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Animal Cruelty in Milo & Otis?


I recently received an email from Terri F., a concerned reader, objecting to Animals Matter Too advertising The Adventures of Milo & Otis, a movie in which there had been allegations of animal abuse. I had never heard these rumors, however, after doing some research, it's difficult to ignore the allegations and I certainly would not advertise or recommend this movie going forward.

The following analysis was sent to Animals Matter Too by David McMillan of Silkstone, Australia. While it is painful and chilling to read, it is most certainly eye-opening and makes it impossible to brush aside the abuse allegations.

Analysis by David McMillan

Milo and Otis started as a Japanese art film called Koneko Monogatari: The Adventures of Chatran.

“Chatran’s life is full of trials and tribulations,” the UK’s Economist pointed out. “Many of them to do with being soaked to the skin, like falling over a waterfall in a wooden box or plummeting from a cliff into the sea. It is hard to see how he survived. Indeed, according to Japan’s biggest animal-rights group, he did not. Or, to be accurate, a third of the 30 Chatrans used did not.”

[This quote and the production background in the following paragraph are paraphrased from the following article:]:

Columbia Pictures ignored the allegations of abuse and kitty and puppy killing by the Japanese production unhindered by animal rights laws, and noted instead that the film was making huge profits in Japan. Money talks, and executives at Columbia picked it up with a mind to overhaul and Americanise the feature - Fuji supplied Columbia with almost 70 hours of extra footage from which to make their own edit of the movie, which would become a popular children’s film. Many graphic scenes of animals fighting were removed but much of the violence is still clearly visible despite the fact that Columbia supposedly recut the movie for a grade school audience. Otis, the dog, is sent naked-pawed through drifts of deep snow, forced to swim to the point where the dog is obviously drowning, and in one memorable scene, is pitted against a very angry bear.

The on-screen trials of the cats playing Milo make a longer list and will be detailed below.

There is much debate regarding the allegations that dozens of cats and dogs were killed in the making of the film; since the original Japanese shoot was not supervised by any animal advocacy groups, it is impossible to know the exact fates of the animal ‘actors’ exploited for the movies’ audiences. A common argument from defenders of the American version is that the original Japanese director was an animal lover, and therefore would not have inflicted cruelty on any animals.

One thing is certain from the most casual viewing of either version of the film – this was not the work of an animal lover. Much of the drama results from taking the many kittens and pugs who ‘played’ Milo and Otis and throwing them into dangerous encounters with snakes, bears, foxes, cows, crabs, seagulls and into dangerous locations such as snow, waterfalls, the ocean, or a rapidly churning fast-moving river. Watching the cat and dog actors, constantly out of their element, it is clear that they are incredibly distressed by all these situations, and are constantly on ‘high alert.’ With admirable tenacity, they attempt to cling to life. Ideally, a careful analysis of the film-as-evidence-of-crime would have access to the Japanese and American versions, and to all the footage that hit the cutting room floor.

After watching about thirty minutes of footage on Youtube, my brain and my heart told me that the following scenes clearly involved imposing distress on animals for the sake of human amusement or entertainment.

*A mother cat and her kittens are exposed to a large snake. The mother cat and the snake fight, the snake strikes out at the mother cat. The film-makers cut away.

*A dog and an angry bear are pitted against each other. The dog puts up a valiant fight, but is clearly out of its league. The bear wacks, throttles and crushes the dog. The film-makers cut away.

*A kitten is seen limping through the wilderness with an apparently broken paw.

*A kitten is placed on the back of a large packhorse and is dangerously buffeted as it clings on for dear life, its tail sticking straight up in alarm.

*A kitten or cat is placed on a cliff in the middle of a large pack of aggressive nesting seagulls, who mercilessly attack it from all sides. The film-makers cut away.

*A kitten or cat is thrown from a 50metre+ cliff into the ocean. This cat does his utmost to survive; he hits the turbulent water and immediately starts swimming for dear life. He makes it to the rocks where the cliff meets the sea and starts climbing back up the perilous cliff. Halfway up, he slips and falls back into the ocean. The film-makers cut away. It is clearly another soaking-wet cat who we see safely on the beach in the next scene. Gee I wonder what happened to the first cat? (With absolutely no supporting evidence, and with zero credibility, defenders of the film suggest a Star-Wars-style blue-screen special effect was used here. This is so improbable, I almost didn’t want to mention it, except that it shows the extremes of passionate denial in which the film’s defenders are prepared to indulge.)

* The cat and dog are chased by angry cows in a field. The dog seems to go under the cows’ hooves. The film-makers cut away.

* A crab and a kitten are pitted against each other. The crab’s pincers fasten onto the cat’s lip and nose, viciously.

* A cat is sent down the rapids of a raging river in a flimsy little box while Dudley Moore drunkenly jabbers, “Oh dear me! Oh my! Goodness!” The cat is terrified. The box goes over a small-to-medium waterfall, with the cat inside. This cat seems to have survived this part of its ordeal, in a great deal of vocal stress. The box continues down the river. The film-makers cut away.

I was too upset by this stage to watch any more, but I don’t have any time for anybody who would defend this film. It is evidence of crime, pure and simple.

The evidence is in the footage; the rebuttal arguments do not convince.

-David McMillan, Silkstone, Australia

See also:

We would like to thank Mr. McMillan for caring enough to write & share his analysis to help educate those of us who have, unfortunately, been uninformed up to this point.


The following information is courtesy of Wikipedia:

When the film was first released, several Australian animal rights organizations raised allegations of animal cruelty during filming and called for a boycott. The Sunday Mail reported at the time that 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, as in one case where a producer allegedly had broken a cat's paw to make it appear unsteady on its feet. Kent said her organization had a number of complaints from people who had seen the film and were concerned that it could not have been made without cruelty. The Tasmanian and Victorian branches of the RSPCA also alleged abuses.

The film was reported to have the approval of the American Humane Society, despite not having their officers present during filming.

The American Humane Association attempted to investigate cruelty rumors through "contacts in Europe who normally have information on movies throughout the world." While noting that the contacts had also heard the allegations, they were unable to verify them. The organization also reported, "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." However, 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."

Source: Wikipedia

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