Cats Don't Dance is a 1997 animated comedy musical film directed by Mark Dindal. It was produced by Turner Feature Animation and distributed by Warner Bros. Family Entertainment. It was released on March 26, 1997.
In 1937, an optimistic tabby cat named Danny leaves his home in Kokomo, Indiana to fulfill his dream of stardom in Hollywood. Upon arrival, he befriends several other animals such as: Peabo "Pudge" Pudgemeyer, a penguin selling ice who immediately begins to look up to him; Tillie, a happy go-lucky hippopotamus; Cranston, a cranky elderly goat; Frances Albacore, a sassy, sarcastic fish who dances with Cranston; and T.W. Turtle, a nervous and superstitious turtle who relies on fortunes from fortune cookies. The animals are hired by agent Farley Wink to star in a film called Li'l Ark Angel starring Hollywood child star Darla Dimple, with Danny alongside a white cat named Sawyer, who is rather reluctant to participate in the project. When the animals arrive at Mammoth Studios and are given a copy of the script, Danny is disappointed when he finds that he only has one line, "Meow," and begins trying to find a way to expand his role in the film, blissfully overhearing Sawyer's warning him otherwise. During rehearsal for the titular musical number, Danny's attempts his plan, but ends up angering Darla, who orders her massive butler, Max, to scare Danny into stopping his plan.
Following the end of rehearsals, Sawyer tries to convince Danny that Hollywood does not care about his thoughts and never will. After some persuasion from Pudge to show off his dance moves, the pair hear music and follow it to a small house that is home to the studio's mascot, an elephant named Woolie the Mammoth. Woolie tells Danny of how he dreamed to perform music for the movies, but was regulated to wearing a large pair of tusks that give him the appearance of a mammoth (hence his name and title) and trumpeting at the beginning of every film. In fact, this decision has had a poor effect on the other animals, who too dreamed of becoming big stars before their dreams were destroyed. Sawyer was one of them, having hoped to fulfill her talent of becoming a full-time dancer; their pictures can be seen on Woolie's shelf. Woolie explains that it is because Hollywood only wants people who have talent, and that is why the animals are never given important roles.
Wanting to fulfill his dream of being a star and hoping to fulfill the same for everyone else, Danny begins assembling the other animals to perform a musical number for the humans, hoping that it will encourage the latter to give the animal actors larger roles and see how important they are. The number has a positive affect on them, with Sawyer eventually joining on the fun and enjoying herself for the first time in a while, as well as dancing with Danny. Darla witnesses the event and invites Danny over for tea and gives him "advice" on how to impress the humans, performing a big musical number to do so. However, after Danny takes her advice and leaves, Darla reveals her true nature and begins planning to sabotage his plans.
When Danny gathers the animals for an audition at the Ark, Darla and Max sneak in and begin flooding the stage, which eventually breaks out into the streets. L.B. Mammoth, the head of Mammoth Studios, and Flanagan, the film's director, are caught up in the chaos during an interview and fire the animals for the damage caused. Outside the studio, Darla drives by and openly laughs at Danny's plan, disheartening him and leaving everyone else in disbelief that he believed her. Woolie convinces Danny to go home, which he agrees to. As the animals sit at a cafe, some of them openly blaming Danny for their misfortune, Tilly convinces Sawyer to go after him; unfortunately, she seemingly arrives too late as Danny prepares to leave on the next bus back to Kokomo. As the bus driver begins insulting the animals and seeing Pudge walking down the street, Danny becomes inspired once again and quickly exits the bus to make one final plan: invite Woolie, Sawyer, and their friends to the premiere of Li'l Ark Angel, where they will perform their big musical number upon the film's ending. During the screening, Max confronts Danny backstage and pursues him to the roof of the building, where a big battle ensues between them and ends with Danny quoting something between the pair earlier ("How does the kitty cat go?" "Meow?" "Very good.") that ends with Max being blown away on a life-sized Darla Dimple balloon. Afterwards, Danny regroups with Sawyer and the others, Tillie having dragged the others backstage against their will. After a speech reminding them of the dreams they used to have, they all agree to do it and perform their number for all the crowd to see. Angered at this, Darla attempts to thwart them by tampering with the set and special effects equipment, which only seem to enhance the performance and leave her injured. As the number draws to a close, Darla makes one final attempt to ruin the show by pulling a big switch, which sets off a shower of fireworks that only help to enhance the finale, which satisfies the audience. As the lights go out, Darla angrily crawls up on stage and begins berating them for stealing the starlight and accidentally screams into a microphone and reveals how she flooded the stage and framed them for it. L.B. Mammoth, Flanagan, and the entire audience are horrified at this and Pudge pulls a lever that pulls her downstage. Having been pleased with their performance, Flanagan hires the animals to play larger roles for the motion pictures, inadvertently ruining a potential kiss between Danny and Sawyer as well.
Later, the animals appear in posters spoofing famous films. Darla, meanwhile, has been promoted to janitor as punishment for her cruelty and pushes up a sign that reads "The End" which then falls down and wraps around her before rolling away.
- Scott Bakula as Danny
- Jasmine Guy as Sawyer
- Matthew Herried as Peabo "Pudge" Pudgemeyer
- Ashley Peldon as Darla Dimple
- Kathy Najimy as Tillie Hippo
- John Rhys-Davies as Wooly the Mammoth
- Betty Lou Gerson as Frances Albacore
- Hal Holbrook as Cranston Goat
- Don Knotts as T.W. Turtle
- George Kennedy as L.B. Mammoth
- Rene Auberjonois as Flanagan
- Mark Dindal as Max
- Frank Welker as Farley Wink
- Peter Renaday as the Narrator