Warner Bros (1997), CLV/CAV, 2 sides, 77 mins, 1.85:1 letterboxed widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, Rated G

A good looking disc, be it LD or DVD, is only as good as the digital tape transfer that it came from, and the Cats Don’t Dance LD is one of the best I have seen for an animated title. Produced independently through Ted Turner’s Turner Pictures (who had previously given us the animated “masterpiece” Tom And Jerry: The Movie), the film was distributed by Warner Bros, around the time of their giant merger. What Cats Don’t Dance had over its cat-and-mouse predecessor was Mark Dindal, a first time animation director who had started at Disney as an effects animator on The Fox And The Hound and would later go on to direct the Disney comedy The Emperor’s New Groove and the Mouse’s first foray into digital animation, Chicken Little.

A little of Dindal’s enthusiasm must have rubbed off on the co-creators of Cats Don’t Dance; the picture is fun, warm and witty. While perhaps not the knockabout hilarious comedy that was Aladdin, or the dramatic epic that The Lion King was (both are named by critics as comparisons on the LD and pan-and-scan DVD covers), the movie is a great joy. I’ve never understood pushing this film “from the creative talent behind Beauty And The Beast”, as it shares little staff and even less in common as a film, but there is a lot to be said for Cats Don’t Dance. The DVD supposedly adds the theatrical trailer and the 1947 Tom And Jerry cartoon The Cat Concerto (which won the Best Animated Short Oscar), plus a set-top game and a “jump to a song” feature.

For my money though, fans with LD players could do a lot worse than to check out discount stores or eBay for this laser version. The audio is presented with the same 5.1 Dolby track as the DVD, with a lot of punch – this soundtrack can sizzle with the best of ’em – just check out the flooding of the soundstage scene! The video is pleasingly strong, free of colour bleed, and with good overall contrast. Best of all, of course, is that it’s correctly matted at 1.85:1 letterboxed widescreen, with the framing presenting a much better balanced image all round. Being a 77-minute feature, Warners has generously spread the disc in CLV on side one, with the finale at the movie premiere in full-featured CAV on side two, allowing for freeze-frame and slo-mo analysing of the shots.

Featuring a gentle, if breezy story, fun characters, songs and artwork that evoke its Hollywood 1939 period setting, and a smattering of great in-jokes and movie references (like the “re-touched” poster below, although I always felt it should have been “what a glorious feline!”), laser animation collectors should look it up!