Cats Don't Dance is a 1997 film, and one of only two made by Turner Entertainment's animation unit before Warner Bros. took over (the other being The Pagemaster). 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, stereotypical 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:
- Accidental Misnaming: "Donald? Dino?"
- Accidental Public Confession: Darla's very loud statement about causing the soundstage's flooding. She doesn't notice a microphone is hanging right above her until it's too late.
- Adrenaline Makeover: Pudge and his electrified hairdo.
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: Woolie's peanut tea sounds like something that couldn't possibly exist, let alone taste "splendid", but it's actually a thing in Israel.
- Almost Kiss: Danny and Sawyer.
- Ambiguously Gay: King Kong. Don't get him started.
- Angel Face, Demon Face: Darla could turn this off and on at will, going from adorable moppet to demon child.
- 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).
- Armor-Piercing Response: Danny to Sawyer when Sawyer becomes cynical again. His response leaves her stunned and saddened.Sawyer: You're dreaming, Danny!
Danny: Maybe I am. But so were you, just a few minutes ago.
(Sawyer becomes stunned, then saddened as she leaves.)
- 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.
- Cat Stereotype: Danny (an orange male cat) and Sawyer (a white female cat). Sawyer has orange eyes unlike the white cat stereotype, however.
- Cheshire Cat Grin: Darla, at the very end of "Big And Loud (Part 2)", gives a blink-and-you'll-miss-it smile that's somewhere between this, Slasher Smile and Psychotic Smirk. And when she's scheming: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.
- Climactic Music: "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now"
- Comically Missing the Point: After the animals are blamed for flooding the studio, we have this:L.B. Mammoth: You animals will never... (goes underwater)Flannigan: ...nibble kibble in this town again!Tillie: I think they liked it!
- Credits-Brand Products: The opening credits appear on various signs within the movie.
- Creepy Jazz Music: The Dark Reprise of "Big and Loud" mainly consists of Ominous Pipe Organ and choir, but there are a few parts where the brass parts from the first part of the song returns, only in a minor key.
- Cruel to Be Kind: Being skeptical at first, Sawyer does so to Danny by saying he should've stayed in Kokomo instead of coming to Hollywood. It's mainly to stop Danny from suffering the same heartbreak of having his dreams broken.
- Curse Cut Short: A particular noticeable one in the beginning is also a Shout-Out to Gone with the Wind.Sawyer: Frankly, "Clark", I don't give a—
Farley: (Whining) Sawyer!
- Dance Off: Naïve Newcomer Danny and Ice Queen Sawyer conduct one of these during an impromptu talent show near Mammoth Studios, complete with Trash Can Band. Tillie's hip toss sends Sawyer reeling into the spotlight, where she takes a few blithe steps and poses. "Not bad," sasses Danny, "A little rusty, but hey, who's perfect?" Sawyer sasses back, "Rusty? I'll give you rusty." The two Funny Animal felines then take turns out-stepping each other, culminating in a pirouette and dip finale ... and an Almost Kiss.
- Dark Reprise: "Big And Loud". Now in Villain Song flavor.
- Deadpan Snarker: Sawyer, big time. Cranston Goat also qualifies.
- Death Glare: Sore Loser Darla, having been demoted to janitor, glares at the camera in her final scene.
- Deranged Animation: Darla Dimple is the queen of this trope.
- Dialogue Reversal:"How does the kittycat go?"
- Didn't Think This Through: Darla getting the animals fired from the production seems like a good idea for her. The animals making it to the premiere and getting a standing ovation, however...
- Disney Acid Sequence:
- See Dark Reprise above.
- "The Animal Jam".
- Disproportionate Retribution: Darla gets the animals fired, just because she fears they'll steal her spotlight, and for Cranston's insinuation that L.B. Mammoth is 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
- The Dragon: Darla Dimple's butler, Max.
- 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.
- Even Evil Has Standards: The villainous Darla Dimple puts a momentary stop on her Evil Plan to explain to Danny in song that audiences prefer a showstopper to a more quiet film production.Danny: Sawyer could do a romantic ballad, and Woolie can even play a piano solo.
Sound of dissonant piano chord. Darla displays a wide-eyed look of disbelief
Darla: Did you hear that, Max? Woolie the elephant can even play a solo.
- Everything's Better with Penguins: Pudge, the kid sidekick, is a penguin.
- 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.
- Failing a Taxi: Danny makes it to a taxi first which drives away before poor Sawyer (whose day he's been inadvertently ruining) can get to it.
- 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. That said, once Danny and friends do finally get the opportunity to demonstrate their talents, the human audience gives uproarious applause and the animals are catapulted to the stardom they wanted for so long.
- Fatal Flaw: 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.
- "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.
- Genki Girl: Tilly the hippo seems to be the only animal actress who hasn't lost her pep after her dreams were shot down.Oh, well: at least it's a part, huh?
- 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.
Sawyer: I can't do this.
*CUT*Sawyer: I can't believe I'm doing this...
- Good-Times Montage: The film ends with a montage of real-life movie posters starring the now-accepted animal actors.
- Guile Hero: Nice Guy that he is, Danny becomes a heroic version of this during the final act. After picking himself back up, he first secretly sends invitations to the animals while keeping quiet about his plan to get them to stardom. Then when Max appears to kill him, he lures Max into a trap by making Max come to him via Darla's balloon close enough to a spire so he can pop it and send Max rocketing into the sky. Then when he calls the audience's attention, he pretends to honor Darla Dimple before tricking her into saying that she's arranged a live show with the animals. Then when the show starts, Danny, knowing of Darla's tendency to cheat as well as knowing that she's nothing without Max, coaches the animals to go along with whatever cheating Darla comes up with to ruin the show, thus making all of her attempts actually impress the audience. This results in the most spectacular audition in film history and Darla outing herself as the one who flooded Mammoth Studios and getting herself demoted to janitor, leading to the film's satisfying ending.
- 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 B.S.O.D.: Danny goes though one after he unintentionally 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).
- Hoist by Her Own Petard:
- During the climax, Max tries to pull the balloon of Darla toward Danny to finish him only to realize he pulled it right in front of a sharp part of the building. Cue an Oh, Crap! as Danny gives an Ironic Echo from earlier in the film and pops the balloon sending it and Max flying into the distance.
- Darla floods the stage to have the animals fired in the end. Naturally, this comes back to haunt her when she reveals her evil deeds.
- 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, destroying her own career.
- Hurricane of Puns:Cranston (a goat): Hollywood's the pits! Always playing the scapegoats!
Woolie (an elephant): Completely forgotten!
Frances (a fish): Working for scales!
- Idea Bulb: Max dutifully holds a little light bulb over Darla's head.Max: Ping!
- Innocent Bigot: The bus driver.
- Interspecies Romance: Implied between Cranston (a goat) and Frances (a fish).
- Ironic Echo: Darla advises Danny to "make it big and loud" and through Darla's efforts "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" certainly ends up being big and loud. The Dialogue Reversal example listed above is also one.
- Jabba Table Manners: When Darla pigs out on a huge pile of junk food — and one apple — in her balcony box.
- 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.
- Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My!: Anthropomorphic animals interact with humans, but are considered a minority.
- Lyrical Dissonance: The first bit of Darla's Li'l Ark Angel song "My Little Boat on the Sea" is appropriately minor-key and matches its lyrics as it describes The Great Flood, but Darla's Tastes Like Diabetes cheerful performance of same matches neither. And then it's Mood Whiplash into the really cutesy-wootsy part.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]
- Moment of Awesome: Defied by Darla in the climax, who does everything she can to stop the animals from pulling one off. She fails, resulting in an In-Universe example that literally knocks the stunned, grinning audience's teeth out and catapults the animals to stardom.
- Mass "Oh, Crap!": The audience after Darla accidentally exposes her true self over the microphone. L.B. Mammoth and Flannigan take it the hardest since they were the ones who fired the animals for the destruction to the studio. Hearing the truth really left them dumbstruck and horrified of their actions.
- Melancholy Musical Number: Intersecting with Torch Song, Sawyer's "Tell Me Lies" accompanies images of a morose and disillusioned Danny Cat trudging through the evening Hollywood rain to the bus stop. His dream of making a splash in motion pictures resulted in a fiasco, and Danny can only retreat back to Kokomo, Indiana from whence he came. Sawyer suffered a similar setback in her early days, leaving her a snarky Ice Queen secretary to a talent agent. She'd rather someone tell her bright and beautiful lies than face the grim and hopeless truth of Hollywood favoritism.
- Misfortune Cookie: The turtle is a neurotic wreck, because every fortune cookie he's ever received contains one.T.W.: M-my fortune cookie sez... "Give it up. Loser."
T.W.: "They can smash your cookie... but you'll always have your fortune."
- Averted with the final one he reads.
- My God, What Have I Done?: L.B. Mammoth and Flannigan's reaction when they realize that, yes, Darla flooded the stage towards the end of the film and by firing the animal actors, they've really messed up.
- Never Say "Die": Well...Darla: (singing) ... and all of the people drowned! (grins charmingly)
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: HILARIOUSLY played with in the climax. 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.
- 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.
- 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: It's very strongly implied (though not confirmed) that Darla Dimple's much older than she looks.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: Invoked with the original introduction of Max: it's not actually a chant, just dolorous vocalization, but his 'theme' is indeed ominous.
- Ominous Pipe Organ: The Dark Reprise of "Big and Loud" is dominated by scary pipe organ music as Darla reveals her true colors, singing about how she'll do whatever it takes to destroy Danny and keep him out of her spotlight.
- 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.
- Panty Shot: Most of Darla's outfits.
- 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 to Danny 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.
- Reality Ensues: While yes, there is a huge amount of Fantastic Racism involved at the studio, Danny is dismissed after breaking script and upstaging the lead when cast as an extra. That would get you fired in real life.
- 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. He wasn't interested.
- 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).
- Show Within a Show: The grand finale features a 'live show' at the end of the movie release of Little Ark Angel. Which Darla promptly turns into an All Part of the Show situation.
- 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.
- Slapstick Knows No Gender: Sawyer is the victim of this from the first time she walks on screen. Darla doesn't escape the film unscathed, either.
- Snark-to-Snark Combat: Danny and Sawyer engage into a brief one before their Dance Off.Danny: Not bad. A little rusty, but hey, who's perfect?
Sawyer: Rusty? I'll give you rusty.
- Sore Loser: Darla doesn't take losing very well, especially when her plan to thwart the animals' performance of "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" backfires on her.
- Squashed Flat: Darla gets this treatment in the climax.
- Stealth Hi/Bye: Max is unnervingly capable of appearing from Behind the Black.
- Tastes Like Diabetes: Parodied with Li'l Ark Angel, and Darla in general. In-universe example.
- There Was a Door: Max is introduced with a tremendous crash and a Max-shaped hole in the studio wall.
- 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.
- Tuft of Head Fur: Both feline main characters have a significant amount of fur atop their heads. Orange tabby tom Danny has the standard tuft that even his straw hat can't contain, while pretty angora kitty Sawyer likes to curl hers into a stylish swirl. Being the main characters, theirs are the most prominent of all the anthropomorphic characters in-universe.
- 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.
- Wicked Heart Symbol: Hearts are associated with Darla Dimple, who puts on a ridiculously sweet facade for her adoring fans, but turns out to be spoiled, jealous, and vindictive in private. In the second part of her Villain Song, which is a Disney Acid Sequence, hearts are seen everywhere, from the tips of the pointy fence that appears in one part, to the waterfall she imagines the heroes falling down.
- Wingding Eyes: Darla's flaming-skull eyes when she pulls the "GRANDDADDY OF ALL SWITCHES".
- Whole Plot Reference: Along with the trappings of other films, Cats Don't Dance is almost an Animated Adaptation of Harold Lloyd's 1932 talkie Movie Crazy. Both feature a hopelessly optimistic young male from Flyover Country moving to Hollywood to become a star, only to bungle things when they get there with their clumsy antics and get in the hair of a pretty young disillusioned actress, eventually winning her over with his optimistic charm. There is no Shirley Temple-esque villain in Movie Crazy nor a subtle racism subtext, and it focuses much more on romance, but most of the other ingredients are there.
- X-Ray Sparks: Pudge's electric handshake shocks T.W. at the end.