Cats might have nine lives but the film adaptation of Cats was basically dead on arrival.
Perhaps it sounds overly dramatic to declare Tom Hooper's Cats a full-fledged cinematic calamity… but at this point, the facts are rather indisputable. Now, after a few weeks in theaters, the film stands to lose a whopping $100 million for Universal. That's even after its unprecedented theatrical re-release, which found the filmmakers attempting to "fix" the terrifying and ever-offputting CGI felines.
Meanwhile, the studio quietly yanked Cats from its "For Your Consideration" page, effectively ending the film's Oscar campaign before it had a chance to really begin.
Don't make us say it: The film is one serious cat-astrophe.
Between its abysmal box office performance and wildly low Rotten Tomatoes score, it's clear that audiences and critics really didn't care for Cats... and just looking at the trailers, it's not too hard to see why.
So what went wrong with this Broadway-sensation-turned-box-office stinker? Well, in a recent Reddit thread, several VFX technicians who allegedly worked on the film reveal what went down behind the scenes… and the situation, if true, sounds pretty dire. Apparently, we can place the blame squarely on impossible deadlines, unrealistic demands, and numerous poor decisions made by Hooper.
As we mentioned, Universal pulled a stunning move shortly after the film hit theaters, announcing that Cats had to be re-released in order to address some very obvious CGI blunders. For one, there was the generally unsettling look of the human faces haphazardly pasted onto digital cat bodies... not to mention a major muck-up involving Dame Judi Dench's cat character, Old Deuteronomy.
That particular mistake was publicized by Variety's Jenelle Riley, who wrote on Twitter:
"This isn't a joke: CATS was rushed into theaters before being finished so a new version is being sent to theaters with updated effects. How do you know if you have the old version? Look for Judi Dench's human hand, wedding ring and all."
Also worth noting: The production schedule was reportedly so rushed, Hooper kept maniacally working on what was meant to be the final cut of the film… right up to Cats' premiere. On the red carpet, he told Variety,
"I finished it at 8 a.m. yesterday after 36 hours in a row. I just put the finishing touches on. So, I’m very happy to be here with it fully finished. The premiere should be the first time people get to see it, and this is genuinely a premiere."
Meanwhile, We Got This Covered sums up the Reddit thread by noting that, quote, "poor requests from the studio and ridiculously short deadlines made quality work near-impossible."
In fact, someone claiming to have worked on the film's visual effects wrote,
"Blame the director and clients for their lack of realistic requests."
According to another supposed VFX technician:
"Often cats were missing layers, lights, and cryptos were unusably broken. But you couldn't ask for a rerender unless there was something egregious like a whole cat missing. The show was one uphill battle for every artist and [supervisor] involved, with a client that could only identify what they [didn't] like, and [who wouldn't] offer any clues as to how to get to what they did like. We did what we could."
Another Redditor added:
"The timelines of these productions is the thing that's frustrating. This movie still may have been a flop even if it [had been] done well, but the super short schedule is what killed this movie."
Well, as you can see for yourself, the end result looks incredibly bizarre.
Perhaps one of the biggest problems with Cats is that the movie feels rather driftless and purposeless. Adapted into a stage play by Andrew Lloyd Webber from a book of poetry by T.S. Eliot called Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, the musical follows the adventures of a group of London street cats. Each of them yearns to ascend to the so-called "Heaviside Layer" in order to be reborn. At the end of the day, it turns out that a bunch of singing cats fighting over who gets to die isn't what box-office bonanzas are made of.
Audience members who did wind up watching the film likely left the theater wondering what the hell they'd just seen. We have the answer for that one: They'd just seen one of the biggest box-office bombs in recent memory. Watch the video to learn What Really Went Wrong With Cats!