THE ADVENTURES OF MILO AND OTIS
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING: Friendship; Courage.
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS: Trustworthiness; Respect; Responsibility; Caring.
AT A GLANCE: Age: 5 – 8; MPAA Rating — G; Drama; 1989, 76 minutes; Color; Available at Amazon.com .
Milo is a farm kitten. Otis, his friend, is a farmyard puppy. A river runs by the farm and there is a dock where Milo and Otis play. One day, when they are playing hide-and-seek, Milo hides in a wooden box floating near the dock. Suddenly, the box gets carried away in the current. Otis follows on shore trying to rescue Milo but the river takes the frightened kitten far from the farm. This film is the story of their friendship, their adventures, and how they grow up and return to the farm with their own families.
“The Adventures of Milo and Otis” has excellent developmental and moral lessons including: loyalty among friends, devotion to family, tolerance among people, and the risks of disobeying parents. It can also serve as an opportunity to talk to young children about the process of birth and the animals shown in the movie. It is a great vocabulary builder.
scurrying, overhead, accepted it, annoyed, mood, hayloft, litter, approach, trouble, wandering, swept away, shore, humming, brilliant, worth the trouble, in an uproar, commotion, top rung of the hen house, stick around, watchdog, usual string of gawkers, got the best of, Freeze!, dead meat, punk, weird, local, snoops, dig up some scandal, attention was focused somewhere else, mixed up, settle the score, downstream, drifting, close call, came up with a much more sensible plan, rose, eyes flashing, mysterious, reflection of the moon, trembling, chilly, misty, just around the bend, given up his chase, hot pursuit, skip the whole thing.
For new words as they are used in the movie, See below.
THE ADVENTURES OF MILO AND OTIS PHRASES USING VOCABULARY WORDS
“The Adventures of Milo and Otis” is particularly rich in sophisticated words. Therefore, playing with vocabulary can be made into a separate fun activity. The following phrases have been taken from the movie. The highlighted words are those that children might not know. Using these words in the context of the script of the movie will help your child to understand them. The lessons will be repeated each time he or she sees the movie. Repeat the phrase and ask your child what the phrase means. See how many he or she can get right and give a little reward for right answers. It is also helpful to use the word in a different context.
Except for the activity up in the hayloft the farm was pretty quiet that morning.
A lot of the other animals were awakened by all the scurrying overhead.
Some of them just accepted it. Some were pretty annoyed …
But the mood was very different up in the hayloft.
The farm cat had just given birth to her first litter. She was determined to be a good mother and never yell at her kittens. But that approach would not last very long because Milo, one of her kittens, was trouble from the very beginning. As soon as he could walk he began wandering to the edge of the hayloft.
This is the dock and down there is the river. You must never, never go too close to the dock. … Milo was swept away by the river. Milo, do you think you can follow me back to the shore?
Months passed and the farm was humming with the sounds of summer.
Now Milo needed a brilliant idea. Aha! He thought of a place where Otis couldn’t sniff him out. It worked. But Milo wondered whether it was really worth the trouble.
The following day the hen house was in an uproar. Milo and Otis went to see what all the commotion was about.
Scratched and pecked her way to the top rung of the hen house.
How long do we have to stick around this hen house?
This is the day I’ve become a watchdog.
Brought the usual string of gawkers ….
Your singing stinks. Will you quit it?
But this time someone got the best of Milo. “Freeze!” Otis barked. “Touch that egg and you’re dead meat. I mean it punk.” Otis growled.
Milo wanted just one more look at that weird animal.
The noise attracted a group of local snoops looking to dig up some scandal.
Milo’s attention was focused somewhere else.
They tried to make the mixed up chick go to her mother.
Otis came back to settle the score with that thing.
The river took Milo farther down stream.
But the box was drifting right towards the hungry animal.
Close call said Milo, sticking his head up.
And Otis came up with a much more sensible plan. He ran up on the river bank leading the bear away from Milo.
By the time the moon rose, the river had carried Milo deep into a forest.
Now and then he saw some eyes flashing among the trees. And he heard mysterious hoots and growls and cries in the night.
In the water Milo could see the reflection of the moon. It seemed to be trembling as much as he was.
In that chilly, misty night, sleep was not possible. He drifted on through the darkness hoping to find the morning waiting just around the bend.
Otis had not given up his chase. He was running along the bank in hot pursuit.
He then decided to skip the whole thing.
TALKING FOR VERBAL, SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Which character was your favorite? — If you could have any of the characters in the movie as a friend, which would you choose? — Why is that?
→ Always encourage your child to form opinions and to share them.
→ Open-ended questions will help get a discussion going.
What kinds of fun things did Milo and Otis find in the world away from the farm?
What kinds of scary things did they find?
What kinds of places are shown in the movie that are far away from the farm?
→ Just talking with your child fosters verbal, social and emotional learning.
→ Exercise memory skills by asking about the story, the characters, and the plot. Keep it light and fun.
Would you like to live on a farm? What kinds of animals would you have?
→ Young children love Story Time.
DISCUSSIONS BASED ON THEMES IN THE MOVIE
Select questions appropriate for your child.
1. Milo tells Otis when he meets him that “Deep down we’re all cats.” Otis responds that no, “Deep down inside I’m a dog.” Does this stop them from being friends? Talking About It — “No”. They are friends because they like playing together, care for each other, and look out for one another.
2. How are Milo and Otis different from each other? How are they alike? Why do you think they get along so well? Talking About It — Milo is a cat and Otis is a dog. Their personalities are different, too. Milo is very outgoing and adventurous. Otis is cautious and serious. They get along so well for lots of reasons. They like the same games. They have affection for each other. They take care of each other. (Otis goes on a long journey to try and bring Milo back home.) In addition, they have many things in common. They both grew up on the same farm. They are both loyal and trustworthy. Both of them fall in love and have babies. Another reason Milo and Otis get along so well is because their differences are complementary.
→ When a parent takes a concept from the movie seriously, a child will start thinking about the lessons of the film. Often, it only takes one comment to start a child’s mind going.
3. Why did Otis get upset when Milo met Joyce? Why were his feelings hurt? Talking About It — Otis was upset because Milo wanted to spend more time with Joyce than with him. Otis thought his friend didn’t care about him anymore. What he didn’t realize at first is that friends can have many different kinds of relationships at the same time. In the end, Otis found Sondra and understood why Milo was so wrapped up in Joyce. He also learned that he and Milo were still best friends. Milo gave him fish for his puppies. When their families met in the spring they all became friends and returned together to the farm.
→ You can talk about a movie at any time: right after it is over, in the car on the way to school, during quiet time, or before bed.
4. Point out that when Otis followed his friend down the river he was applying The Golden Rule. If he had been trapped in a box floating down a river, he would have wanted Milo to try to save him.
→ Here is a modern formulation of the Rule. Have your child memorize this or another version. Repeat it to your child often when a decision about how to act must be made: “In every situation, act toward others in the same way that you would want others to act toward you.” Show your child how to apply it in his or her own life. Let your child see you apply the Rule in decisions that you make.
5. What makes places like the forest and the swamp so scary? Talking About It — The forest is dark and creepy, and there are lots of bugs and unknown animals. The swamp is murky and scary, and sometimes it gets foggy. We all feel a little nervous in unfamiliar places, like a new school, a different neighborhood, etc. This happens to everyone. Tell your child that an important part of growing up is learning how to tell the dangerous places from the safe places. Once we get used to the safe places, like a new school, they will become less scary and usually quite comfortable. Ask your child if he or she recalls being nervous or scared in a new place and to tell you what happened. Tell your child about some of your experiences becoming comfortable in new surroundings. Point out that people can find really fun and exciting things in new places (as when Milo found the beautiful meadow).
→ Don’t feel obligated to cover everything in this Guide. One or two questions are all that some children will tolerate. However, if your child watches the movie more than once, on each occasion start a new conversation or pick a new activity. This will enhance verbal development and increase the number of lessons your child takes from the film.
PLAYING FOR GROWTH
1. Learn about animals — Children will be interested in learning more about the animals that are characters in the movie. Get books from the library with information on the animals or show your children websites about: dogs, cats, bears, pigs, foxes, muskrats, sheep, deer, owls, sea turtles, rabbits, and ferrets.
After this activity ask your child which are his or her favorite animals. Then ask him or her to explain why they chose this animal.
2. Color your favorite animal — Find blank pictures on the Internet of different animals seen in the movie. Print them out, and have your child color the pictures and write the names of the animals. Cut out different animals and paste them onto a picture of their preferred habitat. One source for blank pictures is National Geographic Print-N-Go Coloring Book.
3. Build Milo and Otis’s farm — Use blocks and other toys to build Milo and Otis’ farm. Then take some stuffed animals or plastic animals and make a story based on the movie.
Stories are essential tools for verbal development, social-emotional learning, and character education. Intentional parents can use family movies as a basis for storytelling.
Repeat the story of the movie at bedtime, on a rainy day, or at any quiet time. Let your child correct you if you make a mistake and, better yet, encourage your child to tell you the story. Your child’s imaginative and verbal capacities will be enhanced if you invent new characters and create situations that are not in the movie. To learn more about enhancing growth and development through stories told to children, go to How to Tell Bedtime Stories . . . Any Time.
Here is a bedtime story elaborating on a theme in “The Adventures of Milo and Otis.”
Once upon a time, two kittens, brother and sister, lived on a farm. Jersey was about two minutes older than Jake. She had white fur and orange paws that were lightning fast. Jake was brown with patches of white. While not as quick with his paws, Jake was stronger than his sister.
Jersey and Jake were best friends and loved growing up on the farm. They soon learned that every animal had a job. The dogs herded sheep; the hens laid eggs; the sheep gave wool; and the cats caught mice. Every morning, the old rooster flew to the top of the barn and made sure that everyone knew it was time to get up. The young kittens loved to hear the rooster’s call from their warm, sleepy beds; it meant the start of a new day, for playing and making discoveries.
When they were about a month old and still very small, Jersey and Jake sat near the chicken coop and watched an egg that was behaving strangely. It would move and shake every once in a while and then a crack would show on the shell. Each time the egg moved, Jersey and Jake jumped backwards. They were young cats and didn’t know that a little chick was trying to get out of its egg.
After the shell developed a crack from one end to the other they saw something trying to poke out of the shell from the inside. At first, they didn’t know what it was. Jersey said, “Could it be a lizard?”
“Or maybe a mouse?” wondered Jake.
“Or maybe even a human!” exclaimed Jersey.
The kittens watched and waited, and then a small beak poked through the very top of the egg. “Well, it’s not a lizard, cow, or human,” said Jersey, with disappointment.
“Wait a minute,” said Jake, “I know! It’s going to be a chicken!”
Jersey looked at Jake as if he were crazy. “Think about it!” Jake said. “We’re kittens and we came from cats. The baby horses come from horses. And what do you think will come from a hen?”
Jersey jumped and did a somersault in the air. “A baby chick!” she said. Then Jersey went up to the quivering egg and sniffed it.
All of a sudden out of nowhere, the rooster, which was ten times larger than the month-old kittens, charged at Jersey. “Leave the egg alone, feline!” the rooster crowed in a loud harsh voice. Jersey and Jake scampered away and observed the egg from a distance under the watchful eye of the suspicious rooster. They couldn’t understand why the rooster was so angry. They didn’t yet know that full-grown cats sometimes ate chick eggs and even little chicks.
Finally, a little chick climbed all the way out of his egg. He was kind of wet looking. He poked the ground and then snuggled up against his mother.
When the rooster had gone to the other end of the farmyard, Jersey and Jake tried to approach the chick, which by now was dried out and fluffy. However, the mother hen clucked at them, telling them to come back in a few days. Reluctantly, the kittens walked away, talking about all the fun games they wanted to teach their new friend.
The kittens wondered if the chick would become a hen or a rooster. They couldn’t imagine how a soft little chick could grow into a fearsome beast like the rooster. Not only was the rooster a giant, compared to the kittens, but it had a sharp beak and big spikes on the end of its feet.
Jersey and Jake waited a few days and then approached the chicken coop again. Peeking around the open door, they saw the baby chick walking around. The rooster was nowhere in sight and the mother hen nodded that it was okay for Jersey and Jake to come inside. The kittens walked slowly up to the chick. Jersey nudged it with her nose. “Where’s the fur?” she wondered.
Jake ran back out into the yard of the farm, and returned moments later dragging a small bowl of milk that the farmer had left out for the cats. He brought it to the chick, which pecked at it and then jumped into the bowl.
“No, no, no!” yelled Jake, scaring the bewildered chick. “You’re supposed to DRINK it, not splash in it!”
“Maybe the chick is still nursing,” said Jersey. They looked at the chick, which was eating little bits of grain that it found on the ground.
“I don’t nurse from a mother like you cats do,” said the chick and continued eating grain scattered on the ground.
“You’re eating that? Bleeecchhh!” said Jake with disgust.
“Speaking of eating, my tummy is rumbling,” said Jersey. So the kittens said goodbye and went back to their mother.
Jake and Jersey learned that the young chick’s name was Banty and that it would become a rooster one day. They tried to play with Banty several times, but the chick didn’t like to play in the grass, or bat balls of string back and forth. All Banty liked to do, it seemed, was to stand by its mother and poke the ground with its beak. Jake and Jersey tried this but after a few minutes they got bored and wound up chasing flies. Jersey tried to teach Banty how to keep clean, by licking and scratching, but the chick wouldn’t lick itself. Instead, Banty pecked at dirt in his feathers.
As the kittens and Banty grew older, the kittens realized that there was almost nothing they had in common with the young rooster. Sometimes they laughed at Banty because he couldn’t play the games that they played or eat food that tasted good to them. One day they even saw Banty swallowing tiny little stones. When they asked him why he would do such a thing, Banty looked at them like they were crazy.
“It’s used to grind up your food, you silly cats,” Banty said. “How else can your stomach break up the seeds and grains that you eat?”
“We don’t eat seeds and grains,” said Jake, thinking that this chicken was very strange. Jersey and Jake turned around without a word and walked away from the young rooster. The kittens wondered how a bird that strange could ever get a job on the farm.
For his part, Banty shook his head at their silliness and said to himself, “Good riddance — who needs friends like that!”
In a few months, Jake and Jersey were grown cats. They were assigned different areas of the barnyard to patrol for mice and rats. And there were new enemies. A warren of rabbits had established itself in the nearby woods and at night they would raid the farmer’s garden. Jake and Jersey shared rabbit patrol with the other cats. When the brother and sister had time to talk, and when their conversation turned to the young rooster, Jake and Jersey continued to wonder whether Banty could ever be useful on the farm.
Then one day, the old rooster suddenly got sick, his voice weakened and he could no longer fly to the top of the barn. All he could do was sit and enjoy the warmth of the sun. “My friends,” said the rooster, “I’ve worked hard all my life. Now, it’s time for me to rest.”
As far back as any animal on the farm could remember the old rooster had awakened the farm every morning. None of the animals knew what to do. They all said that no one could make a morning call like the old rooster. The animals worried and talked late into the night about how they would know when to wake up. Finally, exhausted, they fell asleep.
Early the next morning, as the rosy fingered dawn crept into the sky, young Banty flew to the top of the barn. Once there, he sang the coming of the new day with a clear voice and a hearty cock-a-doodle-do. All the animals woke-up and ran outside to meet the farm’s new rooster. They gave Banty a stirring round of applause and congratulations. Jake and Jersey joined in. They might not be able to play with Banty, but he certainly was a first rate rooster.
(If your child is still awake (or on the day after you read the story), ask whether Jersey and Jake will ever be friends with Banty. The answer is probably not. They have different interests and like to play different games. Then ask whether or not the cats will ever respect the rooster for doing his job well. The answer to this question is “yes.” The cats didn’t need to be friends with every animal which did his or her job on the farm.)
BRIDGES TO READING
The Adventures of Milo and Otis: A Storybook Based on the Enchanting Movie for Children, by Mark Saltzman, Scholastic, Inc., New York, is an excellent book to read to children. When your child starts reading, play the movie with subtitles in English or with captions.
We also recommend the following: Owl Moon, by Jane Yollen, Philomel, 1987 (ages 4 – 8) and The Midnight Farm, by Reeve Lindbergh and Susan Jeffers, Puffin, 1995 (ages 4 – 8).