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, Betty Lou Gerson (in her final film role), René Auberjonois, George Kennedy, and Dindal. Its musical numbers were written by Randy Newman and includes Gene Kelly's contributions as choreographer, before his death in 1996. The film was Kelly's final film project which is dedicated to him.
In 1937, Danny, an optimistic cat, dreams of Hollywood stardom, so he travels from Kokomo, Indiana to Hollywood in hopes of starting a career there. After meeting a new friend Pudge, Danny is selected by agent Farley Wink to feature in a film called Li'l Ark Angel that is in production alongside a white cat named Sawyer at Mammoth Studios. Upon joining fellow animals; Tillie, Cranston, Frances, and T.W., Danny is dismayed on learning how minor his role is and tries to weasel his way into more time in the spotlight. Danny winds up angering Darla Dimple, a popular, extremely spoiled child actress and star of the film, so she assigns her Valet Max to intimidate Danny into no longer trying to enlarge his part.
Danny learns from the studio's mascot Woolie 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. He longs for the spotlight and tries to make a plan that will encourage humans to provide animal actors with better scenarios — such as by assembling a massive cluster of animals and putting on a musical performance for the humans.
Later, Danny is given advice by Darla (while masking her true villainous nature with a sweet one as she always does) through song on how to interest and satisfy audiences. He takes this information to heart and groups the animals for an audition on the Ark in hopes of attracting the humans' attention. However, Darla, fearing that the animals are jeopardizing her spotlight, has Max help her flood the stage, while L.B. Mammoth, the head of Mammoth Studios; and Flanagan, the film's director, are giving an interview, gets the animals blamed for the damage, and gets them fired. The animals are depressed at being barred from acting in Mammoth Studios (especially Danny who was convinced by Darla that she was trying to help the animals). As Woolie tells Danny to leave for home, Tillie suggests Sawyer to follow Danny.
After a comment from the bus driver and seeing Pudge wander the streets, Danny comes up with a plan yet again. He secretly invites Sawyer, her friends, and Woolie to the premiere of Lil' Ark Angel. After the screening and a battle with Max that sends him flying away on a Darla Dimple balloon, Danny calls the audience's attention. Upon Sawyer, Woolie; Tillie bringing Cranston, Frances, and T.W. backstage to help Danny, 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 instead cause her to inadvertently enhance the performance as well as injure herself. Then last, she tries to ruin the show by pulling a big all-switch, though this sets off an enormous fireworks finale, making the animals' performance a complete success.
Furious and fuming at the animals, Darla berates Danny, then she accidentally confesses to flooding Mammoth Studios and framing the animals when it is broadcasted over the theater's sound system thanks to a open microphone, revealing the truth about the incident to the audience, including L.B. Mammoth and Flanagan, who are horrified seeing Darla for her true colors. Pudge pulls a lever, sending Darla down a trapdoor. At last, the animals' demand for larger roles are met and their dreams are fulfilled after so long.
There is a montage of film poster parodies which put the main animals in roles. It is shown afterwards that Darla is fired from show business and is now working as a janitor as punishment for her crimes and getting the animals fired by flooding the stage. She puts up a "The End" poster on a wall, and it falls down and wraps around her.
Why it Rocks
- The film's use of creative animation. It uses the characters' colors as way to show their constant conflicted emotions; When they're expressing joy or happiness, the colors glow and become vibrant or when they express sadness, it turns down.
- The film's ensemble cast of likable characters including Danny, Sawyer, Darla and many more.
- The film's use of funny/entertaining in-jokes. Like the character Woolie, being staged as a parody of MGM and it's iconic logo, is constantly forced to do the same thing over and over again instead of simply reusing the clip.
- The film's amazing musical numbers. Most notably, the visually pleasing Big and Loud and Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now.
- The film is a huge allegory for racism/white-washing in today's cinema. This is strengthened when a character states: "Uh, uh, talented people, not animals."
- Max, the butler, steals the show personality and design-wise. An example of this is when he hears a simple snap of a bow-tie and is immediately gone in the next scene.
- The film was poorly marketed, a main reason why the film was a box-office bomb.
- The Dutch dub of the film is terrible.