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Western Animation / Cats Don't Dance

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"Nothing's gonna stop us, nothing's gonna stop us, nothing's gonna stop us now!"

"All I wanna do is the thing I love... Doesn't everyone?"

Cats Don't Dance is a 1997 animated musical film, and one of only two projects by Turner Entertainment's Turner Feature Animation unit (itself an outgrowth of Hanna-Barbera's feature animation wing) 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 Golden Age of Hollywood, 1939: A singing and dancing cat named Danny (Scott Bakula) dreams of being a big movie star. He gets a role in the latest film starring sickeningly adorable child star Darla Dimple (Ashley Peldon), only to find out the hard way that animal actors are just the backdrop for the real stars. 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. Complicating matters is Darla, who doesn't want to share her spotlight and will do just about anything to stay on top.

Filled with shout outs to classic films, most notably Singin' in the Rain and Sunset Boulevard, the film was poorly promoted and, as a result, underperformed at the box office. However, it was well received critically and still has a loyal following to this day (particularly among the Furry Fandom).

After a quarter of a century stuck in standard definition, it finally received a Blu-ray release in September 2023.

Cats Don't Dance contains examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Darla refers to Danny as "Donald? Dino?" before she finally gets his name right.
  • Accidental Public Confession: At the end of the movie, Darla's very loud statement about causing the soundstage's flooding is because she doesn't notice a microphone is hanging right above her until it's too late. And when she does, she desperately tries to hug Danny, but it doesn't work. The last time she's seen in the movie, Darla's been demoted to a janitor.
  • Adrenaline Makeover: Pudge and his electrified hairdo.
  • Almost Kiss: Between Danny and Sawyer following the climatic show-stopping performance. They end up kissing Flanigan's cheeks instead when he pops up between them before the lip lock, leaving them grossed out.
  • Anachronism Stew: The film mostly stays on par with what was going on in 1939 Hollywood, but it does have inconsistencies.
    • A rather glaring one is that the Hollywood sign read Hollywoodland back in the day, but the film simply shows it as Hollywood.
    • The movie that Darla Dimple is starring in is based on the tale of Noah and his Ark, yet biblical dramas based on such were not allowed at the time because of the Hays Code.
    • As Danny heads to California, the tour bus that he is in passes by a covered Mount Rushmore, which unveils itself as completed as the bus drives by. The site would not be finished until late 1941.
    • Add to the fact that nearly every poster at the end with the characters are pastiches of films from the late 80s and 1990s.
  • Angel Face, Demon Face: Darla could turn this off and on at will, going from adorable moppet to demon child. She also struggles to maintain a Mask of Sanity around Danny while she's tricking him into putting her Evil Plan into action.
  • Angry Collar Grab: Near the end of the film, Darla Dimple grabs Danny by the collar as she rants to him that she should've drowned him and his friends when she flooded the stage, inadvertently revealing her true self to the audience.
  • Animated Musical: It's an animated musical about musical animals, which also involves some in-universe musical numbers and is set at a film studio.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When the other animals tell Danny how much Hollywood sucks for them, Danny counters with "Then why are you still here?" to them. Danny's reasoning is that they never gave up on their dreams.
  • Armor-Piercing Response: Danny to Sawyer when Sawyer becomes cynical again, leaving her too shaken to reply.
    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" by Will Downing. 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 film's songs.
  • Back Blocking: Wooly does this when he hands the dizzy Danny and Pudge his peanut tea.
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animal: Most of the animal characters don't wear shoes, even when Danny is tap-dancing.
  • Batman Gambit: Danny pulls off one with the final dance number. Nice Guy that he is, he sets it up so that, if Darla gracefully sits back and lets the Show Stopper song play, they'd prove their performing chops and she'd come off smelling like roses. But Danny is also aware that Darla won't just sit back and let them upstage her, and has coached his friends to just run with whatever Darla tries to do. He even takes a very brief moment to shove it in her face after her first couple attempts fail. Though even he is shocked to find out Darla was responsible for the flood during her Accidental Public Confession.
  • Battle Butler: Darla's butler, Max, also serves as The Heavy. During the movie's climax, he chases Danny up a balloon, and only too late realizes that Danny is about to set Max adrift.
  • Berserk Button: Darla completely explodes after Danny steals the spotlight from her during the filming of Lil' Ark Angel.
  • Beta Couple: Frances and Cranston serve as the stable, happy foils to Danny and Sawyer.
  • 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.
  • Call-Back: At the end of the film, Flanigan praises Danny and Sawyer for their performance along with the rest of the animals, calling them "sweethearts, celebrities, darlings" — which is exactly what he called Darla earlier in the film as she is abusing him.
  • Cats Are Mean: Averted. The cats are just trying to make a living with their talents. If anything, Danny is too nice and (initially) too trusting.
  • 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 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 a 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.
  • Climactic Music: "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" is a Show Stopper that the animals put on to convince the human audience watching that they're worthy of love and attention as Hollywood stars. And thanks to Danny pulling a Batman Gambit, all of Darla's attempts to sabotage the number just make it even more impressive.
  • Climbing Climax: The showdown between Danny and Max takes place on top of the movie theatre and on a giant Darla Dimple float.
  • 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]
    Flanigan: ...nibble kibble in this town again!
    Tillie: I think they liked it!
  • Comically Wordy Contract: Danny Cat enters the office of talent agent Farley Wink at a fortuitous time. Mammoth Pictures is hiring animal actors, and needs two cats for the Ark picture. Farley immediately agrees to manage Danny, presenting him with a contract to sign here, and here, and here, and over here ... and so on through thirty-some pages, finishing with a tiny slip, "And initial this." Danny's elated smile fades with each passing page.
  • Company Cross References: Being a Warner Bros. production, all the film posters at the end naturally parody their own productions, or those of affiliates like New Line Cinema.
  • Corny Nebraska: Darla Dimple has invited Danny Cat to her mansion, ostensibly to give him advice in the form of a song. "I've seen 'em come, I've seen 'em go / There's one thing that I know: / You'd better give the people what they want / Or you'll wind up back in Kokomo, Nebraska." Danny interrupts to correct her: "Uh, Indiana, Miss Dimple." Darla replies, "Whatever," because Nebraska is a Hollywood euphemism for a dumping ground of those who will never be famous.
  • Covers Always Lie: A rather peculiar case. The single poster for this movie shows all of the characters whom are the main cast... except for the alligator, who is inexplicably seen alongside the main ensemble. In the actual film, this character was a mere extra with no dialogue.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The opening credits appear on various signs within the film.
  • 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: Sawyer tells Danny he should've stayed in Kokomo instead of coming to Hollywood. It's mainly to stop Danny from suffering the heartbreak of having his dreams dashed... as she did.
  • 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". Darla's big number, expressing her stardom, helps to inspire Danny to bring every other animal with him and impress the head of Mammoth Studios. The moment he leaves, however, it immediately becomes a Villain Song for Darla, who conspires to sabotage his dreams and have him, and every other animal following him, fired instead.
  • 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.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Sawyer is resigned to the way things are. Danny not only wins her heart, he gives her hope that she really can live her dream.
  • Deranged Animation: Darla Dimple is the queen of this trope.
  • Description Cut: L.B. Mammoth's press conference has him giving a speech wherein he details the "recipe" for a Darla Dimple movie, which is all about how sweet and innocent she is, cut to Darla being decidedly not sweet and innocent as she floods a soundstage to drown the animals. It eventually morphs into Two Scenes, One Dialogue, as it cuts from L.B. setting up an "ingredient" to Darla demanding Max do something else.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Danny tells Sawyer that a "little angel" is helping the animals with their audition, They all learn after the flood incident that gets them fired that the so-called "angel" was Darla, who had set Danny up from the start. With Sawyer and the other feeling betrayed and leaving him, a dejected Danny decides to give up and prepares to go home. However, he soon realizes that he can't just yet after seeing his fellow animals remaining downtrodden in Hollywood and comes back, inspiring them to upstage Darla.
  • Determinator: Danny. With the exception of a brief Heroic BSoD, he does not give up.
  • Dialogue Reversal: When Danny is confronted by Max and Darla, he's asked the question "How does the kitty-cat go?" and he responds with "Meow?" When confronting Max, Danny makes sure the roles are reversed.
    Danny: How does the kitty-cat go?
    Max: "Meow"?
    Danny: Very good.
  • 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: "Big And Loud", Darla's big number expressing her stardom, soon returns in Villain Song flavor, albeit with enormously exaggerated visuals of rain, storms, torrents, and floods.
  • 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 her 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?: The treatment of the animals is analogous to how African-American actors were treated in Hollywood during the 1930s, only getting stereotypical bit roles.
  • The Dragon: Darla Dimple's butler, Max, is her right-hand man and The Heavy. While Darla herself isn't much of a physical threat, Max easily makes up for it by being so physically imposing that nobody can hope to stop him. It's telling that Max is only taken out of the picture through some planning and quite a bit of luck on Danny's part.
  • Dramatic Choir Number: The Dark Reprise of "Big and Loud" is mainly accompanied by a choir and Ominous Pipe Organ. In the song, Darla Dimple shows her Bitch in Sheep's Clothing side as she sings about how she's going to ruin the heroes' careers.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Danny and company do get their big break, though they have to go through a lot to get it. Not only are the animals repeatedly told that their dreams are never going to come true, but Darla blames them for getting the stage flooded, and it's clear from the repeated failures that the animals have become jaded and cynical. Yet Danny convinces them to keep trying anyways, to the point that the Show Stopper number only goes ahead because Danny hits the animals with an Armor-Piercing Question about why they're still in Hollywood in spite of all of this. And once "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" proves to be a runaway success, the animals finally catch their big break after so many years of being kept down.
  • Ends with a Smile: The movie concludes with studio mogul L. B. Mammoth declaring "Get a picture, boys. These kids are going to be big!" as he embraces Danny and Sawyer on stage. Mammoth is smiling because he's found new talent, while Danny and Sawyer are smiling because they're no longer relegated to the background chorus. Although, there is The Stinger where wicked Darla Dimple grimaces at the audience because she's been demoted to janitor.
  • Energetic and Soft-Spoken Duo: A villainous example. The Prima Donna Darla Dimple does most of the talking, since maintaining her facade as "lover of children and animals" requires being the keet under scrutiny. Max is Darla's Mighty Glacier manservant, who rarely says more than, "Yes, Miss Dimple." Together, everyone at Mammoth Studios walks on eggshells around this Alpha Bitch and her bone-crunching enforcer.
  • Epic Fail:
    • The audition Darla sets up for the animals 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.
    • Darla's attempts to stop the production of "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" only keep making it more spectacular. She finally goes through an Accidental Public Confession, loses her job as Hollywood's biggest star, and roles for animals across Hollywood suddenly explode in popularity.
  • 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. She's also nonplussed at the fact that the animal most capable of being a natural showstopper, Woolie, prefers to stay in the background and play the piano.
    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.
  • The Everyman: Danny, who also crosses with The Generic Guy. He has no real character flaws except naivete, and even that turns out to help him because he doesn't give up like the 'wiser' characters do.
  • Fade Around the Eyes: Darla does this at the end of the second part of "Big and Loud". Max turns on the electric clippers attached 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 film 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.
  • Forced Dance Partner: Danny Cat initiates an impromptu music session with the various FunnyAnimals gathered in the alley beside Mammoth Studios. The music catches the ear of Ice Queen Sawyer, who comes to investigate. Danny Cat invites her to be his dance partner, but she declines. Tilly Hippo, however, throws her massive hips at the right moment, which sends Sawyer careening into the spotlight. Rather than look completely foolish, Sawyer demonstrates a few quick steps. "Not bad," comments Danny. "A little rusty, but who's perfect?" That barb triggers Sawyer to bring her dance skills up to the redline, so she and Danny put on quite the show.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The narrator states at the very beginning of the film that Darla "was not what she seemed."
    • "I'm sure no one would mind if I just jazzed this up a bit." "All right. Learn it the hard way."
    • "[...] I'll make sure that LB sees your splashy debut."
  • Four-Fingered Hands: The humans have four fingers.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The posters on the walls of Darla's mansion at the beginning are parodies of Annie Get Your Gun and Yankee Doodle Dandy.
  • 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?
  • Gilligan Cut:
    Tilly: Well?
    Sawyer: I can't do this.
    Tilly: And?
    Sawyer: I can't do this.
    Tilly: So?
    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 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.
  • Head-and-Hip Pose: Danny passes various windows of The Brown Derby restaurant and physically mimics two of the patrons inside: Stanley Laurel and Mae West. The real Mae West is adopting this head-and-hips pose while a dozen photographers' flashbulbs ignite. The doorman, who'd been shadowing Danny to chase him off the property, inadvertently photobombs this moment.
  • 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 will hire them, breaks the moment.
  • Heroic BSoD: 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 what Darla said to him earlier, "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 Their Own Petard:
    • During the climax, Max tries to pull the Darla balloon 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: All animal-related.
    Cranston: (a goat) Life here for animals is the pits! We're always playing the scapegoats!
    Woolie: (an elephant) Quickly forgotten!
    Frances: (a fish) Working for scale!
  • Idea Bulb: Max dutifully holds a little light bulb over Darla's head.
    Max: Ping!
  • Innocent Bigot: The bus driver.
  • Insult Friendly Fire: Sawyer's animal-based metaphors for questioning the legitimacy of Danny setting up an audition with L.B. Mammoth end up accidentally insulting her costars.
    Sawyer: Something smells fishy.
    Frances: I beg your pardon?
    Sawyer: Sorry, it's just that I smell a rat.
    Rat Performer: Excuse me?!
    Sawyer: Oh, nevermind.
  • 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 can freely interact with humans, but they aren't taken seriously as actors.
  • 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 saccharine 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 Flanigan 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.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • When Woolie explains to Danny the truth about the animals' place in Hollywood.
      "The spotlight will never be on fellows like you and me, and it's foolish to think otherwise."
    • Later, when Danny trusts Darla will help the animals, only to get them fired:
      Danny: Woolie, I...
      Woolie: The spotlight will never be on fellows like you and me. Go home, son. Go home.
    • After her "Big and Loud" number, Darla tells Danny "See you in the movies." Towards the end of the film, he repeats these same words to the bus driver after witnessing all of the other animals suffering on the streets.
  • Melancholy Musical Number: Intersecting with Torch Song, Sawyer's "Tell Me Lies" accompanies images of a morose and disillusioned Danny 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 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.
  • "Metaphor" Is My Middle Name: Occurs when T. W. sings his verse in "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now", claiming that "the smell of danger" is his middle name.
  • Misfortune Cookie: The turtle is a neurotic wreck, because every fortune cookie he's ever received contains one.
    T.W.: M-my fortune cookie says... "Give it up. You loser."
    • Averted with the final one he reads.
      T.W.: "They can smash your cookie... but you'll always have your fortune."
  • My God, What Have I Done?: L.B. Mammoth and Flanigan'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 Character, Mean Actor: Darla plays the role of a sweet little girl, but inside she is anything but.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Danny trusts Darla when she says she'll help him get noticed by the studio head. In return she sets up a disaster which the animals get blamed for, resulting in all of them losing their jobs.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: HILARIOUSLY played with in the climax. Darla's attempts to stop the animals' performance result in one of the most spectacular auditions in all cinematic history, complete with gunfire and spectacular light performances. It isn't over yet, as she accidentally makes her crime of flooding Mammoth Studios known to everyone across Hollywood, not only clearing the animals' names and giving them their acting privileges back but also completely derailing her career.
    • A little bit earlier, Max's attempt to stop Danny of his own free will results in him not being around to help Darla sabotage the animals' big number.
  • 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 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. 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 chain-smoking 30-year-old little person who hated children and animals.
    • Frances's look and character is a reference to Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard. Max is an even more obvious lift from the same film.
  • 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!:
    • Max gets one in his last scene with Danny, along with Dialogue Reversal when he realizes that Danny is about to set him adrift on a hot air balloon.
    • Darla gets one after her Accidental Public Confession towards the end of the film.
  • Older Than They Look: It's very strongly implied (though unconfirmed) that Darla is 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. And Darla herself gets some as background in "Big and Loud".
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: The Dark Reprise of "Big and Loud" is dominated by scary pipe organ music as Darla reveals her true intent, singing about how she'll do whatever it takes to destroy Danny and keep him out of her spotlight.
  • Once Upon a Time: This story is framed almost like a fable or fairy tale. That "Once Upon a Time, there was Princess and a Peasant."
  • Opening the Flood Gates: 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.
  • Parental Bonus:
    Danny: Looks like we're gonna be the only two cats on the ark.
    Sawyer: So much for preserving the species.
  • 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.]
  • Press Hat: A gaggle of reporters appear, sporting not only tagged fedoras but flashbulb cameras, to drool over Mae West at the Brown Derby. There's also a throng of reporters who wear hats with press tags tucked in their hat bands while they attend the press conference of studio honcho L. B. Mammoth.
  • Pretentious Latin Motto: Mammoth Pictures' "Optimum est Maximum"; which translates to "Better is Bigger".
  • Product Placement: In-universe. Darla has her own cereal and toothpaste.
  • Riddle for the Ages: What is Max supposed to be? How and why does he have superpowers? How did he meet Darla and was hired by her?
  • 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.
  • 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 chose to remain in Hollywood when they couldn't become actors. He tells them why: it's because they just can'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".
  • Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: When Darla gets an idea, Max turns it into a Visual Pun by putting an Idea Bulb above her head. He then says "Ping", and the lightbulb turns on. The light bulb wasn't plugged into anything, but it was funnier that way.
  • Scary Symbolic Shapeshifting: During the Dark Reprise of "Big and Loud," at one point Darla imagines herself as a giant monster bursting out of the ground and towering over Danny and Sawyer.
  • Seven Deadly Sins: Darla Dimple is basically a combination of all seven of them.
    • Wrath: Has an extremely short temper and will lash out at others if something doesn't go her way.
    • Gluttony: Eats lots of sweets, as shown when she meets with Danny.
    • Lust: Has a lust for attention and tries to act cute in order to manipulate others and then dispose of them.
    • Pride: Sees herself to be better than anyone else.
    • Greed: Wants all of the fame to herself.
    • Sloth: Has Max do all of the dirty work for her while she just watches him do so, as shown when he floods the stages to ruin Danny and the other animals' act.
    • Envy: Gets jealous if anyone upstages her and even tries to stop anyone from doing so, as shown when she sees Danny and the other animals perform onstage after her movie is played.
  • Ship Tease: Aside from the obvious, Cranston 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).
  • Shirley Template: Quite obviously Darla Dimple, down to the curly blond hair and (ostensibly) angelic public image.
  • Show Within a Show: The grand finale features a 'live show' at the end of the premiere of Li'l 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.
  • Slasher Smile: Many of Darla's fake smiles border on this. One, in particular, lingers for about five seconds, complete with Eye Twitch and red appearing in her eyes.
  • Small Start, Big Finish: Darla's "Big And Loud" number starts out with simple piano accompaniment and sotto voce as Darla begins to impart her Hollywood wisdom on upstart Danny Cat. Then her manservant Max (also the pianist) intones, "Get hot, Miss Dimple," at which the number switches to a full orchestra playing a brassy and brazen beat with enough pageantry for a head of state. Her message is that talent only goes so far; it's the spectacle that people come to see.
  • 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.
  • Soup of Poverty: As Danny glumly rides the bus back to Kokomo, Indiana, he sees many Funny Animal extras on the street. A few are warming themselves by an open fire in a grease bucket, while many more are lined up, bowls in hand, for a ladling of soup from a large steel pot. Before Danny arrived in Hollywood, these folks could at least be cast as extras or "atmosphere" people, and enjoy sit-down meals. His fiasco at Mammoth Studios made all animal extras pariahs, so seeing this poverty soup line makes Danny feel even worse.
  • Squashed Flat: Darla gets this treatment in the climax.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Max is unnervingly capable of appearing from Behind the Black.
  • Stopped Dead in Their Tracks: The Funny Animals conduct an impromptu jazz session in the alleyway next to Mammoth Studios, which catches the ear of Broken Bird Sawyer, and she ends up joining in the fun. But as she dips in Danny's arm, a realization strikes, and she abruptly spins away. When Danny suggests their talents might be discovered, Sawyer replies that he must be dreaming. His comeback is "Maybe I am. But so were you, a minute ago." Sawyer stops her retreat and clutches her heart. Her eyes dart fervently back and forth, weighing the options. "You're a dancer, girl. It's what you live for," on one side, versus "Fool! They'll never let you dance. The system will crush you, like it always does," on the other. Ultimately, the Ice Queen won, and Sawyer disappears into the shadows.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: While yes, there is a huge amount of Fantastic Racism involved at the studio, Danny is dismissed after breaking script, upstaging the lead actress when cast as an extra, and ruining a very expensive and complicated scene, all on his first day. That would get you fired in real life.
  • There Was a Door: Max is introduced with a tremendous crash and a Max-shaped hole in the studio wall.
  • Three-Act Structure: Danny arrives and meets everyone. Danny trusts the wrong person and causes a disaster. Danny rallies and organizes a stage spectacle that saves the day for everyone (except the villain, and she largely brings it on herself).
  • Toon Physics: Darla gets a lot of this throughout the final number. She gets Squashed Flat, bounced off the walls like a pinball on a rocket, electrocuted, burned, and sent from the top of the theater to the floor in a long fall. Doesn't slow her down, though.
  • Trap Door: Marked exactly as such, and it's how Darla is sent off once her true character is exposed to the crowd.
  • Trash-Can Band: The song "Animal Jam" revolves around this.
  • Triumphant Reprise: At the beginning, "Our Time Has Come" played during Danny's trip to Hollywood. At the end when Danny and the others became stars, it's played again in a much louder tone.
  • Tuft of Head Fur: Both feline leads 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.
  • Twitchy Eye: Darla has one as part of a general pattern of Troubling Unchildlike Behavior.
  • 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 loses all sense of restraint when 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.
  • Visual Pun: When Darla invites Danny over to personally "apologize" for what Max did, she mildly comments that he can be "bad" sometimes while giving him an equally mild pat on his hand. She's giving him a literal version of the metaphorical slap on the wrist.
  • Wham Shot: Max's first appearance. From the moment Darla screams for him, the mood of the scene shifts from zany to deadly serious, as he manages to somehow teleport outside of the studio before breaking in and slowly walking up to the Noah's Ark set. After fixing Darla's wardrobe, he crushes Danny with just one hand, uses his thumb to rocket him into the ground, then walks back to the Impact Silhouette he made upon entering and teleports away.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Farley Wink doesn't appear again for the rest of the film after he urges Sawyer to go out and perform in "Lil' Ark Angel" with Danny.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: A rather poignant one. When Darla makes it known to the other animals she was the one Danny turned to for help, Sawyer says "She was your angel?" She isn't even mad so much as quietly devastated that Danny's naiveté and trusting nature, however well-meaning, was what lead to the collective animals losing their jobs.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The last minute of the movie is essentially showing what the main cast ended up doing with their careers, full of mythology gags about the films they ended up starring in.
  • 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 ax-crazy 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.


Video Example(s):


New Stars In Hollywood

At the end of "Cats Don't Dance", Danny and the other animals finally achieve their dreams of becoming stars, with them starring in versions of famous films. At the same time, Darlya, whose career had fallen apart, has been reduced to working as a custodian.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / Homage

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