Ever since I began this site, it has been one of my goals to provide some insight into the production of Cats Don’t Dance and the many talents that helped bring it all about. The first in what I hope will become a series of  ‘cat chats’ begins with an interview with

I had the great fortune to be contacted by Ms. Faust and since then the idea of an ‘interview’ seemed a natural venue for sharing her thoughts and experiences as part of the CDD Sawyer team. I must admit it was a thrill for me as I’d been acquainted with some of Laurens parody art in my ‘Kitty Letter’ copies. I think she had some fun with this too, lucky for us!

Of course the best way to start I always say ..is at the beginning. So, a  little background music if you please?

For those aspiring animators out there, what was your educational background and artistic influences?

 I moved out to California right after I graduated from high school to attend California Institute of the Arts (CALARTS) in 1992.  Though I had intended to graduate, I was offered my job on CDD after only 2 1/2 years there.  As for influences, I was pretty obsessed with cartoons and comic books since I can remember.  I was glued to TV every day after school and every Saturday morning throughout my childhood. So whatever was on all throughout the eighties definitely had SOME impact on me.  I liked the Archie comics my Mom bought me, but I also used to sneak into my older brother's room to read his superhero comics.  Most specifically I remember watching Lady and the Tramp and Sleeping Beauty over and over again with my 5 year old brother when I was in high school.  Around that same time the Little Mermaid came out.  I don't know what force in the universe could have stopped a 15 year old girl who was into animation from loving that movie.  It was those films that made me want to animate. I also read a lot of X-men comics, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Calvin and Hobbes and as I got older, Love and Rockets, Tank Girl and tons of other underground comics.  Kind of a wide range, come to think
of it.

 When did you join Turner Features, early or late in production?

 Spring of '95.  I was very fortunate that Turner Features was willing to hire kids right out of school, and that my former teacher, Kevin Johnson, recommended me.

 Was CDD your first feature production work?

 Yes.  My only previous experience was 3 months of character layout for MTV's The Maxx.  Nowadays I'm co-writing and storyboarding for the upcoming Powerpuff Girls feature.

 How was it that you came to be assigned to Sawyer? Why not say, Danny or Pudge?

 I was actually hired as an animation assistant on Danny.  I was supposed to animate tails and extra stuff the animators didn't have time for. But, lucky me, they were short on Danny stuff for me and gave me some Sawyer stuff.  Soon they gave me some choice dialogue scenes and I guess they liked what I did 'cause they kept me on the Sawyer crew!!

 Did you find Sawyer to be a challenging character? Did you find the 'style' of CDD easy to work in?

 Yes and no.  It was definitely challenging for me because I was essentially cutting my animation teeth on this character. But easy because she was such an ideal character for me!!  Her design was the way I was naturally inclined to draw (once I got the hang of her), unlike the IG (Iron Giant)  characters which were difficult to draw 'til the very end.  She was such an unusually deep female lead at that time, and I really got to sink my teeth into her personality-wise!  And Mark and Lenny were very open to my suggestions.  I hope I can animate such a cynical chick again in the future.  Most animated girls are too idealistic and perfect (in a shallow way) for my tastes.  

Yes, Mark Dindal directed CDD and Lennie Graves was the lead of 'team Sawyer' wasn't he? What guidelines did they give you regarding her character?

 They really wanted Sawyer to be elegant and sophisticated, always graceful. Lennie was very sure to keep this idea even in her design.  All the lines flow together very easily--hardly any angles, all curves. I thought that was great contrast to her hard attitude.  She was this soft, plush looking character who was actually very hard and cold (at first, anyway!) But to be sure people liked her, they wanted glimpses of sympathy to show through all her cynicism and sarcasm.   

 What scenes did you animate and which were your favorites?

You asked for it.......

"..unless you mean the glamour of filing...the romance of typing!  Tillie, what are you doing?"

Sawyer picking papers up from the office floor while Farley's bugging her.

"Oh I'll do it...Ever since he tap danced into town he's been nothing but trouble!"

Sawyer looking out from the fire escape at animals below, then falling and getting all frizzy, then quickly fixing herself up.
(that was my idea.. tee hee!)

"L. B. Mammoth!  Head of Mammoth Studios?"

Scene with Sawyer in foreground after Danny says "so were you, just a few minutes ago.."

"Well, well, well, (something I forget) costumes... I don't know, something smells fishy."

Sawyer as Danny says "Your life isn't back there in that office...it's here."

Sawyer on the ark saying "'Your life isn't back there in that office' he says...'dance with me,' he says...blah blah.... no offence Herb"
(I did Danny there, too) 

Sawyer stirring her tea

Sawyer in robe and curlers (also my idea...please pardon my bragging..)
Danny and Sawyer singing “Take four and twenty blackbirds and bake 'em in a pie"  (got my mitts on Danny again, here.  This one is definitely one of my favorites.  It was fun to animate them dancing together!!)

Tiny tiny tiny Sawyer singing "Ye-ah ye-ah, ye-ah ye-ah, yeah yeah yeah" at end of finale. It's hardly worth mentioning since it's so microscopic, but I like the way it turned out and it was super fun.

And by FAR my favorites:

"Well now let's see, go to premiere...check.  Land a big part.....check. Get the..... girl?  CHECK!"
(And I'm also proud to say that that last particular line was my idea!!

The scenes with the checklist at the end are by far my favorites.  Cute and flirty!!

 I forgot to mention before that I animated Sawyer when she grabs Danny's hand from behind the curtain at the premiere and says "We're all behind you Danny...100%.......don't let 'em go Tillie."  That's another scene that lost a little with the voice change.

 Voice change for Sawyer? Who else had tried her before Jasmine Guy, if you remember?

 All I remember about the original voice actress was that her first name was Nancy.  "Giles" seems to be ringing a bell, but I'm not sure. She had a
really awesome deep voice that added a lot of attitude to Sawyer.  I think they decided that she sounded too mature.  I personally liked the contrast
with up-beat, naive Danny.  Also the idea that Danny would end up with an older woman! Scandalous!

In the end, some scenes turned out a little less than satisfactory for me.  Every single Sawyer scene was animated to a different actress.  They
decided they wanted a different voice and recast with Jasmine Guy when the movie was 90% done.  The slight inflection difference in the ADR sometimes ruined our acting.  The scene of Sawyer yelling at Danny on the ark is a perfect example of that.

 What was the most difficult scene?

 The most difficult scene was the one Danny and Sawyer dancing scene I got to do.  It's also one of my favorites.

 What made it difficult?

 In all the spots that the two characters are touching and moving together, they had to be animated on one level.  That means that both characters were drawn on one piece of paper.  But in a few spots, one character is still and the other is moving, in which case, they were on separate levels (each character on it's own piece of paper) to avoid having to trace the still character over and over.  There were even some instances where the characters were on two separate levels, but the still character had one body part (say a tail or an arm) that was still moving.  In those instances ANOTHER level was added on.  So the scene is constantly changing the amount of levels.  It isn't really so difficult as it is tedious and hard to coordinate.  It gets to be pretty complicated, but it's actually done quite often in animation.

 Were there any scenes you did that got cut?

 Lucky for me, nothing I did got cut.  I did get to experience that feeling on IG, though.

 It's been said this film was truly a labor of love to most of those involved. If there was ever a sequel given the green light, would you want to be there?

 If the rest of the crew is there, so am I!  But I'm sorry to say that the chances of that happening are pretty slim. This movie holds very personal meaning to me and some of the work I did on it is my best.  My sensibilities lent themselves much more to Cats' style than IG.  Unfortunately, CDD is unappreciated even in this industry.  It's a thrill for me that someone's interested to know. 

 Your current work is storyboarding on PowerPuff  Girls,  and I know I saw you in the Iron Giant lineup too. What else has been keeping you busy since your CDD days?

 After CDD I did a little work for Quest for Camelot, but I like to pretend I had nothing to do with that film.  But after that I got to work on Iron Giant and that was a wonderful experience!!  Brad Bird handled the animation differently than most films.  Crews were determined by sequence, which was headed by one sequence director.  Each artist animated each character in his or her scene.  My crew handled mostly Hogarth and Annie.  I got to do a little Dean as well.

I've been tossing around the idea of doing comics for many years now too, just looking for a big block of time.  In the next few months I'll be pitching some ideas for television shows to Cartoon Network---wish me luck!

We do indeed! And hope to see your name in lights soon!  Many thanks from all of us for sharing.

Added 6/04: Want to see Laurens latest venture? Click here and go galaxy hopping!

If you would like to ask Lauren a question, or just say Hi, you can reach her at laurenfaust@earthlink.net

Footnote: screengrabs provided courtesy of Luke.