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Whyboy Spotlights... Cats Don't Dance
SPOTLIGHTED BY Galo N.
Cats. What would life be without cats? Well half of youtube would seize to exist, writers would stop demonizing them in almost every comedy movie and cartoon, and we wouldn’t have Turner Entertainment’s first and last film Cat’s Don’t Dance before getting they’re company absorbed into Warner Bros. Animation. The story goes like this the bright-eyed dreamer Danny from the small town of Kokomo, Indiana, played by Scott Bakula, leaves home to head to Hollywood to obtain his dreams of starring in the movies. When he reaches Hollywood he meets a rag tag team of animal actors including his love interest Sawyer, played by Jasmine Guy, and gets a job working on the latest Darla Dimple picture. Mayhem ensues as Danny takes his quest to make himself and his fellow animals Hollywood stars by showing their audience and the film industry that, in fact, they can dance.
Now the story overall is fairly simple but does have this coat of depth to it. This would probably go unnoticed to most kids but the whole movie is tangentially teaching everyone who watches it decades worth of film history. Let’s start off with the most obvious example of how this movie tangentially teaches everyone through its sheer amount of caricature characters. Can you name every single famous actor/director that this movie shows? Here's just a few.
Laurel & Hardy
Louis B. Mayer
Named in this L.B. Mammoth
It is quite ingenious showing kids all these famous film icons through this mostly cameo style and just not jamming it down our throats but showing enough that our interest in them makes us curious want to find out more. The next bit of tangential learning that this movie shows us is through the story itself and it’s exactly what you think it is. Minorities would go to auditions and casting calls like the one’s shown here and be given roles based solely that they were black, Hispanic, a women or whatever and when they were being filmed they got very small roles like Danny.
Overall as a tangential learning tool Cat’s Don’t Dance is a very intelligent movie but the movie suffers a little bit because of how much it loves it’s film references and tangential topics. All the side characters in the movie, T.W. Turtle, Cranston Goat, Frances the fish, Wollie Mammoth and Tillie Hippo, are all underdeveloped ending in me not caring one little bit on whether they have their dreams come true or not but when I say underdeveloped I don’t mean they are bland or stereotypes. Unlike the Open Season characters, that have only one joke to them and nothing else, these characters actually have some interesting aspects to them like how Tillie is constantly playing matchmaker for characters, the sort of second personality of T.W. when he sings, and even the seemingly romantic relationship of Cranston and Frances is interesting. If these characters got a little more time to interact with Danny on screen I feel they could have been all very memorable characters. We see it can work like with Woolie Mammoth’s scene where he talks about his woes of doing the company production logo at the beginning of movies.
Also, he's played by John Reyes Davies so that helps a bit.
Now onto the main leads of the movie Danny and Sawyer. Sawyer is a very good antagonizing love interest for Danny, counteracting Danny’s bright-eyed optimism with her realistic pessimism. This contrast in personality does create believable conflict. Bottom line for Sawyer’s character I feel she is a great character but her voice actress is a different story. During research I found that Turner Entertainment had several actresses audition for the role of Sawyer, but there was a lot of indecision that led to many scenes being animated for different actresses. Jasmine Guy was chosen to play Sawyer when the movie was 90% complete. The original voice actress chosen for the character (never was specified who it was) had a much deeper voice which resulted in a noticeable contrast of tones between Jasmine Guy's voice and Sawyer’s singing voice Natalie Cole. I can simply say I love Natalie Cole’s singing in Cat’s Don’t Dance. She is able to bring so much energy and passion into all her singing performances in the movie. This however creates the awkwardness when during the transition between the two actresses voices (Jasmine Guy’s and Natalie Cole’s) there was an extremely distracting tonal shift that made me scratch my head numerous times. If they had stuck with the more deeper voice actress that tonal shift wouldn’t have been as distracting.
Now onto Danny! He’s dull. Yes I said that the contrasting personalities between Danny and Sawyer were great. The contrast is great, and Sawyer’s personality is great but Danny’s personality is not great. Below average would be how I describe it. This could have been more to the fact that we are introduced to Danny through one of the most generic songs “Danny's Arrival Song,” you can just see the creativity is just beaming from that title, done by the king of generic himself Randy Newman. The only thing I remember of that song was the visuals, which were fantastic. Everything else is just a smudge on my memory. The song does state everything you need to know about Danny but that’s the thing what it states is just a generic hero. Danny like I said is the optimistic bright-eyed dreamer nothing more nothing less. This character isn’t bad but it has been done to death in countless movies. There is nothing new that Danny brings to the table that twelve other movies haven’t already brought but even generic Danny is still likeable. He's just the least memorable of the bunch.
But now onto the most memorable characters of the movie, the villains, Darla Dimple and her humongous bodyguard Max. First off Darla Dimple is a great reference to Shirley Temple and Darla Hood respectively taking the look from Shirley and the name from Darla, who were both huge child actors from the 1930s. Next Darla is a very fun but brutal character with her split personality. On one side she’s the darling miss Darla Dimple lover of all things and America’s sweetheart and on the other side Cruella De Ville’s evil hell spawn. The difference between these sides is spotlighted during her fantastic villian song “Big & Loud.” First starting off like this…
And ending with this…
Darla Dimple is definitely the highlight of the movie. Her bodyguard Max… well I just like his running joke of being this huge lumbering laviathan but doing almost everything in the most delicate of fashions.
Finally the songs are mixed but all are made even better with the movies fantastic visuals.
Danny’s Arrival Song
Big & Loud
Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now (Especially This Song)
The visuals along are worth the price to get this movie. Everything in this movie just “pops” out and is easily distinguishable and memorable even though the characters themselves aren’t. Also, has there been any other movie where the color pink is shown as threatening? None that I can think of. Cats Don’t Dance overall is a decent movie that sacrificed character development for more film history references. If they had put the exact amount of effort they did for film history references to character development then I’m sure this movie would be an animated classic.
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Written by: Taylor "Whyboy" Wyatt
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