Why You Should Watch Milo and Otis
When I was a kid, there were a lot of movies I would watch over and over again. Space Jam was one of the big ones, as was The Pagemaster and Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. None of those movies, however, could hold a candle to The Adventures of Milo and Otis. I lost count of how many times I watched this movie, to the point that my brothers still poke fun at me, decades later, for my obsession. A few years ago, my wife purchased a copy for my birthday and I was eager to re-watch it as an adult to see if the magic was still there. I’m glad that I did as it revealed a deep rooted love of journeys that heavily influences what I write and watch today.
The plot of Milo and Otis is relatively straightforward. Two animals are born, a pug dog and a tabby cat, who become instant friends. They play games like hide and seek and are entrusted with simple tasks by the other farm animals, like caring for a chicken egg which later hatches and thinks Otis is its mommy. However their adventure really begins when Milo (the cat) gets stuck in a wooden box that is floating down stream. Otis attempts to rescue his friend, but soon they become separated. The remainder of the movie is the journey of each animal as they try to find their friend and a way home. The entire film uses real animals so there isn’t any creepy computer animation or puppet work when they talk and all of it is expertly narrated by Dudley Moore. Overall it is a very sweet story about friendship and the trials of growing up and having a family. It’s one that can be enjoyed by both children and adults, though I can understand why adults might get sick of it after the 100th viewing.
I've also included links for my other childhood favorite movies. This one is Homeward Bound, another animal journey that's fun for all ages.
This one is Space Jam; a live action/cartoon mix starring Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny. I must have watched this movie five times a day as a kid.
And this last one is the Pagemaster; another live action/cartoon mix about a boy who goes on an adventure with three different talking books!
Though it might sound odd, there is a link between Milo and Otis and the other movies I mentioned above (Space Jam, The Pagemaster and Homeward Bound). All of them involve a long journey. We start with characters that are either unlikely heroes, or have a lot left to learn about themselves. We then follow them through an epic journey of trials and changes, to emerge at the end stronger and more experienced than where we started. Though I didn’t know it at the time, this would be the core type of story that would indicate the type of writer I would become. Since I first started writing stories, the ones I would gravitate towards would involve a long journey and the growth of a character. One could make the argument that any story is about that, but in my case, the journey was always physical (as opposed to mental), involved traveling long distances, and the change of character at the end was usually towards more bravery, confidence and/or decisiveness, three things that I still struggle with today. It is no surprise then, that the first novel I decided to write involved one of those journeys. Now, more than seven years later, I’m still writing that same story and its well over 200,000 words long (Just over 700 pages). Logic tells me that I should be done by now, but my gut tells me I need to make the story believable, which includes the journey and growth of my main character. I didn’t realize, until just recently, that Milo and Otis were the precursors of not only this book I’m writing, but of all the books and movies I like now. It just goes to show that such story telling isn’t limited by genre. Milo and Otis isn’t Lord of the Rings, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have the same impact on someone.
Upon looking this movie up as an adult, I learned that it was originally a Japanese film called “Koneko Monogatari” and that there was a controversy regarding cruelty to the animal stars. The credits at the end claim that the animal handlers were always on hand to ensure their safety and none of the lawsuits against the film ever produced hard evidence, but there are definitely some parts of the movie where the safety of the animals is in question. As I said above, there is no computer animation or puppet work to speak of, so when that cat is going down a river in a box, it’s really going down a river in a box. The most questionable scene is when the cat jumps off a cliff into the water below. The camera is far enough away that we can’t be positive it’s a real cat, but it certainly looks like one. Even though a real cat would probably survive such a fall, it certainly doesn’t put much confidence in the trainers who approved it.
It was disappointing to discover that my beloved childhood movie may have hurt animals. I still enjoyed watching the movie and would recommend it to parents, but I won’t deny that there is that constant nagging feeling in the back of my mind when I watch it. It’s possible that the animals were all perfectly fine, but the suggestion of a controversy always shines doubt onto a project whether it is true or not. You might then wonder why I would write an article about why you should watch this movie if the controversy bothers me. And the answer is this; any controversy that did happen is long since passed. The movie was made decades ago, leaving behind only the story of a pug named Otis and a cat named Milo. This story that was left behind inspired so much in me and left such a positive influence that I want other people to see it. If it can have the same impact on anyone else that it had on me, then it is definitely a movie worth sharing.
For more great movies and television you may have missed, visit my feature: Why You Should Watch.
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