Sleeper Celluloid: Real Reviews of Fake Movies

Saving the Cat: How a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Biopic Became a Movie Called Internet Cat! and Why That’s Fucking Badass

Directors: Tom Waits, John Kricfalusi, Edgar Caquill. Screenplay: Werner Herzog, John Kricfalusi, Carly Caquill, Edgar Caquill. Cast: Hannibal Buress (voice), Maria Bamford (voice), Tiny Lister (voice), Werner Herzog (voice), David Crosby (voice), Stephen Stills (voice), Graham Nash (voice), Neil Young (voice) Joe Vitale (voice), Edgar Caquill (voice), Carly Caquill (voice).

The path between script and cinema is rarely a straight line in Hollywood, and the tale of how an abandoned 1988 biopic on Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young called Teach Your Children eventually hit video stores as an animated film called Internet Cat! is, for all intents and purposes, a typical Hollywood story.

In fall 1988, a biopic about Crosby, Stills & Nash gets greenlit, and at David Crosby’s insistence, Tom Waits is attached to direct. The deal was, David Crosby had been released from prison earlier in the year, and he planned to make “an emotionally raw, experimental film experience” about his attempts to reunite CSNY for a studio recording and tour. Three weeks into production, the studio head that approved the project gets axed, and the new studio head shelves the film, wanting to clear the books of all of his predecessor’s projects, lest any of them become unsuccessful, or worse, successful.

Years later, the new new studio head re-packages Teach Your Children, attaching John Kricfalusi, late of Ren & Stimpy, to direct and rewrite the script, which he did, turning it into a psychedelic animated feature about a cat who’s traveling with the band and gets separated from the tour in Los Angeles. One day into post-production, when the studio finally figured out that Kricfalusi only intended to include about five minutes of CSNY-related material in what was supposed to be part tour documentary, they put the kibosh on the project by slashing the post-production budget, and Kricfalusi quit.

Over twenty years later, an enterprising summer intern named Carly Lisondra bought the long-dormant option for one dollar, raised enough money on Kickstarter to hire a couple of known comedians and a veteran character actor to do ADR, shot new scenes with her boyfriend, and found enough in the hours of footage to make a seventy-five-minute animated feature about a cat who sets out to become famous on the internet. And do you know what? It’s pretty funny.

The story follows a Russian Blue cat named Reynold (Buress) who lives a safe but boring life as the “tour bus cat” for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Entranced by the hilarious cats that the band frequently watches on their laptops, Reynold dreams of a life of fame, and when the tour stops in Los Angeles, he conspires to make his escape to a cat show across town in the Santa Monica Convention Center, where he believes he’ll surely be discovered.

The morning of the show, the touring drummer (Vitale) leaves a bus window ajar, and Reynold makes a run for it. His path to Santa Monica is a by-the-book hero’s journey, encountering a sage in the form of a feral dog (Lister), a feline love interest (Bamford) and a local coyote looking for dinner (Waits, who agreed to come back to the project to voice this part, because “it sounded like fun”).

The classic end-of-Act 2 despair comes not at the hand of Tom Waits’s coyote, but a well-meaning pair of West Side liberals, (voiced by Carly Lisondra Caquill and her now-husband Edgar Caquill) who “rescue” Reynold off the streets about two blocks from the convention center, take him to get fixed, and put a chip in him. Reynold, in his attempts to communicate to them that he must be set free to make it to the cat show, is just so darn cute that the young couple starts taping him, and one of the clips blows up on YouTube.

Years pass, and at the end, a fat, sated, fixed Reynold sits atop a fancy cat tower, surrounded by cat toys, with an expression somewhere between Al Pacino’s at the end of Godfather Part II and Daniel Day-Lewis’s in There Will Be Blood. As the credits roll and the Crosby, Stills & Nash song “Wasted On The Way” begins, the lyrics “Look around me / I can see my life before me / Running rings around the way it used to be / I am older now / I have more than what I wanted” never sounded so tragic or so true.

On the heels of their success with Cat!, Carly and Edgar Caquill are apparently re-cutting John Cassavetes’s abandoned adaptation of The Crying Of Lot 49 (which featured Molly Ringwald as Oedipa Maas) into a children’s movie about a stamp-collecting dog named Genghis Cohen.

J. Ryan Stradal's writing has also appeared in Hobart, The Rattling Wall, The Rumpus, Midwestern Gothic, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, and The Nervous Breakdown, among other places. He also volunteers with students at 826LA, helps create products and materials for the Echo Park and Mar Vista Time Travel Marts, works in TV, and co-produces the literary/culinary series Hot Dish. His name has appeared one time in the credits of a feature film.