With this weekend’s release of The Secret Life of Pets, it got me to thinking about previous movies starring pets that talked. I’m not talking about movies with just talking animals, of which there are a ton, but those that feature animals that talk that is also primarily owned by or attached to a human. While it discounts a lot of animated films featuring animals, there are still plenty of movies out there. And if you are like me, the movies on this list take you on a a trip down memory lane to childhood. So make sure you are prepared for a full dose of nostalgia as we look at the Top 5 Talking Pets Movies.
Okay, so I would probably have put The Adventures of Milo and Otis here if not for one thing: technically it is not the animals talking, the narrator is. Also, are they pets? We never see a human, so who actually knows. Is it some sort of universe where humans no longer exist? Or maybe they left the planet to colonize elsewhere, but left their structures behind and animals now control the planet. Who knows?
What we do know, is that Homeward Bound stars Michael J. Fox, Sally Field, and Don Ameche as three pets left behind when their family leaves on vacation. They assume their family left them and they leave their house on a cross-country adventure to find their family. It is a fun family movie I loved as a kid and holds up surprisingly well for being a movie made in the 80’s about talking animals. It is amazing to me they can get animals to do the kind of stunts that are in this movie. Also, the writing is fun and surprisingly witty for a kid’s movie and Sally Field is given the best lines and her voice-acting surpasses her co-stars, as well. If you haven’t seen this movie, you definitely need to check it out and watch it with your kids. There is nothing quite like watching a fun, live-action talking animals movie that isn’t terrible with your kids.
One of my all-time favorite Disney kids movies, this one is usually down the list of people’s favorite Disney Silver Age animated films. However, it is emblematic of the Silver Age animation in its use of infusing the magical into the ordinary with stunning backgrounds of London and the English countryside. It also continued Disney’s adaptation of children’s stories into movies by adapting the novel by Dodie Smith.
My favorite parts of this movie are the great villains and the cast of secondary characters outside of the host of dalmatians. Cruella DeVille is one of the most iconic Disney villains and her theme song, written in the movie by the dalmatians owner, continues as one of the best “villain” themes from any Disney movie. Also, Jasper and Horace, her bumbling minions, have a banter that reminds me of Laurel & Hardy or Abbott & Costello if they were petty burglars and street toughs. The good guys helping the dalmatians, like tabby cat Tibbs and shaggy dog Colonel, have equally great banter and are some of my favorite animal Disney characters ever.
Speaking of book adaptations, one of my favorite children’s books is also one of my favorite children’s movie. And we’re not messing with the somewhat remake, but the original animated version most of us grew up watching. Utilizing the voice talents of Debbie Reynolds as Charlotte, as well as Danny Bonaduce, Henry Gibson, and Paul Lynde, this tale of “some pig” shows the love between that pig, Wilbur, and his caretaker, Fern. It’s a fun, moving, and sweet film that captures what it is like to be a kid and to have a strong emotional attachment to an animal. The musical numbers are memorable and my favorite one is Templeton the Rat’s song, “A Fair is a Veritable Schmorgasboard-orgasboard-orgasboard”, sung along with everyone’s favorite repeating goose, voiced by Agnes Moorehead. It’s like Oscar the Grouch’s “I Love Trash” song but an ode to a rat’s love of garbage at a fair. Of course, Templeton is everyone’s favorite character, right?
The only movie on this list to be nominated for Best Picture, Babe, an Australian production, surprised audiences around the world when it debuted in 1995. Written and produced by George Miller, yes THAT George Miller of Mad Max fame, it was also written and directed by Chris Noonan. The movie has a superb voice cast, including Christine Cavanaugh and Hugo Weaving, and the human cast includes a deep and heart-warming performance from James Cromwell as Babe’s caretaker, Arthur Hoggett. The animals in the movie look real and were accomplished using Jim Henson’s Creature Shop’s animatronic technology. Although it didn’t win Best Picture, it did win for the utilization of those special effects.
Thinking back, I don’t think I fully appreciated this movie when I was a kid. Upon rewatching it recently with my kids, I understand how fantastic this movie really is. More than being an entertaining and funny kids movie, it tells a great story of overcoming odds and achieving your dreams not by being something not but being everything you are. Babe the pig teaches us being tender-hearted, forgiving, and serving others can overcome many of life’s hurdles. Also, like Charlotte’s Web, it tells a great story of how pets and animals can have a profound impact on our lives and who we are. That’ll do pig, that’ll do.
Made in 1955 during the early days of Disney’s Silver Age of animation, like the previously discussed 101 Dalmatians, a quaint setting of the US Midwest, the movie’s settings have a magical quality to them, especially since they are seen from a dog’s perspective. Lady and Tramp are from two different worlds but love one another. They must find a way to be together but find it difficult due to Lady’s background of respectability and Tramp’s lack thereof from growing up a stray.
While this may not be included in my personal favorite Top 5 Disney movies, this movie deserves to be at the top because of its cultural impact, beautiful artistry, and a great story. I never liked this movie much, as a kid, because it felt so sappy and it was a love story. Being a grown-up now, I love this story because of the great love story that feels like a cross between Romeo and Juliet and A Tale of Two Cities. Truth be told, it is one of the better love stories ever told by Disney and remains a close second behind Beauty & The Beast for me, personally. I love this movie, love the iconic image of Lady and Tramp eating spaghetti together, and love the lasting legacy it leaves on animation and storytelling.