One striking thing about the Cats movie, among several striking things, is its concept of scale. The cats in the movie are small. The furniture is very big. Are cats that much tinier than furniture?*
To begin, we’re dealing with a movie in which human actors portray felines. An animal that usually appears horizontally is being rendered upright here, and that’s tough. Sure, cats can be vertical, but most of the time they don’t go about life that way. I’m sure this presented an issue for the makers of Cats.
But I’m not the only one who noticed the tiny size of the cats in the Cats trailer. Vanity Fair wondered, “Why are the film’s performers... being rendered in motion capture as actual cats, rather than human performers in cat makeup?... Why were they filmed on giant sets filled with giant furniture?” It’s strange.
The problem is this: Humans are larger and taller than cats.
What I want to know for this post is whether cats are as tiny as they appear in Cats in comparison to furniture. I can’t deny my curiosity here. These are the things I like to interrogate as a reporter to give the world real meaning.
The first thing I need is a cat. The second thing is the furniture. Luckily, I have both.
Let’s begin by examining some stills from the trailer.
Here’s a shot of Judi Dench. That chair seems so big, and Judi Dench seems so small. This confusing sense of proportion is among many things about the Cats movie that feels off. (Another is that the cat-humans have breasts, as well as hands instead of paws.)
Here’s Rebel Wilson dancing on top of a kitchen counter while Jason Derulo stares at her. Both of them seem smaller in scale to me than a cat would be in this setting. I was certain that if my cat were in this kitchen, she’d be taking up a lot of space.
I suppose this is a movie where cats do what they don’t normally do, like dance and sing and grip things with fingers, which they don’t have. But am I to believe the scale of Rebel Wilson in this? A cat that tiny that’s not a kitten?
I tested it out, using a turkey slice to lure my cat, Jewel, to the countertop.
Here’s a side-by-side of Jewel and Rebel Wilson. Notice, Jewel is large, an enormous panther in comparison to the counter.
One problem. I have a tragically small kitchen countertop, which means the results here could be skewed. Maybe if I stood Jewel upright, the proportion would be the same as in Cats? She won’t let me do that.
But I still believe Jewel would dominate a more expansive counter as well. My colleague Megan Reynolds said she stood her cat Daisy (who is more friendly than Jewel) on her hind legs on the kitchen counter “and she could basically reach into the cabinet and get a plate.” Convincing.
Here’s another still from the Cats trailer.
Cats normally don’t leap out of dressers clutching brassieres (at least none that I’ve known). So this one is hard to envision in real life. In this case, the cat seems larger than the dresser, which now confuses me.
The cat does, however, appear tiny in comparison to the bra. For help, I turned to Jewel again.
I am small-busted, so perhaps this isn’t the best comparison. I guess if Jewel were to hold up this brassiere while jumping out of a dresser vertically, it would look like how it looks in Cats?
But I cannot make Jewel do that.
Here’s a shot of a cat in Cats in front of a lounge sofa thing. In my estimation, this is the most accurate depiction of the cat-to-furniture scale in Cats.
To me, it tracks.
I’ve hit a dead end. Does the movie Cats accurately represent cat proportion? Are cats tinier than furniture? In real life, it probably depends on the size of the cat and the size of the furniture. In the case of Cats, one thing I know for sure is there’s a lot it gets wrong.
*I understand this is a movie depicted from the cats’ perspective, in which case the objects (like furniture) appear larger to the cats. Clearly, the aesthetic is an attempt on the Cats-maker’s parts to exaggerate perspective. I imagine it’s hard to depict because we will never know what it’s like to be a cat, just as cats will never know what it’s like to be us.