In 1939, Danny, an optimistic young cat, dreams of Hollywood stardom, so he travels from his hometown of Kokomo, Indiana, to Hollywood in hopes of starting a career there. After meeting a new friend Pudge, Danny is selected by agent Farley Wink to feature in a film that is in production at Mammoth Pictures called Li’l Ark Angel, alongside Wink’s secretary: A white cat named Sawyer. Upon joining fellow animals; Tilly, Cranston, Frances, and T.W., Danny is dismayed on learning how minor his role is and tries to weasel his way into more time in the spotlight. Danny angers Darla Dimple, a popular, extremely spoiled child actress and star of the film, so she assigns her butler Max to intimidate Danny into no longer trying to enlarge his part.
Danny learns from the studio’s mascot Woolie the Mammoth, that human actors are normally given more important roles than animals. He longs for the spotlight and tries to make a plan that will encourage humans to provide animal actors with better scenarios, such as by assembling a massive cluster of animals and putting on a musical performance for the humans.
Later, Danny is given advice by Darla through song on how to interest and satisfy audiences. He takes this information to heart and groups the animals for an audition on the Ark in hopes of attracting the humans’ attention. However, Darla, fearing that the animals will jeopardize her spotlight, has Max help her flood the stage, while L.B. Mammoth, the head of Mammoth Pictures, and Flanagan, the film’s director, are giving an interview, getting the animals blamed and dismissed for the collateral damage. The animals are depressed at being barred from acting in Mammoth Pictures (especially Danny, who was convinced by Darla that she was trying to help the animals). Woolie tells Danny to return to Kokomo. Later that night, everyone was at a diner, upset with Danny for ruining everything for them, while Sawyer sings a song about Danny trying to keep their dreams alive. Tilly overhears Sawyer singing and suggests Sawyer to follow Danny. Sawyer arrives to the bus stop, just seconds after Danny left, finding his hat and his to-do list behind.
However, after a comment from the bus driver and seeing Pudge wander the streets, Danny stops the bus and comes up with another plan. He secretly invites Sawyer and the others to the premiere of Lil’ Ark Angel. After the screening and a battle with Max that sends him flying away on a Darla Dimple balloon, Danny calls the audience’s attention. Upon bringing Sawyer, Woolie, Tilly, Cranston, Pudge, Frances and T.W. backstage to help Danny, the eight animals put on a musical performance that entertains and impresses the viewers. Meanwhile, Darla tries to sabotage the show by tampering with the set and special effects equipment, but her attempts instead cause her to inadvertently enhance the performance.
Furious and fuming at the animals, Darla berates Danny, accidentally confessing to flooding Mammoth Studios when her voice is amplified over the theater’s sound system thanks to a boom mic she had been tangled up with, revealing the truth about the incident to the audience, including L.B. and Flanagan. Darla tries to hide her true colors by smiling, hugging, and kissing Danny, but Pudge sends Darla down a trapdoor. The animals achieve their dreams for larger roles, Danny and Sawyer admit their feelings for each other, and Darla is eventually forced to work as a janitor.