Cats in Animated Films
By Jessica De Rubeis March 20, 2019
While dogs tend to be prominently featured in movies, they aren’t the only cuddly creatures to grace the silver screen. Cats appear in popular animated films either as the main character or as a supporting character. Their casting adds depth and variety to the film’s story. Without their presence, the story just wouldn’t be the same. So, let’s explore some cats from your favorite animated films.
Cats as Main Characters:
In this film, Parisian felines Duchess and her kittens live a posh life with their human mother, Adelaide Bonfamille. Tended to by Butler Edgar, the kittens learn to play piano, paint, and sing. Edgar waits on not only the Duchess, but her precious cats as well. One day, Edgar overhears a private conversation that Adelaide has with a friend. It is then that he realizes that Aelaide will leave everything to her four cats after her death. Enraged, Edgar drugs the four cats and takes them out to the countryside where he leaves them in the hopes that they will never be discovered. As Duchess and her three kittens make their way back home, they encounter Thomas O’Malley, a wily alley cat that leads them on a series of adventures with friends of all species. As with any good children’s movie, the main characters engage in plenty of singing and dancing along their journey.
Fun fact: During the opening scenes, the title is displayed as “Aristocrats” but one of the kittens removes the “r” to make the title Aristocats.
Oliver & Company
This film is based on Charles Dicken’s Oliver Twist. Oliver is an orphaned cat that tries to survive on the mean streets of New York. After struggling to make it on his own, he is taken in by a gang of dogs who steal from others in order to survive. Their human master, Fagin, struggles financially and Sykes, a loan shark, is after him. While attempting to steal enough to help offset Fagin’s debt, Oliver meets a wealthy young girl named Penny. She gives him a wonderful new home, a shiny new collar and copious amounts of love. When Oliver’s canine friends hear of his new situation, they feel understandably jilted. Sykes, however, sees Oliver’s involvement with Penny as a way to cash in.
Fun fact: During one of the many shots of the New York sky line, the twin towers are clearly visible. After the tragedy of 9/11, Disney opted not to edit the original footage and many New Yorkers commended them for their actions.
The Lion King
Simba, a young lion cub lives with his father, Mufasa, and mother, Sarabi, in the African desert. As heir to his father’s empire, Simba must learn what it takes to be king. Scar, his treacherous uncle, has other plans. Scar tells Simba to wait in a deserted ravine under the ruse that his father planned a surprise for him. Instead, Scar uses his hyena henchmen to stir up a herd of wildebeests who quickly flood the area where Simba waits. Scar relays the news to Mufasa, saying Simba was trapped and needed help. Mufasa immediately runs to Simba’s aid and retrieves his son before he is injured. Mufasa himself climbs the side of the ravine where Scar awaits. Scar leans forward, pretending to help Mufasa, then dislodges his claws and sends him falling to his death. Afterwards, Scar convinces an impressionable Simba that Mufasa’s death was his fault. He suggests that Simba run away and never return. Frightened, Simba exiles himself for many years. During his years away, Simba makes many friends and eventually runs into Nala, a childhood lioness friend, who convinces him to come back and make things right. With the help of feisty characters Timon and Pumbaa, Simba and Nala make their way back home where Simba eventually ousts his uncle and claims his rightful place.
Fun fact: The Lion King was planned to be named King of the Jungle.
Puss in Boots
Puss, a wanted fugitive, will go to any lengths to clear his name. As Puss attempts to steal magic beans from Jack and Jill, he is thwarted by his feline femme fatale – Kitty Softpaws. Kitty reveals that she is working for someone and leads Puss to a friend-turned-enemy, Humpty Dumpty. Long ago, Humpty and Puss were friends, but it is Humpty who is responsible for Puss’ status as an outlaw. Together, the three of them create a plan to steal the magic beans and clear Puss’ name, but encounter loads of trouble along the way.
Fun fact: The Puss in Boots character is very similar to The Mask of Zorro character Alejandro who was also portrayed by Antonio Banderas.
Kiki’s Delivery Service
Jiji is a wise-cracking black cat with large green eyes. His human mother, Kiki, is a witch-in-training. Together, they leave home to pursue a new life where Kiki can hone her skills. They arrive at a bakery run by a pregnant woman who offers them room and board in exchange for a delivery service. Kiki agrees and begins flying on her broomstick to deliver goods to customers. As Kiki explores new friendships, she loses confidence in herself. Her flying abilities begin to fail and she begin to lose her connection with Jiji. Jiji befriends a pretty white cat and soon enough, Kiki and Jiji can no longer understand each other. When drastic measures call for Kiki’s flying ability to save a life, she manages enough confidence to do the deed. Having regained her self-confidence, she and Jiji are once again able to understand each other. At the end of the film, they are happily in each other’s company.
Fun fact: In the American version of the film, Jiji is very sarcastic, but in the original Japanese version, he comes across as very humble and always willing to help Kiki.
Cats as Supporting Characters:
Alice in Wonderland
Cheshire Cat, most notorious for his mischievous grin and glowing eyes, often attempts to mislead Alice during her journeys through Wonderland. He appears and disappears at will, often leaving his smile behind as the last thing to be seen. Though he often poses philosophical questions that leave Alice baffled, Cheshire cat is seen as a protagonist in Wonderland, albeit a mischievous one.
Fun fact: According to a recent analysis, it is believed that the inspiration for Cheshire Cat was Lewis Caroll’s long-time mentor, Edward Bouverie Pusey.
Big Hero 6
Mochi is a Japanese Bobtail Cat who belongs to Tadashi Hamada. Tadashi creates Baymax, a personal healthcare companion. After Tadashi’s untimely death, Baymax comes to belong to Hiro. While sneaking back from misadventures, Hiro and Baymax are often greeted by Mochi, who purrs loudly upon seeing them. Baymax deems Mochi a “hairy baby” as he does not fully understand what a cat is. Throughout the film, Mochi can be seen curled up in laps and rubbing against legs in typical feline fashion.
Fun fact: Mochi is the inspiration behind the naming of “Lucky Cat Café", the residence and bakery where the Hamadas reside.
Sgt Tibbs is an orange tabby cat who is second-in-command beneath the Colonel, an English sheep-dog, and a master at following orders. One night, Sgt. Tibbs is awakened by news that fifteen Dalmatian puppies have been stolen. During his investigation, Sgt. Tibbs stumbles upon 101 Dalmatian puppies that have either been stolen or purchased from pet stores. After several run-ins with Cruella De Vil’s henchman, Sgt Tibbs and the Colonel are among many species of animal that assist in reuniting the puppies with their canine and human parents.
Fun fact: Across the world, 101 Dalmatians has been re-released a total of four times!
The Emperor's New Groove
Yzma, the Emperor's advisor, oversteps her bounds by dealing with business matters that don’t concern her. As such, Kuzko, the emperor, fires her. Jilted, Yzma and her companion, Kronk, plot to kill the emperor so that she may take the throne. Instead of administering a deadly poison, Kronk gives the emperor a potion that turns him into a llama. Yzma commands Kronk to send the llama away at once. She claims the emperor is dead and takes the throne. When Kuzko returns to the palace he goes to Yzma’s secret lab to take a potion that will turn him back into a human. During the fight between the warring sides, Yzma falls and lands on a potion that turns her into a cat. As a cat, she continues to war with Kuzko, but ultimately fails. At the end of the movie, Yzma remains a cat and is nonplussed at the prospect.
Fun fact: Director Mark Dindal was the voice actor for Yzma the cat, while a completely different voice actor brought Yzma to life in her human form.
Cinderella’s stepmom not only brought two mean daughters into the family, she brought a mean-spirited cat, Lucifer, as well. While Cinderella was always civil enough to Lucifer, he spent most of his days attempting to catch and eat Cinderella’s mice friends at every opportunity.
Fun fact: While Cinderella’s stepmom and stepsisters may have been unkind, Lucifer the cat is literally named after the devil.
Over the years, cats of all kinds have starred in movies – from cute calicos to suspicious Siameses and everything in between. If you have a favorite animated feline, let us know in the comments below.