- Cats Don't Dance
Cats Don't Dance
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mark Dindal Produced by David Kirschner
Written by Mark Dindal
Starring Scott Bakula
Music by Steve Goldstein (Score)
Randy Newman (Songs)
Editing by Dan Molina Studio Turner Entertainment
Warner Bros. Animation
Distributed by Warner Bros. Family Entertainment Release date(s) March 26, 1997 Running time 75 minutes Country United States Language English Budget $32 million Box office $3,588,602
Cats Don't Dance is a 1997 animated musical comedy film, notable as the only fully animated feature produced by Turner Entertainment's feature animation unit (later merged into Warner Bros. Animation, Turner Feature Animation had also produced the animated portions of The Pagemaster in 1994). The film was distributed by Warner Bros. Family Entertainment. 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 features the voices of Scott Bakula and Jasmine Guy, and was the directorial debut of former Disney animator Mark Dindal. It is also notable for its musical numbers, written by Randy Newman, and for Gene Kelly's contributions as choreographer. Cats Don't Dance was Kelly's final film project, and the film is dedicated to him.
The film takes place in 1939 Hollywood, during the golden age of cinema. An ambitious young cat named Danny, who dreams of becoming a movie star, travels from his small hometown of Kokomo, Indiana to Hollywood. There, Danny finds animal talent agent Farley Wink and his secretary, a sassy and cynical lady cat named Sawyer, with whom Danny falls in love. Danny is admitted into a small role in the latest film featuring child actress Darla Dimple, "America's Sweetheart, Lover of Children and Animals." He is enthusiastic until he realizes the role's insignificance. Determined to become more central, he takes matters into his own hands, turning his one line of "meow" into an impressive bit of music, but in doing so, he upstages Darla Dimple. She immediately orders filming to stop, showing her true side; cruel and obnoxious. She sends her valet, Max (a massive, rigid parody of Erich von Stroheim's portrayal of Max von Mayerling from Sunset Boulevard) to make Danny stick with the script.
That night, Danny (along with his penguin friend, Pudge, a young lad he met when he first came to Hollywood) learns from the studio's mascot, Woolly the Elephant, that all of the other animals who came to Hollywood sharing Danny's ambitions (including Sawyer) are reassigned to the supporting cast, playing stereotypical animal roles, while the humans assume central roles. Danny therefore organizes an impromptu dance session in an alley the next morning to remind the animals why they came to Hollywood. He convinces Sawyer, with some difficulty, to resume her former practice of dancing and she joins them. Danny begins making plans to finally get some recognition. Darla and Max overhear him from afar. Believing that the animals provide a threat to her stardom, Darla thinks of a way to use Danny to keep the spotlight on herself.
Darla invites Danny to her mansion so she could "apologize" for what Max did the other day. She even offers to call studio boss L.B. Mammoth to arrange for Danny and his friends to perform for him. Danny eagerly embraces her offer. He enlists the assistance of all the animals to get ready for a big show (even Sawyer, who's starting to reciprocate Danny's feelings for her) just as a press conference for "Lil' Ark Angel" takes place outside the sound stage. Darla and Max trap the animals on the ark and flood the sound stage; the flood spills out and nearly destroys the studio. The animals are blamed for the incident and are immediately fired. Darla promptly reveals her deception and Danny's part in it to everyone and rides off in her limousine laughing. Realizing this, all the animals get angry at Danny for letting Darla do such a horrible things to them. Defeated and alone, Danny prepares to return to Kokomo. Sawyer, however, realizes that, despite his mistakes, Danny brought back the hopes of her and her friends and she truly loves him. Tillie the Hippo convinces her to catch him at the bus stop before he leaves but she is too late. After the bus driver offhandedly insults the animals who tried and failed to be in the pictures, Danny changes his mind about going home and leaves. He conspires with Pudge to demonstrate the animals' skills one more time.
Danny and Pudge sneak into the studio and invite their friends, including Sawyer, to the premiere of Darla's film. While preparing backstage, Pudge snaps his tie, which alerts Max through his ears. Danny is chased out to the roof of the theater and atop a giant Darla balloon, where he is forced into a final showdown with Max. When all seems lost, they both notice the balloon is about to pop (with Max still on it). Danny repeats Max's question that was earlier asked to him ("How does the kitty cat go?" "Meow?" Very good!"), then pops the balloon, sending Max away. Danny returns to the theater just as the film ends and addresses the audience, informing them that he and his friends will sing and dance as requested. The others, thinking he will only ruin their lives more, leave only to be held back (literally) by Tillie. After a small argument, Danny says that if they accept what the humans think of them they can leave (to the shock of the others). They say that "Life here for animals is a pits. We're always playing the scapegoat, quickly forgotten, always work for scale." (Puns, as these words are spoken by a goat, an elephant—which "never forgets"--and a fish, which has scales.) Danny asks them why they're still here, and explains that they can't forget the feeling they have when Cranston and Frances dance together, when Woolly plays music, or when Sawyer sings. He reminds them that the people "cursed them, humiliated them, even slammed the door in their faces, but they haven't yet made the animals forget." Then T.W. remembers a fortune cookie paper saying, "they can smash your cookie, but you'll always have your fortune."
At this, the animals perform a spectacular song and dance scene. Darla's outrageous attempts to stop them (trying to close the curtain, throwing light bulbs at Sawyer and Danny, opening smoke canisters, trying to make T.W. fall into the crowd, smashing the control booth, and pulling "The GrandDaddy of All Switches") result only in enhancement to their performance and in pain to herself. The production number is a resounding success, and the audience applaud for the animals' efforts; Darla, trying to prove that she is the true star, recklessly screams at Danny through a microphone tangled on her back that "I should have drowned you all when I flooded the stage!!!" Everyone in the audience is shocked at this, including L.B. and the director, Flanagan. With her crime and true nature now exposed to the audience, Darla tries to save face by hugging Danny, but gets dropped down a trap door by Pudge while shouting out for Max (Max, drifting over Paris at this point, responds slowly to her call: "Oui, Miss Dimple!") As the animals receive more applause for their victory, L.B. and Flanagan apologize to the animals for their misunderstanding over the flooding incident, assuring they will be making history through films.
It is implied that the animals not only get their jobs back at the studio, but are also given starring roles from then on, creating a number of amusing films such as Singin' in the Rain, Casablanca, The Mask, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Witches of Eastwick, Grumpy Old Men, Superman, Beetlejuice, Twister, Batman & Robin, and Free Willy. It is revealed afterwards that Darla has lost her fame for almost destroying the studio and now works as a janitor as punishment. In the end, Darla sets up a "The End" poster (with it falling down and wrapping around her).
- Scott Bakula as Danny, an ambitious, optimistic cat who desperately wants to become a famous Hollywood star. He is the protagonist.
- Jasmine Guy (Natalie Cole, singing) as Sawyer, a sassy but cynical she-cat receptionist and the deuteragonist.
- Ashley Peldon (Lindsay Ridgeway, singing) as Darla Dimple, the obnoxious and bratty human child star of Hollywood. She serves as the main antagonist.
- Kathy Najimy as Tillie Hippo, a happy-go-lucky hippopotamus who tries to find the best in every situation.
- John Rhys-Davies as Wooly the Mammoth, the aging elephant mascot for Mammoth Pictures. He originally came to Hollywood to write and perform music and acts a mentor to Danny.
- 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. The cigarette holder she always holds may be a nod to Cruella de Vil, who was also voiced by Gerson. This 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 who is Danny's first friend when he comes to Hollywood. He looks up to Danny as a big brother. He serves as the tritagonist.
- Don Knotts 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 personal human assistant and the secondary antagonist. He obeys Darla's every command, and will not hesitate to punish anyone who crosses her. He serves as the direct force that Darla socially lacks, as she is just a child.
- Frank Welker as Farley Wink, a human agent for animals.
- David Johansen as Bus Driver, a human whose insults inspire Danny with his last plan to give the animals their long-awaited stardom.
- "Our Time Has Come" - James Ingram, Carnie Wilson
- "Danny's Arrival Song" - Danny
- "Little Boat on the Sea" - Darla, Danny
- "Animal Jam" - Danny, Animals
- "Big and Loud (Part 1)" - Darla
- "Big and Loud (Part 2)" - Darla
- "Tell Me Lies" - Sawyer
- "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" - Danny, Sawyer, Tillie, T.W., Cranston, Frances
- "I Do Believe" (end credits) - Will Downing
Release and response
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 entertainment release.
Cats Don't Dance was released to mixed to positive reviews (it has a 69% 'fresh' rating on Rotten Tomatoes) 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. It was also overshadowed by the overlapping releases of The Devil's Own and the re-release of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, the last of the Star Wars trilogy "Special Edition" re-releases. Its total domestic theatrical gross was $3,566,637, making it a box office bomb in contrast with its $32 million production budget.
Despite the film's commercial disaster, Cats Don't Dance was the first non-Disney animated film to have won the Best Animated Feature award at the 1997 Annie Awards.
Pop culture references
- Darla Dimple is a take on Shirley Temple. Unlike Darla, Shirley was more courteous and respectful to her supporting cast.
- Famous 1930s actors and actresses' likenesses are seen at the premiere and the Brown Derby restaurant including Joan Crawford, Cary Grant, W.C. Fields, Clark Gable and Laurel and Hardy.
- Mammoth Pictures is a parody of MGM, complete with Woolly Mammoth's presence on the logo.
- The posters that are parodied at the end include Singin' in the Rain, Casablanca, The Mask, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Witches of Eastwick, Grumpy Old Men, Superman, Beetlejuice, Twister, Batman & Robin, and "Free Tilly", a parody of Free Willy. The final image of Darla as a cleaning lady was a direct reference to the way Carol Burnett ended her variety show.
- A parody was also included when Danny was dancing past the windows to a restaurant, where the famous comedy duo, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were sitting at a table together.
- The film is an obvious allegorry of the civil rights movement and McCarthyism
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.
The film saw its first DVD release on September 2, 2002, as a 4:3 pan-and-scan DVD with no 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).
- ^ a b c d "Cats Don't Dance". The Numbers. http://www.the-numbers.com/movies/1997/CATSD.php. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
- ^ Roger Ebert's Review of Cats Don't Dance
- ^ Cats Don't Dance: Production Notes
- ^ Cats Don't Dance at Rotten Tomatoes
- Cats Don't Dance at the Internet Movie Database
- Cats Don't Dance at AllRovi
- Cats Don't Dance at Box Office Mojo
- Cats Don't Dance at Rotten Tomatoes
- The unofficial Cats Don't Dance fansite
Annie Award for Best Animated Feature
Beauty and the Beast (1991) · Aladdin (1992) · The Lion King (1994) · Pocahontas (1995) · Toy Story (1995) · Cats Don't Dance (1997) · Mulan (1998) · The Iron Giant (1999) · Toy Story 2 (1999) · Shrek (2001) · Spirited Away (2001) · Finding Nemo (2003) · The Incredibles (2004) · Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) · Cars (2006) · Ratatouille (2007) · Kung Fu Panda (2008) · Up (2009) · How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
1990sCats Don't Dance (1997) 2000s 2010sMe and My Shadow (2013)
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