"Cats" Will be a Movie--and a Cartoon

Project has long been a fur ball in Universal's throat

By Marcus Errico Oct 01, 1996 11:00 PMTags
After years of fits and starts, the movie version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats seemed like a distant "Memory."

Now it looks like the megahit musical is finally going to make it to the screen, as a full-length animated feature written by the folks who brought us Toy Story.

Producers said today that they still have no idea when the animated feline film will hit screens, though a spokesperson for Really Useful Films--the movie branch of Lloyd Webber's empire--did confirm that Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow are at work on the screenplay, and Phil Nibbelink and Dick Zondag will direct for Universal.

The cartoon Cats is rapidly approaching its ninth life at Universal. The studio has seen so many owners come and go that the film never got past the planning stages. The project finally seemed on track in 1994, when playwright Tom Stoppard had first crack at a screen version of the stage musical (adapted from some T.S. Eliot poems). At that point, Universal was counting on Steven Spielberg's Amblimation to team with Really Useful Films to make the movie, but that notion was scratched, so to speak, when Spielberg formed DreamWorks SKG. The date kept getting pushed back, from 1995 to 1997, and then the project got shelved.

Now Cohen and Sokolow--who received Oscar nominations for Toy Story--are reworking the Stoppard script. According to sources close to the production, a second draft is nearly finished, and storyboarding could begin within a month, the Hollywood Reporter said today.

Cats, the musical, has been playing since 1981 and has grossed more than $2 billion worldwide. It's already the longest-running musical in London's West End and next June will become the longevity champ on Broadway.

Grizabella devotees, take note. Even if you're one of the 48 million rabid cat fans who has seen the stage show, you still have one to look forward to when the kitties hit the screen: Lloyd Webber has written a new song just for the film.