Wednesday, February 28, 2024

NYICFF ’24: Tabby McTat (short)

Everyone knows the bond between dogs and humans can transcend miles and even lifetimes (as in A Dog’s Purpose). In contrast, cats can largely take us or leave us. Still, a busker’s former cat remembers him well and even misses the street musician enough to search for him on the streets of London in Jac Hamman & Sarah Scrimgeour’s half-hour short Tabby McTat, the latest Magic Lantern & BBC-produced animated adaptation of Julia Donaldson’s children’s books, which screens during the 2024 New York International Children’sFilm Festival.

You can sort of think of this film as
Once for cats. Old Fred can busk up a storm, but he relies on Tabby McTat to chase off the pigeons and pull in the tipping audience. One fateful day, Fred is hospitalized, after he is separated from McTat while chasing the thief who made off with hat full of tips. Freezing on the streets, an elegant house feline convinces McTat to accept shelter with her cat-lady owners. Soon, McTat becomes part of the family, especially when their first litter of kittens arrives, but he remains haunted by memories of Fred.

Tabby McTat
is a bit of a departure from previous Donaldson films like Zog, Room on the Broom, and The Smed and the Smoos, because it is essentially set in the world that we know. Yet, that is partly why it is also one of the most endearing Magic Lantern adaptations to date.

This really is a truly heartwarming story. It is unabashedly kid-friendly, but there is also a fair degree of emotional complexity. The animation is also very expressive, while also capitalizing on the cinematic London backdrops. Rob Brydon returns as part of the voice-over cast, getting one of his biggest Magic Lantern roles thus far, providing the singing and speaking voice of good old Fred.

If you dig cats or buskers,
Tabby McTat will overcome your cool hipster façade and charm your pants off. It is great to see NYICFF continue to program each new Donaldson short. Even though she is not quite the brand name in America that she is in the UK, the Magic Lantern shorts are quality family entertainment and Tabby McTat is one of their best. Highly recommended, it screens 3/2, 3/10, 3/16, and 3/17, as part of the Shorts for Tots program at this year’s NYICFF.