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 centers 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 DarlaDimple, 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).
Accidental Public Confession: Darla's very loud statement that she should have drowned them all when she FLOODED THE STAGE! She doesn't notice a microphone is hanging right above her until it's too late.
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.
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.
Darla: Max, invite that cat...to teaaaaaa... [iris out on huge, disturbing grin]
The Chessmaster: Darla sets up a very good Batman Gambit against Danny and the other animals despite there being no way she's any older than 10. At least she looks that young. Keep an eye out for the cigarettes she's using to stunt her growth. See also No Celebrities Were Harmed, below.
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.
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'll make sure that LB sees your splashy debut."
Earn Your Happy Ending: ...Though they have to go through a lot to get it. (Danny personally has to go through hell).
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.
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)
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.
Left the Background Music On: Danny and Pudge are dancing to some BGM when all of a sudden, Danny stops and wonders where that music is coming from. Turns out it's Wooly the Mammoth playing piano in his trailer across the street.
Now the people they were so bad That the Lord made the rain come down. And he washed away the bad cities, And he washed away the bad towns, And all of the people drowned! [cherubic smile and cute pose while anguished silhouettes sink in the background]
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."
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
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.
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.