Banjo the Woodpile Cat

Banjo the Woodpile Cat is a 1979 American animated short film directed by Don Bluth.[3] It follows the story of Banjo, an overly curious and rebellious kitten who, after getting into trouble for falling from a house to see if he could land on his feet, runs away from his woodpile home in his owners' farm in Payson, Utah by catching a truck to Salt Lake City.[4] Produced on a shoestring budget, and created in Bluth's garage, the film took four years to make and it was the first production of Don Bluth Productions, later Sullivan Bluth Studios.[5] It premiered theatrically on November 16, 1979, and at the USA Film Festival one year later on March 28, 1980. It was released on DVD by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment on May 20, 2014.[6][7]

Banjo the Woodpile Cat
Original theatrical poster
Directed byDon Bluth
Story byDon Bluth
Toby Bluth (both unc.)
Produced byDon Bluth[1]
Gary Goldman
John Pomeroy
StarringScatman Crothers
Beah Richards[2]
Sparky Marcus
Ken Sansom
CinematographyRob Maine
Edited bySam Horta
Music byRobert F. Brunner
Animation byDon Bluth
Gary Goldman
John Pomeroy
Release date
Running time
26 minutes
CountryUnited States

Plot edit

In a woodpile on a farm in Payson, Utah, a rambunctious orange kitten named Banjo constantly makes mischief, to his family's dismay. After Banjo disobeys his father's warnings of learning to mind Banjo's little sisters and, after one of Banjo's stunts nearly gets his little sisters killed, Banjo's father prepares to spank the kitten and orders Banjo to retrieve the switch that will be used against him; Banjo instead runs away. He hitches a ride on a feed truck to Salt Lake City.[8]

In the big city, Banjo finds excitement at first, but soon he causes a massive traffic accident. He eventually retreats to the alleys, homesick and hungry during a thunderstorm. Another cat named Crazy Legs discovers Banjo and offers to help him find his way back home. During their search one snowy night, Crazy Legs and Banjo come to a nightclub and enlist the help of more cats, including a singing cat trio (Cleo, Melina and Zazu). Later that night, while searching for the truck that could take him back to the farm, Banjo and Crazy Legs are chased by a pack of dogs. The pair barely escape and end up at the singing cats' home for the night.

The next morning, Banjo wakes up and hears the driver of the truck out in the street. The cats rejoice and say many goodbyes before Banjo gets on the truck and eventually reunites with his family, who are happy to see him home.

Cast edit

Additional voices edit

  • Jerry Harper as Freeman (Feed Truck Driver)
  • Ken Sansom as Farmer / Warehouse Man / Papa Cat
  • Ann E. Beasley as Jean
  • Robin Muir as Emily
  • Georgette Rampone as Mama Cat / Cleo / Melina

Singers edit

Production edit

This film was started as a side project, while Don Bluth was still working at Walt Disney Productions. Bluth had previously considered producing a short film based on the fairy tale The Pied Piper of Hamelin, but felt that it was too large a production. He invited several other young animators to his house on nights and weekends to discover secrets of classical animation that he felt had been lost at Disney. The team worked in Bluth's garage.[5] Bluth, and animators such as Gary Goldman, felt that Disney were only attempting to reduce the cost of films without paying attention to any artistic values.[9] Eventually he resigned from Disney, along with 17 other animators, to finish this film and begin The Secret of NIMH. That bold walk-out caused a delay in the release of Disney's The Fox and the Hound which was still in mid-production. The story is partially based on one of Don Bluth's real-life experiences: while living on a farm, his family's cat, who lived in a woodpile nearby, disappeared, only to return to the farm several weeks later.

During the filming stage, it was considered to become a feature film. It included a fleshed-out villain: a scarred, cigar-smoking cat named Rocko, who bears similarities to Warren T. Rat (from An American Tail) and Carface Caruthers (from All Dogs Go to Heaven). A termite that saves Banjo from a group of young children in Salt Lake City later became Digit in An American Tail. The tone of the film was darker and more akin to All Dogs Go to Heaven, and the climactic battle between Crazy Legs and Rocko was inspired by Disney's The Jungle Book. However, it was found that padding the film and adding darker elements did not strengthen the storyline, so the filmmakers kept the film as a short.

It was considered to be made into a Christmas special, and would have featured live-action scenes of Sparky Marcus talking to Santa Claus, and the animation would have more of a Christmas theme. Don Bluth recalled: "We forced Christmas into it, and it didn't work". Despite this claim, Crazy Legs briefly wearing the Santa Claus suit, the wintry landscapes, and decorations, are still evident in the final film.

Don Bluth pitched this film, during pre-production, to then-studio head Ron W. Miller, as a future property for Disney. Seeing no value in it, Miller turned it down.

The rain and snow effects seen in this film are re-used live-action passes, thrown away by the Disney studio, in favor of cheaper and faster techniques.

Spin-off edit

A Dragon's Lair-esque version of the film under the name Banjo the Woodpile Cat Adventure Game was developed and released on the iPhone and iPod Touch by Iconic Apps in March 2009.[10]

Future edit

Although there has been interest in a revival of the film and characters, including a sequel Banjo Meets the King of the Goblins, Bluth has stated that he so far wishes to leave the film behind.[11]

References edit

  1. ^ Cartoons Considered For An Academy Award – 1979 | Cartoon Research
  2. ^ Behind The Voice Actors
  3. ^ Woolery, George W. (1989). Animated TV Specials: The Complete Directory to the First Twenty-Five Years, 1962-1987. Scarecrow Press. pp. 25–26. ISBN 0-8108-2198-2. Retrieved 27 March 2020.
  4. ^ Common Sense Media
  5. ^ a b "Don Bluth Walkout". Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Banjo the Woodpile Cat Hits DVD | Animation World Network
  8. ^ Markstein, Don. "Banjo the Woodpile Cat". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Retrieved 1 April 2020.
  9. ^ "Banjo, the Woodpile Cat". 28 February 2009. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  10. ^ "IPhone Apps - Don Bluth's Banjo the Woodpile Cat Adventure Game | Apptism". Archived from the original on 2009-06-22. Retrieved 2009-03-18.
  11. ^ "Don Bluth Banjo". Retrieved 21 December 2017.

External links edit