Western Animation / Cats Don't Dance

They don't make films like this anymore...

Cats Don't Dance is a 1997 film, and, other than The Pagemaster in 1994, the only one made by Turner Entertainment's animation unit before Warner Bros. took over. The film was choreographed by Gene Kelly, and the main character was based on him as well. Kelly died in 1996 mid-production.

The film takes place in The Golden Age of Hollywood in the year 1939, and the plot revolves around a singing and dancing cat named Danny, who dreams of being a big movie star. He gets a role in the latest movie starring sickeningly adorable child star Darla Dimple, only to find out the hard way that animals in Hollywood only get minor roles. Determined to show Hollywood their talent, Danny rounds up some of his newfound friends, and tries to find a way to impress the studio exec producing the film. When Darla finds out about this, she starts to show her true nature, and decides to sabotage the animals' plans, so they don't steal her spotlight.

This movie contains many Shout Outs to classic films, most notably Singin' in the Rain and Sunset Boulevard. Although it was underpromoted and it underperformed at the box office, it was critically acclaimed and still has a loyal following to this day (particularly among the Furry Fandom).

Cats Don't Dance contains examples of:

  • Armor-Piercing Question: When the other animals tell Danny how much Hollywood sucks for them, Danny counters with "Then why are you still here?" (see Rousing Speech)
  • Award Bait Song: "I Do Believe". However, due to being buried deep in the end credits (after they've been rolling for a couple minutes, and after a long stretch of reprise-less instrumental music), it tends to be forgotten among the rest of the movie's songs.
  • Back Blocking: Wooly the Mammoth does this when he hands the dizzy Danny and Pudge his peanut tea.
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animal: Most of the animal characters.
  • Batman Gambit: Danny pulls off a rather impressive one with the final dance number. Nice Guy that he is, he sets it up so that, if Darla had gracefully sat back and let the song play, she'd come off smelling like a rose, her reputation further enforced. But by this point he's fully aware of the likelihood of that happening and has obviously coached his friends to just run with whatever cheating she pulls off. He even takes a very brief moment to shove it in her face after her first couple attempts fail.
  • Battle Butler: Darla's butler, Max.
  • Big Electric Switch: Grand-Daddy of All Switches.
  • Break the Cutie: Danny, who formerly provided the page picture. On the left, bus ride coming in. On the right, bus ride going out.
  • Butlerspace: At one point, Darla's butler Max does this when he suddenly appears holding the door open, even though he was in a different room a few seconds ago. Lampshaded by Danny, who looks back at the room where Max previously was, clearly confused.
  • Dialogue Reversal:
    "How does the kittycat go?"
    "Very good."
  • Disney Acid Sequence:
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Darla got the animals fired, just because she fears they'll steal her spotlight, and for Cranston's remark about L.B. Mammoth probably getting tired of Dimple and is looking for something new.
    • Also, her reaction to Danny upstaging her at the first shooting. And that's saying something, because Danny's behavior was completely out of line and inconsiderate to everyone there.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: See Fantastic Racism
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Danny and company do get their big break, though they have to go through a lot to get it. (Danny personally has to go through hell).
  • Epic Fail: The audition Darla sets up for them with L.B. Mammoth. Not only does the whole town get flooded, but they drag L.B. himself behind them on the anchor and he ends up tied to the mast when the boat sinks. Nice audition.
  • Fade Around the Eyes: Darla Dimple does this at the end of the second part of Big and Loud. Max turns on the electric thing clipped to her hair, and the machine produces smoke, which, along with the flashes of electricity, turn the entire screen black except for Darla's eyes, which then disappear, then flicker back onto the screen for a split second before finally disappearing for real.
  • Fantastic Racism: Humans towards animals. The whole movie can be interpreted as an allegory for the prejudice and marginalization African-American actors and singers faced in the 1930s and 40s in Hollywood.
  • Fatal Flaw: She's not killed but Darla would have gotten off scot-free in the end of it all if she had kept a handle on that temper of hers and simply let the animals have the spotlight.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • "I'm sure no one would mind if I just jazzed this up a bit." "Alright. Learn it the hard way."
    • "[...] I'll make sure that LB sees your splashy debut."
  • Funny Animals: Many of the characters.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    Danny: Looks like we're gonna be the only two cats on the ark.
    Sawyer: So much for preserving the species.
  • Gilligan Cut:
    Tilly: Well?
    Sawyer: I can't do this.
    Tilly: And?
    Sawyer: I can't do this.
    Tilly: So?
    Sawyer: I can't believe I'm doing this...
  • Held Gaze: Near the end of the Animal Jam sequence. Danny and Sawyer look deeply into each other's eyes, having an Almost Kiss, but Sawyer, discouraged that no matter how hard they try, no one in the movie industry with hire them, breaks the moment.
  • Heroic BSOD: Danny goes though one after he gets all of the animal actors kicked out of the studio. Hell, he doesn't even speak until his epiphany.
  • He's Back: Danny. After Darla's manipulations get all the animals fired from Mammoth Studios, he gives up completely and decides to just get on the bus back to Kokomo. However, after listening to the bus driver's negative comments on how animals would never reach the top and seeing all of the other animals suffering on the streets, he quickly gets back his groove and gets off the bus, triumphantly declaring "See you in the movies!"
  • Hidden Depths: The elephant is a talented pianist, the turtle is an action star, and the secretary can out-sing and out-dance anyone else in the cast (except Danny).
  • Hollywood Healing: When Danny first addresses the audience after his rooftop fight, he has a black eye. As he fixes his ruffled clothes, his black eye completely heals.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Danny trusting Darla to set up an audition with L.B. Mammoth. The other animals call him out on this after he got them fired.
    Sawyer (shocked): She's your little angel?
    Danny: She, she said she wanted to help.
    Tilly: And you believed her?
    Danny: I... I...
    (Sawyer walks away)
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Non-romantic: Darla and her butler Max.
  • Humiliation Conga: Every measure Darla takes to ruin the performance of Danny and friends at the end of the movie makes the show ten times better, and she injures herself horribly with each attempt. After getting electrocuted, tossed about and flattened, she tops it off with an unintentional public confession of her evil deeds, flushing her own career down the toilet.
  • Never Say "Die": Well...
    Darla: (singing) ... and all of the people drowned! (grins charmingly)
  • Nice Character, Mean Actor: Darla.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Danny's attempt to get the animals' talent noticed allows Darla to make things much worse for them.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Darla's attempts to stop the animal's performance result in one of the most spectacular auditions in all cinema history, complete with gunfire and spectacular light performances.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: This is parodied in the end credits, with "No animals were harmed in the making of this film. Although, some were erased and had to be redrawn."
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Mammoth Studios, run by "L.B. Mammoth", is clearly MGM. Also, Darla's looks are obviously based on Shirley Temple with some Jane Withers thrown in, and her first name is taken from another child star.
      • For a bonus, most of Darla's characterization is inspired by a Shirley Temple rumor from back in the day... that instead of being a sweet little girl, she was really a 30-year-old chain-smoking midget who hated children and animals.
    • Frances the fish's look and character is a reference to Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard. Max is an even more obvious lift from the same movie.
  • Not So Stoic: During the Animal Jam song, Sawyer begins typing along to the beat, her color getting a bit brighter, and then enthusiastically returns the typing carriage to its original position, only to suddenly get hold of herself and straighten up. Also happens again just a few seconds later when she accidentally makes an emergency ladder slam to the ground... with her on it. Her fur puffs up and her claws extend while she makes a very amusing neurotic expression, eyes darting around, then immediately pretends nothing happened and composes herself. Typical cat.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: When Darla is escorting Danny out of her mansion after giving him the Big and Loud musical number, Max holds a door open for them. They walk down the hall a short way, and Max is waiting for them at the exit with Danny's hat, despite him never moving from the first door. Leads to a Funny Moment when Danny stops, stares at Max, turns his head to see if he's still holding the door, then turns back and stares ahead blankly with a befuddled expression as Darla hands him his hat. Can be seen here at 4:18
  • Oh Crap!:
  • Older Than They Look: Strongly implied that Darla is much older than she looks.
  • Opening The Floodgates: After giving a press conference on his upcoming film, studio honcho Mammoth opens the door to the sound stage, unaware that the Funny Animal performers are undergoing a deluge as part of The Villain's effort to sabotage their careers. Since this is a cartoon, the water ignores the laws of fluid dynamics, flowing instead according to the Rule of Funny. Mister Mammoth was most displeased.
  • Opposites Attract: Here's a hint. They're both cats.
  • Pink Girl, Blue Boy: The animals pairs in "Li'l Ark Angel" are in matching sailor suits, pink and blue. And that's the least cutesy thing about that picture.
  • Present Company Excluded:
    Bus driver: (talking about the animals) What a bunch of noodle-heads! Well, I'm not calling you a noodle-head.
    (An annoyed Danny glares at him.)
  • Pretentious Latin Motto: Mammoth Pictures' "Optimum est Maximum"; which translates to "Bigger is Better". Bonus points for being MGM's motto.
  • The Renaissance Age of Animation
  • Rising Water, Rising Tension: The Villain is filling the soundstage with water in a scheme to drown or discredit the animal performers. While her victims try to remain afloat aboard a set piece never meant to be seaworthy, poor Pudge remains tied in the control room where the rising water submerges him entirely.
  • Rodents of Unusual Size: The animals are the size of humans.
  • Romantic Rain: The two principal characters have an evening rain fall upon them separately, but the romantic connection nonetheless applies. The rain falls on Danny as part of his Humiliation Conga, having failed miserably at getting his friends an audition with a studio mogul. Meanwhile, Sawyer sings a torch song outside a diner, which describes how Hollywood made her a Broken Bird, while newcomer Danny reawakened the songstress/dancer at Sawyer's core. As the rain stops, she learns that Danny waits at the bus stop, and hurries to meet him.
  • Rousing Speech: Danny gives this to the animals after he asked them why they remain in Hollywood when they couldn't become actors. The reason is because they just couldn't forget their dreams. Even after all the abuse and hardship they dealt with.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: A lamb was asked to play this role.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Inverted in Danny and Sawyer; more like "Keet and Kuudere".
  • Ship Tease: Aside from the obvious, Cranston Goat and Frances are always seen together.
  • Shipper on Deck: Tilly is supportive of Danny and Sawyer together. She even tried to get Sawyer all neat when she's about to meet him (again).
  • Sitting Sexy on a Piano: During Darla's "Big and Loud" number — since it's a Max-sized piano and she's small, she can roll around for several minutes with no danger of falling off.
  • Trash Can Band: The song "Animal Jam" in the middle of the movie revolves around this.
  • Triumphant Reprise: At the beginning of the movie, "Our Time Has Come" played during Danny's trip to Hollywood. At end of the film when Danny and the others became stars, it's played again in a much louder tone.
  • Turtle Power: T.W. Turtle. He even gets to play in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie!
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: When Danny jumps off the bus to explain his (ultimately successful) plan to Pudge, the dialogue is replaced with Mickey Mousing.
  • The Vamp: Funnily and disturbingly enough, Darla.
  • Villainous Advice Song: Darla gives advice to Danny In "Big and Loud" on how he should go about performing his song for the studio exec. In reality, she's setting Danny up to ruin a press conference, which will get him and the other animals fired.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Darla when all her efforts to stop the animals impromptu number in the finale backfire immensely. It ends with her outing herself to an audience while she's ranting at Danny.
  • Wingding Eyes: Darla's flaming-skull eyes when she pulls the "GRANDDADDY OF ALL SWITCHES"
  • X-Ray Sparks: Pudge's electric handshake shocks T.W. at the end.

Alternative Title(s): Cats Dont Dance