Yes, Buttholes Had to Be Edited out of ‘Cats’

     April 7, 2020

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Cats was perhaps destined for failure. As Lindsay Ellis points out in her recent video essay, Universal’s thinking was that a hit stage musical combined with a prestige director like Tom Hooper would equal massive success and lots of awards, and they could not have been more wrong. The key conflict is that Tom Hooper doesn’t seem to understand how musicals work and the language their operating in, but another issue seems to be that he doesn’t understand visual effects.

A couple weeks ago, rumors surfaced that there was “Butthole Cut” of Cats, and #ReleaseTheButtholeCut started trending as delirious fans of this trash movie wanted to see the one way that Cats could be even more laughably awful. However, it was unclear if this cut actually existed or if the presence of said buttholes was mere hearsay. Thankfully, The Daily Beast did some digging, and there were buttholes that had to be edited out:

Cats was already halfway complete when the buttholes first showed themselves, a source who worked on the film’s visual effects recalled in a recent interview: “When we were looking at the playbacks, we were like, ‘What the hell? You guys see that?!’”

 

“We paused it,” the source said. “We went to call our supervisor, and we’re like, ‘There’s a fucking asshole in there! There’s buttholes!’ It wasn’t prominent but you saw it… And you [were] just like, ‘What the hell is that?… There’s a fucking butthole in there.’ It wasn’t in your face—but at the same time, too, if you’re looking, you’ll see it.”

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Image via Universal

The Daily Beast notes that it wasn’t an artistic vision to include buttholes in the first place but just one of those things that happened, but someone did have to be hired to fix that problem.

However, the presence of these buttholes in the first places speaks to Tom Hooper’s larger incompetence in the VFX field. VFX workers on the film had to work 90-hour weeks for months for a director who didn’t understand the basics of the technology:

Before visual effects artists fully render sequences for animated films, they normally show directors playblasts—preview renderings that feature characters without color or texture. That allows the director to evaluate the motion before hours of work are done to flesh out things like color, texture, and lighting. Hooper, however, did not seem to grasp that process. Any time the visual effects team wanted to show the director any animatics, the source said, they had to fully render it. Otherwise, he’d say things like, “What’s this garbage?” and “I don’t understand— where’s the fur?”

This is some “What is this? A center for ants?!” level understanding of how VFX works. Hooper also made bizarre, impossible requests because, again, he’s bad at his job:

Some aspects of the production, the source alleges, became simply absurd—like when Hooper would demand to see videos of actual cats performing the same actions the cats would do in the film. “And as you know,” the source said, “cats don‘t dance.”

This is on top of his Hooper’s generally dickish demeanor:

Multiple times during our interview, the source described Hooper as “horrible.” Other adjectives included “disrespectful,” “demeaning,” and “condescending.” “When you go into a conference room, you’re not allowed to speak,” they said. “And he talks to you like you’re garbage.”

Perhaps this source is just someone with an axe to grind, but based on other stories I’ve heard about this production, I doubt it. It seems like Hooper couldn’t wrap his mind around this film, wanted to make it “realistic” because “realism is good even if it means disturbing cat people,” and didn’t make the effort to learn about the VFX work required for a project of this magnitude. It’s possible that Cats was always doomed due to the weak source material, but it didn’t have to be a torturous experience for its VFX crew, and these people certainly shouldn’t have been thrown under the bus at the Oscars with a crummy joke criticizing their work.

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