One of the biggest musicals in history is going from center stage at theaters to being transformed into a controversial CGI adaptation on the big screen, and right before Christmas.
After the star-studded trailer and a featurette on the film dropped in the middle of July this year, Twitter had a lot of feelings, as Twitter often does. Mainly, the feelings were about the “digital fur technology,” as director Tom Hooper calls it.
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“you’ll be playing a cat, in Cats! We’re using digital technology to make you a cat”— Alexandra Petri (@petridishes) July 18, 2019
“a relief, then, because I was about to ask a follow-up question about whether I would be a befurred nude entity, smooth in weird places, neither fully cat nor fully human”
All we’re going to say is, look, Cats is weird. The movie, the musical, even the animal. That’s kind of the whole thing. It’s a dramatic musical that consists of people dressed in cat suits acting like felines onstage, because ... art. So why is it a surprise that a cinematic version of this would include computer-generated fur in place of cat suits? It’s all part of the strangeness.
If you haven’t had the privilege of experiencing this iconic show recently at the Dallas Summer Musicals and want a better understanding of the whole concept, here are some facts about Cats, both onstage and onscreen, to hold you up until we are all blessed (or cursed) with the film adaption.
- To cast the movie, our guess is that Tom Hooper asked someone to tell him the first 20 famous people they can think of, put those names in a hat and picked about 10. Then he gave them a call and asked them how they felt about CGI fur. The cast has big names like Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellen, Taylor Swift, Rebel Wilson, Idris Elba, James Corden, Jason Derulo, Judi Dench and more.
- Besides the infamous “digital fur technology,” another way the movie is made to feel like you’re in the world of a feline is that the sets were built large scale. Humans walking around the furniture are dwarfed by the massive props and scenery.
- The movie is based on the West End musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, which was inspired by a 1939 poetry collection called Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot. Just thought we’d establish that before going further.
- Andrew Lloyd Webber and Taylor Swift wrote an original song for Victoria, played by Francesca Hayward, the cat at the center of the movie’s plot. Originally, this character did not have a song, as it was mostly a dancing part. But thanks to the collaboration of a Broadway legend and a pop star, “Beautiful Ghosts” will be added to the soundtrack. In addition, Swift’s studio recording of the number will be out this Friday. As Swift said in a featurette about the song released by Universal Pictures, “So, if you can’t get T.S. Elliot, you got T.S. I’m here for you.”
- According to Variety, Tom Hooper was originally looking to get Suki Waterhouse to star in the film. There were also rumors that Rihanna and Anne Hathaway were going to be involved.
- Judi Dench will play the role of Deuteronomy, a character usually played by a man. But this isn’t the Dame's first encounter with the musical. “I was cast in 1981. Just before we opened, I snapped my Achilles tendon and I thought that was my history with 'Cats,'” says Dench in the featurette. She thought wrong.
- The Les Twins, identical twin brothers from France, will be featuring their dancing skills as Plato and Socrates. You might recognize them from Beychella (Beyoncé’s performance at Coachella, but do we even have to say that?). They also have performed with Michael Jackson, Missy Elliott, Meghan Trainor and more.
- The movie is coming out the same weekend as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Thus, days before Christmas, you have a choice. You can find out why Rey has the force, or see what it’s like to watch Idris Elba sing with a tail.