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Cats: From Iconic Musical to Movie

August 15th, 2019Cats: From Iconic Musical to Movie

Many musicals have tried to replicate the unique magic of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats,” but nothing has ever quite hit the mark. Now, the record-breaking production is becoming a movie from Oscar®-winning director Tom Hooper.

CATS, from Universal Pictures, adapts the 1981 smash hit about a tribe of cats that gathers for a special event once every year, while also putting its own spin on the material. With an all-star cast that includes Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson and Idris Elba, CATS looks like a potentially purr-fect new take on the story.

Here’s everything you need to know about CATS.

When Does Cats Curl Up in Theatres?

CATS is Universal’s big holiday movie for 2019, and as such it opens on December 20. With the film in its final phases of post-production, the prerelease marketing phase is kicking into high gear, with some first looks already being released to the world.

Does Cats Have a Trailer?

Funny you should ask! The trailer for CATS was released not too long ago, around the time that San Diego Comic-Con was going strong. Check out the video above.

Is Cats Directed By a Cat (and If Not, Why)?

A human directed the movie CATS, and most likely that call came down to opposable thumbs and whether a cat would actually answer to studio heads (or anyone else). The film is the product of Tom Hooper, who won the Best Director Oscar for making THE KING’S SPEECH. That film also won Best Picture, and his follow-ups to that movie, LES MISÉRABLES and THE DANISH GIRL, were both big awards players as well.

Hooper says he fell in love with “Cats” when he first saw the show at 10 years old and that he has “such a vivid memory of what an extraordinary experience it was — the excitement, the mystery, the fun.” He promises that the film will be “’Cats’ on a much bigger scale than you can possibly imagine.”

But How Will the Cats Look?

The cats in CATS look like, well, cats. Specifically, they look like human/cat hybrids, as the performers were filmed using mo-cap suits, with digital fur added to make them look like they do in the trailer above.

Director Tom Hooper says that “the whole fun of the film is that it is humans playing cats.” But they will look at least a little bit like their animal characters. “I wanted to come up with a 2019 version that was fully our own,” the director said. “We’ve used digital fur technology to create the most perfect covering of fur.”

The characters are all cat-sized, so the film’s sets are all drastically over-sized, to make the human performers look like they’re at feline scale. “It’s a moment for you to step into a world that is completely designed to entertain you,” Idris Elba said in the CinemaCon video. “Everything is three or four times bigger than it would usually be, for the cat perspective.”

Can You Beat the “Summarize the Plot of Cats” Challenge?

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical is based on “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” a collection of whimsical poems about feline life and culture by T.S. Eliot. Here’s the important bit, though. Eliot’s estate gave Webber permission to use the poems as a basis for “Cats,” on one condition: The original poems had to be the text.

That means the musical is basically a long interconnected series of poems without traditional spoken dialogue. Consequently, there also isn’t a traditional plot. Universal’s official documents about the film barely even try to summarize the story. The official website for “Cats” the stage musical says:

The Jellicle Cats come out to play on one special night of the year — the night of the Jellicle Ball. One by one they tell their stories for the amusement of Old Deuteronomy, their wise and benevolent leader, who must choose one of the Cats to ascend to The Heaviside Layer and be reborn into a whole new Jellicle life.

What is a Jellicle Cat? And The Heaviside Layer, what’s that about? Maybe it helps if you’re a cat? Honestly, we’re not quite sure. Neither was some of the original cast of the musical, but that clearly wasn’t a problem with audiences who have made “Cats” one of the best-selling stage musicals of all time.

The Cast That Plays Cats in CATS

There are more than two dozen significant singing roles in CATS, so the film has an absolutely massive cast. Here’s the rundown.

Jennifer Hudson plays Grizabella, while Taylor Swift appears as Bombalurina, and Judi Dench plays Old Deuteronomy. The Royal Ballet star Francesca Hayward plays Victoria, while Ian McKellen purrs as Gus the Theatre Cat, and James Corden plays Bustopher Jones. Idris Elba sings and dances as Macavity, Rebel Wilson is Jennyanydots, and Ray Winstone plays Growltiger.

Whew! That's a lot of cats — and that's just the beginning. There will be more to discover when the movie releases, but for now, get a behind-the-scenes peek at some of the actors rehearsing.

CATS will be in theatres on December 20, just in time for your holiday moviegoing needs! Check back at AMC for tickets.

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