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Animation / The Cat Piano

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Our hero, hard at work.

The Cat Piano is a short animated film (running about eight minutes) about a New York-style city inhabited by anthropomorphic cats. The narration, written by Eddie White in the style of 1950s beat poetry and read by Nick Cave, describes the plight of a lonely writer who falls in love with a beautiful singer. The mass abduction of all the singing cats and the resulting mass hysteria causes the town to fall apart. After struggling with despair, the writer sets out to rescue his beloved.

It can be watched in its entirety here.



  • Adult Fear: Even if you're a cat musician, getting yourself kidnapped by some random stranger without warning while not knowing what'll happen to you is a very real fear.
  • Aluminium Christmas Trees: Sort of. Descriptions, drafts and suggestions on what to use the cat piano for has appeared many times in different records, but there is no evidence that it has ever been built.
  • Always Night: Or perhaps this is because of the blue tone...
  • Art Shift: The cats suddenly stop being anthropomorphic when they attack the mad human in the lighthouse.
  • Bag of Kidnapping: The piano player is seen carrying one over his shoulder after the poet realizes that his love interest has become the human's final victim.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: One such she-cat can be seen briefly near the beginning as a background character in a dancing crowd.
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  • Bilingual Bonus: During the verse where the poet narrates the torment of the imprisoned cats, the word "cat piano" is recited four times in German, French, Japanese and Chinese as a sort of Madness Mantra.
  • Book-Ends: The protagonist is sitting alone at a window working at a typewriter. At the end of the movie, he is seen sitting at the same spot as he finishes his story... and starts courting the female cat singer.
  • Cargo Envy: While watching Le Chat Blanc perform, the protagonist narrates this:
    Protagonist: Blind with love at first sight, touched by the taste of her sound, I longed to be the microphone she cradled near her breast.
  • Cast of Snowflakes: Even background characters have unique designs
  • Cat Concerto: This anthropomorphic variation has them as 1950s lounge singers and beat poets.
  • City with No Name
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: A human drives nails into cats' tails to make them scream.
  • Colour-Coded Emotions: While played straight with the protagonist, who is colored blue to symbolize his loneliness and calm nature until the end, every cat colored blue is seen partying and playing music. Then played straight with everyone after a string of kidnappings sends the musical city into a depression.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Dark shades of "night" blue represent the cats and their city, while an ominous red wash colors the human and his lighthouse.
  • Damsel in Distress: The female white cat singer is kidnapped by a human for him to use in his cat piano.
  • Disney Villain Death: "...[the human] stumbled, fell through the window screaming into the indigo waters below."
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The Nice Guy who saves the fascinating singer from a sadistic sociopath shows clear references to Blue Velvet.
  • Driven to Suicide: At one point, the protagonist mimics the act of shooting himself. "Snap."
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: At the end of the movie, all the cats have been rescued from the piano, the mad human is dead, the city is happily playing music again, and the protagonist is seen courting the female cat singer he fell in love with in the beginning.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: As the title hints.
  • Expy: According to the film's website's blog, they owe a little something to the character Blacksad, for the cat poet's design. If you squint a little, you can see a bit of the resemblance there. Especially when you see him smoking a cigarette and could come off as a skinnier version of said character—minus the fur color and the detective part.
  • Film Noir: 95% pure Film Noir.
  • The '50s: The aesthetic is largely derived from Film Noir and stars a Beatnik cat.
  • Funny Animal: Everyone but the human piano player.
  • Furry Confusion: Drawings of non-anthro cats appear in the diagram of the cat piano.
  • Furry Female Mane: In effect for the most part, but also inverted a few times.
  • Gratuitous French: A poster advertising the female cat singer bills her as "Le Chat Blanc", French for "The White Cat".
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: The lighthouse, which is the highest and most noticeable of buildings in the entire city, stands isolated on a small island in the bight and serves the mad human as a hideout. At first, when the kidnappings start, the light goes out, and when the piano starts playing, a red light goes on instead. This is when the poet takes action and storms the lighthouse with a mob of citizens. Nevertheless, the trope is justified as the tower is heavily symbolical rather than anything else.
  • Heroic BSoD: After the female cat singer disappears, the narrator enters a brutal one, and the city similarly enters a collective state of combined gloom, terror, and paranoia, with all music being banned and violent fights breaking out in the streets.
    The city in unrest. Fights broke out in its sleep.
    I couldn’t dream anymore. There was a hole in my heart and everything fell out of it.
  • Humans Are Bastards: The mad human pianist who is the main villain of the film.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: When the city starts to ban playing music in public due to the string of kidnappings, a shot of a mother cat pulling her child away from the window is overlaid with the line "...keep your lullabies hidden, and your A and E minors off the street after dark".
  • Instrument of Murder: The aforementioned Cat Piano, a horrible piece of work that drives a sharp nail into a cat's tail to make it scream in pain whenever a key is pressed.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The mad human pianist who had been kidnapping and torturing cat musicians to make his music is attacked by those same cats and sent falling to his death.
  • Love at First Note: The female cat singer had a voice so beautiful that it made the angels sound "tone deaf", which was one of the reasons why the protagonist falls in love with her.
  • Loves the Sound of Screaming: The human who created the cat piano, a gigantic machine designed to drive nails into cats' tails to make them scream. Delightful.
  • Mature Animal Story
  • Meaningful Background Event: One scene had the narrator poetically telling "There was a hole in my heart and everything fell out of it...", while the background animation features another cat getting messily stabbed in the heart during a brawl.
  • Nameless Narrative: The poet narrating the story is never named.
  • Narrative Poem: He is recording the events, and he narrates the whole thing as he types it.
  • No Name Given: No one in the short is given a name. The white female cat singer is seen on a poster that calls her "Le Chat Blanc", although that's almost certainly her stage name and not her real one.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: Made of cats.

  • Private Eye Monologue: Averted. Although this is a Film Noir, the narrator is neither a private detective nor does he narrate in an appropriate "Private Eye" manner. He narrates an epic beat poem.
  • Produce Pelting: A variation. To illustrate tensions in the city running high during the kidnappings, the cat in the turban seen at the beginning is later shown fleeing from an off-screen crowd hurling glass bottles at him.
  • Properly Paranoid: The cat city starts banning music and destroying musical instruments after many cat musicians are kidnapped by the mad human piano player, leaving everyone fearful of becoming the next target.
    "All music forbidden, keep your lullabies hidden. And your A and E minors off the street after dark."
  • Red Filter of Doom: In the climax of course. The fact it's justified by the lighthouse is anyone's guess.
  • Shout-Out: A bar in the city serves milk instead of alcohol, possibly a reference to A Clockwork Orange.
  • Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty: The female singer is pure white with green eyes and glows visibly in the blue-toned atmosphere.
  • Stealth Pun: The Cat Piano is an instrument of torture.
  • Stock Animal Diet: During the opening shots of the city, a neon sign can be seen that reads "The Milk Bar". Quite an appropriate choice for a city full of anthropomorphic cats.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The female cat singer goes out alone at night, during a time when a mysterious kidnapper is known to be snatching cat singers off the streets. She gets kidnapped.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: The mob of angered cat citizens that is led by the writer to the lighthouse. This is, however, notably done without torches or pitchforks to keep the gritty atmosphere. Instead, the cats pounce at the mad human and claw him violently before he manages to fall out a window to his death.
  • Torture Technician: Well, what else would you call a man who creates a piano designed to produce the sounds of hundreds of live screaming cats?
  • Woman in White: The female cat singer, who symbolizes the heart of the musical cat city. When she disappears, the loss of her voice sends the cat city into a paranoid hysteria.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Possibly. It's a little hard to tell when everything is blue.


Example of: