Cats Don't Dance

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  • Directed By: Mark Dindal
  • Written By: Roberts Gannaway, Cliff Ruby, Elana Lesser, Theresa Cullen
  • Release Date: March 28, 1997
  • Domestic Distributor: Warner Bros
  • Cast: Scott Bakula, Jasmine Guy, Natalie Cole

Box Office Info:
Budget: $36 million Financed by: Turner Pictures
Domestic Box Office: $3,566,637 Overseas Box Office: N/A

cats don't dance 1997
Cats Don’t Dance was announced in 1992 as another animated project from producer David Kirschner at Turner Pictures, who was still in production on what would become the flop The Pagemaster (1994).  During development, Michael Jackson was brought in to handle the music, choreography and possibly even star, but he eventually departed the project and Randy Newman was hired for the music and Gene Kelly was hired as a consultant for the dancing choreography.  The budget for Cats Don’t Dance was a modest $36 million and fully financed by Turner Pictures.

The animated picture took 4 1/2 years of work to finally reach movie screens and the production survived a revolving door of eight executives supervising the animation — most of which tried to insert their own ideas or control over the project, with the filmmakers having to fight off suggestions like changing the time period to a different decade after years of completed animation.  In October 1996, Turner was acquired by Time Warner and WB inherited Cats Don’t Dance and felt there was no audience for the picture.

With Disney’s stranglehold on the animation market, the only two recently successful animated movies to actually post respectable box office numbers that were not made at the mouse house were Space Jam (1996) and Beavis and Butt-Head Do America (1996) — and you would have to go all the way back to The Land Before Time (1988) to find another cartoon that made more than $30M domestic.  Cats Don’t Dance was warmly received by critics and the animation was deemed top notch, but it was completely dumped by Warner Bros and was another non-Disney toon that died in the marketplace.

Cats Don’t Dance was dated for March 28, 1997 and the studio did not put the effort into landing major cross-promotional tie-ins.  There was a promotion at Subway shops, but the studio gave the movie a blink and you miss it marketing push.  Cats Don’t Dance was booked wide into 1,252 theaters and it bowed against The Devil’s Own, The 6th Man, Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie and B.A.P.S..  It opened with a disastrous $939,781 — placing #15 for the weekend led by the holdover Liar Liar.  Cats Don’t Dance declined a modest 31% to $645,515 in its second frame but it promptly lost most of its theater count and closed its theatrical run with a dismal $3,566,637.

The film was dumped straight to video or premiered on TV in most overseas markets and there were no reported box office receipts from the few countries where it played on the big screen.

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  1. I liked this movie when I was a kid, but I could understand why WB got cold feet in releasing it. It’s a love letter to the Golden Age of Hollywood disguised as a talking animal movie. It’s the film that only children whose parents made them watch Turner Classic Movies like me would get, and they’re really aren’t that many children in this world who had that upbringing. They still should have put more advertising in this movie, or at least sold it to another distributor.

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