“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.
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.”