×

The ‘Cats’-astrophe! Experts Say Don’t Blame the VFX

To paraphrase Charles Dickens, it’s a tale of two kitties.

Cats” and “The Lion King” obviously have some things in common – namely a lot of fur and whiskers, and a ton of very expensive visual effects used to bring them and their owners to life.

But while Disney’s “The Lion King” endeared itself to global audiences and racked up $1.65 billion at the box office, Universal’s “Cats” has been, well, universally shunned by audiences everywhere and derided by critics as a catastrophic train wreck that has so far grossed a dismal $57 million worldwide.

What went so very wrong?

Veteran VFX experts are unwilling to point fingers, but for “The Lion King’s” VFX team, led by Oscar-winning supervisor Rob Legato (“The Jungle Book”), the film’s failure had “nothing” to do with the visual effects, says Elliot Newman, VFX supervisor at MPC – the company that was brought in towards the end of a hectic post schedule to try and salvage the project. “I saw it and I thought they were very good.”

“Personally I don’t think [the film’s problems] were anything to do with the visual effects,” agrees Legato. “The work that they did, that the artists created, was extraordinary. It’s the aesthetic. Do you like the aesthetic? Do you buy the scene? What happened was that the visual effects worked perfectly well in my opinion, but no one wanted to see that – or they didn’t like the aesthetic. And so the singing and dancing and the costumes and all that stuff – as beautifully pulled off as it is – doesn’t excite the audience.”

Popular on Variety

Legato goes on to note that while the digital technology that helped create realistic fur in both films is “advancing all the time,” it can’t rescue a flawed approach to a project. “The techniques [you use] can’t do it,” he explains. “All movies are fake. There’s nothing real in them, and the illusion of that world that you’re building is created by the sum total of everything – not just one item in that.”

“The Lion King” was seeped in naturalistic performances, photography and lighting. Legato says,”The script was really good.”

ILM VFX supervisor Roger Guyett oversaw all the visual effects for “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” His team concurred that the “Cats’” visual effects “were great,” but that “obviously something didn’t quite translate. The decisions weren’t quite right.”

Adds ILM VFX supervisor Patrick Tubach, “It always comes down to the big decisions that you make. All the technology and all of those things are moving on so quickly, and they open up a world continuously, and they’ll grow and grow. So it’s the decisions about where to use [these tools], how to use them, and the artistry. They’re the things that define the difference between one movie and another.”

More Artisans

  • The Farewell Movie BTS

    Academy Falls Short on Diversity, but Foreign Films Crash ACE Eddies Party

    The American Cinema Editors Eddie Awards, which will be handed out Jan. 17, will for the first time give voters a choice of selecting a foreign-language film in each of the three categories. The trio in contention are: “The Farewell” (comedy), “Parasite” (dramatic) and “I Lost My Body” (animated). “This is the first time in our [...]

  • Best Documentary Scenes from 2019

    Directors Describe Their Key Scenes in the Past Year’s Top Documentary Films

    The directors of this awards season’s documentary hopefuls explain the ticking hearts at the center of their shortlisted films. Apollo 11, Director: Todd Douglas Miller  Setting the Scene: The pre-launch sequence for the first mission in which humans landed on the moon, featuring NASA workers and regular citizens alike. “It encapsulates everything and highlights a lost [...]

  • Paris Recreated for Movie Productions on

    TSF Recreates Paris on Former Air Base for Movie and TV Shoots

    As French outfits move to expand their studio offerings, industry eyes have turned to a 20-hectare stretch of land 20 miles south of Paris. There, in the commune Plessis-Pâté, sits the TSF Backlot 217, a converted air base that has become one the Gallic industry’s banner initiatives. One of France’s leading production suppliers, TSF scoped [...]

  • DSC07163.ARW

    Streamers Urge French Production Sector to Go Green

    For the French industry, the drive to open up additional studio spaces has gone hand-in-hand with the push for green production, because for the most part, they share the same root cause: The international streamers that are causing a surge in audiovisual production tend to have strict criteria when it comes to sustainable development. “Companies [...]

  • CNC Chief Outlines Plan to Update

    CNC Chief Outlines Plan to Update French Production Infrastructure

    Speaking at an industry round-table at the Paris-based Production Forum on Thursday, Dominique Boutonnat, president of France’s National Film Board (CNC), announced a new plan to update local production studios in order to make them more internationally competitive. The modest plan, which involves new funding, training sessions and additional research, follows a March 2019 report, [...]

  • Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) is

    'The Irishman' Casting Director Ellen Lewis on Working With Martin Scorsese

    Casting director Ellen Lewis first worked alongside Martin Scorsese on 1989’s “New York Stories.” Since then, Lewis has worked with Scorsese on casting his films including “Goodfellas,” “The Departed,” “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “The Irishman.” When it comes to casting a film as grand as “The Irishman,” Lewis’ process is the same as [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content