There are Broadway hits, and then there is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s massive smash “Cats.” Now, the beloved feline-centric musical is getting its next life, thanks to a star-studded movie adaptation from “King’s Speech” director Tom Hooper, who has lined up a stacked cast that includes Jennifer Hudson, Taylor Swift, Idris Elba, Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, James Corden, Rebel Wilson, and Jason Derulo.
“Cats” is set over a single night and centers around a group of homeless felines called the Jellicles. The group must decide which cat will ascend to a place called the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life. Yes, it’s a musical about depressed street cats — all of them armed with kicky names like “Grizabella,” “Mr. Mistoffelees,” “Old Deuteronomy,” and “Rum Tum Tugger” — who are expected to argue internally about who gets to go to their version of Heaven. Plus, songs.
Webber’s musical was adapted from T. S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” and became a massive hit on Broadway and on London’s West End. “Cats” ran for 21 years in London and for 18 years on Broadway, becoming the fourth-longest running musical in Broadway history.
When Universal debuted first-look footage of the film at this year’s Cinema Con (which you can finally see below, with a few key points left out), it stunned and surprised the audience of theater distributors and assembled press with its strange imagery of massive stars rolling around the floor and straight-facedly answering queries about what it “means” to be a cat. At the very least, the baffling first look footage also answered a slew of previously unanswered questions.
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Most notably, it showed off clips of the cast wearing VFX dots on their faces and motion capture suits, as the film will utilize special effects to transform the actors into their cat counterparts. The VFX will add fur onto the actors and make their faces appear more cat-like. The first look even offered up a tantalizing way of talking about such technological leaps: the team will use “digital fur technology to create the most perfect covering of fur.”
The video also confirmed the scale of the movie will indeed be “cat-sized.” The film’s production designers built the “Cats” set to be oversized in order to make the actors appear smaller and thus the actual size of cats. The idea was to not only scale the movie properly (it is, after all, about cats), but also to impart the audience a sense of childhood magic.
Universal will open “Cats” in theaters nationwide December 20. Check out the film’s first trailer below.
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