Mark Dindal's Place in the Sun
(continued from page 3)

MD: From there I went over to development and tried to develop feature ideas. We were all in a brick building off the lot. There wasn't anything definite that I worked on. I just remember I was probably even more impatient than I was before, wanting this opportunity. I was probably 30 or so. I remember feeling, 'It just isn't going to happen here as fast as I would like it to.' I felt like I wanted to go on somewhere else and pursue this -- I didn't have the patience to wait there.

JS: Were they shooting down ideas, or was it just a slow process to move anything ahead?

MD: At that time they weren't making the number of movies they are now. That was when Jeffrey Katzenberg was at Disney, and his taste was for things that were much more 'real' and literal. We pitched a couple of things, and had the 'gong shows' as they called them. We tried to pitch an adaptation of Roald Dahl's Matilda. There was something with dragons that was on a more serious note, and then there was a comic version of that as well.

All of the ideas I was working on had more of a cartoon sensibility than where he wanted to go at the time. So it didn't seem like I was a match and I ended up leaving and trying to make something happen -- elsewhere. This was in '92. It was one of those things where it wasn't under the best circumstances that I left. When I look back, I think, 'Why did you go about it that way?' I would know how to handle it a lot better now then I did at that time.

I needed to go, I felt I had to go, and I sort of wrestled my way out and ended up at Turner on Cats Don't Dance. I wish it hadn't happened that way, but the lessons I learned by having gone out and now coming back to Disney, I don't know that I would've had this perspective that I have any other way; at the end it was valuable for me.

JS: Lessons in company politics, or relationships...

MD: In just sort of everything. The way to make a movie, the way to understand what the artists need, what the management is trying to deal with -- just having more of a global awareness of the whole animation industry. So you're not wrapped up in the one little thing that you're doing and throwing a fit and not realizing why things are. Even when you find out why things are it can be frustrating, but that's just sort of life on Planet Earth. In the end it ended up being a good thing. I wouldn't want to go through it again, but I think I'm smarter for having done it that way.

Woolie, the musically gifted elephant, confides his dreams to his friends Danny the cat and Pudge the penguin in Cats Don't Dance. © Turner Feature Animation.

JS: Was Cats Don't Dance a Turner property or did you come to them with it?

MD: No, they had it. They were developing it at the time. It was a much different story and had 5 other songs; Randy Newman was not involved.

JS: What was the original concept?

MD: It was more of a Broadway show and not the sort of Singin' in the Rain movie that it ended up being. The songs they had were written by Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shier, who had worked on the stage musicals Big and Baby.

There are stray cats that live among the sets and studio backlots and the film was originally a story about the lives of those cats. So the original story had actual cats on 4 legs that could speak; it was more along the lines of Lady and The Tramp.

I remember we did this big sort of analysis while we were pitching the idea of all the different ways that animals can appear in a movie. You had everything from an animal that doesn't speak, but behaves in an intelligent, 'Benji' sort of manner, all the way up to a Bugs Bunny universe where the animals coexist with humans, and no one says, 'I can't believe I'm talking to a rabbit.' You're accepted as another individual.

JS: But a lower class kind of individual.

MD: Right. So we were all excited about taking it to the furthest extreme and have it be in the world of people. It just was more fun and it made it quite a bit different: it went to the notion of being typecast simply by what you appear to be on the outside.

JS: It started taking off at that point?


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