Caturday felid: The Internet Cat Video Film Festival, a reader report, and the winner!

On July 11, Greg Mayer posted an announcement of the upcoming Internet Cat Video Film Festival (ICVFF) in Minneapolis; it was to take place on August 30, and last exactly one hour (cat videos are short). I also asked any readers in the area who were attending to send a report. Well, we lucked out, and an ailurophilic reader went to the ICVFF and has provided a first-person report.

Before I present it, let me note that the ICVFF received huge media coverage: unlike the handful of people expected to turn out, nearly 10,000 people showed up, and there are long pieces about the screenings (and the winning video) in The New York Times, The Atlantic, HuffPo, and elsewhere (see the great slide show at boston.com).  As the NYT reports:

The crowd — easily double what organizers expected — packed the lawn outside the museum, spilling onto the sidewalks across the street. There were local cat lovers and out-of-state fans of Fluffy; many wore kitty-theme T-shirts or simply ears and whiskers. Some took real cats on leashes. A few dogs came, for irony.

They all settled in for a screening of cats behaving badly, or cutely, or mysteriously, sometimes all at once. That much of the audience had already seen the clips on YouTube did not seem to diminish the enthusiasm. Quite the contrary.

There were about 10,000 entries of which 79 were shown. (The entire playlist of those 79 is on YouTube at this link.) That’s a success rate of 0.79%, far more selective than Harvard University.  And one video, which I’ve shown before, was the paws-down winner. But first, the reader report (with links and photos), by Zach Buchan:

*****

My excellent adventure at the Internet Cat Video Film Festival

by Zach Buchan

On Thursday evening, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis (which is probably best known as the home of Spoonbridge and Cherry) held what was billed as the world’s first Internet Cat Video Film Festival. According to a speech given just beforehand by one of the organizers, when they first conceived of the idea they figured that it would turn out to be 18 people huddled around a laptop. Instead, they had somewhere around 5000 people [JAC: actually, twice this] packed onto the hill behind the museum, watching an hour of cat videos on a 20-foot-tall screen. They also worried about finding enough cat videos to fill up an hour’s worth of time, but then the press attention surrounding the festival (including this very website) led to them getting ten thousand entries! They watched every one, which is the sort of job I wish I could get.

Part of the crowd (all photos by Zach)

The festival consisted of 79 videos broken up into nine different categories: Comedy, Drama, Foreign, Animated, Documentary, Musical, Art House, Lifetime Achievement, and People’s Choice. All were collected from YouTube, and they ranged from the extremely popular (Nyan Cat has 83 million views, Surprised Kitty has 64 million) to the extremely obscure. Purring Face, which competed in the Art House category, only had 71 views at the time of submission. Island Cat, from the Musical category, had 47.

It would be difficult to pick out a favorite just from audience reaction. There was a huge round of applause when Stalking Cat (Drama) finally reached his target. Keyboard Cat (Lifetime Achievement) and Simon’s Cat (Animated) were also very popular. But those are also some of the most viewed internet cat videos of all time, so people may have just been reacting to old favorites. The biggest laugh for a little-viewed video was probably for Little Cat Provokes Big Cat (Drama), which only has 14,000 views, but which deserves more.

The least popular are much easier to find. The whole Art House category was poorly received. There were really some weird videos in that one. Slow Motion Kitten is interesting, but is two minutes long, and really seemed to drag. Schoenberg is a decent composer, but atonal classical music as played by cats was mostly just confusing. The Art House category concluded with a video called Cat Puke (don’t worry – there’s no actual puking involved), which was apparently edited especially for the event. It was extremely unpopular, as evidenced by the number of people you could see checking their cell phones.

The evening concluded with the awarding of the first ever Golden Kitty award to the winner of the People’s Choice category. Will Braden was there in person to collect for his video Henri 2, Paw de Deux. It’s a wonderful video which tells the story of one cat’s existential ennui. Going in, I thought there’d never be a cat video I loved more than a Maru one (Maru was represented twice at the festival, once in Foreign and then again in People’s Choice), but I was wrong. Henri 2 is really just that good.

If you were unfortunate enough to not be able to attend, you can watch the whole show on the Walker’s YouTube stream, and then tweet your favorite nominee for a “Best In Show” prize. Details, including a complete list of the entries, can be found here. Turnout for the event was so overwhelmingly high that I’m sure they’ll do another one next year. Buy your plane tickets now, and be sure to shop for your Sky Mall Kitties!

*****

Thanks to Zach for this report, and the many readers who wrote in and sent me links.  And now, the winner, which you’ve seen here before, “Henri 2: Paw de Deux”:

And here’s a question I’d like to post to readers.  In the U.S., at least, dogs are about as popular as cats for pets.  Yet cat videos, not dog videos, have become the internet phenomenon. There is no dog as famous as Maru, no dog video film festival.  Why, do you suppose, is that?

33 Comments

  1. Posted September 1, 2012 at 4:26 am | Permalink

    toxoplasma gondii

  2. Grania Spingies
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 4:30 am | Permalink

    Truly, Western Civilization is at its zenith.

  3. Ørjan
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 4:42 am | Permalink

    Regarding why cat videos are more popular than dog videos, I think it has to do with the fact that dogs are used for things. Not only service animals and the like, either; dogs are taught to fetch slippers and newspapers (at least in the movies, but they do this sometimes in real life too), you can play fetch with them, they love to walk with you…

    A cat isn’t supposed to DO anything (apart from kill mice, but they do that while you sleep, so there’s not much to see). So when they, through some quirk of fate, actually do something, it’s far more interesting.

  4. Posted September 1, 2012 at 5:00 am | Permalink

    Wow – good question (why less canine videos?). My thoughts I guess would be perhaps dogs are more predictable – the amusing things they do tend to be when they are trained (did you catch Pudsey – the dog that won Britain’s Got Talent tv program? Is this something to do with their being pack animals?)rather that displaying natural, but perhaps misplaced predatory behaviours? Are cats more inventive and cunning when they want something – they don’t just bark? Sounds (purring) are more soothing that visual displays of happiness (tail wagging)? Cats seem more playful (agile?) – the line between dogs fighting and playing is more difficult to distinguish. We perceive cats to be more complex, sophisticated, cunning and manipulative than dogs – which we often consider to have quite simple emotional responses – see this classic dog/cat diary comparison: http://mattgunn.wordpress.com/2007/04/18/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-dog-cat/ All that said, my boyfriend’s sister Anna has a dog a friend of mine rescued along with the rest of her litter and mum from Greece called Zorba and she recently posted a video on bookface of the dog jumping on the trampoline with her 8 year daughter, haring in a circle round the garden and repeating several times. And I recently took a video of a dog we met on a beach whilst waiting for a ferry that my boyfriend threw a stone for that he brought back, but wouldn’t give back but would sit staring at Rich until he looked at me at which point it would thwack him with a paw. Hilaire. Although perhaps some of my earlier theories are borne out as there was also a cat sat looking on very superciliously at the trampolining dog and the dog did look pretty dumb. If very amusing. Is that it then – humans think cats are clever and dogs are dumb?

    • Tim
      Posted September 1, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      Is that it then – humans think cats are clever and dogs are dumb?

      Let’s hope you never have to rely on a seeing-eye cat.

      • Posted September 3, 2012 at 2:11 am | Permalink

        The point is perception. Dogs are smart enough to appear dumb, while cats don’t have the intelligence to get that far. It’s like the uncanny valley of IQ.

    • RFW
      Posted September 1, 2012 at 8:13 am | Permalink

      That’s an odder picture than perhaps you realize. Pakistan is a (mostly) Moslem country and Islam views dogs as impure and polluting.

  5. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    Obviously cats are better opportunists in general, why wouldn’t it translate to the web? =D

    More seriously, web trends can be multifactorial. If it is pervasive, it can be simpler. If that is the case, I would guess for the general viewer cats are more often prettier or cuter.

    There may also be the sense that dogs are owned, while cats own. No really, it should be easier for a third person to relate to cats and videos of cats without the baggage of strong ownership relations. (“Family videos”, et cetera.)

    Perhaps we need more cat statistics to say something profound though.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted September 1, 2012 at 6:19 am | Permalink

      Statistics as in, if cats are preferred by artists or other gifted individuals, the likelihood of better videos goes up.

  6. Michael Fisher
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    Answer: Enigmatic aloofness + toilet habits

  7. AndrewD
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    Has any one told PZ about these happenings in his back yard?
    I think he should be told.

    • RFW
      Posted September 1, 2012 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      P-zed was undoubtedly among the spectators, stroking one of the many kittehs he secretly harbors in his home. He feeds them almost exclusively on cat food made of cephalopods.

      What I don’t understand is why all these scruffy professors of biology fall for animals that are the epitome of elegance and suavity. You’d think some of that elegance would rub off where matters of dress and grooming are concerned, but no.

      Perhaps someone should send Mrs. P-zed a grooming brush as the first step in correcting her husband’s regrettable tendencies in the matter?

      Unfortunately, there is (as far as anyone knows) no Mrs. JAC to do the job in Chicago, but perhaps some publicly spirited students of biology could take up the task of sprucing The Honorable JAC up?

      • whyevolutionistrue
        Posted September 1, 2012 at 8:27 am | Permalink

        Thank you very much for your sartorial advice, but since it’s motivated by rudeness alone, I think I’ll ignore it.

  8. joe piecuch
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    “A cat isn’t supposed to DO anything…So when they…actually do something, it’s far more interesting.”

    i think this is an apt observation from orjan. there are plenty of entertaining dog videos around (swimming with porpoises! chasing sharks!), but dogs are generally more animated than cats and it’s not so out of the ordinary for them to do goofy stuff. i think dog people are less awed by their companions than are cat people, and i wonder whether that is at least in part to do with the mindboggling ommission of the fabulous ‘kittywood’ video from the finalists. nevertheless, henri 2 is a worthy winner.

  9. Rebecca Sparks
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Arguably Tillman the skateboarding dog was as famous back in the day-and he did get a commercial out of his internet fame.

    I would think part of it was that cat picture art became a self-perpetuating meme thanks to 4chan creating things like icanhascheezeburger and Caterday. With the early popularity of cat-focused pictures, it helped people post more pictures & videos of their cats. Dog pictures and vids are also popular (this last week I watched a dog take down Darth Vader http://www.themarysue.com/playful-dog-attacks-darth-vader/), but not as… perpetual I guess.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted September 1, 2012 at 8:02 am | Permalink

      From the YouTube comments section for that video:

      Dog-“I’ll never join you! You killed my owner!”
      Vader-“No Scruffy, I am your owner!”

  10. Marta
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    “Yet cat videos, not dog videos, have become the internet phenomenon. There is no dog as famous as Maru, no dog video film festival. Why, do you suppose, is that?

    Dis why:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Can_Has_Cheezburger%3F

  11. CDubya
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Cats are better film actors, I think, because they couldn’t care less about the camera. Dogs are better stage actors, though.

  12. IW
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    I’m sorry Professor Coyne but there is now definitive proof that dogs are smarter than cats. I offer for your consideration this You Tube video.

    The whole thing is hilarious, but the important and definitive documentation is the very last item, starting at 4:15.

    (Note tha the dog featured at 2:49 is clearely suffering from unfortunate mental problems – no doubt caused by cat infiltration – and is an outlier, not a mainstream data point).

  13. Nom de Plume
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    There is no dog as famous as Maru, no dog video film festival. Why, do you suppose, is that?

    I’ll give you my honest answer, even if people don’t like hearing it: it’s because dog lovers simply aren’t as obsessive as cat lovers. The love of cats is cult-like and all-consuming. I’ve rarely seen a dog person behave that way in real life, but I see it in cat people all the time. It’s like the time you posted a Richard Dawkins video, I forget what it was about. And your only comment at the end? “Hey, I think I spotted a cat in that video!”. I have to be honest here: that is weird.

    But having said all that, it’s obviously pretty harmless weirdness for the most part, and I myself am an “accommodationist”, without a preference. I find exclusivity boring in just about anything.

    • aspidoscelis
      Posted September 1, 2012 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      My experience, when it comes to owners interacting with the actual critters and not the online dynamics of cat vs. dog people, is pretty much the opposite. I’ve met a fair number of very obsessive dog owners, but only perhaps one or two obsessive cat owners. Some dog people want to take their dogs walking, for rides in the car, to parties, out shopping (even if just to be left in the car), to work, hiking, camping, etc. If you see them, anywhere, the dog’s not far away. Cat people don’t do that…

    • Posted September 1, 2012 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      “Dog lovers aren’t as obsessive as cat lovers” …I think you need to spend more time around dog owners, they can be a pretty crazy bunch. Have you seen “Best in Show”? Some of them are downright loopy in their obsessions.

  14. abrotherhoodofman
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Henri 2 is really just that good.

    Flawlessly brilliant, IMO.

    I think it’s simple. Cat behavior is strange, unpredictable, and fascinating. Dogs are as predictable as politicians and corporate bosses.

  15. Posted September 1, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    The most recent crowd estimates are around 10,000 people! We got stuck on the top of the hill and had to stand just to see the screen! It was an interesting crowd. I was surprised that so many people brought their pet cats. I was even more surprised by the large number of ironic beards. Who knew hipsters loved cats? I have a feeling if the Walker does this again next year it will get really crazy (think Burning Man for cat ladies).

  16. MadScientist
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    “There is no dog as famous as Maru, no dog video film festival. Why, do you suppose, is that?”

    That’s easy – dogs and their owners haven’t got a nagging feeling in the back of their heads that they have something to prove. Everyone already knows that dogs are awesome.

  17. Sputnik
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    “Yet cat videos, not dog videos, have become the internet phenomenon. There is no dog as famous as Maru, no dog video film festival. Why, do you suppose, is that?”

    I don’t think this is actually true. Dogs also seem pretty popular on the web, and interestingly, a quick search on Youtube brings quite a bit more video results for “dog”, “dogs”, and “funny dogs”, than “cat”, “cats”, or “funny cats”. Play views also seem comparable to cat videos. As far as famous dogs (or cats), I never really paid attention but a quick search gives plenty of results (including a film festival for dogs).

  18. Harbo
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    Cats are on the planet so we don’t have to look up “anthropomorphism” all the time.

  19. Nathan
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    Are there any praying cat videos?

  20. shazam
    Posted September 2, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    People are not fascinated by dogs but they have a rather unfortunate capacity to be fascinated by cats.

    A dog is your buddy that you can have a relationship with whereas a cat you can only stare at.

    Many people I’ve spoken to have a certain fantasy that the observations they make of domesticated felines are comparable to watching a leopard, cheetah, lion or tiger in the wild.

    They find this predatory side-show absorbing and picture themselves in khakis and a safari hat playing witness to wild instincts.

    They are attracted to this whereas I am appalled by it as cats are the number one killer of birds, rodents, insects and anything else they can catch.

  21. librarianguish
    Posted September 3, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    There’s always Cooking with Dog ~

    Cute, but the dog doesn’t do much! I think the point that cats do unexpected things now and then (rather than lying around like lumps most of the time) is quite valid. We expect very little of them, so when a brash act is caught on video we get very excited.


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