515. Banjo the Woodpile Cat – Don Bluth

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SUMMARY: To avoid being spanked for jumping off the roof to see if he would land on his feet., Banjo the cat stows away on a truck to Salt Lake City. Finding city life tougher than expected, he enlists the help of streetwise cat Crazy Legs to help him get home.

WHY IT’S HERE: While he was still working at Disney but was disillusioned with the declining quality of their output, Don Bluth secretly began working on ‘Banjo the Woodpile Cat’ in his garage. Assembling a team of like-minded Disney animators who were willing to sacrifice their evenings and weekends for the project, Bluth created the first official release by Don Bluth Productions. For a film made on a shoestring budget, ‘Banjo the Woodpile Cat’ is an impressive half-hour featurette with some good artwork and animation. However, it sadly epitomises many of the weaknesses that prevented Bluth’s work from ever reaching the heights of classic Disney. The plotting is weak, haphazard and anti-climactic, the characters are underdeveloped and the songs are instantly forgettable or else gratingly irritating. These are all forgivable elements given the circumstances under which ‘Banjo the Woodpile Cat’ was made but they unfortunately carried over into Bluth’s intermittently impressive feature films of the 80s. Nevertheless, Bluth managed to carve out his own popular niche and had a handful of hits before his career inevitably faltered. ‘Banjo the Woodpile Cat’ is a worthwhile little short and testament to the talents of a man who put a bit too much stock in classic animation and not enough in good storytelling.

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