Tom Hooper Makes Changes to ‘Cats’ After Trailer Backlash

Published on December 2, 2019

Social media had a lot of opinions about the first trailer for Cats, based on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical. The cats themselves, for starters, were either called terrifying or an eye-sore in most corners. They’re a mix between human and feline and it doesn’t gel well. According to the director of the film, Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), he heard those reactions loud and clear and, as a result, made a few alterations to his film.

The Trailer

The trailer showed the likes of Taylor Swift, Idris Elba, and James Corden as tall, walking and talking cats. It was the thing of nightmares, bound to give children sleepless nights for years to come. Twitter users had a field day with the trailer. For example, one user re-cut the trailer to the theme from Jordan Peele’s “Us,” highlighting the horrific nature of the footage.

Hooper was entertained by all of it, surprisingly. As he told Empire, he was happy people were talking about the movie, good or bad: 

I was just so fascinated because I didn’t think it was controversial at all. So it was quite entertaining. Cats was apparently the number-one trending topic in the world, for a good few hours at least.”

Hooper taking the negative reaction in jest is probably for the best, but when that many people are making fun of a movie before it even comes out, it can’t be a good sign. The musical is competing against new Star Wars and Jumanji sequels, so any negative buzz can’t help its chances. Then again, the Cats trailer has drawn applause in theaters from average moviegoers, believe it or not.

It’s Time for Changes

Last year, the trailer for Sonic the Hedgehog saw a similar backlash. Fans of the Sega video game character were creeped out by his design in the upcoming action-comedy.

As a result, the filmmaker redesigned the character as more cartoonish, and the movie got pushed back several moments. Based on the second trailer, the changes were an improvement and pleased the fans.

Like the filmmakers behind Sonic the Hedgehog, Hooper took some of the criticisms over the Cat’s trailer to heart: 

We’d only finished shooting in March, so all the visual effects [in the trailer] were at quite an early stage. Possibly there were, in the extremity in some of the responses, some clues in how to keep evolving [the production]. When you watch the finished film, you’ll see that some of the designs of the cats have moved on since then, and certainly, our understanding of how to use the technology to make them work has gone up, too.”

Unfinished Effects

It’s all too common for unfinished CGI to baffle audiences in a trailer. Rarely are the special effects anywhere near completion by the time the big marketing machine starts and audiences first see the footage.

It has been four months since the last trailer for Cats, so the amount of work that’s been to its VFX is exhaustive.

What Else About Cats?

Cats marks the second high-profile musical Hooper has directed. Previously, he directed The Danish Girl, The King’s Speech, and Les Misérables, which was a smashing success.

The movie won Oscars and wowed audiences and sold a whole lot of soundtracks. Maybe lightning will strike twice for Hooper with his upcoming adaptation of Cats. Mass audiences tend to connect to his movies, and believe it or not, I have witnessed people applauding the Cats trailer in theaters.

The musical is a big deal to a lot of people, including former president George W. Bush Jr. Based on Oliver Stone’s bio film, it’s the former president’s favorite musical, so we know what he’ll be watching around the holidays.

Jack Giroux is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Los Angeles, he is an entertainment journalist who's previously written for Thrillist, Slash Film, Film School Rejects, and The Film Stage.

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