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Cats Don't Dance is a 1997 film, and, other than The Pagemaster in 1994, the only one made by Turner Entertainment's animation unit before Warner Bros took over. 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 centers 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 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 (read: evil) 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 has a loyal following to this day (particularly among the Furry Fandom).
- Accidental Public Confession: Darla's very loud statement that she should have drowned them all when she FLOODED THE STAGE! She doesn't notice a microphone is hanging right above her until it's too late.
- Adrenaline Makeover: Pudge and his electrified hairdo.
- Almost Kiss: Danny and Sawyer.
- Ambiguously Human: Max who actually looks like a cross between Frankenstein and King Kong.
- Angel Face, Demon Face: Darla could turn this off and on at will, going from adorable moppet to demon child.
- Animated Musical
- Armor-Piercing Question: When the other animals tell Danny how much Hollywood sucks for them, Danny counters with "Then why are you still here?"
- 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.
- Barefoot Cartoon Animals: Most of the animal characters.
- Battle Butler: Darla's butler, Max.
- Big Red Button: Grand-Daddy of All Switches.
- Blondes Are Evil: Even though she's supposed to be Hair of Gold.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Darla.
- Break the Cutie: Danny, who formerly provided the page picture. On the left, bus ride coming in. On the right, bus ride going out.
- Broken Bird: Sawyer.
Woolie: Ah, poor Sawyer. I thought she'd be the one to make it. Such a dancer, with a voice like an angel...
- Camp Gay: King Kong. Don't get him started.
- Cats Are Mean: Averted.
- 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]
- Classically-Trained Extra: Wooly is a refined, well-read elephant who can play piano. Mammoth Studios uses him as their Vanity Plate.
- Climactic Music: "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now"
- Credits Brand Products: The opening credits appear on various signs within the movie.
- 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--
- Dark Reprise: "Big And Loud". Now in Villain Song flavor.
- Dawson Casting: Relatively averted. Darla's voice actress was about 12 when doing the movie (though Darla may have been a bit younger than that), and her singing voice was even younger.
- Deadpan Snarker: Sawyer, big time. Cranston Goat also qualifies.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Sawyer.
- Determinator: Danny.
- Dialogue Reversal:
"How does the kittycat go?"
- Disney Acid Sequence:
- See Dark Reprise above.
- "The Animal Jam".
- Enfant Terrible: Darla, of course.
- 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.
- Everything's Better with Penguins: Pudge the Penguin.
- Evil Laugh
- 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.
- Five-Man Band
- Foreshadowing: "[...] I'll make sure that LB sees your splashy debut."
- Funny Animals
- Furry Confusion: If all animals are sapient, what about that mink stole? Of course, then again, that is Darla's wardrobe.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
Danny: Looks like we're gonna be the only two cats on the ark.
- Happy Ending: Danny and company do get their big break...
- Earn Your Happy Ending: ...Though they have to go through a lot to get it. (Danny personally has to go through hell).
- 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.
- He's Back: Danny.
- 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).
- 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.
- Honorable Elephant: Woolie.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Non-romantic: Darla and her butler Max.
- Humanoid Female Animal / Petting Zoo Person: Sawyer.
- "I Am" Song
- Idea Bulb: Max dutifully holds a little light bulb over Darla's head.
- 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
- 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.
- My Name Is Not Durwood: "Donald? Dino?"
- Naive Newcomer: Danny, full stop.
- Never Say "Die": Well...
Darla: singing and all of the people drowned! grins charmingly
- Nice Character, Mean Actor: Darla, In-Universe.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Danny's attempt to get the animals' talent noticed allows Darla to make things much worse for them.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: 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.
- 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:
- Opposites Attract: Here's a hint. They're both cats.
- 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.
- The Pollyanna: Tilly.
- Pretentious Latin Motto: Mammoth Pictures' "Optimum est Maximum"; which translates to "Bigger is Better".
- Prima Donna Director: Flanigan could be described as such.
- Princess Curls: Darla wears them.
- Princesses Prefer Pink: Not that she's official royalty, but Darla is surrounded by sugar-pink and purple and hearts and cuddly wuddly stuffed animals to project an image of innocent cuteness.
- Red-Furred Hero: Danny.
- Redhead in Green: Danny.
- The Renaissance Age of Animation
- Rousing Speech: Danny giving this to the animals when asked why they're even staying in Hollywood since they couldn't become actors: because they just couldn't forget their dreams.
- Sacrificial Lamb: A lamb was asked to play this role.
- Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Inverted in Danny and Sawyer; more like "Keet and Kuudere".
- Seven Deadly Sins: Darla takes this one Up to Eleven! Doesn't do any of her own dirty work (Sloth), loves her some sweets and then some (Gluttony), absolutely loses her shit sharing the spotlight (takes care of Wrath and Greed, with someone else getting the spotlight instead of her covering Envy), thinks she's the hottest thing going (Pride), and has an insatiable Lust for attention.
- 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
- 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.
- Spoiled Brat: Darla, obviously.
- Squashed Flat: Darla gets this treatment in the climax.
- Stealth Hi Bye: Max.
- Stepford Smiler: Darla.
- Tastes Like Diabetes: Parodied with Li'l Ark Angel, and Darla in general. In-universe example.
- Three Act Structure
- 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.
- Turtle Power: T.W. Turtle. He even gets to play in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie!
- Twitchy Eye: Darla.
- 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 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.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Guess who.
- White-Furred Pretty Cat: Sawyer.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Danny.
- Wingding Eyes: Darla's flaming-skull eyes when she pulls the Mother Of All Switches.
- X-Ray Sparks: Pudge's electric handshake shocks T.W. at the end.