Do the cats enjoy being on camera? Do they know that they're working?
Brauner: Oh, they totally know, they totally know when they're working. Reggie is our "hero cat," but all the cats contributed to the character, because we really try to use the best qualities and the things that each cat is good at, and that they can succeed at. Reggie knows when he's working. We'll do where he's walking with the characters or walking down a path, and, you know, he's a cat. Every now and then he gets distracted, it's like a dog with a squirrel. But then he'll realize it, and before we even go in and pick him up, he just goes back to his starting mark and goes, all right, let me try that again. It's like he just knows when we're working.
He's so professional!
Brauner: [Laughs.] And there were scenes in the film where we just let them relax in that spot, and maybe suggest that they just lay there for a bit. And then we just let them get bored and start rubbing and moving around, and that's when you get the most natural stuff. When they're in a mild "stay" but letting them cheat almost.
How was it introducing the cats to their human co-stars?
Brauner: It was an ongoing process. Before every shot, we would explain to the cats what was happening in the scene, and we always let them know what they had to do, but we also let them see what else was going on around them. The most important thing is that as long as they know what is going to happen, they're good. So that was a lot of what we did. So, for instance, when somebody had to go in and pick him up, we always had the actor go in, walk up, give him a few treats, pick him up. And when we were ready to roll, they just walk in without the treats and pick them up. And the cat's like, "oh, OK, maybe they'll give me a few treats next time." It's really just explaining to the cat what's going to happen, so that they're comfortable with it and they look great doing it.
It sounds similar to working with people, actually.
Brauner: It is! And we have to rehearse just like everybody else. The difference is we have to take the time to get the cats in, the set quiet, everybody where they're gonna be. We just gradually build the scene. And whatever we need to do among the actors, even a camera move, we'll let them see that: OK, this is gonna happen. We let them see it, and we give them treats when it goes by, and then they just start going, OK.
You make it sound so easy.
Brauner: Well. [Laughs] It's fun. And we've been doing it for a long time. It's fun for us and it's fun for them. We form the strongest bonds with our animals. It's really a combined effort, it's something that we do together, and we both know when we've done a great job.