony Pope as Al, an alligator who is seen around the song ("Animal Jam")

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)

Production[edit]

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]

Casting[edit]

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]

Animation[edit]

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."

Turner Feature Animation Presents A David Kirschner Production: "Cats Don't Dance," starring Scott Bakula and Jasmine Guy. The songs are by Randy Newman and the music is by Steve Goldstein, featuring songs performed by Natalie Cole. The art direction is by Brian McEntee; Jim Katz and Barry Weiss are the co-producers. The executive producers are David Steinberg, Charles L. Richardson and Sandy Russell Gartin. The screenplay is by Roberts Gannaway, Cliff Ruby & Elana Lesser and Theresa Pettengill. The film is produced by David Kirschner and Paul Gertz; "Cats Don't Dance" is directed by Mark Dindal and distributed by Warner Bros., A Time Warner Entertainment Company.

Release[edit]

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] and 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. Director Mark Dindal was angry with Warner over the lack of advertising and the failed marketing campaign.[3]

Box office[edit]

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] However, Cats Don't Dance 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]

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 2, 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).

References[edit]

  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]