Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Film Appreciation - Big Barnyard, Big Adventure

This week in Film Appreciation, Jay Burleson revisits his childhood with the American version of Koneko monogatari, The Adventures of Milo and Otis.

 The Adventures of Milo and Otis
Directed by: Masanori Hata
Starring: Milo the cat, Otis the pup, 
and the voice of Dudley Moore.

This movie will always be a favorite of mine, as it left a lasting impression on me during childhood. I can't begin to name the number of viewings I gave this movie as a child but I'm sure the number is staggering. I never grew tired of the antics that Milo, the orange cat, would get his pug-nosed friend Otis involved with. I'm speaking on the American version, which was released a couple years after the initial Japanese version. The version us Americans got is apparently a lot different and was completely re-edited.

If you don't know the story, it's about a cat named Milo and his dog friend Otis. They are raised together on a farm and are best buds from Milo's birth. As soon as Milo and Otis meet they start causing chaos through the entire barnyard.. Things are seemingly normal for the two of them until a few months into their lives, when Milo and his ongoing shenanigans turn their lives upside down.

Milo and Otis are playing one of their famous "hide and seek" games and it takes a negative turn when they head down to the river and Milo decides to hide in a box that's sitting in the water. The box drifts away and carries Milo with it, thus leaving Otis hot in pursuit of his now floating feline friend. A bear tries to make Milo his lunch but Otis fights him off. During this though, he loses track of the floating box and they are both led on a journey of epic proportions.

Apparently, the director, a zoologist, shot this film on an island he owned. This allowed them to do some of the risky stunts with the animals. Real animals are used in all of the stunts and some of them are pretty dangerous. Bears and many other animals engage in "fights" and we witness Milo jump off a cliff in order to avoid some seagulls. The film has a reputation online for being cruel and inhumane to animals and some claim the deaths of many puppies and kittens occurred during the filming. I've never read anything official to back that up, but the film does show some pretty intense stuff that I never questioned as a kid, but on more recent viewings I have wondered about. Milo and Otis definitely pushes the limits and will leave animal lovers closing their eyes at certain points. The cat and the seagulls scene is my biggest question mark and I can see how people could assume the worst from that, as well as many other water scenes that look dangerous and lead the viewer to believe it would be impossible to oversee the animals' safety. There have been no solid answers on any of this as far as my research has turned up but I feel that there should be a definite answer given by the people in the know.

With that said, I choose to remember this movie fondly because of my long lasting childhood connection to it. I had too many good times with it and it will always be special to me for those times. It also is a very beautiful film in a lot of ways. The cinematography and locations are awesome, there's some great snow covered settings, and we get to see the birth of not only puppies but kittens as life comes full circle and Milo and Otis meet their lifelong companions along the way. It really is a beautiful movie, with many great barnyard shots and the incorporation of many other animals throughout. The locations are amazing and it's obvious that these filmmakers took a lot of time and effort to make this movie what it is. I have read in various places that the movie was filmed for over four years.

I relate to this movie in a lot of ways, as I grew up on a farm and always had cats and dogs in abundance. It still is and always will be a warm reminder of my childhood and all of the animals that I cared for while growing up.

1 comment:

  1. This is by far my favorite childhood movie of all time. I used to walk around singing the theme song when i was kid, and even today at 27 I still remember the lyrics, lol.