Why ‘Cats’ Shouldn’t Win the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects

Two major films hit theaters today: Cats and Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. Both are huge studio movies that have garnered a lot of public opinions even before screenings began. And the former may even be up for an Academy Award in 2020. But here’s why, regardless of what you think of Cats, it shouldn’t win (or even be nominated for) this specific award.

‘Cats’ debuts in theaters Dec. 20, 2019

The world premiere of 'Cats'
The world premiere of ‘Cats’ | Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

One of the most talked-about films of the year, if not the decade, is Cats. The big-screen adaptation of the acclaimed Broadway musical was a long time coming, first announced at Universal back in 2013. But things didn’t really kick off until 2016 when Tom Hooper came on as director. Casting took place in 2018 and filming in 2018-2019.

The flick is a star-studded event to be sure. The mostly British cast features James Corden, Judi Dench, Idris Elba, and Ian McKellen. Americans Jason Derulo, Jennifer Hudson, and Taylor Swift are also part of the cast, as are a number of dancers, including Francesca Hayward, Steven McRae, and the duo Les Twins.

It has been harshly criticized

With such an incredible cast and the high stands of adapting a Tony-winning legendary production, there have been a lot of eyes on Cats from the very beginning. The trailer nearly broke the internet, and words like “bizarre” and “bonkers” were frequently used. And that didn’t change with the film’s release.

Critics who attended the Dec. 16 premiere and subsequent early screenings had much to say. Many of their reviews were very harsh, and most mocked everything from the visual effects to the performances. Let’s just say there are a lot of strong feelings here.

The Academy put ‘Cats’ on the shortlist for Best Visual Effects

The day of the premiere (at which it was revealed that the movie had been only just recently finished), the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented its shortlists in several categories. These are the handful of options from which the Academy will vote on before officially revealing the nominees for the 2020 Oscars.

None of the most popular categories, like the acting awards or “Best Picture,” are among those which the Academy shared with the public. However, one that was revealed is the list of the ten potential nominees for Best Visual Effects. And Cats is among them.

VFX Company MPC was involved

Beyond all of the complaints about the film (visual effects and beyond), there’s another factor here that’s arguably more important. One prominent visual effects company, MPC, recently shut down its Vancouver office, laying off the staff there after they were allegedly forced to work “with no days off weeks straight with plenty of 17+ [hour] shifts thrown in the mix” on major projects.

According to industry publication Cartoon Brew, one of the recent projects the Vancouver team worked on was Cats. “Sources tell Cartoon Brew that Cats was not slated for MPC Vancouver, but the studio stepped in to help Technicolor sister company Mill Film finish up the production.” Other notable 2019 projects include Pokémon Detective Pikachu and The Lion King, the latter of which is also on the Academy’s shortlist.

Why ‘Cats’ shouldn’t get the Oscar

If might be difficult for those outside the industry to understand why we take issue with this. Here’s the bottom line: You know how long it takes when you sit through the credits of a Marvel or similarly big-budget film? That’s because there are so many people who work behind-the-scenes on these movies. Numerous companies work on visual effects alone, and MPC is just one of them.

Therefore, if the Oscar goes to Cats for Best Visual Effects, the people who receive it are likely to be the film’s visual effects supervisor(s), who are the people who dole out these tasks to different companies. If they earn this award off the work of these laborers who were put through tireless hours and then subsequently fired, would that really be right? We can only hope the Academy will consider this when voting.