Did animals die during the making of Milo and Otis?
June 23, 2007 2:43 PM   Subscribe

I remember watching Milo and Otis as a kid, and loving it - but the playground gossip told me that heaps of animals were injured in the making of it... is this 6yo urban legend, or fact?
posted by jonathanstrange to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Here's one article I found that discusses this topic halfway rationally. It's not the most authoritative source, granted, but it makes a good point when it says;
Despite Columbia’s obvious position that there was no basis to these allegations of abuse, rumors did swirl but were seemingly quelled immediately after reviews by the Toronto Star and a New Jersey newspaper that noted:

“All [the scenes in which Milo and Otis appear to be in danger] may be momentarily unsettling for young viewers, but it’s comforting to see in the closing credits that ‘the animals used were filmed under strict supervision with the utmost care for their safety and well-being’.”

But what these reviewers fail to notice is that despite this flowery language, Columbia took great pains not to say “no animals were harmed,” which has been boilerplate language on movie animal disclaimers for as long as anyone can remember.
It then goes on to say;
Oddly, the American Human Society has done its bit to keep Columbia’s dirty little secret by suspiciously not including The Adventures of Milo and Otis in its “Current index of film ratings index”. Do I smell a cover-up?
For reference sake, here's a link to that list. While I wouldn't be so fast to start making claims like "cover-up", it is suspicious that a film as well known for claims of supposed animal cruelty as Milo & Otis isn't listed at all. I have read this is because the AHA list is supposed to only cover American films, but Cannibal Holocaust, an italian movie with substantiated claims of animal cruelty, is listed, so I don't know how much I buy that explanation.

In the end, all I know is this. The film was made in 1986, well before computer animation could render us with the special effects we see in movies now. The film shows animals who are in obvious states of distress, and the disclaimer at the end of the film isn't worded well enough to remove all doubt. So while I can't find you (or me) any authoritative sources to answer one way or the other, the evidence does not help Milo & Otis one little bit.
posted by Effigy2000 at 3:12 PM on June 23, 2007

I don't have an opinion as to the truth of the issue... but "has been boilerplate language on movie animal disclaimers for as long as anyone can remember" is a very, very lazy sentence.

It either says "we couldn't be bothered to find out when this phrase was coined/became common" or "we did find out, and it wasn't until after Milo & Otis."

It seems possible that the phrase caught on because the disclaimer in M&O was so weak.
posted by toomuchpete at 4:46 PM on June 23, 2007

From www.americanhumane.org:
In 2000, American Humane filed a trademark application for -- and was ultimately granted -- exclusive use of the phrases No Animal Was Harmed® and No Animals Were Harmed®

No info there on the frequency of that end-credit before trademarking, however.
posted by YamwotIam at 7:54 PM on June 23, 2007

This page says that "no animals were harmed" became the standard in 1996. It was used (among others) before that.
posted by winston at 9:22 PM on June 23, 2007

I'm not paying for any of the articles, but a few Google News Archive results suggest that the film was one of concern. My gleaning is that it involved "off-screen" treatment of the animal actors, e.g.

Filmmakers swore no animal cruelty occurred in the film's creation, but kitty Milo and pup Otis sure look terrified in a lot of scenes.

Nine Lives Just Enough for Cat Movie

How Animal Actors Suffer Abuse: Cruelty Issues Touch a Nerve With Moviegoers

Animal Films Are Hot - That May Be Bad for the Stars

So it sounds like some controversial training or wrangling techniques were used to get the desired shots.
posted by dhartung at 10:11 PM on June 23, 2007

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