Mark Dindal's Place in the Sun
(continued from page 4)

MD: Yeah, quite a bit. It was one of those things that all the people working on it could feed ideas into. That's when you know you've got something that has potential; you'd say, 'Oh, I know, this could happen,' and you start drawing pictures and generating images....

JS: The characters don't look 'Disney' at all, which is usually the look other studios aspire to; was it hard to convince Turner to go in a different direction?

MD: Oh no, I don't remember that being an issue at all. When we worked on character design it was about giving them appeal. Whichever way you arrive at that, be it classic Disney or classic Warner Bros., or anything, it was just trying to go for an appeal that had the potential...

JS: Did a sort of WB look work its way into the film?

MD: When I grew up I was influenced first by the Disney movies. I think my grandmother took me to Sword in the Stone when I was 3, which might've been one of the first influences to set me down that path. Then I was exposed to the Warner Bros. cartoons on Saturday morning TV at the time. So I think those were the two biggest influences for me. Probably Cats Don't Dance reflects kind of a blending of what I liked about both of those styles.

Pudge and Danny share a cup of tea in Cats Don't Dance. © Turner Feature Animation.

JS: The snappiness of the action, the quick cutting and posing reminded me of [WB animation director Bob] Clampett.

MD: Yeah, we looked at those -- I liked the heightened reality that they achieved in those cartoons. One thing we're always trying to do is increase the productivity of the animators without making it obvious to the audience that you had to cut corners. Something that Chuck Jones was very clever with was putting a lot of attitude and a lot of entertainment on the screen. When you actually studied those cartoons you'd see how long he would actually hold things. The style in which the characters would move would still be very entertaining, but they were far more economically animated than in a feature production.

JS: Was it smooth sailing once you took the story in this direction?

MD: The person that was in charge of the Turner animation division changed several times. There may have been at least five different people over the course of the production, and with each person came a new take on how we should do the story... That tended to slow the process down.

JS: Was this during pre-production?

MD: Oh no, we were right in the middle of it.

JS: It looks pretty seamless.

MD: It was rocky going. There were some drastic suggestions, like changing it from the '40s era to 1950s rock & roll, pretty much in the middle of the movie. It's pretty hard to try and keep what you have finished so far, and then suddenly transition into a different period of time or introduce a different character or have a completely different ending that doesn't seem to fit the beginning you have.

JS: Were the end posters showing the film's characters starring in modern-day films a result of last minute tinkering from on high?

MD: We had all the characters done up in classic movies -- to us they were so much more fun. They were films like Casablanca, that everyone knew. I think Singin' in the Rain was the only one that made it into the film. It was funnier to see these guys having taken those roles, as opposed to Grumpy Old Men or Twister, but that was one of those 'how to survive' decisions. The films we ended up using were all Warner Bros. or Turner titles. If we used others, we would've had to pay fees for the rights to use them. At that point there was just enough money left to finish it in color.

JS: Well, you said you wanted to work in black and white... Was providing [Darla's evil, gargantuan butler] Max's voice yourself a director's perk?

MD: I recorded a temporary scratch track for Max, which we intended to replace with a professional actor later on. When we ran out of money at the end of production, my voice wound up staying in the film.


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