"Cats": James Corden, Rebel Wilson "Cats": James Corden, Rebel Wilson

Two months after its release, Cats continues to make the fur fly.

The controversy over the film was renewed this week, after a skit during Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony poked fun at its much-maligned vfx. To present the award for best visual effects, two of its stars, James Corden and Rebel Wilson, appeared onstage in cat costumes and quipped, “Nobody more than us understands the importance of good visual effects.”

The incident provoked a backlash: people in the industry argued that the vfx artists themselves were not to blame for the film’s poor visual conception. Their grievances are encapsulated in a statement released by the Visual Effects Society (VES), republished here in full:

The Visual Effects Society is focused on recognizing, advancing, and honoring visual effects as an art form — and ensuring that the men and women working in vfx are properly valued.

Last night, in presenting the Academy Award for Outstanding Visual Effects, the producers chose to make visual effects the punchline, and suggested that bad vfx were to blame for the poor performance of the movie Cats. The best visual effects in the world will not compensate for a story told badly.

On a night that is all about honoring the work of talented artists, it is immensely disappointing that The Academy made visual effects the butt of a joke. It demeaned the global community of expert vfx practitioners doing outstanding, challenging, and visually stunning work to achieve the filmmakers’ vision.

Our artists, technicians, and innovators deserve respect for their remarkable contributions to filmed entertainment, and should not be presented as the all-too-convenient scapegoat in service for a laugh.

Moving forward, we hope that The Academy will properly honor the craft of visual effects — and all of the crafts, including cinematography and film editing — because we all deserve it.

The VES is the most prominent organization representing vfx practitioners, and its statement reflects the breadth of displeasure in the industry. The artists who worked on Cats had already suffered the indignity of overtime, as director Tom Hooper, an animation newbie, asked them to continue polishing the vfx after the film’s release. The relentless mockery for bad decisions made by others (director/producers/production designer/art director/studio executives) is salt in the wound.

Another example came during the VES’s own awards last month. Patton Oswalt, the host, joked, “The Star Wars franchise ended after 50 years, and after one screening, so did the Cats franchise. Isn’t that amazing? Were you guys on strike when they made that one? What was going on there? That movie was a screensaver designed to not give me a boner.”

Cats has performed catastrophically, both critically and at the box office. Reviews universally condemned the appearance of the cats, but also a range of other aspects, from the confusing cinematography to the lack of plot. According to calculations reported by Deadline, the film is set to lose at least $71 million.

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