A Year in Shorts Day 234: "The Cat Came Back"
Oh, the National Film Board of Canada. Where would be without them? I don’t know for sure what the answer is, aside from some place which is infinitely poorer. (And, presumably, less Canadian.) We’ve covered a fair number of NFBC shorts over the past eight months (eight months!), and we will continue to do so for as long as our Year in Shorts continues. And I mean that sincerely, I’ve got the rest of the year planned out in advance and our second to last entry is going to be an NFBC short. Regardless, let’s take a look at 1988’s The Cat Came Back.
In many ways, The Cat Came Back almost functions as a "Greatest Hits" of sorts for the NFBC. It's directed by Cordell Barker, who brought us Strange Invaders, a film which also dealt with an invasive nuisance that wouldn't leave someone's home. In that short it was aliens who represented the protagonist's fear of fatherhood. In this short it's a yellow cat who represents cats. Much like Blackfly, The Cat Came Back is based on a popular song which provides the film's soundtrack. This film has the scratchy animation style seen in shorts like The Big Snit, as well as the abrasive, random sense of humor that's present in... well, most NFBC cartoons we've covered, actually. And finally this film has one important thing in common with La Salla- it's pretty fucking annoying!
Now, to be fair, The Cat Came Back is nowhere near as obnoxious as that film was. Few films are, or ever could be. Nevertheless, The Cat Came Back makes a fatal error which takes it from amusing to irritating- it's too damn long. While the titular song is cute and catchy enough, it's a fairly short little tune. So, naturally, the film has to repeat it a few times to make a short of any proper length. That's understandable. What's less understandable, however, is why the short had to be eight minutes long. As funny as it is to see poor Mr. Johnson come up with new and exciting ways to murder a cat (which, to be fair, is pretty funny), it doesn't take long for the song to overstay its welcome and, by extension, the short. While the film has its charms, I don't think they come close to outweighing having that song stuck in my head all day. Or all week. All month? All year?! I'll be honest- I first watched this short over a year ago and it's never left my head. It's so aggravating.
But perhaps I'm alone in that; the short certainly has its fans. Enough to warrant an Oscar, after all, and to gain itself a spot on that 50 Greatest Cartoons list we've covered. (Tin Toy, which won the Oscar that year, couldn't manage that.) And I suppose I can see why; everyone loves cartoon violence, the cat is very cute, and the animation style is certainly distinctive, even I personally find it fairly unpleasant to watch. So if you're a fan of this film, more power to you. Hopefully it proves a comfort to you as the song haunts you all the way to the grave!
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