The Hungarian cartoon that ironizes Hollywood blockbusters
I still remember when I was barely nine and my family watched the Macskafogó. I was so excited because it’s a cartoon but my relatives said “it’s not for kids” so I wasn’t allowed to watch it. And now I get why, because it’s really not designed for children.
“The Cat City” (Hungarian: “Macskafogó” (Cat Catcher) is a Hungarian-German-Canadian animated film released in 1986, directed by Béla Ternovszky, and produced by Kunz Román. The screenplay was written by József Nepp and the music was composed by Tamás Deák. The film was produced by Pannónia Filmstúdió and distributed by MOKÉP. It is a crime comedy film. It was released in cinemas in Hungary on October 2, 1986.
The animated film was a great success in Hungary and later abroad.
The film is an epochal piece of Hungarian mass cinema culture, its legendary characters and its dialogues, which have become a legend, have become a reference for all Hungarian viewers.
The action-comedy, set in the context of cat-and-mouse civilization, is an inversion of popular cinema. “Macskafogó” utilizes ironic elements of specific blockbusters, we can see for example the iconic Star Wars subtitle at the beginning or a supercar from James Bond. In addition to science fiction and spy films, it also incorporates parts of several other mainstream genres, such as war, disaster, exotic adventure, and vampire films.
Parodying James Bond films not yet shown in Hungary at the time, the “Macskafogó” is the intrepid super-agent mouse Grabowski, whose mission is to prevent the cats, organized in criminal syndicates, from wiping out the mice and to use the invention of a Japanese professor to bring the cats back to the right path. The master cat sends four assassin rodents, formerly ballet rats, after him, and the chase is on a cat-and-mouse duel.
The film was produced by foreign producers Joseph Sefel, a Hungarian-born Canadian, and Manfred Korytowski, head of Infafilm in Munich, at the Pannóna Film Factory‘s Studio II, a studio specializing in contract work, headed by producer Román Kunz. The lead designer of the characters was Zoltán Maros, whose role was taken over by Béla Ternovszky after he left the country for a job abroad.
After Maros‘ departure, József Gémes also joined the production of “The Cat City” as lead designer, who, in addition to the technical preparation of scenes requiring more complex camera movements, modeled certain movements, such as the appearance and half-turn of the cats’ submarine, using a program he had constructed himself in a Commodore 64.
The multifaceted parodic genre mix is a pioneer not only in the history of Hungarian animated films but also in the history of animated films in general.
The idea of combining genres and building on elements of mass culture, even provocative, typical of postmodern cinema, anticipates the audience-attracting strategies of Hollywood family animation films at the turn of the millennium.
In the first quarter after its release, “Macskafogó” was seen by more than 650 000 people in domestic cinemas and has since enjoyed a cult following in the country. Fans and critics have often understood the film’s bipolar world order as a political metaphor.
According to this interpretation, the gigantic cat-and-mouse conflict is a reference to the Cold War arms race between the superpowers.