Persian Cats: Famous Felines

Beautiful Persian cats are stars. See where these fluffy felines have appeared on screens big and small.

By Kelly Rae Hickman

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Duchess Persian Cat from Aristocats
Duchess, the Persian cat from Disney's "The Aristocats"
Persians are the celebrities of the cat world. Jennifer Lopez may don a mink stole, but Persians have a luxurious, fluffy coat all their own. Nicole Kidman exudes a certain air of class, but a Persian's dignified demeanor is unmatched. And Giselle may be the hottest supermodel on the runway, but, let's face it, the Persian's strut is beyond compare. There's a reason they call it the catwalk, you know! With all these elite qualities to spare, it's no wonder the breed continuously graces both the silver and small screen. Here's a look at some of Tinseltown's most famous feline stars.

Cartoon Kitties

Name: Duchess
Claim to Fame: The Aristocats
Synopsis: Set in 1900s France, Disney's The Aristocats--originally released in 1970--follows the lives of a wealthy family of cats: Duchess, a beautiful white Persian and her kittens, Marie, Berlioz and Toulouse. They live in a mansion with their owner, a retired opera singer, Madame Adelaide Bonfamille, and her butler, Edgar.

Insider Scoop: Duchess is voiced by Hungarian-born actress Eva Gabor, which gives the character an extra oomph of class--very true to the Persian's sleek style and primp personality.

Silver Screen Siren

Name: Sassy
Claim to Fame: Homeward Bound II: Lost In San Francisco
Synopsis: Disney's Homeward Bound II: Lost In San Francisco is the 1996 sequel to the 1993 hit Disney flick, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. It stars Shadow, a Golden Retriever (voiced by Ralph Waite), Chance, an American Bulldog (voiced by Michael J. Fox), and Sassy, a Himalayan (voiced by Sally Field).

Sassy's character remains true to her name--she is indeed sassy, playing the part of an obnoxiously self-assertive cat who at times can be helpful--but only when she wants to be, of course!

Insider Scoop: Talk about covering your paws--four American Bulldogs were used to play Chance, four Golden Retrievers played Shadow and six Himalayans played Sassy.

Oscar-worthy Purrformances

Name: Mr. Jinx
Claim to Fame: Meet the Parents (2000); Meet the Fockers (2004)
Synopsis: Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) endures a rather disastrous weekend when he goes to meet the parents of his girlfriend Pam (Teri Polo). Greg, a male nurse, wants to ask her father Jack's (Robert De Niro) permission to marry Pam, but things go from bad to worse when Greg's decidedly clumsy antics (from knocking over Jack's mother's remains to losing the family cat, Mr. Jinx) make him public enemy No.1. To make matters worse, Daddy Jack is an ex CIA operative whose sole mission is to prove that Greg doesn't have what it takes to be a part of the family circle.

Insider Scoop: The scene-stealing cat was played by a 2-year-old male seal-point Himalayan originally named Catzboutique Panda Bear. The cat was bred by Lavonne Zuver of Hacienda Heights, California, who was contacted by the studio in search of a seal-point Himalayan. “They said they wanted an adult that they felt was trainable,” recalls Zuver who raises Himalayans and Persians under the Catzboutique cattery name. “They came to my house to see him walk and listen to commands--they liked him.” Zuver says it was Mr. Jinx's personality that ultimately won the trainers over. “He was like a little person, as he seemed to understand exactly what you were saying.”

Name: Snowbell
Claim to Fame: Stuart Little; Stuart Little 2 (2002)
Synopsis: Released in 1999, Stuart Little follows The Littles, Fredrick (Hugh Laurie) and Eleanor (Geena Davis), who want to adopt another son into their family. Much to the dismay of their son George (Jonathan Lipnicki) and the family cat, a white Persian named Snowbell (voiced by Nathan Lane), the new Little is a talking mouse named Stuart (voiced by Michael J. Fox)!

A disappointed George is initially unwelcoming to his baby brother, while Snowbell does everything in his power to get rid of his supposed mouse master. An unforgettable scene from the film includes Snowbell scooping Stuart into his mouth while Eleanor and Fredrick force him to let go.

Insider Scoop: Many fans agree that it was Snowbell who stole every scene in the movie. For that, you can thank head trainer Mark Harden of Boone's Animals for Hollywood, an animal training facility based in Castaic, California.

“Cats are great to work with on-set because many people don't expect much from them,” Harden explains. “They have us believing they're so aloof and untrainable. Not so.”

According to Harden, who also worked on the 2002 sequel Stuart Little 2, “The part of Snowbell required a variety of cats to flesh out the character and to achieve the personality arc he went through during the telling of the story.”

The lead cat was a 5-year-old Persian named Prince, who passed away in 2006. “He was a slow moving, deliberate fellow and worked out perfectly for the close-ups and slow ‘walk and talks' with Stuart,” Harden recalls.

When it came to the action sequences, Harden says the team relied on two males, Ruffy and Tuffy. “They became the go-to guys for all the action shots,” he says. The fourth and final cat used in the film was Rocky. “He was trained to run to the sound of a buzzer from one point to another,” Harden says.

Commercial Appeal

Name: Jerry and Gimmel
Claim to Fame: Fancy Feast advertisements
Synopsis: One of my favorite Fancy Feast commercials of all time goes something like this: A woman sits with her legs crisscrossed on her living-room floor, in a deep state of meditation. In prances her white, fluffy Persian--brushing up against her leg. She opens her eyes and scoops the cat into her arms. Perhaps the cat is telling her something? The words “Is it love?” flash on the screen. The woman stands up, goes into the kitchen and opens a can of Fancy Feast. Then “Or is it Fancy Feast?” appears on the screen. Next, the cat is seen happily eating his meal from a swanky crystal dish. Back to the living room. The woman continues her meditation unaffected as kitty hops onto her lap yet again.

Insider Scoop: For over 11 years, Fancy Feast has enticed viewers with their highly successful ad campaign in which a gorgeous, silver-shaded Persian graces the television screen or magazine page eating his favorite food: Fancy Feast.

The cat who plays the feline with an affinity for Fancy Feast is actually portrayed by two Persians, brothers Jerry and Gimmel. Both 12 years old in 2007, the cats are trained under the watchful eye of Rob Bloch, head trainer at Critters of the Cinema, an animal training facility in Lake Hughes, California. Bloch has been working with Jerry and Gimmel for 11 years and says that every Fancy Feast shoot (they've done 28 so far) is different from the next. “There is no such thing as a routine shoot,” he says.

Although Jerry and Gimmel are almost identical in looks, it seems that both Persians have two very different experiences with luck on the set. “Jerry seems to have a target on his back,” Bloch jokes. “But nothing has ever happened to Gimmel!”
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