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Video Vault: CATS DON’T DANCE

It’s 2013!   A new year of movies and a new year of Video Vaults!  Why don’t we start it off right with a movie that celebrates the movies, 1997’s box office disaster, Cats Don’t Dance!  The only film ever produced by Turner Feature Animation Studio (before being absorbed in the Time Warner/Turner Broadcasting merger), this was the directorial debut of Disney animator Mark Dindal, who would later go on to helm The Emperor’s New Groove and Chicken Little.  Despite positive critical reception, it was the complete lack of a marketing campaign that doomed the project.  Interestingly, the film started production as a vehicle for Michael Jackson and the Looney Tunes, but evolved in to a story for a whole new cast of animated characters.  Gene Kelly served as choreographer for the film, which ended up being his final screen project.  The film features the voices of Scott Bakula, Jasmine Guy, Ashley Peldon, John Rhys-Davies, and Don Knotts.

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Set in a fantastical version of 1930’s Hollywood where humans and talking animals live side-by-side, Cats Don’t Dance tells the tale of an optimistically naïve song & dance cat, Danny (Scott Bakula), who comes to California with a five-day plan to become a movie star.  After befriending a gang of animal extras at Mammoth Studios, a wrench is thrown in to Danny’s plan when he learns that only humans get starring roles.  In an attempt to abolish animal prejudice, the fancy-footed feline organizes a series of show-stopping animal performances for studio heads, but is continually thwarted by the two-faced child star Darla Dimple (Ashley Peldon) and her monstrous manservant valet.  Cinematic history is forever changed after a final showdown of one-ups-manship between Darla and the animal extras!

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Buy Cats Don’t Dance on Amazon.

With a solid voice cast and a footstompin’ (though unmemorable) original soundtrack from Randy Newman, Cats Don’t Dance’s zippy 75 minutes are an entertaining musical frolic for the whole family.  A slew of Hollywood insider jokes and parodies are a treat for adults, especially those familiar with the industry and its history.  The cast of showbiz animals is a well-scripted character group of Hollywood hopefuls.  Ashley Peldon’s performance as the psychotic human child, Darla Dimple, however, is the standout among the cast.  Impressively, flawless animation brings each well-crafted musical number in this Los Angeles of yore to vibrant life with style and panache.  Despite being almost lost to time immediately upon release, Cats Don’t Dance is a well-produced little movie that will reward animated musical fans and Hollywood history aficionados who seek it out.   It is clear that much creativity and heart went in to this production and it is easy to understand why Dindal would be pissed at Warner Bros. for letting his film fade away before getting a chance.  Contrary to popular belief, cats do, in fact, dance!

Check out more Video Vault columns and follow @RealBrianRudlof and @ScreenInvasion on Twitter for more reviews, interviews and news!

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The Author

Brian Rudloff

Brian Rudloff

Brian loves two things: movies and vacations. He has a B.S. in Cinema/Television Production and an M.S. in Recreation and Tourism Management. While he certainly anticipates the latest releases, he is more often found dancing on flying sarapes through the ether of yesteryear and wistfully prancing on clouds of nostalgia. He does not understand kids these days or the entertainment they consume.