Western Animation / Gay Purr-ee


Gay Purr-ee is a 1962 Animated Musical created by United Productions of America (UPA) and distributed by Warner Bros.. It was UPA's second and final feature, as well as their only one not to be an adaptation or feature none of their stock characters. It was co-written by Chuck Jones and his then-wife Dorothy and directed by Abe Levitow, one of his star animators. Jones' involvement in the production would end up costing him his job at WB for violation of contract, and while probably not the reason the studio's animation department closed the next year, losing such a legendary creator couldn't have helped.

Mewsette (voiced by Judy Garland) is a French farm cat who dreams of a better, more fabulous life while Jaune-Tom (voiced by Robert Goulet), her sweet but simple love interest, is content to live out in the country. She rides a freight train to Paris where she meets con-cat Meowrice (veteran voice actor Paul Frees), who promises to teach her how to become the belle of all Paris while secretly preparing her to be the mail-order bride of a Mr. Henry Phtt in America. Meanwhile, Jaune-Tom and his pocket-sized sidekick Robespierre (Red Buttons) go to Paris in search of her and adventure ensues.

Was one of the last collaborations for Wizard Of Oz songwriting team of Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg, who were hired for this film at Judy Garland's suggestion.

This film provides examples of:

  • Alcohol Hic: Robespierre hiccups a lot when Meowrice gets him and Jaune-Tom drunk.
  • Animal Talk: Mostly cats, and one dog. The mice mostly squeak and the humans don't seem to understand anybody. There's also a song about lovers stealing illicit smooches in a carriage which reminds us that "you're safe in a buggy 'cause the horse don't talk."
  • Animal Theme Naming: Several character and place names—not to mention the title of the film itself—are plays on cat-related concepts, especially the noises cats make: Musette becomes "Mewsette", Maurice becomes "Meowrice", the Moulin Rouge becomes the "Mewlon Rouge", etc.
  • Animated Musical
  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
    Meowrice: You are going to Pittsburgh to marry that rich American, isn't that what you wanted? Isn't that why you left the farm?
    Mewsette: Yes, I mean no... (crying) I just, I just want Jaune-Tom!
  • Big Bad: Meowrice.
  • Book on the Head: A variant: part of Mewsette's training involves balancing a bowl of cream over her head.
  • Break the Cutie: Mewsette. Doubles as Break the Haughty.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Jaune-Tom and Mewsette wave goodbye to the camera in the ending.
  • B.S.O.D. Song: "Paris is a Lonely Town," sung by Mewsette after realizing Meowrice's treachery and her dreams of glamour are shattered.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: Jaune-Tom and Robespierre get wasted on one glass of champagne each.
  • Cats Are Mean: Meowrice and his henchmen. Mewsette called Jaune-Tom a "clumsy country clod" before deciding to go to Paris.
  • Cat Stereotypes: Jaune-Tom (a yellow-orange male cat with orange stripes), Mewsette (an all-white female cat), and Meowrice (a villainous black and white tuxedo male cat).
  • Chekhov's Skill: Jaune-Tom's champion mousing ability; he is able to sprint like a cheetah for about a hundred meters if he's chasing a mouse, or thinks he is. This comes in handy at the climax.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Lampshaded when Meowrice meets Juane-Tom and Robespierre, and sells them. He's surprised to learn that Mewsette knew him.
  • Country Mouse: Mewsette's owner is happy on the farm, much to the dismay of her City Mouse sister. Mewsette herself tries to be a City Mouse (so to speak) but falls victim to Meowrice and realizes too late that she's in over her head.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Jaune-Tom easily takes out Meowrice's group of henchcats, single-handedly throwing them off the train. After getting his Heroic Second Wind from a sneak attack from Meowrice, Jaune-Tom repeatedly punches his face in until he falls unconscious.
  • Cute, but Cacophonic: Mewsette may be a sweetheart, but her natural purring sounds, as Mme. Rubens-Chatte put it, "like a cement mixer."
  • Cute Kitten: Robespierre.
  • Damsel in Distress/Neutral Female: Mewsette, painfully so. The most she manages to do is evade Meowrice's (painfully inept) henchmen.
  • Dark Is Evil: Meowrice's black cat minions.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The whole movie is a feature-length showcase of UPA's trademark minimalist animation, which featured some of the most ambitious visuals of The Golden Age of Animation. Special mention goes to Meowrice's henchcats, whose appealing design deliberately leaves it ambiguous whether they're black cats or silhouettes.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: "Bubbles", though most of the songs have moments of impossibly colorful visuals.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After Meowrice cheats Mme. Rubens-Chatte, she's quite happy to help Jaune-Tom track him down.
  • Driven to Suicide: Mewsette is contemplating a leap into the Seine at the end of "Paris is a Lonely Town" and actually goes for it when cornered by Meowrice and his henchcats, though they catch her in a bag on the way down.
  • Empathic Environment: When Mewsette arrives in Paris, it's the most spectacular place imaginable. When she flees Rubens-Chatte's to avoid being sold, it loses all its glitter because she is lost and alone in it. Once Jaune-Tom returns, it becomes beautiful again, symbolizing the Aesop she's learned; it's not the place that's important, but being with those who care for her. Jaune's newfound wealth doesn't hurt either.
    • On the other side of the spectrum, when Jaune-Tom and Robespierre first arrive in Paris, it is dark and dangerous as they are like strangers in a different land. Once he reunites with Mewsette, the city resumes its splendor as all he wanted was to be with her again.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Meowrice. Anyone but the naive Mewsette can tell he has nothing but bad intentions.
  • Final Love Duet: "Mewsette Finale".
  • French Jerk: Meowrice.
  • The Gay '90s: Set in 1895.
  • Gay Paree: Most of the film takes place in Paris, although it begins in Provence, and a scene occurs in Alaska.
  • Grass Is Greener: The film's aesop.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: In the title and used with abandon throughout.
    • "The Money Cat" has the line "We have dicks and politics and law in the palm of our paw", where "dicks" is short for detectives.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Mme. Rubens-Chatte after being betrayed by Meowrice.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Both Mewsette and Jaune-Tom nearly cross the Despair Event Horizon.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: Mr. Henry Phtt. The closest to a description of him is Mewsette's reaction to his picture, and she calls him old and fat.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Meowrice had plotted to sell off Mewsette as a mail-order bride. After Jaune-Tom and Robespierre catch up to the train and rescue Mewsette, Jaune-Tom beats the crap out of Meowrice. Just as he was about to boot him off the train, Robespierre makes a better suggestion, which was mail Meowrice in Mewsette's place to the client instead.
  • Is It Something You Eat?: "Champs-Élysées? I wonder what they taste like."
    • Which is made even funnier later on when Mewsette suggests ordering it in a restaurant, and Meowrice doesn't correct her.
  • "I Want" Song: "Take My Hand, Paree".
  • Jaw Drop: Jaune-Tom once he reunites with Mewsette after all he's been through to find her.
  • Large Ham: Meowrice, Mme. Rubens-Chatte, Jaune-Tom at times.
  • Lessons in Sophistication: Meowrice takes Mewsette to Mme. Rubens-Chatte for lessons in how to be lady-like. He plans to make a huge profit by marrying her to a rich American cat.
  • Limited Animation: The film is a product of UPA and co-written by Chuck Jones, two pioneers of heavily-stylized minimalist animation. As such, the film has a very flat, graphic look, which may be why it was never terribly popular.
  • Mail-Order Bride: Meowrice's plan for Mewsette.
  • Malaproper: Mewsette doesn't really know what "plebeian" and "feline" mean, but she tries to use them anyway.
  • Match Cut: We have close-up of Meowrice's evil smirk when he's all healed up to look for Mewsette, which fades out and replaced with the face of a gargoyle Mewsette was hiding under.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • "Jaune" is French for "Yellow". It's also a homophone for "Jean", a common man's name in French speaking countries.
    • "Mewsette" is a homophone for "musette", which is a French woodwind instrument.
  • Mooks: Meowrice's shadowy hench-cats.
  • Mouse World: Alongside human Paris is a version for cats, including such delights as the Mewlon Rouge. Whether humans are aware of this is never mentioned.
  • Mushroom Samba: Jaune-Tom and Robespierre go through a psychedelic song segment after getting abominably drunk.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Mewsette realized she was a fool for leaving Jaune-Tom.
  • Never Send an X to Do a Y's Job: After Meowrice's mooks have failed to recapture Mewsette: "Never send kittens to do a cat's job."
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Jaune-Tom unloads a can of whoop-ass on Meowrice once he gets a hold of him.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Despite being set in Paris, Meowrice is the only character with a French accent.
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: Mewsette gushingly thanks Mme. Rubens-Chatte for making it all possible — as Meowrice is whisking her off to life as a sold bride to a rich American, not to a coming-out gala as she imagines.
  • Ode to Intoxication: "Bubbles."
  • Oh, Crap!: Jaune-Tom when he realizes he and Robespierre have been put on a ship sailing for Alaska when they had been intoxicated
    • Meowrice, when he sees Jaune-Tom rocketing towards his speeding train.
  • Press-Ganged: Meowrice sells Jaune-Tom and Robespierre as mousing cats on a ship bound for Alaska, where they meet a fellow sailor who also doesn't seem to have come on board voluntarily.
  • Punny Name: Jaune(Jean)-Tom, and numerous examples of the subtrope, Animal Theme Naming.
  • Romantic Rain: When it rained as Jaune-Tom despairs he'll never see Mewsette again as he and Robespierre had gotten shipped out of the country, it was despairing. Then Jaune-Tom sees Mewsette's image as she sings "Little Drops of Rain", making him feel hope again.
  • The Quiet Ones: Besides their backup singing in "The Money Cat" (voiced by the Mellow Men), the black cats don't say anything.
  • Sarcasm Mode: The fat cat Jaune-Tom asked for help.
    Jaune-Tom: Where is Paris? What is Paris?
    Fat cat: [perplexed] "What is Paris?" Are you mad?
    Jaune-Tom: I mean, I mean is it a school or something, for 'felines'?
    Fat cat: "A school for felines"?
    Jaune-Tom: No? Well... a village, maybe?
    Fat cat: Yes, that is what it is. A little village. A mile or two up the tracks.
    • Jaune-Tom remains Sarcasm-Blind until he and Robespierre finally arrive in Paris almost a thousand kilometers later. (And even then, they wonder "How will we find Paris among all these buildings?")
  • Shout-Out: Meowrice commissions paintings of Mewsette made by famous artists during the 1890s: Claude Monet, Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec, Georges Seurat, Henri Rousseau, Amedeo Modigliani, Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Degas, Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin and Pablo Picasso. Gorgeous as they all are, there's a nasty twist to it; they're basically progress reports for Henry Phtt to "appreciate" while his mail-order bride is in transit.
  • Sidekick: Robespierre
  • Smug Snake: Meowrice, for all his skill as a manipulator, crumbles when faced with someone who won't listen to his fast-talk- Like the Angry Guard Dog, for example.
  • Something Else Also Rises: When Meowrice sees the new and improved Mewsette, his tail goes briefly rigid.
    Meowrice: Momentary weakness, my dear. Even cats are sometimes human.
  • Super Speed: Jaune-Tom takes off like a literal bolt of lightning when he goes into his mouser mode.
  • That Reminds Me of a Song: The film is an animated musical by UPA, and in it the two lead characters are voiced by Judy Garland and Robert Goulet. You'd better believe it suffers hard from this trope.
  • Theme Naming: Mewsette and Meowrice.
  • Tranquil Fury: Mme. Rubens-Chatte, although initially upset when she finds out that Meowrice's check was written in disappearing ink, becomes deceptively calm when deciding to get even the first chance she gets.
  • Vague Age: Robespierre is the size of a kitten, but he sounds and acts like an adult, and the other characters treat him like one (with the exception of those moments when Jaune-Tom carries him around by the scruff of his neck).
  • Villain Ball: Meowrice pays Mme. Rubens-Chatte with a check written in disappearing ink. She's not amused:
    If the opportunity arose to do him a disservice, I might not be able to resist it.
  • Villains Never Lie: When Mewsette cries for Jaune-Tom, the cat Meowrice just happened to meet and sell as a shipboard mouser, he tells her he's "probably about halfway to Alaska by now." Mewsette, unsurprisingly, doesn't believe him. "You're lying! Just like you've lied about everything else!"
  • Villain Song: Meowrice extols the social benefits of his greedy ways in "The Money Cat".
  • Virginity Makes You Stupid: Mewsette at first.
  • The Voice: Humans are mostly heard. So far only two were seen.
  • Wealthy Ever After: Jaune-Tom and Mewsette, thanks to a lucky gold strike in Alaska.