Animation Cel-ebration
March 21, 2022 posted by Michael Lyons

Doggone Sweet: The 70th Anniversary of “Feed the Kitty”

“This is one of the few occasions when I have seen audiences cry in what is supposed to be – and is – a funny film.” – Chuck Jones on Feed the Kitty in his book, Chuck Reducks

Feed the Kitty is indeed that rarity among the Warner Bros. cartoon collection. It’s able to deftly combine the humor so closely associated with the studio’s most incredible shorts but also stirs a tremendous amount of heart into that recipe. Both the comedy and the emotion fit perfectly in the proceedings.

Seventy years after its debut, Feed the Kitty stands as one of Warner Bros. most fantastic cartoon shorts.

At the helm was legendary director Chuck Jones, who brings his ingenious, distinctive style to the story written by one of his regular collaborators, Michael Maltese.

Feed the Kitty opens with a pair of “cat eyes” inside a salmon can sitting outside near a fence, and we soon see that they belong to Pussyfoot, an unbelievably adorable kitten. After the kitten emerges, a large bulldog named Marc Antony comes ferociously barking up to Pussyfoot (woofs, meows, growls, and purrs of both characters provided by Mel Blanc).

The kitten is unfazed, and as the bulldog snarls, Pussyfoot nonchalantly climbs onto Marc Antony’s back, kneads his fur, and curls up for a nap. The bulldog smiles at the camera, Pussyfoot kisses Marc Antony, and the dog gingerly walks back home with the kitten on his back.

And so, Feed the Kitty introduces one of the most unique of relationships – what should be the start of a typical dog vs. cat “chase” cartoon showcases a hulking bulldog who cares for this kitten, like a child who found a stray cat and brought it home.

As it turns out, Marc Antony has a habit of bringing a lot of things home, to the chagrin of his owner (actress Bea Benaderet), so the bulldog goes to great lengths to hide the cat, which includes pretending that Pussyfoot is a wind-up toy.

Another attempt is to hide the kitten in a flour drawer, but then the owner decides to bake cookies. Marc Antony is distraught as he thinks that Pussyfoot has been baked, only to find out, (spoiler alert!), that not only is the little kitten alright, but his owner allows him to keep the cat.

Through the sight gags and physical comedy, the relationship between Marc Antony and Pussyfoot is the solid core that holds everything together. In just several minutes and with the absence of dialogue between the two characters, Jones and his team use animation in its purest form to convey rich performances.

During the early scenes in Feed the Kitty, Marc Antony wags his finger and looks to chastise Pussyfoot when the kitten is up to no good. In a beautiful example of personality animation, the furrowed brow then melts into a smile at how cute the kitten is.

So masterful is the animation in the short that, when Marc Antony thinks that Pussyfoot is baked as a cookie, the dog’s reactions as he watches through a window is perfect comedy worthy of the silent era. However, just moments later, when Marc Antony fears that the kitten is gone and the big bulldog breaks down sobbing, we as an audience immediately feel it deeply.

This beautiful roller coaster of emotions makes Feed the Kitty so special.

In 1994, the short was voted one of The 50 Greatest Cartoons (coming in at number thirty-six) in the book of the same name, edited by Jerry Beck.

It’s also been noted that a scene in Disney/Pixar’s 2001 blockbuster, Monsters, Inc. looks to have been inspired by Feed the Kitty. In the film, Sully thinks that the little girl Boo has been caught up in a factory’s machinery and the monster’s pantomime reactions are almost identical to Marc Antony’s. Side-by-side video comparisons on YouTube reveal this.

Released on February 2nd, 1952, Feed the Kitty is rightly considered a masterpiece, seventy years later.

The enduring legacy of the short is all thanks to the artistry behind it. As author Steve Schneider remarks of Feed the Kitty in the book The 50 Greatest Cartoons: “It’s a wonderful illustration of Jones’s notion that an animator is “an actor with a pencil,” and a convincing display of Jones’s use of the emotive power of drawing.”

17 Comments

  • “Feed the Kitty” is also noteworthy for its musical score. While Stalling, as always, used recognisable popular songs to highlight the jokes, the orchestration here is uncharacteristically spare and delicate, dominated by the violins and upper woodwinds. There is very little use of the brass, making the stingers all the more effective when they do happen. The brash, jazzy theme that plays over the opening title seems to belong to another cartoon. Maybe Stalling wrote it just to give the brass players something to do so they wouldn’t get bored and start blowing spitwads through their mouthpieces at the other musicians.

    While “Feed the Kitty” is a great cartoon, in some respects I find the later “Cat Feud” even funnier. Marc Antony is as tender and resourceful as ever, but he also gets to show his tough side thanks to an antagonist who really deserves what’s coming to him. That bit with the electromagnetic crane cracks me up every single time.

    • FTR, the song over the title cards is “Chittlin’ Switch”, which had been written a few years prior. The Carl Stalling version of the song was re-used in The Duxorcist/Daffy Duck’s Quackbusters as the Paranormalists at Large commercial music.

  • Another great Michael Maltese cartoon and Mel Blancs’ vocalizations of Marc Antony are wonderful.

  • “Feed the Kitty” is one of my all-time favorite cartoons. Like Tex Avery’s “Little Tinker,” it blends heart and humor perfectly. It’s definitely the most heart-warming of all the Looney Tunes. I’ve heard John Lasseter acknowledge that the trash compactor scene in “Monsters, Inc.” was an homage to “Feed the Kitty” (one of his favorite cartoons, too).

  • 70 years. ! ? ! ? !

    This thing is a carnival of facial expressions. Not rare for a Warner cartoon certainly; all the directors and animators packed a punch when it came to expression. But Jones’ units had that little extra something. I attribute this to his particular artistry and sense of character design.

    That couple of seconds when MA is walking off with a cookie on his back is among the greatest events in all of cinema history. Absolutely gut-wrenching.

    It’s supposed to be funny dammit! I’m not crying, you’re crying!

  • And yet, Eddie Selzer didn’t see fit to submit “Feed the Kitty” to the Academy for consideration….

    • Eddie was a schmuck!

  • I still think of this as a newer Warner toon. Okay, boomer …

    Recall a college showing. The pose of Marc Antony in the doorway was the biggest laugh of the evening — until the cookie comes into frame and his lip starts to quiver.

    Still waiting for video release of the one where Claude Cat joined the household. Claude tries to dispose of Pussyfoot, Marc pummels Claude at every opportunity, and Pussyfoot is mostly unaware Claude means him any harm.

  • This is my mother’s favorite of all the WB shorts (alongside ‘Robin Hood Daffy’ – go figure). One year for her birthday I made little plasticine models of Marc Antony and Pussyfoot, which she still keeps on the shelf in her house.

    I always considered the follow-ups a bit of a mixed bag. All of them go in for more typical WB speed and gags with varying success. I always considered ‘Feline Frame-Up’ (the one with Claude) to the be the best of the batch.

    • Do us a favor and get us photos of your models and post them here. I bet they’re great.

      • I genuinely appreciate the compliment, but I made them when I was about 10-12 years old and I usually have zero artistic ability so they would probably look rather crude.

        I’ll have to ask mom for pictures, but I don’t know if you can upload photos here.

  • The same way that the first Silly Symphonies were lessons/experiments (in timing, effects, character interaction, using the music, etc.) that led to greater things, Chuck Jones’ late 1930s-early ’40s “Disney cute” or “Sniffles” period–which animavens and cartooniacs tend to disparage–clearly led to “Feed the Kitty.” How can you hate, or even underrate, something that produces such wonderful results?

    • Indeed, and the very first time I saw this short I was expecting a typical WB gag ending where Marc Antony, after hearing his mistress tell him all the things he’ll be expected to do for his new pet, decides it just isn’t worth it and kicks the kitten out.

      The fact that Jones and Maltese didn’t go that route does seem to point back to Jones’ earlier efforts, and the film is all the more stronger for it.

    • I share your admiration for Chuck Jones and agree that much of his early work is underrated. But I have to evaluate each cartoon on its own merits, and the fact that Jones later created “Feed the Kitty” is no excuse for the likes of “Angel Puss”.

  • Greg Ford’s commentary on it is great.

  • Dialogue free Chuck Jones is my favorite Chuck Jones. I was lucky enough to have this cartoon in rotation on my local hosted after school cartoon show. I loved it then, and it’s still in my highest tier from Warner. And yes, first time I saw Monsters Inc, Feed the Kitty was exactly what came to mind.

  • I was very impressed when I read, years ago, that Chuck Jones thought all of the cookie routine in “Feed the Kitty” was “funny” – It was like Bill Tytla saying Dumbo’s scene with his mother was “funny”, or Bambi’s mother death was “funny”, or “The Old MIll”…. Perhaps one of the biggest judgement errors ever.

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