CHECK : Cats Don’t Dance (1997)

Movie reviews

In 1997, the only film ever produced by Turner Feature Animation was released on the Warner Bros. label. Animation. Cats Don’t Dance was a spectacular failure at the box office and flew under the radar on its initial release. By the way, the film is still relatively unknown, despite its star cast, charming traditional animation and impressive musical numbers. I loved this movie as a kid and thought it would still be current, as would many other childhood favorites. Twenty-four years after the release of Cats Don’t Dance, we take another look at this forgotten love letter to classic Hollywood.

The opening story introduces us to movie princess Darla Dimple (Ashley Peldon) and Danny (Scott Bakula), a farmer with big dreams. Danny takes a bus to Hollywood to fulfill his dream of singing and dancing. But Darla rules Tinseltown, and even the filmmakers bow down to her, and people believe that the animals in the movie exist only as cute props. Danny and his new friends must struggle with their lives and Darla’s interference if they are to have any chance of success.

The voices in Cats Don’t Dance are very good, thanks to an impressive cast. Scott Bakula and Jasmine Guy play Danny and the love of his life, Sawyer, a talented singer and dancer who has been denied her moment in the spotlight because she is not human. Natalie Cole provides the voice of Sawyer. John Rhys-Davies talks about the introduction of the film and plays Wooley Mammoth, a talented piano soloist who is reduced to performing the Mammoth studio logo for the film. Katie Najimi provides some of the film’s most comedic moments as a monster named Tilly. Don Knotts, Hal Holbrook and Betty Lou Gerson complete the core cast of animals like T. W. Turtle, Cranston the goat and Francis the fish. The head of the studio, L.B. Mammoth, is played by George Kennedy, while small-time director Darla Flanagan is played by Renee Auberjonois. There’s a lot of comedic talent behind the characters, but Jasmine Guy and John Rhys-Davies also rely on their characters’ morbid situations. The inability of animals to play a significant role in Hollywood films is a clever allegory for the way Star City treated non-white actors in its early days. It is neither too urgent nor too hypocritical, but it clearly demonstrates the validity of the issue.

The music of Cats Don’t Dance is out of this world. Steve Goldstein has composed a score that relies on jazzy, wide-ranging period conventions. One of the best aspects of the film is undoubtedly Randy Newman’s songbook. Why aren’t Newman’s film scores discussed more often? This thing is really something. Our time has come – it’s the perfect opening number that sets the tone and mood for what’s to come. The song about Danny’s arrival gives a good idea of Danny’s goals, and it’s fun to try to figure out all the hints in that scene. As a kid, I only saw the poster of Gone with the Wind, but there are lots of Easter Eggs and cameos. Is the word cameo correct when referring to an animated version of a famous person who does not speak? Sawyer’s song, Tell Me a Lie, is catchy and probably my favorite in the movie. I love how it starts out sad and slow after listening to the animals – it’s a disaster, but it turns into a hopeful love song. Natalie Cole’s voice is beautiful in this song, you can feel the emotion in her voice. There’s no stopping it – it’s an exciting show with fantastic visuals. It wasn’t easy to animate Darla’s exploding light bulbs falling to the ground during Danny’s and Sawyer’s dance, and the extra pizza is welcome. And of course it would be a crime not to mention Darla’s sinister song, Big and Loud. I like both versions, but the dark reprise after Danny leaves his house is terribly creepy.

I don’t know how they came up with the idea of making the bad guy an actress who looks like Shirley Temple, but it pays off. Darla is a really fun badass, and her musical numbers are insane. The scariest thing about it is that it can make anyone do anything. Danny is not a very dynamic character, but he is quite likable. Thanks to the sincerity and charisma of Scott Bakula and the hosts, it’s easy to understand why the other animals initially fall for his plan. My favorite character is Sawyer. She is sad because her dreams have been shattered by the reality of being an animal in Hollywood. It’s great to see her beaming when Danny asks her to come on stage and sing. I also like Wooley Mammoth for the same reasons; plus, he’s John Rhys-Davies, and I’ve never liked his performances. I like the other animals, as well as LB and Flanagan, but they are rather straightforward comic characters.  I’m surprised Cats Don’t Dance didn’t get in, as well as other animated films that flopped at the time, like The Iron Giant and less successful Disney films. Talk about the Iron Giant: This film suffers from one of the same ills as Cats Don’t Dance: Warner Bros. isn’t too keen on marketing campaigns for its cartoons. Warner didn’t seem to care much about its cartoon production at the time, which is a shame. Cats Don’t Dance isn’t as good as The Iron Giant, but it’s worth seeing and keeps dancing.

Cats Don’t Dance was written and directed by Mark Dindal, who would later direct The Emperor’s New Groove. Of course, he also directed Chicken Little for Disney in 2005, but given his other films, I think we can overlook that. I want him to go back to animation. It’s also interesting to note that Cats Don’t Dance was the last film Gene Kelly collaborated on, in this case as a choreographer without a name. This of course adds to the classic Hollywood atmosphere of the film. The song and dance numbers are truly spectacular. The animation is generally fluid, colorful, and just beautiful. The expressions of these characters are exaggerated, and frankly, I like seeing that.

I love Cats don’t dance, and today it’s perfectly normal. I even think adults will have more fun than kids with all those movie and actor references. This film has a top-notch cast, abracadabra comedy and an excellent soundtrack. The filmmakers’ love of the classics is infectious, and I would recommend the film for its intent alone if the technical aspects weren’t so important.

Location – 8
Action – 10
Control/Assembly – 10
Music/Sound – 10
Animation/Choreography – 10



I love Cats don’t dance, and today it’s perfectly normal. I even think adults will have more fun than kids with all those movie and actor references. This film has a top-notch cast, abracadabra comedy and an excellent soundtrack. The filmmakers’ love of the classics is infectious, and I would recommend the film for its intent alone if the technical aspects weren’t so important.

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