Cats Don't DanceProduction Notes
Introduction | About the Story | About the Production | About the Voice Casting
Casting | Putting it All Together | About the Filmmakers | Photos | Trailer


David Kirschner, Paul Gertz and Mark Dindal wanted to bring in the most gifted animators they could find. At the time they began production on "Cats Don't Dance," the feature animation divisions recently established at several major studios did not exist -- instead, there were just a lot of artists who wanted to express themselves beyond the artistic conventions of mainstream animation. The filmmakers took advantage of this bounty.

Production PhotoJay Jackson and Bob Scott became Directing Animators for Danny. They have something in common with Danny, Jackson jokingly explains. "We're naive Midwesterners who came to Hollywood to make it big in movies."

Jackson studied at the Kansas City Art Institute and began his career with animated commercials and educational films. He spent 10 years at Disney, first as a rough in-betweener on "The Fox and the Hound," then as an animator for "The Black Cauldron," "Mickey's Christmas Carol," "The Great Mouse Detective," "Oliver and Company" and "The Little Mermaid."

Although he grew up near Detroit, Bob Scott moved west to study animation at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). He worked for DIC and Marvel Productions, and has animation credits on the short "Roger Rabbit's Tummy Trouble" and the features "FernGully, The Last Rainforest" and "The Pagemaster."

Lennie K. Graves, Directing Animator for Sawyer, owes a lot to his older brother, Livie, who recognized Lennie's imagination, humor and drawing ability when they were growing up in New York. One day while they were watching a Bugs Bunny cartoon together, Livie blurted out, "That's what you should do!"

Production PhotoLennie studied animation at Manhattan's School of Visual Arts, and then headed to California, portfolio in hand. Two days later, he had a job with DePatie-Freling as a breakdowner. The company folded three months later, but not before Graves had moved up to assistant animator status. His talents quickly led him to a job animating Filmation's television shows, and eventually to a position at Disney, where he was an animator on "The Prince and the Pauper," "Beauty and the Beast," and supervising and directing animator on "Bebe's Kids."

Graves describes Sawyer as the film's "most difficult character, more subtle, restrained and graceful." Although she was designed around a flowing line, Graves tried to keep her from becoming a female stereotype. Graves has broken a stereotype in his own life, as one of only a few African-Americans in the animation field.

Frans Vischer, Directing Animator for Darla Dimple and Max the Butler, was born in Holland, where as a child he laboriously copied sketches from "Donald Duck Magazine." He was 11 when his family moved to San Jose, California. Unable to speak English on his first day of school, he used the universal language of cartoons to communicate his need to visit the washroom by handing his teacher a hastily-drawn sketch.

Vischer's mother sent some of his sketches to Disney, which led to several visits to the studio and encouragement from Disney executives, including the appropriately named production head, Don Duckwall. A few years later, Vischer met legendary Warner Bros. animator Chuck Jones, who urged him to apply to CalArts.

Production PhotoVischer became an in-betweener for "Mickey's Christmas Carol" and "The Black Cauldron," then later worked on "George Lucas' Ewoks' Adventure" as an animator. Vischer was also an animator on the groundbreaking "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" in 1987 and its subsequent short film, "Roger Rabbit's Tummy Trouble."

When he joined "Cats Don't Dance" in 1993, Vischer fleshed out the basic design of Darla Dimple, transforming her into a "caricature of cute." For Max the Butler, Vischer drew a "broad, absurd character" patterned after Erich Von Stroheim's portrayal of Gloria Swanson's butler in "Sunset Boulevard."

Directing Animators Jill Culton and Kevin Johnson team up for six characters - - T.W. the Turtle, Woolie the Mammoth, Cranston the Goat, Francis the Fish, Tillie the Hippo and Pudge the Penguin. After graduating from CalArts, Culton worked as a storyboard artist on "Toy Story."

For Johnson, animation brought a welcome career change from his job as a junior high school art teacher. His training at CalArts led to work on such projects as "The Pagemaster."

Stevan Wahl, Supervising Animator for Flanigan the Director, got his big break when Art Director Brian McEntee hired him for layout on "The Brave Little Toaster." That led to jobs on "Rover Dangerfield," "Bebe's Kids" and "Betty Boop."

Chad Stewart, Supervising Animator for Farley Wink the Agent, has worked on layout for "The Simpsons" and animation for "Family Dog" and "The Pagemaster."

Says Mark Dindal, "We had a really outstanding group of talented people working on this movie, overseeing about 25 animators during a four-and-a-half-year period. All told, with support staff included, we had about 250 people working on the animation for `Cats Don't Dance.' I think that, due to what is now possible in digitally creating backdrops and using computer software for the ink-and-paint process, we could create images that could not have been done with twice this many people in pre-computer days."

Dindal describes the process as "a complete team sport. You get the best ideas when you have the right group of people with the right chemistry working together and building on each other's ideas as you go."

He notes that the artists and animators took pains to maintain continuity and freshness despite the time they spent making the film. "Animation is a laborious, tedious process," Dindal observes. "It's not for those who need instant gratification."

Emphasizes Brian McEntee, "It's important for people to realize that the computer doesn't draw or color anything by itself -- everything still has to be created by an artist or programmer. It's just that colors, perspectives and relative sizes of images can be manipulated in the computer without throwing away the original design -- they can be modified simply by choosing another color from the computer palette rather than scraping off paint and re-painting, for instance. But the artist's personal style is always there."

Creating the look of the film was like "drawing up blueprints for a universe," McEntee observes. "The biggest challenge was to get all the artists to channel their passions into a shared vision." The result is a colorful portrayal of early Hollywood's Art Deco look. McEntee feels the story is expressed through the "language of colors" in a pale, subtle palette punctuated by zaps of powerful color.

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Introduction | About the Story | About the Production | About the Voice Casting
Casting | Putting it All Together | About the Filmmakers | Photos | Trailer

©1997 Warner Bros.