Here we have an actual cat, not a movie star playing a cat.
Photo: Carl Court (Getty Images)

Until now, almost everything about Tom Hooper’s adaptation of the Broadway musical Cats has been a mystery. We’ve had no idea how the Oscar-winning director was going to take the beloved musical, which is very light on narrative and features stars humans dressed as cats, and turn it into a serious motion picture.

What we did know is that he started by assembling an incredible cast. The film stars huge names like Taylor Swift, Judi Dench, Idris Elba, Ian McKellen, Jennifer Hudson, and many others. But, was Hooper really going to dress those people up in skintight cat costumes like they do on stage? At CinemaCon 2019, theater owners were finally given the answer to that question. And the answer is, kind of?

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At the end of Universal Pictures’ presentation at CinemaCon, it screened a behind the scenes sizzle reel for Cats. It was the only film from the studio’s upcoming slate that didn’t show any final footage, because production just recently completed and there wasn’t any finished footage to show.

In the reel, which was largely shot on set, Hooper revealed he wanted to bring the musical to life in a very 2019 way. To do that he’s using performance capture to make his actors look like they have real fur on them. And so what the audience saw at the presentation were clips of actors in those fancy suits, complete with dots and everything. Some had cameras attached to their heads, others did not. It’ll eventually look something like Avatar’s Na’vi, but with fur, and the actors said they studied cat movements for the film.

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Also, much of those soon-to-be digitally enhanced performances were shot on sets that are three to four times their usual size, to give the actors “a cat’s eye view.” In other words, they’re going to be the size of cats as they sing. Huge chairs and tables with the actors running and dancing under them.

Dench called the experience of walking on the set like walking into Alice in Wonderland. The video touted that all disciplines of dance will be represented, and noted that while Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music is being used, the film should feel rather modern, thanks in large part to the technology and epic scope with which Hooper is filming. Epic scope, but little cats.

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So...there you have it. Somehow, this Christmas, Universal is going to release a musical with huge stars like Taylor Swift and Idris Elba, as digitally enhanced, singing cats, who are the size of cats. Whether or not that will work, we couldn’t say based just on this sizzle reel. But there’s no doubt that Hooper has a big, bold vision for this popular musical, and he’s really going for it.


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