Let’s let Walt Disney talk about cats for a little bit.
So, we have some notes:
- Cats were actually domesticated in the Middle East, around the place and time that the agricultural revolution happened. Dogs were domesticated long before that, as dogs were happy to tag along while people were mostly still hunter-gatherer types. Cats didn’t see the benefit to sticking around until humans started mass-storing their food, which attracted lots of cat prey.
- Egyptians certainly did revere the cat, but at the same time would kill them (by cervical dislocation – not the LEAST humane way, but damn, that’s cold) and mummify them to sell.
- Rats are not enemies of humanity. Your Friend the Rat could have told you that.
- Plague is carried by fleas, and is itself just a bacterium.
- Whiskers are used to determine where prey is when the cat is very close to it – cats have very blurry eyesight that gets worse the closer they get to something.
- Cats don’t kill rats that noisily?
- Other animals persecuted when people decided everything was a witch: goats, dogs, probably everything, but mostly old women. People are terrible.
- The animation in this little excerpt is very nice, displaying cats as graceful and fluid in motion as we know them to be (sometimes). Disney films featuring animated cats don’t always showcase these qualities in their characters.
Let’s take a look at some of the cats who have appeared in Disney animated features over the years, shall we?
(We don’t need to talk about Felicia, or Figaro, or Giddy, do we?)
Lucifer from Cinderella
(the best part is when he snakes up the stairs what are we even watching)
Lucifer is the best character in Cinderella. There. We said it. We’re not sorry.
We don’t like that he basically dies at the end. He doesn’t deserve a villain death because he’s not really the villain. Maybe he’s supposed to be a metaphor for the cruelty of Lady Tremaine but… he’s a cat. Cats kill things.
Or not, in Lucifer’s case. He’s very bad at catching mice. But the mice are always there, and their scenes get fairly tedious, and then – oh no – are we rooting for Lucifer to catch Gus?
The absolute WORST is when the mice are in the middle of heaving a key up the stairs because Cinderella needs to be saved by two mice. Seriously. And then Lucifer pops up out of the darkness and finally catches one of them. It’s like, “Ugh, I’m done, just eat him and let Cinderella be locked in her bedroom forever, I don’t even care anymore.”
Apparently when Cinderella was being made some of the story team wanted to give the Prince a little more of a character, but it was decided that they shouldn’t because it was supposed to be Cinderella’s movie. But then they made a movie that was pretty much about two mice and a cat, and the mice aren’t even the ones who “kill” the cat, that’s the dog. But also, in one of the sequels we see that Lucifer is still alive and has fallen in love with some other cat, so, there. That is one, and probably the only reason for one of those sequels to exist, because Lucifer deserved a better send-off since Cinderella is apparently only about him.
Lucifer is really fun to watch as long as you resign yourself to the fact that you’re actually watching a movie about mice.
Dinah and the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland
Dinah looks more like a teddy bear than a cat, but she’s useful in establishing a fact about Alice: Alice is a cat person.
This is made all the more interesting when she meets the Cheshire cat, and immediately is delighted by the fact that, well, he’s a cat. The Cheshire cat is the only individual in Wonderland who actually listens to Alice, and he gives her probably the most helpful information out of everyone as well (which, we admit, is not saying much).
But we’re not sure whether this is a good thing. The Cheshire cat may listen to Alice better than the others, but his enhanced paying attention becomes a problem when he decides to mess with the Queen of Hearts at Alice’s expense. His advice before this seems like it’s designed to annoy her, as well, as opposed to her interactions with other characters which annoy her because she’s being misunderstood or outright ignored.
Is the Cheshire cat trying to get Alice killed? Or is he just stirring things up for fun without more nefarious intentions, kind of like one of those Trickster Gods? Either way, we find it endlessly interesting that Alice muses in her daydreamy song that Dinah would be able to talk to her, and the cat she meets who talks to her almost gets her killed, and is the instigator in waking her up again. Did Alice learn that she doesn’t actually want to talk to Dinah, should she be less sweet and more of a cunning, dangerous prankster than she seems?
The Siamese Cats from Lady and the Tramp
So, we like what they do and say. They’re pretty cat-like. Lucifer could stand to be a bit more like them. But they’re also racist caricatures, so… yikes.
One Hundred and One Dalmations and One Cat Who Accomplishes Everything
There are so many dogs in this movie and yet Sgt. Tibbs does most of the work.
We find it a little vindicating (as cat people) but also kind of unrealistic, because would a cat actually attempt to help in this situation? We would expect the Sergeant to act more like the Siamese cats above, and antagonize the puppies for no reason whatsoever. Because let’s be honest, cats would make terrible soldiers.
But we’ve all heard of hero cat stories, so maybe Tibbs is just one of those. Either way, he isn’t actually a cat – he’s a squirrel. Just watch the way he moves.
I mean, that is 100% squirrel.
Everybody who doesn’t just want to be a cat, but who actually is a cat, in The Aristocats
We think the animators could have benefited from
cuddling playing with observing more cats. It’s beautifully animated as usual, of course, but we’re cat nerds and are unhelpfully nitpicky.
That was probably a joke. But. Why.
Now watch this cat bounce around and use his oversized toes like a human hand because Disney.
Duchess is a little more catlike in this clip, but her body language is all wrong. I mean, for one thing, when two cats meet, they never do it with romantic batting eyelashes, they just gape at each other in horrified fascination. Aristocats is even guilty of having the cats play-bow like dogs. Cats do so many entertaining and visually interesting things – why did they animate them like dogs?
Also, we have some concerns about Adelaide not having her cats spayed and neutered. We like to think it’s that the writers wanted to add an unnecessary heteronormative plot to their movie about cats – not that Madame didn’t know better.
Rufus, from The Rescuers
This is a good cat.
I (erm) remember lamenting to three that there aren’t any old cats in animation – and maybe one dog (Buster in TS3 and BLESS them for including him). Senior pets need some more love in any medium but animation would be especially perfect.
Imagine my delight when I threw on The Rescuers to check out a barely remembered side character, Rufus the old cat. He’s gorgeous, old, and so sweet! Watch the clip or read through this if you’re unfamiliar, because it sums it up very nicely. He really is the epitome of a comforting cat. If our senior cats could talk when we’re sad, they would say things like this. And a lot of other rude things about food and not appreciating being hugged, etc, but, still.
Besides what a comforting, gentle soul Rufus is, this movie deserves more love for the rest of its virtues as well. The idea that tiny, vulnerable children can be rescued by a group of mouse delegates in a society not unlike the UN is magical, and it would be THE definition of what Disney is about, if, you know, we weren’t so princess-saturated. And Bernard and Bianca are so cute, individually and together.
Oliver from Oliver and Company
Whoever’s idea it was to adapt Oliver Twist using stray cats and dogs is a genius. This movie is probably not the best version of itself that could have existed, but it’s certainly not bad. And that opening scene was traumatizing. Everyone has horrible childhood memories of Bambi’s mom or Mufasa – our cousins were destroyed by that Fox in the Hound scene – but for erm, it was the beginning of Oliver and Company.
DAMN IT DISNEY THAT IS NOT COOL.
That scene is probably responsible for the fact that erm makes a pittance working for the local shelter, so THANKS A LOT.
Our main character is just as sweet as the original Oliver Twist is meant to be, and on a list among quite a few cunning and antagonistic creatures and a few caring and supportive companions, Oliver is probably the closest Disney films have come to creating animated versions of our beloved pet cats.
Snowball from Hercules
Snowball was in a fire.
Mittens from Bolt
Mittens is a streetwise alleycat, and kind of in a reverse of Dodger and Ollie in Oliver, she’s the cynical one who helps teach Bolt how to survive in the street. But he teaches her to trust humans again. It’s kind of nice.
She does some really good work as far as demonstrating what responsible pet owners should definitely NOT do *cough* Fox and the Hound *cough* – don’t dump your pet. Especially if she’s DECLAWED – ouch! Full points for irresponsibility there.
As far as behaviour and animation go – Mittens is close to real. We’ve agreed that TLK is the only Disney movie that actually nails cat movement and mannerisms (and definitely NOT its sequels) – but Mittens isn’t a bad example either.
Hairy Baby (Mochi from Big Hero 6)
HAIRY BABY! Haiiiirrryyy baaabbbyyyy…