Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Adventures of Milo and Otis (1989)



If you are seeking information about the treatment of animals that appeared in this film please read the first comment, which was left by a representative of the American Humane Association.

No, Miez und Mops was not the original version, but then neither was Milo and Otis! It was originally produced in Japan in 1986, and was known as Koneko Monogatari (A Kitten's Story) before it was re-edited and Dudley Moore's narration was added. My wife asked me if I wanted to watch it on the laptop courtesy of Netflix's Watch Now feature the other night and my first reaction was that I didn't want to waste 2 hours (it's actually 75 minutes) watching some corny Disney movie (it's neither) that I had already seen 20 years ago. I admitted that I loved it when I saw it as a kid but I didn't think I would be "into it" now. I was very wrong, and I urge you to see this film and if you've seen it already then see it again if it's been a while. I recently learned that it took 4 years to capture and edit these amazing scenes. I have never seen these kinds of interactions between different species anywhere else, even on cable TV. I sat there in awe wondering how they got the sea turtle to rescue Otis when he's stranded on a rock in the ocean, or how they got the deer or the cow or the pig (who also suckles him!) to snuggle up with Milo. There are some alarming posts on IMDB about rumors of several "Otises" getting killed during filming, about only 10 out of 30 "Milos" surviving (his scenes are a little bit rougher than Otis's), or about whether cats were thrown off cliffs into the ocean repeatedly until one of them survived and made it to shore. I wasn't able to verify any of these rumors (you won't be able to either) and the Wikipedia entry doesn't mention the alleged controversy. Some bloggers talk about a vast conspiracy that even involves a cover-up on the part of the American Humane Society (yeah, right). But until Errol Morris makes a documentary that investigates allegations of animal cruelty in Milo and Otis I will continue to love, share, and marvel at this incredible film.
IMDB

20 comments:

Jone said...

Milo & Otis was filmed in the mid 1980's and American Humane did not have jusrisdiction to monitor the animals in this movie as it was filmed in Japan. In the past two decades since the release of Milo & Otis, American Humane has made great strides in monitoring animals in film overseas and protecting their safety through the gold standard of our American Humane Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media. We currently act as a voice for the animals on over 1,000 productions each year and are able to post many of our animal-centric movie reviews on our website at www.americanhumane.org. Back in 1989, there was no website or public access internet, however American Humane did release a statement at that time referring to Milo & Otis that I will paste for you here:


At the time of this movies' release, American Humane released the following statement:

THE ADVENTURES OF MILO AND OTIS


The Adventures of Milo and Otis is a Japanese production released last year in the U.S. It is an epic fairytale about the friendship between an inquisitive cat and a dog. The only characters are animals. According to the production company, they all belonged to Hata, a zoologist and one of Japan's most noted authors of children’s books. According to information released on the film, Hata started developing what he calls "Mutsugoro's Animal Kingdom" on his private island where he has 300 animals including cats, dogs, horses, foxes, deer, raccoons, bears, and bison. He wanted to make a film about his animals, so he hired a crew to live on his island. They spent four years, and shot 400,000 feet of film, then spliced it and made it into a picture. Hata was also the writer and director of the film. Dudley Moore did the voice-over for the animals in the American version.


The main character is a cat (played by 27 different cats). The picture shows no animals being injured or harmed. However, before it was released in the United States, AHA heard rumors that some of the cats had died during the filming. We have attempted to investigate this through our contacts in Europe who normally have information on movies throughout the world. They had also heard the rumor, but were unable to verify it as being true. We have tried through humane people in Japan, and through another Japanese producers to determine if these rumors are true but everything has led to a dead end.


The picture was released in Japan in 1986. The following Japanese Humane Societies allowed their names to be used in connection with the picture:


Japan Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Japan Animal Welfare Society

Japan Animal Protection & Administration Society

Japan Veterinarian Medicine Associations

Japan Pets Association


We will continue to seek information and will notify you if we find something that substantiates the rumors. In the meantime, if you should obtain some concrete evidence of abuse, we would appreciate your advising us. Thank you.

scituate said...

I certainly wasn't suggesting that I believe any of the rumors, for the simple reason that they are still nothing more than rumors 20 years later. Thanks for posting the statement from AHA. It has a lot of information that was new to me. I am surprised that the part about Milo being played by 27 cats was true, and I'm also surprised that you found this post on such an obscure blog.

The Feline of Avenue B said...

I disagree with the statement by the AHA, as clearly animals were injured on-screen, for example: the crab scene? The beginning of your blog entry says there's a comment by a AHA representative which isn't true either, it's someone who has pasted a statement and given no references. Additionally, the article on wikipedia does cite the fact that there is controversy around the film. You may want to start checking your facts.

scituate said...

Actually, thanks to Site Meter, I know that the first comment was most definitely posted by someone working at the American Humane Film & Television Office in Sherman Oaks, CA. It doesn't really matter if it was copied from a previous statement and pasted here. It came from AHA. Was one of the cats who played Milo injured or harmed by the crab? We really don't know. I have been bitten by crabs many times but I wouldn't say that I have ever been injured or harmed by one. I'm sure it wasn't comfortable for the cat, but even if it was left with a scratch or a cut it doesn't really prove anything one way or the other about the larger controversy. It's just a nit-picking, semantic argument that is a distraction from the real question of whether or not animals had their lives intentionally sacrificed for the sake of the film. My position has always been that this is a very serious allegation that requires a lot more proof than anyone has so far been able to provide. As for the Wikipedia article, at the time of my original posting (5/18/08) it did not mention the controversy. You may want to start thinking these things through a little more.

Robert said...

Also on a little side note, I would hardly find it wise to quote wikipedia as ones source for factual evidence..... Its wikipedia

sara.camden said...

Here's an interesting blog posting I found about the film's creator - doesn't sound much like an animal killer to me - http://www.worldhop.com/Journals/J4/HATA.HTM
I've always loved this film, and hate the veil of controversy that surrounds it, but I certainly understand it based on some of the scenes and the degree of peril the animals would seemingly appear to be in. I just watched this movie today after probably 15 years, and my 2 year old keeps crying out of worry for the kitty - knowing that spcial effects were not so sophisticated back in the early 80s, it certainly leaves a cloud of doubt. I don't think we'll ever know the truth, so I am choosing to take the viewpoint of 'innocence until proven guilty' and let my kids watch it with the some awe and wonder I did as a young child.

scituate said...

Yes, I think your position is the only one that can really be defended successfully due to the lack of evidence suggesting anything truly amiss was going on. And people who have personally met Hata don't seem to be inclined to believe that he could kill animals just to get some good footage. Sure, maybe he let the crab bite Milo's nose, but people forget that American and Japanese ideas of acceptable pain and discomfort can differ wildly. Just look at their TV game shows.

Will said...

I sent an email to the AHA asking to confirm that the statement did indeed come from them and they confirmed it. You can read the entire email exchange on my blog.

scituate said...

To this day I have no idea how that AHA employee found my obscure blog but since then almost all of the traffic coming to this blog lands on this post.

momsomniac said...

This post is the top hit if you google "Milo and Otis controversy." Maybe that was true in '08 too?

I just watched this movie with my 5year old and I cried out twice with worry for the cat...so I was curious what was around about this movie. This is one of his favorite movies - he saw it first at a friend's house and I bought it for him. I had never seen it before. It is charming - plus, it answers the question "how do the babies USUALLY get out Mommy?"

scituate said...

Yeah, I think it was up there in '08 too. I just don't know how it got up there in the first place.

momsomniac said...

By the way, I am delighted to have found your blog. I like your reviews.

scituate said...

Thank you. I have been too busy lately to update with any regularity but I have a long list of films I'm trying to get to that appears on the right-hand side. Best thing to do is subscribe to the feed: http://decomposingdrivein.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default

Adam Zanzie said...

Just came by this blog, and I just want to thank that one person who supplied a link to the article about this film's director, Masanori Hata. I was wondering why he did not end up having a successful filmmaking career.

amber said...

Just a interesting thing but, I was watching this with my son and the cliff seen everyone says the cat was thrown off. Did anyone else notice that the waves as the cat is fall are NOT moving. which means it was added after the fact. They most likely filmed the cat falling from a counter on green screen then inserted the cliff latter. Though if anyone get the chance you should view the Japanese version of this show alot different. I would suggest that parents view Koneko Monogatari (Japanese version) before letting their kids see it. Koneko Monogatari was made for an more adults than kids. It is very good but I have to say The Adventures of Milo and Otis Is the better of the two films. If you go on to youtube you are able to view some of the deleted scenes that were removed from the show when it was Americanized. It really is kinda dark.

David said...

The movie is a Sadean catalogue of animal atrocities. Watch it closely (esp. the dog vs bear scene and the cat vs snake and cat vs seagulls and cat flung off a cliff into the ocean scenes) and then try to justify it as entertainment. Animals were definitely harmed and very probably killed in the making of this film. Try rationalising how that cat survived in the ocean, and I will give you a "Gullible Moron" certificate for your very own. And then maybe throw you off a cliff and film it.

scituate said...

David,

Thank you for posting. I think we all agree that many of the scenes appear to have been very dangerous situations for the animals to have been involved in. However, as Jone from American Humane tells us, there is simply no concrete evidence to suggest that they were not filmed with the utmost of care or that animals were seriously injured or killed. Let me know if you have some specific information that the rest of us don't.

Mike

JDWB's Blog said...

i belive that was the best movie ever that i seen i own 15 of them. the humane societys can kiss my booty i dont care what thay say there was 0 animals heart in the film.

cocacola13 said...

I just watched this movie for the first time in like 20 years. I never knew this movie had animal cruelty controversy until now. I guess i was too young to think of it. I sure hope none were harmed :/

state parks said...

Wow, the controversy that won't quit. Though there may not be any concrete evidence that animals were harmed or killed during filming, and probably never will be, it's abundantly clear that animals were endangered during filming.
Having just watched the outtakes, there is clear and concrete evidence that a terrified cat fell or was thrown from a cliff into the ocean. That evidence is concrete and incontrovertible.
I suppose this could have been a stunt kitten, who knowingly took the leap for the sake of art and money, but I sincerely doubt it.