A clear signal to this film was the very first scene ... a full moon
with a brisk wind outside. Something clearly was in store for the cat,
who was let out for the night (first title explanation). With no milk
in the bottle, the cat limps onto the picket fence with his sluggish
moves and meows before getting struck by a shoe that blindfolds it.
The cat runs feverishly off the end of the fence and summersaults his
way into a wooden water bucket.
After drying itself off, the cat hears a mockingbird chirping on
the weathervane of a house. (Although already in existence, little did
Disney realize that the Three Stooges were only 3 years away from short-subject
legacy.) The cat sneaks on top of the roof, trying to attack the mockingbird
from the blind side. The cat grabs the bird's rear while wrapping his
tail around the weathervane as the bird tries to fly away. Eventually,
the feathers get plucked off, the cat falls off the house, bringing
the weathervane with it. This time, the cat's really OUT (second title
explanation) by getting hit square in the head by the top of the weathervane
and taking more than eight of its nine lives. (The ninth life was saved
by his tail grabbing the ghost in the nick of time, but keep in mind
that since the cat is "out", it's dreamtime, and the cat is going to
pay dearly for this.)
The bird is mad at the cat, growing to four times the cat's size.
The cat tries to punch away, only to multiply the problem sixfold ...
now, six birds surround this poor cat, similarly reminding it of what
he did to the poor bird. The birds eventually disappear, but the cat
finds itself in a spooky forest with at least eight owls and two very
ugly ground creatures coming from the bottom of the trees. Needless
to say, it sure scared the wits out of the cat. Even the water pump
soaks the cat, causing it to roll on a bucket until it crashed on a
I make no bones (really?) about it, but this "Silly Symphony"
lived up to its name as the scarecrow dances in the "look mom, no
pants" part of the film. It then multiplied fourfold into a similar
style of The
Skeleton Dance used two years earlier. A bat then spreads his wings
and dances on the support of the scarecrow. With that, the cat throws
a pumpkin at the scarecrow and seemingly endless bats come flying in
its direction. There was still no escape when the cat's next predicament
occurred: this time six spiders surround this poor creature and eventually
pounce on it! Luckily, a small hole in the fence proved to be the cat's
friend that time.
Finally, the cat tried to find comfort by jumping on personified
trees ... just as bad as jumping on a cactus. In the cat's case, it
was nearly digested by both trees during a tree squabble! As the trees
were beating the cat senseless, the bird reappears to seemingly get
the last laugh. At that point, the dream ends.
It's now morning back at the ranch, and the cat was asleep ... seemingly
comforted with two wide tree branches with leaves as covers. The cat
awakens, but this time his mood is a complete 180 compared to the night
before. It eventually returns to the owner's house, this time with bottled
milk on the porch. Unfortunately, the cat loses again as the owner takes
the milk and throws the cat out ... again. Hey - it doesn't matter now
... the cat could care less.
As has been noted elsewhere, the title has a double meaning. The short begins with the titular cat being let out of the house for the evening, where he sits on the front porch and begins caterwauling. The cat soon hops on top of a fence to serenade the night, which should bring to mind Garfield cartoons for modern viewers.
The second meaning of the title, though, becomes clear in the next sequence. The cat scales a nearby barn when he hears a bird chirping in competition with his singing. In an ill fated attempt to capture and eat the bird, the cat lunges forward and misses.
He falls off the barn, and the weather vane that the bird was perched on falls down to conk the cat on his head. This gives us the second meaning of the title. The cat is “out,” as in he’s not waking up. The cat’s nine lives float up to heaven, with wings and harps, until the cat’s tail involuntarily lassoes the last one and forces it back in. This is an oft-repeated gag in cartoons, but it’s done well here.
From that point forward, the short becomes the cat’s dream world, as he is menaced by a variety of creatures. It starts with the bird he threatened becoming three times the cat’s size, and waving its missing tail feathers at him. From there, though, things get even crazier.
We get a scarecrow’s clothes dancing all by itself, even splitting into four separate pieces to dance side by side, in a scene reminiscent of Ub Iwerks’ work on
The Skeleton Dance. There’s so much more, though. We get all sorts of fun pieces, like large spiders, similar to the ones that appeared in
Hell’s Bells or
Midnight in a Toy Shop. The spiders bat the cat back and forth, run along behind him and combine into one giant spider.
The final sequence features the cat being passed back and forth by a couple of sentient trees. They “eat” the cat then pull him out of their “eye,” which is really a hole in the tree. When the trees are spanking him alternately, the cat wakes from his fever dream, and returns home.
The madcap adventures of the cat after his blow to the head are amazing. It’s not especially innovative or new, but the way things flow and the fun to it is something to behold. The persecution of the cat reminds me of the way Pluto will be attacked later in the Mickey shorts in
Pluto’s Judgment Day.
The Cat’s Out, though, is a very good work as part of the Silly Symphonies, and deserves kudos for being different than the other 1931 shorts so far.
It's interesting that Mother Goose Melodies, with all it's singing and storybook characters, seemed to be ushering a new era or songful, classic story cartoons. Instead it stands out as an early indicator of things to come but, in this era, a unique experiment in the Silly Symphonies where all other entries rely on action to music with no sung lyrics. Still,
The Cat's Out has a slightly different flavor to
Busy Beavers and
The China Plate, with it's cat character and spooky theme.
Some animation is borrowed from previous spooky short. Most obvious is the rooster from
The Skeleton Dance, but I've seen that
animation of the flying bats before (thinks they were in