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Cats Movie Cockroaches.png

So Many Buttholes: It Turns Out That Doing VFX On 'Cats' Was a Nightmare

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Film | April 7, 2020 |

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Film | April 7, 2020 |


Cats Movie Cockroaches.png

Remember Cats? Ah, it feels like so long ago since the only thing we had to worry about in this dark world was the horror of furry feline-man Idris Elba and the uncanny valley of seeing horny cat Taylor Swift in kitten heels spread catnip over an orgy. I miss those days. With Cats already crowned as both a midnight movie rowdy screening favorite and a disastrous financial flop for Universal, it seems that people are ready to talk about what a total nightmare working on this anti-masterpiece was like. Laura Bradley of The Daily Beast talked to some sources who worked on the film’s VFX team and behind-the-scenes. The results were somehow even more catastrophic than you could have anticipated.

So, let us ease into the madness with the most normal part of the movie — the buttholes, or lack thereof. After tweets from FX artists allegedly employed on the film made reference to a magical so-called ‘butthole cut’ of the film, the internet went wild. Did it really exist? Apparently so.


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 f**king 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 f**king butthole in there.’ It wasn’t in your face, but at the same time, too, if you’re looking, you’ll see it.”


Now, said effects artist said that the buttholes were not intentional, which I find hard to believe. Can one really produce endless feline buttholes by accident? Whatever the case, it fell upon the shoulders of ‘one poor, unfortunate soul [who] was subsequently hired to squeegee them out.’

Unfortunately, buttholes were the least of their problems. That so-called ‘digital fur technology’ was more trouble than its worth. One source who spoke to Bradley described the working conditions as ‘almost slavery’, with some working 90-hour weeks for several months. Some colleagues slept under their desks rather than go home because there was simply no time. It didn’t help that their boss had no idea what he was doing. Shock horror, Tom Hooper allegedly had no idea how animation worked. He would reportedly send ‘crew members individual emails denigrating their work. (Hooper and distributor Universal Pictures did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)’

How inept was he? According to sources, he didn’t even know what preview renderings were. When he was allegedly shown any sort of visual effects, he would say things like, ‘“What’s this garbage?” and “I don’t understand— where’s the fur?”’ if they weren’t fully rendered. That process takes months of work. No wonder the staff had to commit to unfeasible hours. The source also said that Hooper, described as ‘horrible,’ ‘disrespectful,’ ‘demeaning,’ and ‘condescending,’ would make utterly bonkers demands. One instance has to be seen to be believed:


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.”


You know, I did wonder while watching Cats if Hooper knew what an actual cat looked like. This confirms that he definitely didn’t. That explains a lot.

Hooper’s ineptitude and the completely stupid demands he made for the style and effects of Cats meant that this film was always going to be terrible. Not one decision made sense, from the ‘digital fur technology’ to the terrible cinematography to turning an ensemble piece into a star vehicle for the likes of Rebel Wilson and James Corden (both of whom tried to mock the movie at this year’s Oscars as a way to gain cool points.) Reportedly, ‘it took the team six months to produce the film’s two-minute trailer’ and ‘roughly four months remained to complete the entire film. Visual effects supervisors were the only members of the team who met with Hooper—and by the end of production, Cats had burned through multiple.’ This terrible idea was made all the more so by a dictatorial director who had no idea what he was doing and the continued degradation of the VFX industry’s workers.

VFX workers are notoriously overworked and underpaid, forced into a non-unionized system where studios force effects companies to down bid one another and work for non-existent profit margins. Some of the biggest movies of the past few years had lavish, beautiful effects done by talented people forced to work up to 100 hours a week for less than minimum wage, only for them to lose their jobs because the VFX houses can’t afford to stay open. Some workers just don’t get paid at all. In February 2019, it was reported that a VFX team involved with the multi-Oscar-winning movie Bohemian Rhapsody had yet to be paid, even as the film grossed close to $1 billion worldwide.

Imagine being part of that draconian system, then imagine doing all that while the guy who thought letting Russell Crowe sing live on film was a good idea lectures you about how cats don’t dance and how you’re the idiot because he doesn’t know what a bloody semi-rendered image is. If there’s any justice in the world, Tom Hooper would never direct again. Of course, he’s a white dude with an Oscar so expect his glossy period drama comeback vehicle in like five years time.

And bring back the buttholes, you cowards!



Kayleigh is a features writer for Pajiba. You can follow her on Twitter or listen to her podcast, The Hollywood Read.


Header Image Source: YouTube // Universal


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