21 June 2000 | petermaxie
One of the best animated musicals ever made; personal favorite
How about an animated story with animal subversives as out of work actors/musicians rising up against a repressive Hollywood movie-mogul dynasty by way of performing the hippest, swingingest dance number. Think it'll work?
Only if the story is realistic enough.
I haven't had this warm and swingin' a feeling watching an animated feature since, well, the last time I watched Tom O'Malley and Duchess (Phil Harris and Eva Gabor's voices) in the movie The Aristocats.
If you haven't seen this animated musical yet and you've been yearning to see a new cartoon feature that is produced the way they used to make 'em, this one's for you. Besides satisfying a craving for 30s/deco styled cartoons, the writing also toys with some deeper themes reminiscent of that era. It's a funny combination because we usually expect cartoons to never dig deeper than surface humor as there's never enough time for character development. However, some very witty writing (there were 10 writers listed in the credits) manages to take this story well into subject matter that is almost downright noir! That's saying a lot for a cartoon musical, and to top it all off we get Randy Newman songs composed apparently during an especially fertile period of this already extremely talented songwriter and Steve Goldstein's Broadway flair adds up to a wallop of absolutely top-notch songs.
"Big & Loud" has an arrangement that Mancini undoubtedly would have been very proud to have written and is belted to perfection by vocalist Lindsay Ridgeway. The female cat character is as jaded and sultry as Michelle Pfeiffer was in Baker Boys, and is sung by Natalie Cole who we all know is one of the most incredible female swing vocalists who has ever lived. This film really has it all. A rare gem, especially for a cartoon.
My favorite character is Woolie Mammoth, a cynical elephant pianist that immediately reminds me of Brahms, only he's a ragtime genius on the keys. In fact, there is not one (NOTE: NOT ONE) weak character in the whole cast. That is, every single supporting wiseacre line in this fast moving musical romp is written & executed perfectly. Of course, when you're writing classic 30s shtick there's plenty of tried & tested winning material and timing (timing, timing, timing!!!) to draw from and it's therefore easier than trying to make a gargoyle or a sea turtle funny. That's exactly where this flick excels, and there's no shame in that.
The most amazing thing about this movie is how it wasn't a blockbuster success from the tee-off. That's okay; there's nothing wrong with being a sleeper success. Absolutely unbelievable that Malkin panned this filck has bad as he did, considering how good it is and the quality of music etc. In the recent rush of animation features vying to break out of the children's film mold during the past few years, it seems you need a stylish techno look to get noticed. But in the long run, the real talent will eventually outshine the rest. Cats Don't Dance is one that should easily hold its place on the video collectors shelf. But to me, well... there are only a few movies that can make me cry. The Sound of Music is one that always "gets me right here." There are certain places in Cats Don't Dance that are very touching, too. Okay, I admit it. I'm a sentimental old fool. Fortunately for me, movies & sentimentality go together like cookies & milk.