You think this is just gonna be a sickeningly cute video of cats doing something with their paws, but what you don’t realize is that these are talking cats.
This is lovely. What a great medium. Canadian theatre artist Rick Miller used sand and an overhead camera to make some pretty rad sand animation theatre in his amazing solo show Bigger Than Jesus a few years ago, too. I like me some sand animation is what I’m trying to say.
Watch a little of this clip first (if you are not a crazy cat lady, you don’t need to watch the whole thing)
Then watch this clip:
Usually in animation, the voices are recorded early on and the animators match the picture to the voice performance. But when speaking for animals, the actors have to match the voice performance to the animal behaviour, since the animals’ timing is so difficult to control.
I do a couple voices on a really cute kids series where all the characters are rodents: the lead is a hamster, and there are mice, rats, rabbits, guinea pigs (I know rabbits and guinea pigs aren’t technically rodents but let’s just relax with the taxonomy for a sec) and a chinchilla (what did i say about your taxonomic rigidity).
Anyway, the scripts are written ahead of time, the sets are built to animal scale (using a lot of dollhouse props), and then they pop the animals into the set and film them running around interacting with things. Lots of seeds, bits of broccoli, and peanut butter are strategically placed to get the animals to hit their marks and interact with props.
The director shoots the animals like they were human actors, taking wide shots and closeups of them, and because you can’t really tell a chinchilla what to do, the crew ends up rolling until the animals finally approximate the behaviour that he needs, more or less by chance.
With human actors, this director usually shoots about 3-to-1 or maybe 5-to-1, which means 3 or 5 takes in order to get the 1 take you need. With furball actors, he shoots 20-1: it might take 20 takes before he gets the hamster to walk down the stairs and pause to eat the broccoli.
One thing I love about this particular director is that he goes out of his way to choose takes where the animals’ behaviour is extra-cute: for instance, perhaps all that he needs at a given moment is a closeup of the rabbit that lasts 3 seconds.
But if on one take, the rabbit were to sneeze, you can pretty much guarantee that’s the take he’d use in the episode, which means the voice actor now has to sneeze midway through his line to match the rabbit’s behaviour. It adds richness and humour to the series.
Later, in the voice record sessions, the director plays us the footage, along with a “scratch track” of himself reading the lines at approximately the right pace, with many of the little extra details included.
He gives the actors tons of freedom and lets us create lines that reference what the animals are actually doing. I’ve gotten to improvise lines where Burfy, my shy salesmouse character, is talking, and out of nowhere she shakes herself (“Brrr! Is it cold in here or is it just me?” or where she’s speaking and the hamster randomly starts licking her face (“Sir, please! Too close! Too close!”).
You can see some examples in this clip- in the beginning a rabbit cleans his face while he’s talking, and later the hamster has one of my favourite lines from the whole series: “What the–? How the–? Blublle blubble bluuble blubble-the–?”
This series was double Gemini-nominated last year, which I thought was well deserved.
Anyway, all this to say that’s why I love the talking cats video so much. Having to match performance to an animal’s behaviour can lead to some really awesome little moments, and the cat video has lots of these. When he muffles his mouth for the cats as they hunch down and whisper while licking each other? Man. Canadian YouTube user Klaatu42, the dude who did those cat voices, totally rocked it. I wonder if he does animation?
Or maybe he just wanders around with small animals sitting on his shoulders and interprets their innermost thoughts for them, like he’s totally insane, yet oddly saintly.
Wicked little animated movie by Takeuchi Taijin, made by photographing stop-motion animation, then laying out the photos and photographing them, too. Supa coo.
In some ways this reminds me of Muto by BLU– I like how the characters define the world as they pass through it, and the clever use of space and geometry.
Blu is an animator/graffiti artist in Buenos Aires. Muto is a huge-scale piece of animation, painted on walls, which blew my head open (and then a little guy came out of my skull and blew his own head open and then another little tiny guy came out of his skull and pulled his little tiny head off and offered it to a giant, etc).
It is SO good. 7.5 minutes- make sure to watch with sound. Clicky clicky here (because I cannot for the life of me get Vimeos to embed, if anyone knows how, lemme know, because it’s not like I’ve never tried).
My old roommate Nick Fox-Gieg made this. 2 minutes.
My old roommate Nick Fox-Gieg WON South X South West with this. Holy hell, congrats, pal!