Cats: How it was Made… and How it Failed


Credits to USA Today

Sam Eves

The movie Cats has recently hit theaters, and as predicted by everyone and their mothers, it flopped. Cats, for those unaware, is a movie adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical sharing the same name. The story follows the white cat Victoria and a tribe of cats as they struggle to decide which one of them deserves to be reborn. 

The movie was a fail, only making back $38 million of the 100 spent to make it. The plot was hard to follow, with different characters popping up here and there with no explanation or background, and the poorly defined limits of the world the characters inhabit. The question that came up in my mind while sitting there in that dark theater, one eye open, watching these cats purr and tumble across the screen, was “how in the world was this monstrosity made?”.

In order to even begin to answer this question, I reached out to Kat Molk, who majored in Visual Effects at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

To understand Cats, that beautiful uncanny nightmare, the place to start is how a typical VFX-heavy production works,” said Kat Molk, a Visual Effects major at SCAD “First, after the script is made and storyboarded, it goes to previsualization.” 

After this stage, Molk describes the next steps. Mockups are made and then go directly into the shooting.

“Once everything is shot, the supervisor takes the footage to one or more visual effects studios/houses and tells them essentially what is needed. From there, modelers will build 3d models, texture artists will make them look real by painting them, lighting artists match them to the lights on set and make them look nicer, and compositors take all that and put it all together.” The process sounds grueling and complicated; however, I’m assured that the process is simpler than it seems. Not easy, but simpler. But if it is that simple, where did Cats go wrong?

Cats failed at step zero: the concept. Directors often see big, amazing technological advances and go ‘I want that cool thing in my movie at all costs’ without taking a step back to look at it.” We both agreed that, despite the gorgeous and disturbing scenery, the movie was doomed from the start. There was no story that an audience could relate to, which is the most alluring part of any movie. 

Despite the disappointing returns, it’s clear from the army of names listed in the credits that a lot of effort went into the movie. We’re talking millions of dollars and hours of work, but sadly, that still wasn’t enough. The visual quality of the movie is undeniably gorgeously detailed? vivid? although absolutely disturbing. I haven’t stopped thinking about that scene with the cockroaches and Rebel Wilson eating them as a cat, and it’s been weeks. Anyway, what I was saying was, maybe the movie’s fault isn’t a looks situation. The problem with the movie was the plot. Very much so. It was boring, the ending was lacking. Maybe some of the problems came from it being based on a series of poems; the musical was written based on a series of poems by T.S Elliot. From that, there couldn’t have been a solid thread that ties them all together. There were no attention-grabbing climaxes, no thrilling end. Despite so much effort going into the making of the film, it ultimately flopped due to its lackluster story.