Cats Don't DanceProduction Notes

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

About the Production . . .

"I've always been drawn to American themes in my movies," says producer David Kirschner, who first made his mark on Hollywood by writing the animated hit "An American Tail."

"In the 1930s it was almost impossible for anyone who looked different from the mainstream or had an accent to succeed in Hollywood, and those who did found themselves largely typecast. We wanted to refer to that struggle for recognition in this story, using the animal characters as a metaphor."

Production PhotoThe original idea for "Cats Don't Dance" came from stories about a group of semi-wild cats who have, for decades, populated the back lot of Warner Bros. Studios. The cats live behind the building facades where such immortal films as "Casablanca," "East of Eden" and "The Music Man" were filmed, and are fed by stagehands who admire the independence and feline appeal of their four-legged "neighbors."

When the cat-based story was presented to Kirschner and his partner, Paul Gertz, they knew that it could achieve even more resonance by intertwining itself with the images of classic Hollywood song-and-dance musicals.

"`Family films' are the most satisfying kind to make, because you're talking to such a broad audience," acknowledges Kirschner. "But we felt that the references to the Golden Era musicals would be appealing to everyone; I never get tired of seeing those wonderful moments in `Singin' In The Rain.' That was the feeling we wanted to capture in animation."

Kirschner contacted Mark Dindal, a talented young animator whom Kirschner had first met several years before, when Dindal, who had supervised animation effects on Disney's "The Little Mermaid," was working on "The Rocketeer," and Kirschner was CEO of Hanna-Barbera Studios. Recalls Dindal, "A year after I met David Kirschner I received a phone call at seven o'clock in the morning from him. I thought it was a prank, but it wasn't; he wanted me to direct `Cats Don't Dance.'"

Dindal was excited to make the leap from his previous animation work to directing an entire film. Furthermore, he and Kirschner wanted to explore different color palettes and styles that would take advantage of the explosion of technology and its effect on animation.

Production Photo The project was joined at this time by Brian McEntee, a gifted art director whose previous credits included the art direction for "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Brave Little Toaster," two critically-lauded and popular animated hits. McEntee brought great enthusiasm for the project and many ideas for both the look and the execution of the film into the mix. Says Dindal, "Brian had supervised the computer animation in the ballroom scene of `Beauty and the Beast.' He knew that we could use those same techniques, as well as traditional hand-painted cels and other state-of-the art software, to give this film a rich, multi-dimensional look."

Joining the team of filmmakers at this point were two artists whose work would have a very specific effect upon the completed film. Composer and songwriter Randy Newman, whose recent work includes soundtracks for "James and the Giant Peach," "Toy Story" and the live-action "Michael," came on board to create six songs for the film. And dancing-acting-filmmaking legend Gene Kelly became a consultant on the dance sequences.

Production Photo Says Paul Gertz, "We watched dozens of old movie musicals to get the tone of our story right -- the rhythms of speech, body language and story conventions. And in the process of watching all these fabulous dance numbers, it occurred to us that we could at least ask Gene Kelly if he would give us some advice on the creation of our own dances. To our delight, he was so taken by what the story suggested that he committed immediately."

"It was really amazing," says Mark Dindal. "We went to Gene Kelly's house one day to talk about the film. He was, at this time, in frail health, but he was charming and very interested in our work. We sat outside and talked about certain sequences in Gene's own movies and how they had been choreographed, and he could remember every little detail -- what was done, how it was decided, what was considered and rejected, how it had turned out. He was a truly unique artist."

David Kirschner voiced much the same feeling about working with Randy Newman. "Randy is part of a musical dynasty that's had a big influence on Hollywood. His uncles and brother are also film composers of great note, and Randy himself is a joy to work with. He brings the best of the past and present together in his songs."

In addition to Randy Newman's songs, the production brought in Steve Goldstein to compose the score for the movie. Goldstein had a fine sense of comedy, classic movie history, and animation, including in his resume such projects as "When the Lion Roars," a history of MGM musicals; the award-winning special "In Search of Dr. Seuss," and the musical arrangements for "The Birdcage." Says Dindal, "We heard lots of tapes, of course, and many of them were fine, but I played Steve's in my car on the way home, and by the time I arrived at my house, I called Paul Gertz and said, `This is the guy.'"

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

©1997 Warner Bros.