September 13, 2009
I have very recently completed a workshop about cats, which is quite a coincidence as the following movie happens to be about the lithe and little furry felines.
Cats, whether you like it or hate it, inhabit our neighborhoods. They can be found living under cars, around garbage containers and gardens; they are the gypsies of the animal kingdom.
The purpose of the workshop arranged by Interruptions was to create a cat friendly city. It was a collaborative effort between architects, artists, designers and writers; and the three day exhibition that followed at Makan, where it was held, was a hit.
We created concepts, products and brands, and a media campaign befitting these majestic animals that were belittled by the unmerciful hands of time, however, Eddie White and Ari Gibson, two imaginative directors from Down Under, created a very animate cat city inhabited by animated cats.
This cat city exists within the cat-chy notes coming from The Cat Piano.
I stumbled upon this award winning animation starring anthropomorphic cats through a Facebook link posted by an acquaintance. Now, who says that Facebook is not a useful communication tool!
Based on a poem written by White the 8-minute Film Noiresque animated short was produced by The People’s Republic of Animation. Guess who is doing the reading? Nick Cave from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
The Cat Piano, basically an animated poetry reading accompanied by music and a very impressive one, follows a lonely beat poet cat, who finds himself stumbling upon a mystery that threatens the very existence and happiness of this cat haven laden with crooning cats, hooker cats, artist cats, strays and ordinary cats.
Cave’s voice, resonating with cynical and coarse masculinity, provides an ominous overture that is enhanced by Benjamin Speed’s lingering musical composition that is no less artistic and brilliant than the narration itself.
The original musical composition that comes out as a blend between jazz and oriental overtures, sizzled with percussions provide an ideal cadence for the poem. “Long ago my city’s luminous heart, beat with the song of four thousand cats / Crooners who shone in the moonlight mimicry of the spotlight / Jazz singers. Hip cats that went ‘Scat!’” the Beat Poet Cat proclaims.
Cave’s voice befits the beat poet’s, the main protagonist in this exceptional short. The poem by itself is quite musical thanks to White’s choice of vocabulary, alliteration and intelligent wordplay.
The cat piano, believe it or not, is for real and not a figment of White’s imagination. I found myself browsing the internet to know more about it. Apparently the cat piano, which is also known as a Katzenklavier, is a musical instrument that uses cats to produce music….or meowing.
The machination of this hellish instrument places a cat in a narrow compartment with its tail stretched out to its end. Attached to its keys are pointed hammers that pierce the tails of the confined cats when pressed.
It is believed that a German Jesuit Scholar by the name of Athanasius Kircher invented the Katzenklavier back in 1650.
The Cat Piano‘s storyline cleverly utilizes the concept of the Katzenklavier to address human cruelty towards animals from the viewpoint of a humanized cat.
“So you’ve heard of every instrument but? / Torn from your history books is this pianola, This harpsichord of harm. / The cruellest instrument to spawn from man’s grey cerebral soup,” the Beat Poet Cat continues.
Viewers will find themselves clinging to every word spewed by Cave and relating it to the passing imagery. The animation is more anime than conventional, which adds to the freshness of the narrated poem.
The short’s minimalistic visuals help focus the viewers’ attention to the bespoken narrative and characters involved. Keeping the backgrounds to a minimal was a brilliant choice, on part of Jason Pamment, the art director, and the directors, as the dark black to blue hue that shrouds the characters and cat city gives the short a dreamy feel.
White and Gibson left a few cinematic clues, for cinephiles that are found through the facades and personages of cat city, from movies like A Clockwork Orange and The Sound of Music. Pay attention to the fleeting backgrounds!
Intriguing, eerie and jovial are three words that describe the transition that this short undergoes, from soothing, contemplative and isolation, before reaching the grand finale.
I am glad that I have stumbled upon this extraordinary tail, which was created and executed by the highly imaginative writers, directors, animators, 3D visualists, colorists, musicians, sound designers and editors of The People’s Republic of Animation.
For more information about The Cat Piano and The People’s Republic of Animation visit: