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The Jellicle Ball: Why CATS Might Be The New Rocky Horror Picture Show

Celebrating Universal's Horny Death Cult Movie the way it was meant to be celebrated.

Universal Pictures

Over the weekend in the city of Toronto, Anthony Oliveira - who is known for his writing in Cartoon Network's Steven Universe comics as well as an issue for Marvel featuring Loki, Wiccan and Hulkling - hosted a "Jellicle Ball" for the most viral flop of the past few years, the musical film CATS, as part of Revue Cinema’s Dumpster Raccoon Film Series, which focuses primarily on "trashy" cult classic films.

Both critically panned and commercially a failure, most people on the internet saw the writing on the wall for CATS from the first trailer, with its freakish "artistic" choice of pasting human faces onto CGI enhanced cat/human bodies becoming a viral terror and earning a 352k dislike to 135k like ratio as of writing. Oliveira saw the potential for this wild and wacky endeavour by Universal, and announced a "Jellicle Ball" event in which people could sing along to a close-captioned version of the film and various variety show acts could take the stage when the film's songs would start to play.

The film itself - remarkably well-made, but absurdly wrong-headed - lends itself to being mocked, but also enjoyed, with an energy that couldn't be matched by a traditionally quiet movie audience. This wasn't an issue in the Jellicle Ball, where open mockery, loud and energetic singing, cheering and jeering and applause, were all highly encouraged, with Oliveira and at least half the theatre, if not more, dressed in tacky and increasingly complex cat costumes.

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Some highlights of the Saturday evening showing included an opening in which a drag queen went from Jellicle Cat to Thundercat in a performance that netted thunderous applause; a group that encouraged a Jellicle Count in which someone presented a flip scoreboard counting every time the opening song said the word "Jellicle"; two strip teases, one of which happened during the Sexy Taylor Swift Cat sung Macavity and the other preceded by a full on tapdance during the (largely beloved) Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat tapdancing sequence, performed by a woman dressed as a cat paired with one dressed as a cardboard train;

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and people on mics singing over the film's music to the point that you couldn't tell what was the movie and what was the performer.

During one scene, someone jumped onstage with a tissue and tried to wipe away the snot that someone decided would be a good idea to keep on Jennifer Hudson's face the entire time.

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And lest we forget the giant puppet cardboard face of Judy Dench.

All in all, the Ball was chaotic and energetic and full of genuine enthusiasm for the film that went hand in hand with mockery. Embracing the absurdity of the film alongside its overall enjoyable and memorable soundtrack and undoubtedly impressive dancing, its equally impressive if less pitch perfect VFX, and immersive giant sets, this Ball provided a way to view the film the way it was meant to be viewed, and was directly inspired by the immortal success of interactive Rocky Horror Picture Shows.

And even if this wasn't the mega-hit Universal wanted, it might just be one of the most iconic films they've released to date, for all the wrong and right reasons - an immediate cult classic.

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Writer, artist, animator, video editor. Indie comics creator, looking to bring LGBTQ+ characters and Filipino culture into mainstream Western media. @MotzieD on Twitter. Originally from Quezon City, The Philippines. Currently based in Ontario, Canada. Independent writer/artist with multiple comics, a novel, etc. Works listed over at motziedapul.wixsite.com/work