An all-but-forgotten but charming Don Bluth television special. It was his very first non-Disney production, and was essentially a test run for his newborn studio; though it was made before Bluth finally quit Disney. Originally conceived as a full-length feature film (but was cut short due to budget restraints), and later as a Christmas Special (which also didn't stick), the story tells the tale of a kitten who runs away from home and has adventures in the big city, but soon begins to get homesick for his family and deeply regret running away. With the help of some colorful locals, he eventually makes his way home again. The film can be considered an Ur-Example of a typical Don Bluth film, as it employs many of the same tropes that would resurface in his later works.
Details behind the making of the film can be viewed here.
Tropes used include:
- Angry Guard Dog: (see "Cats Are Mean" below)
- Cats Are Mean: Inverted; this is about the only Don Bluth production in which Dogs Are Mean and Cats Are Nice.
- Chorus Girls: Zazu, Melina and Cleo are a G-rated version.
- Cool Cat: Crazy Legs.
- Corporal Punishment: Banjo runs away from home after his father tells him to fetch his own switch to be beaten with.
- Cute Kitten: This doesn't have a kitten for the main character for nothing.
- Dashingly Dapper Derby: Crazy Legs wears one.
- Domestic-Only Cartoon: Ends with the credit "Made in the United States of America."
- Do They Know It's Christmas Time?: At one point, this short film was to be a Christmas Special. Some Christmassy things are still visible in the film, such as Crazy Legs' Santa Claus costume.
- The '40s: Set in 1944.
- Gray Rain of Depression: The scene where Banjo curls up in an alley and cries as he shelters himself from the rain in a tin can. It's very similar to a scene used in a later Bluth production, An American Tail.
- The Homeward Journey
- In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: The DVD cover proudly displays the title as "Don Bluth's Banjo The Woodpile Cat."note
- No Antagonist: Though the full-length feature would have had one. Bluth later acknowledged that this was one weakness in the film's story, but then again the film was made more for the art than for the plot.
- No Ending: Upon his return home, Banjo's parents don't look the least worried or seem at all curious as to where he's been. The movie just stops before we find out anything else. Hilariously Lampshaded in the DVD Commentary:Gary Goldman: Hey, how come his parents aren't angry?Don Bluth: Shh! Roll the credits! Roll the credits!
- Off-Model: Crazy Legs notably becomes slimmer whenever the situation calls for it—most blatantly during the climatic dog chase.
- Parental Abandonment: In this case, it's Banjo's own fault, as he ran away to the city on a whim.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: Banjo himself, Cute Little Fangs and all.
- The Runaway
- Underside Ride: This is how the title character goes to the city.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Bluth based the story on a childhood pet cat of his who lived in a woodpile on the farm he grew up on, got lost one day, and found its way back weeks later.