290. Feed the Kitty – Chuck Jones

song-of-the-prairie

SUMMARY: A bulldog falls for a cute litle kitten but must keep it out of sight from his owners.

WHY IT’S HERE:Chuck Jones’s ‘Feed the Kitty’ is one of the undisputed classics of animation. It runs the gamut of moods from sweet to horrifying, hilarious to tear-jerking. The short made such an impression on director Joe Dante that he regularly pays tribute to it in his full length features. Starring a soft-hearted bulldog named Marc Anthony and a doe-eyed kitten named Pussyfoot, ‘Feed the Kitty’ forsakes the usual anarchic mayhem of Warner Bros. cartoons for a disarmingly heartwarming tale of one dog’s adoration for a cat. Jones knows better than to revisit the Disney-esquire cuteness of his dull early work and neatly sidesteps this by mixing the sweetness with plenty of laughs and an extremely dark sequence in which Marc Anthony thinks Pussyfoot has been chopped up and baked to death! ‘Feed the Kitty’ subverts the usual setup for cartoons in which a big character causes chaos while trying to catch and eat a little character by making the motive for the chaotic antics the big character’s desire to protect the little character. Marc Anthony goes to extreme lengths to hide Pussyfoot’s presence from the owner he is sure will eject the kitten from the house. In doing so, Marc Anthony undoubtedly steals the cartoon. Cute and accurately kitten-like as Pussyfoot is, he is basically a prop. Marc Anthony, on the other hand, became world famous for his performance in this cartoon by virtue of his plethora of amazing facial expressions. Much has been made of the facial expressions Jones coaxes out of his characters and ‘Feed the Kitty’ is the prime example of his genius with a reaction. Marc Anthony snaps instantaneously from ferocious to confused to adoring to desperate to stern to relieved etc. The saggy, bloodshot look of total devastation that he adopts when he believes Pussyfoot has been killed is the most jaw-dropping element of ‘Feed the Kitty’. It is so heart-wrenchingly accurate in its depiction of a soul who has lost all hope that it is simultaneously unbearably sad and hilarious in its extremity. It’s unlike any expression you’ve seen in a cartoon before and writer Mike Maltese pushes this grim gag one step further when he has Marc Anthony take the freshly baked effigy of his beloved pet and place it lovingly on his back. Of course, this deeply sad material is also very, very funny because the audience is in on the joke and knows that Pussyfoot is OK and we are rewarded with a happy ending. The cartoon ends on a quiet note instead of the usual crash of an anvil or straight to camera wisecrack, further highlighting what an unusual piece of work ‘Feed the Kitty’ is. Jones used Marc Anthony and Pussyfoot in several other shorts but never to such incredible effect as in this classic treasure of a film.

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