If You’re Still Crying Over The Live-Action Lion King, Spare A Thought For Milo & Otis

Digital animals don't scream in terror. We hope.

If you’re one of the many people very reasonably wondering why dear god why the world needed a photorealistic version of The Lion King, then there’s a family favourite film which makes a strong case for enthusiastically embracing the march of technology.

That film is The Adventures of Milo and Otis, which is celebrating its thirtieth birthday! Sort of!

That qualification is because the film was released in Japan in 1986 as Koneko Monogatari (“A Kitten’s Story”) and also had limited release under the English title The Adventures of Chatran.

Three years, an edit and a Dudley Moore narration later, The Adventures of Milo and Otis appeared and charmed audiences worldwide with the heartwarming tale of a mischievous kitten and his best pug pal making their way back home after a series of misadventures.

Heartwarming, that is, until the stories started to come out of how many kittens and pugs supposedly died during filming.


Now, it’s worth making clear that the producers of the film have always insisted that no animals were harmed during the making of the movie, and that the initial allegations against it were made by Australian animal cruelty activists based on reports they’d received from Europe – so not exactly ground zero during production or anything.

That being said, one thing which people familiar with kittens and puppies is that they grow up amazingly quickly, while filmmaking is rarely a swift business – especially when working with animals that are too young to easily train. Again, an advantage of CG when considering live action Lion King remakes.

More specifically, the footage had been compiled from four years of shooting so the rumours that 20-odd cats were “retired” during filming do seem at least plausible.

Also, when you’re shooting a scene of a kitten falling 100 feet into the water… look, you hope they got it in one take and that the stunt cat was fine. And same for the scene where Otis the pug fights a real bear. If there are outtakes, I’m fine with never seeing them thanks.

Attempts to use a mechanised pug were abandoned when they kept malfunctioning – just like the real things!

The other unsubstantiated rumours included mutilating live animals to create the characters of One Eye the pig, One Horn the bull and Three Hoof the deer. And sure, we hope they were just giving well-deserved work to disabled animal actors, but then again…

We’re just saying we’re glad there’s CG for our live action Lion King now. It certainly feels less… you know, horrific.

Where Would Ratatouille And Groot Be Without The Iron Giant?

A whole lot of today's biggest hits can be traced back to this one flop 1999 classic.

Twenty years ago this week a film was released that would change the future of modern blockbuster cinema, and no-one bothered seeing it. That film was The Iron Giant, and it’s truly magnificent.

“Now, let me tell you about an animated film I like…”

It was based on the beloved children’s book by Ted Hughes (published as ‘The Iron Man’ or ‘The Iron Giant’ depending on which bit of the world one lived in) and was a rollicking adventure story about two unlikely friends and also an allegory about the folly of war.

The reviews were universally stellar, the artwork was praised for mixing 2-D and 3-D animation in a groundbreaking way, and it also had an all-star voice cast including Jennifer Anniston, Harry Connick Jr and a fresh-from American Pie Eli Marienthal – as well as action star Vin Diesel doing his first voice role!

And oh, what a colossal flop it was.

It made back just over a quarter of its $70 million-plus budget and led to an exodus of staff from Warner Bros. One of them, president Lorenzo di Bonaventura, was quoted as telling Variety “People always say to me, ‘Why don’t you make smarter family movies?’ The lesson is, Every time you do, you get slaughtered.”

So what made it so important? Well, that’s the happy ending.

First up, The Iron Giant was the directorial debut of Brad Bird, who would later become a key part of Pixar. He directed Ratatouille and wrote and directed the two Incredibles films, in which he also voiced the scene-stealing superhero costume designer Edna Mode.

It also was notable in that Diesel was voicing the Giant himself, a creature of remarkably few words, repeated ad infinitum.

Which might sound rather like another popular character from the Diesel filmography – a guardian, one might say, perhaps of some sort of a galaxy.

He is… um, no, don’t tell me…

It was on Netflix until January this year, so you might need to hunt for it – but if you’ve missed it to date, now’s the time to catch up.

That’s partially because see how the mix of child-friendly animation and adult sentiment smartly predated the animated films of the 00s, and partially so seeing this gif will reduce you to a sobbing mess.

Oh goddammit.

This Amazing Hunger Games Theory Explains The State Of The World Now

Look, it makes exactly as much sense as anything else…

It might seem like a stretch to suggest that the world is currently embroiled in The Hunger Games, but bear with us for a second.

Have a think about the rise of populist politics around the world: the election of Donald Trump, the calls for Brexit in the US, everything One Nation says here (and the battle over regional Queensland in the Australian election)… there’s a shared narrative in place.

And that narrative is this: that there are “real” people outside of the cities, and there are the elitists in the ivory-towered cities who are at best out of touch with the reality of modern life – and at worst part of a sinister cabal of perverted, corrupt monsters, most likely engaged in some vast conspiracy against the salt-of-the-Earth populace.

Sound familiar? Like, both in the sense that it sums the strain of populist (and often openly racist and anti-intellectual) politics around the world, and also in that it’s the setting of a certain popular young adult book and film series about a near-future dystopia?

This idea was touched upon in an article in Cracked. Or, more accurately, a pretty meme:

And that seemed a stretch, until you consider the timeline.

The Hunger Games was first published in 2006, but the film came out in 2012 and was a sensation. Three years and three sequels later Donald Trump announces his presidential run.

The following year he gets the presidential nomination, the UK narrowly votes to leave the European Union, and One Nation win four seats in the Australian senate.

Of course, there’s a small problem with this The World Is Now Hunger Games theory, in that this narrative is all over the place.

Star Wars. Mr Smith Goes To Washington. Ready Player One. It’s a classic for a reason: it lets the audience go “sure, I might not know stuff but that doesn’t matter; being pure of heart is more important than all that effete book-learnin’.”

Meanwhile even enormously well-paid media types and politicians who live in multi-million dollar properties try to present themselves as honest Joes who can see through the cheap lies of… um, the Bureau of Meteorology?

(Then again, that stereotype is equally offensive in reverse – and there was a spate of suspense and horror films which posited that the world outside cities was terrifying and weird, from splatter flicks like The Hills Have Eyes to acclaimined classics like Deliverance and one of the most acclaimed Australian films ever, Wake In Fright.)

It’s basically a documentary.

So yes, correlation doesn’t equal causation and given if it wasn’t The Hunger Games it’d probably be something else.

That said, if Trump starts demanding young people engage in formal bloodsports in the coming months…

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