Cat Burglar

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Cat Burglar
Promotional poster, depicting Rowdy (left) and Peanut (right).
Directed byJames Bowman
Written by
Produced by
Starring
Music byChristopher Willis
Production
companies
Distributed byNetflix
Release date
  • 22 February 2022 (2022-02-22)
Running time
Variable; approx. 15 minutes[1]
Countries
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
LanguageEnglish

Cat Burglar is a 2022 animated interactive film created by Charlie Brooker and co-written by supervising director Mike Hollingsworth and director James Bowman, with Annabel Jones as an executive producer. Debuting on Netflix on 22 February 2022, the viewer plays as a cartoon cat burglar named Rowdy who is trying to steal a valuable artwork from a museum which is being protected by a security guard dog named Peanut. The viewer must answer a series of trivia questions correctly in order to advance the story, and avoid Rowdy losing his three remaining lives. The film pays homage to the works of animator Tex Avery.

It was nominated for two Children's and Family Emmy Awards, including one for Outstanding Interactive Media. The soundtrack's composer, Christopher Willis, won the Outstanding Music Direction and Composition for an Animated Program category.[2]

Plot[edit]

Rowdy (James Adomian), a feline burglar, learns that a museum is displaying a valuable artwork which he decides to steal. Peanut (Alan Lee), the museum's canine security guard, is ordered by the museum's director (Trevor Devall) to protect the artwork from being stolen. The story sees Rowdy attempting to break into the museum and successfully steal the painting without being caught by Peanut, which is done by the viewer answering a series of trivia questions. Every time the viewer gets the questions right, the story progresses. Wrong answers lead to Rowdy losing one of his three remaining lives—a montage shows him losing six lives prior to the burglary. The cartoon ends when either Rowdy successfully steals the artwork and wins, or when Rowdy runs out of lives and loses.

Voice cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The film was released on 22 February 2022. According to Netflix, the typical runtime is 15 minutes, and the film offers around 90 minutes of animation depending on the viewer's route through the story.[3] The film consists of several hundred segments; the animation, sound effects and music required dovetailing so that each path between segments progresses seamlessly.[4] With Christopher Willis in charge of music, the soundtrack was performed by a London orchestra of 40 musicians.[5]

Cat Burglar was the first production by Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones's production company Broke and Bones since it was acquired by Netflix. The pair were previously involved in interactive fiction in the 2018 special Bandersnatch, part of the science fiction anthology series Black Mirror.[6] Though a fan of the genre, Brooker had not previously worked in animation.[4] Mike Hollingsworth served as Supervising Director. It was inspired by the animated shorts made by Tex Avery for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). Hollingsworth was a fan and named his child "Avery" after the "King of Cartoons", while Brooker liked the "timeless, surreal anarchy" of the cartoons, which were "smart and brutal and subversive".[5] Ideas for animation, such as the style of Rowdy's death, were primarily pitched by Hollingsworth and James Bowman, and then refined or rejected.[4] Brooker pushed for a high level of violence in the cartoon.[5]

Brooker's previous experience with interactive fiction led him to be wary of complicated story paths. He was interested in the viewer determining the storyline outcome indirectly, rather than through direct choices as with Bandersnatch.[5] He arrived at the idea of a skill-based game, like those in the franchise Dragon's Lair. The questions in Cat Burglar are intended to emphasize speed of answering over knowledge.[4] The interactive work was the first by Netflix to incorporate trivia, preceding the April 2022 game Trivia Quest, an adaptation of Trivia Crack with episodic trivia questions framed within a narrative story.[7] The animation was done by Boulder Media.[1]

Reception[edit]

Cat Burglar received generally positive reviews. Stuart Jeffries gave it 4 out of 5 stars in The Guardian, praising the music and the homages to classic cartoons.[8] Lauren O'Neill of i also gave Cat Burglar 4 out of 5 stars, liking the interactive elements which make the viewer less passive in comparison to most streamed television.[9] Caroline Framke of Variety enjoyed the interactive aspects, saying that it was tempting to mess up to see what kind of twists the show would take.[10] Ed Power of The Daily Telegraph, however, was more critical, giving it 3 out of 5 stars, liking the animation, but feeling frustrated by the interactive elements, arguing that they felt "tacked on".[11]

Accolades[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2022
1st Children's and Family Emmy Awards Outstanding Interactive Media Cat Burglar Nominated [12]
Outstanding Music Direction and Composition for an Animated Program Christopher Willis Won

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Richardson, Jay (22 February 2022). "Charlie Brooker interactive cartoon Cat Burglar coming to Netflix". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 22 February 2022.
  2. ^ ‘The Quest,’ ‘Heartstopper,’ ‘Maya and the Three’ among 2022 Children’s & Family Creative Arts Emmy winners - AwardsWatch
  3. ^ Moss, Molly (22 February 2022). "What is Cat Burglar on Netflix? Release date for Charlie Brooker interactive animation". Radio Times. Retrieved 22 February 2022.
  4. ^ a b c d Guttmann, Graeme (23 February 2022). "Charlie Brooker & Mike Hollingsworth Interview: Cat Burglar". Screen Rant. Retrieved 5 March 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d Zachary, Brandon (21 February 2022). "Cat Burglar EPs Discuss Bringing Interactivity to Tex Avery-Style Animation". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 5 March 2022.
  6. ^ Williams, Zoe (21 February 2022). "Charlie Brooker: 'Mr Dystopia? That makes me sound like a wrestler'". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 February 2022.
  7. ^ Keck, Catie (3 March 2022). "Netflix is launching a daily trivia series called Trivia Quest". The Verge. Retrieved 5 March 2022.
  8. ^ Jeffries, Stuart (22 February 2022). "Cat Burglar review – Charlie Brooker's note-perfect nostalgia trip for cartoon fetishists". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 February 2022.
  9. ^ O'Neill, Lauren (22 February 2022). "Cat Burglar, Netflix, review: More to Charlie Brooker's interactive cartoon than meets the eye". i. Retrieved 22 February 2022.
  10. ^ Framke, Caroline (22 February 2022). "'Cat Burglar,' Netflix's New Interactive Cartoon From 'Black Mirror' and 'BoJack Horseman' Producers, Is a Wacky Good Time: TV Review". Variety. Retrieved 22 February 2022.
  11. ^ Power, Ed (22 February 2022). "A superb pastiche of Looney Tunes with an iffy video game tacked on: is this really the future of TV?". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 22 February 2022.
  12. ^ White, Abbey (10 December 2022). "Creative Arts Children's & Family Emmy Awards: 'Maya and the Three,' 'Sneakerella' Among Winners". Hollywood Reporter.

External links[edit]