A Cat in Paris was nominated for the 2012 Best Animation at the Oscars. It was up against more recognizable pictures like Rango, Puss ‘n’ Boots, and Kung Fu Panda 2. While these movies may have a technical proficiency and recognizable voice talent, they were not able to showcase the artistic inventiveness that is inherent in a non-reality art form. They each had the glossy computer animation style that is so prevalent in major Hollywood animated movies. But A Cat in Paris was able to embrace its small plot line and portray it in a way that felt more hand made and interesting. Although I know without thinking about it why Rango won the prize that night, I think that A Cat in Paris was robbed of its ultimate justification of art over commerce.
Like I said above, A Cat in Paris is a simple story. A young girl, traumatized into silence by the death of her father, has a cat that keeps disappearing every night. The cat returns every morning with gifts. One morning instead of the customary lizard, the cat gives her a fish bracelet that was recently taken by a burglar from a department store. The girl’s interest is peaked in this cat’s adventures and decides to follow him one night. She finds out that the cat is the companion of a cat burglar. This cat burglar goes after unconventional steals that he gets from climbing nimbly on ceilings and walls. This will come in handy once the plot thickens and he witnesses the kidnapping of this young girl by some mobster thugs. He feels compelled to save her and to help her mother figure out how to catch the man who killed her father. All of this in one hour!
This animation style seems to have been ripped from the early nineties. Every person has round thick leg and their sketchy quality makes the image jump. All that seems to be missing is purple triangles and teal backgrounds. The recall back to the early nineties may seem like it is too soon, but it fits the story it is telling. The animators are able to give Paris this otherworldly quality which gives room for the cat burglar to achieve all of his stunts and not get caught while the old mobster men wait in their car far below him. For the animators, maybe the nineties was a simpler time. A time that didn’t need fancy computers and cell phones. It didn’t need references or jokes that derail the plot. Instead the jokes are inherent to the characters themselves. For example in the scene with the bad guys and the even badder boss, the boss exerts his control and superiority not by saying harsh words or by waving a gun all over the place, but rather insulting the quiche he was given. He throws the quiche in the driver’s face, providing both a comedic moment and another dimension to his character. This film proves that an animated movie doesn’t just need references to pop culture events or over the top characters to make it funny. This film gives me hope for the future of animation. If only other people saw that as well.