Nostalgic Film Review: The Adventures of Milo and Otis
by Matthew Durham
This film is really a special case for me because I absolutely loved it as a child. I loved the cute animals, the adventure, the action and I watched the movie multiple times. The story revolves around an Orange cat named Milo and a pug named Otis. They live on a farm together, but when Milo goes drifting down a river in a box, Otis must try and save his best friend.
The film is narrated by the late Dudley Moore and the narration works perfectly. The rest of the film is shot artistically. I saw artistically because originally this movie was a Japanese art film titled Koneko Monogatari which is translated to A Kitten’s Story. The alternate American title was The Adventures of Chatran.
I’ll admit I only watched a little of The Adventures of Chatran on Youtube with subtitles, and they are almost jokingly artistic with the storyline. Needless to say the film was re-edited for a young American audience and narrated by Dudley Moore and here we have The Adventures of Milo and Otis.
Here’s where things get interesting, I express my childhood nostalgia of this film to friends and family and immediately we converse about the alleged animal abuse involved in the film.
I did my research and there were animal groups in Austrailia that raised allegations of animal cruelty during filming and called for a boycott. Animal Liberation Queensland founder Jacqui Kent alleged the killing of more than 20 kittens during production and added that she was disturbed by reports from Europe which alleged other animals had been injured. In one case a producer allegedly had broken a cat’s paw to make it appear unsteady on its feet.
I use the word alleged for all these, because none of them are proven. Other scenes that stirred controversy were a scene of a kitten flying off a cliff and a scene of a pug fighting a bear. Kent said her organization had a number of complaints from people who had seen the film and were concerned. The Tasmanian and Victorian brances of the RSPCA also alleged abuses.
Despite all these allegations the film has the approval of the American Humane Society despite not having their officers present during filming. They were quoted saying: “we have tried through humane people in Japan, and through another Japanese producer to determine if these rumors are true, but everything has led to a dead end.” The same report noted that several Japanese Humane Societies allowed their names to be used in connection with the film and that the film “shows no animals being injured or harmed.”
Reading deeper I discovered people stating on forums that director Masanori Hata was a zoologist whether or not that helps his case is up to you. I also read that hundreds of feet of film was shot for this movie and they did have to use many animals because of aging.
Watching the movie now, knowing it was shot in the early 80s, it’s really hard to see how a lot of these perilous situations could’ve been faked. The kitten off the cliff could’ve been fake, but footage from the Japanese film extends the scene to the cat struggling to climb back up and it is really shocking.
The first encounter of Otis vs. The Bear was extended to, it is scary but not to graphic. A lot of benefit of the doubt has to be played on imagining that animals weren’t abused. Scenes like Milo being limp on his paw and going down a waterfall in a box are disturbing.
At the end of the film there is a thing that says “Animals were handled with the upmost concern for their safety.” That’s not as reassuring as “No Animals were harmed.”
All in all, I enjoyed this narrative as a child, the storyline is fun and the animals are adorable. As an adult and a film major it’s a little harder to enjoy. I will show my children this film before they get to old to enjoy it as well. The benefit of the doubt in play.
Final Score: 4/5