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''Hocus Pocus'' uses a fake cat

”Hocus Pocus” uses a fake cat — Disney animators used computers to design the 3D talking feline

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A horse is a horse, of course, of course, but what’s a talking cat? Binx, the witches’ feline familiar in the Disney comedy Hocus Pocus, isn’t really a live animal at all. Says the film’s director, Kenny Ortega, ”I knew we could improve upon Mr. Ed, but to what degree I wasn’t sure.”

Early attempts, from a costly animatronic feline to hand-animating a mouth on footage of a real cat, looked too artificial to be convincing. So Bert Terreri, of the Los Angeles F/X house Rhythm & Hues, and cat animation supervisor Chris Bailey, from Disney’s feature animation department, used computers to design a three-dimensional cat head based on a plaster model. They used a process called ”texture mapping” to drop in lifelike eyes, whiskers, and a new mouth — complete with computer-generated teeth and tongue. Having seen Hocus Pocus with two preview audiences, Terreri is satisfied that Binx ”doesn’t look like a robot or a cartoon.”

If only it were so easy to control the critics’ mouths…