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CATS AND DOGS: REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE

Animals, Animatronics and Computer Animation
"When I say ‘Wag your tail,' you ask ‘How hard?'”

With the exception of bird-brained Seamus and Kitty's fearsome henchcat, Paws, the film's leading four-legged roles are all played by flesh-and-fur animals—in combination with their animatronic doppelgangers and computer animation. Nevertheless, Andrew Lazar says, "Audiences shouldn't be aware of what's real and what isn't. The technology has advanced in leaps and bounds since the effects in "Cats & Dogs” which were cutting-edge a decade ago.”

"Every shot has its complexity, with multiple layers requiring follow-up, so it's been a fairly labor-intensive effort,” says Peyton of the project's inherent challenges. "But that also meant I had more toys to play with.”

Though often claiming that he has little patience, the director's commitment, plus his experience in stop-motion animation, suggests otherwise. In an unexpected way, that background proved helpful for his first time working with animals—the starting point for the entire process. "Animation teaches you to think through all the aspects of a scene in a way you don't need to think about when directing people. People are aware of their eye-lines and motivation, they process the scene on their own; whereas, with animated characters and, I've learned, with animals, you have to do all of that for them.”

However, he acknowledges, the rewards are enormous, especially in that many of the film's stars and supporting players were former shelter animals that he and renowned animal trainer Boone Narr discovered. Among those that Narr adopted and coached for the film are the tuxedo cat that plays Tab Lazenby, one of the Shepherds cast as Diggs, two Sheepdogs that tag-teamed as Sam, and four very sociable grey cats of unknown breed that rotated in the Catherine role after being found sharing a cage at a pet expo in Southern California.

"I was amazed at how well the cats take direction,” Peyton says. "If I put my cat on a leash, he'd just stare at me. Boone's cats walk on leash, stay, and hit their marks. I was a little wary at first about what to expect. He said, ‘We can get just as much from a cat as we can from a dog,' and I thought, ‘Yeah, sure.' But it's absolutely true.”

"A big surprise for me was seeing how one of the dogs playing Diggs looked disappointed at break time. He seemed sincerely bummed out that he wasn't being called to the set,” says Johnsen.

Narr and his 20-member team trained approximately 100 animals for the film, under the supervision of an American Humane Association rep and according to guidelines that his company, Boone's Animals for Hollywood, helped to establish.

Chris O'Donnell, whose character shares scenes with Diggs, recalled the old adage about never working with children or animals, saying, "My first shot involved a baby and a dog. The dog has to go over to a crib, pull a blanket up over the baby and walk away, and all I have to do is say a line. I'm thinking, ‘the baby is perfect, the dog is perfect…if I can't get this right on the first take I'm going to look really bad.' It was a lot of pressure!”

Animatronic effects supervisor Dave Barclay, a "Cats & Dogs” alumnus, considers his creations stunt doubles for the animal actors that can step in to accomplish the physically impossible. For the hero dog Diggs, he says, "The puppet has a plug under his chest so I can lie on the floor and reach my arm up into his head. Also, there are rods in his head so he can be controlled by puppeteers that will be in the shot but later removed by the digital crew.”

His most complex creature was the puppet for Mr. Tinkles, which Barclay calls "the most sophisticated animatronic cat every built.” Using a technique he invented, called the Outabody System, consisting of as many as 80 input channels and 76 cables connecting the puppet's face to a computer keyboard,<

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