A Horrifying Invitation to the Jellicle Ball

Universal Pictures released the first trailer for Cats, the film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s popular stage musical, a couple of days hours ago, and people on the Internet, myself included, have lost their minds. Against the advice of family members, I watched the trailer more than once and my brain is still melting.


For anyone who doesn’t know the plot of the musical Cats, a group which would seem to include the production team of the film Cats, here’s a quick synopsis. Act One: The Cats introduce themselves. Act Two: The Cats continue to introduce themselves. One cat briefly goes missing, then returns. The cats choose a cat to be “reborn” and she exits in a spaceship that looks like a tire. Curtain.

Since there’s not much to the plot, most of the speculation about this film has revolved around how the characters would look. In the stage show, the cast wears bodysuits embellished with fur accents that evoke cat-like features, but they never appear as anything other than actors in a costume. The film presents the Cats as uncanny CGI creatures, neither human nor feline, sprung from the mind of someone harboring a major Thundercats fetish.


In the words of director Tom Hooper, the filmmakers have employed “digital fur technology to create the most perfect covering of fur.” Ewww.

This makes me uncomfortable.

Was there ever a way to do this right? I don’t know, but this ain’t it. Everything about the characters looks wrong, from the breast-like lumps on the female cats, to the distinctly human hands, to the disproportionately small ears.

Did she just put the shoes on, or take off the rest of her clothes?

Each successive image in this trailer provokes more questions. Like, is Tom Hooper deliberately trying to reference Manet’s Olympia here with the styling of Taylor Swift as Bombularina? That seems like something pretentious he might do. I have no other explanation for the shoes otherwise.

So, the characters are supposed to be the size of actual cats, but because they aren’t shaped like actual cats, the scale and perspective don’t make any logical sense.

By the way, the stage show takes place in basically a railway-adjacent junkyard. Where does this movie take place? Is this “real” London or a cats-only London? Is the Milk Bar for cats or for people?


That is Trafalgar Square. But why are the hotels named with cat puns? ARE THE HOTELS FOR CATS OR PEOPLE??

Deep breaths…Seriously though, did the cast know that this is what was happening? And if so, why did they allow it?

“…all the whores and politicians will look up and shout ‘Save us!’…and I’ll look down and whisper ‘No.’”

A behind-the-scenes featurette released a day before the trailer holds one clue. In it, Jennifer Hudson says, “When I was told that I would be doing Cats…” Told. OK, clearly this was not her choice and she is being forced to be a part of this movie. Is the same true of the others? Judi? Idris?? Are you alright?

Despite negative reactions from every person who has seen this trailer who is not a relative of Tom Hooper or an employee of Universal, Cats will actually be shown in cinemas this December. Purchase tickets at your own risk. It is sure to be a Memory you can’t unsee.

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Lani Gonzalez

Lani Gonzalez has appeared as a guest programmer on Turner Classic Movies and occasionally writes about what she sees at Cinema Then and Now.

2 thoughts on “Cat-astrophe

  • July 20, 2019 at 2:00 pm

    The look and feel is definitely at the nadir of the uncanny valley!

  • July 21, 2019 at 11:03 am

    Thanks for the warning. I’ve often wondered why popular musicals are rewritten for the big screen? Adding more scenery and enhancing the scope of the location ok. The songs and the characters are what made the show popular, why change that?
    I’ve read Lani’s critiques in the past and found them to be accurate. I won’t be buying a ticket to see this mess.


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