FILM: WHEN PUSS COMES TO SHOVE; Cats & Dogs is the most extraordinary computer-aided film ever.
In movie history there has never been a megalomaniac villain quite like Mr Tinkles. He comes in the grand tradition of 007 nemeses Blofeld, Goldfinger and Dr No, but has sharper claws. He's as smart as Sherlock Holmes's arch enemy Dr Moriarty, but with longer whiskers. And when it comes to kooky plans for taking over the world, he makes Dr Evil from Austin Powers look like an immature kitten.
Tinkles may look like a cuddly Persian cat, but he and his fascist-like army of Ninja Siamese felines are determined to dominate the world. If they have their way, we'll all be eating Kit-e-Kat and doing our business in small trays by the back door.
To succeed in his crazy plans, Tinkles has to outwit a cute little secret agent Beagle puppy named Lou. For dogs, you appreciate, run their own top secret spying organisation that makes MI6 and the CIA look like bike courier services.
If this all sounds too crazy for words, you'd be right, but this is the mad, bad world of Cats & Dogs, an animation/live action mix which takes the formula that made Babe such a success, crossed with James Bond.
In America, its off-the-wall humour helped it top the box office, where it is now well on the way to the coveted $100m blockbuster benchmark. The film features Jeff Goldblum as a mad scientist who invents a serum to cure people of dog allergies. Elisabeth Perkins plays his wife. It also features the voices of Tobey Maguire, Susan Sarandon, Charlton Heston and Alec Baldwin.
The film's premise is that, unknown to us, mere humans, cats and dogs aren't simply kennel rivals, they have, in fact, been locked in a war for control of planet Earth for generations.
This secret war has been on hold with an uneasy truce in place, but now the peace is about to disintegrate thanks to power-mad Tinkles. He is ready to lead his mass movement against man's best friend - and man himself.
The idea that these cute domestic animals have a secret life is bound to amuse every cat and dog lover in the country. Producer Andrew Lazar says, "It's a story that any pet owner can relate to. I now know when I wake up to find my dogs have broken something, it's only because they've been protecting me.
"Our clever writing team have finally managed to answer the age-old question of why dogs chase cats - they could be saving your life."
Technically the film was a massive challenge, as director Lawrence Guterman recalls. "I worked on the tests combining computer images and live action for a 1999 piece we called Kung Fu Cat," he says.
"We wanted to show how much fun it could be and what the tone could be. We wanted a very heightened sense of action - almost like a live action cartoon - pushing everything, exaggerating everything, but with absolute clarity. That way you can suspend your disbelief when the cats and dogs start talking and then do even more outrageous things."
Filmed on location in Vancouver, Canada and in special effects studios here in London, Cats & Dogs presented some unique problems. Before production could begin the crew had to hand-build housing and grooming accommodation for as many as 50 animals. Complex schedules for feeding and exercising the various pooches and pusses were drawn up, and props and sets had to be designed with the animal stars specifically in mind.
More than a dozen puppets had to be built for certain scenes - including a highly sophisticated robotic version of Mr Tinkles which took some six months to perfect.
Two months of filming went by before the human cast became regularly involved. After they finished their scenes, it was back to the animals and the complex computer-generated work.
And if anyone doubts that this film is a unique spy caper, consider the following statistics. The final showdown between the warring canine and feline armies involved several tons of cellulose paper, 16 air cannons, thousands of gallons of shaving cream, hundreds of gallons of food colouring... and 6,700 latex mice.
Now that is unusual.
FIVE FAMOUS CATS
Humphrey, the Downing Street pet
Tom, the Bacardi Breezer dancing cat
Arthur, the cat food commercial moggie
(RENAMED IF CATS RULED THE WORLD)
The Collar Of Money
Fur Your Eyes Only
A Tail Of Two Kitties
CAT'S THE WAY TO DO IT: Evil Tinkles with Jeff Goldblum and Elisabeth Perkins
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|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Aug 3, 2001|
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