'Cats' Will Bring The Musical To Life With Motion-Capture Performances And Oversized Sets [CinemaCon 2019]

Featuring spandex-wearing anthropomorphic cats and a barebones plot, Cats is possibly one of the strangest Broadway musicals to hit the Great White Way. And now it's about to become one of the most baffling feature film musicals. Directed by Tom Hooper in his second movie musical following Les MiserablesCats has an unfairly stacked cast including Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, Idris Elba, and Judi Dench.

While the prospect of seeing Judi Dench in spandex is tempting, with Hooper's moodily realistic approach to musicals, it seems like that sadly won't be the case. /Film's own Peter Sciretta and Ben Pearson are attending CinemaCon is Las Vegas this year and they learned that Cats will be a visual-effects heavy movie that uses motion capture technology and oversized sets to transform the actors into something closer to actual felines. Yes, really.

While the Cats stage musical is famous for its skintight, furry costumes that act as a more abstract representation of the title creatures, the movie is going for something different. Hooper and his team are using "digital fur technology to create the most perfect covering of fur." In other words, the behind-the-scenes footage screened featured actors in leotards with markers on their face, placed there so visual effects wizards can add that realistic fur in post-production.

But that's not all. The film will also treat the cast as if they're the size of actual cats. That means oversized furniture built on giant practical sets. Ben and Peter compare it to something out of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids – cats scamper down mountainous staircases and walk by chairs that loom over them. The actors themselves move like cats, slinking around on the floor. If this sounds unbelievable...well, let's just say Ben and Peter's dispatches from the theater included the phrase, "I'm not joking."

The strangest thing about this presentation is that it didn't include concept art to give the audience an idea of what the finished film is supposed to look like, which means that the raw, FX-free footage was just plain odd. However, the scope was undeniable. There were huge dance sequences on gigantic soundstages and long dolly shots showing off talented dancers. At the very least, Cats is going to look big.

The film is based on the stage musical of the same name, which is the fourth-longest-running show in Broadway history. The music was composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, based on Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot. The stacked cast includes Jennifer HudsonTaylor Swift, Rebel WilsonJames CordenIdris ElbaIan McKellen, and Judi Dench. Hudson is playing Grizabella, McKellen is Gus, Dench plays Old Deuteronomy, and Elba is Macavity. It's unclear which characters Swift and Cordon are playing. Other cast members include Mette Towley as Jemima, Francesca Hayward as Victoria, and Steven McRae as Skimbleshanks.

Here is the synopsis for the Cats musical:

This all-dance show's action is set on a gigantic rubbish dump which, after dark, becomes alive with cats of all types, shapes and sizes. Soon there are cats all over the place, including the auditorium, gathering for the Jellicle Ball during which one cat will be selected by the Jellicle Leader and allotted an extra precious life.

Cats opens in theaters on December 20, 2019.