‘Cats’ Behind-the-Scenes Footage Debuts at CinemaCon, Jennifer Hudson Sings ‘Memory’

Jennifer Hudson
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Jennifer Hudson delivered an anthemic rendition of “Memory” to cap Universal Pictures’ CinemaCon presentation on Wednesday.

Universal and Working Title didn’t release any footage from “Cats,” the studio’s big-screen adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, because studio chief Donna Langley said the film’s effects are so complicated that they have nothing to show the audience of theater owners. The studio did bring a handsomely mounted behind-the-scenes look at the movie, which featured stars such as Rebel Wilson, James Corden, Taylor Swift, and Ian McKellen dancing in motion-capture enabled leotards.

“We spent a very, very long time preparing how to be a cat,” said Judi Dench, who plays Old Deuteronomy.

Flexing their inner feline required some CGI assistance. Director Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”) said the film will deploy “digital fur technology.” Sets were built three or four times bigger than normal in order to replicate a cat’s perspective and the cast was drilled in various forms of dance, from tap to ballet to hip-hop. Andy Blankenbuehler, best known for his work on “Hamilton,” is choreographing “Cats.”

The Tony-winning play about a tribe of cats called the Jellicles ran on Broadway for 18 years. Hooper said the film is about “the importance of inclusion and community and forgiveness and redemption.” The story is a personal one for Hooper, who said he first saw the play when he was 10 years old.

“The excitement, the mystery, the fun is something I’ve always held onto,” said Hooper.

“Cats” debuts Dec. 20. The studio unveiled footage as part of its presentation to exhibitors. Universal also has the “Fast and Furious” spinoff “Hobbs & Shaw,” “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” and Seth Rogen’s “Good Boys” on its 2019 slate.