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Exotic Pets in Movies

June 7, 2017

We live in a neighborhood simply teeming with dogs. There’s Gracie the yellow lab, Grace the flat-coated black lab, Bailey the Great Dane, Sam the Boxer, Tiger the Shih Tzu, Hannah the German Shepherd, Lucy the wirehair terrier, Liberty the German Shepherd, two Vizslas, a Weimereiner, a beagle, a Chow, and Berkely, who just moved in.

I see the lady with her two old dogs the shepherd and the Husky, and that one guy who’s got a seriously trained Irish setter. I see the two little white yippers in the window, and the other two little yippers in the window 3 doors down from that who bark at me on my walks. There’s a couple of cats wandering around and the other day I saw a woman warming up her albino Burmese python on a walk around the pond.

For various reasons, however, we don’t have any pets at our house. But my friend Julie lives across the street with Bailey and Sam, and they are here a lot. They love to run in our back yard, and Friday nights you’ll usually find them on my couch, snuggling with us and my kids while we watch a movie. Sometimes, if there’s a dog or cat on screen, that will catch their attention. And usually my kids’ attention as well, because what kid doesn’t LOVE a good pet movie!? But, about the 3rd time they want to watch The Secret Life of Pets or Beethoven’s 3rd, I’m out.  It did get me thinking about pets in the movies. Not just any pets, though … the weird ones.

With the warm lazy days of summer finally here, this is no time for deep introspective articles on animal analogies in movies, like the role of the wise animal mentor (Aslan the Lion, Bagheera the black panther), or pets who help us discover the meaning of life (Marley and Me, A Dog’s Purpose, My Friend Flicka, Black Beauty, Homeward Bound, etc.).

Now is the time for Kate’s Totally Not Complete Nor in Any Way in Order but Fun Random List of Weird Pets in the Movies. Just for funsies.

 

The James Bond franchise has provided a slew of strange pets, some of which have become synonymous with certain character types. The white Persian cat that Blofeld from SPECTRE is constantly stroking was the inspiration for Dr. Evil’s Mr. Bigglesworth, a hairless manx cat used in the Austin Powers films. A blue-ringed octopus owned by Octopussy (aka Octavia Charlotte Smythe) in the 1983 film of the same name, is the symbol used by the Octopus Cult, an ancient organization of female smugglers and thieves. And let’s not forget sharks in the shark tank.

Birds tend to hang out with baddies. Though we didn’t learn much about why it was so important, Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash had a thing for “my boord”, a cockatoo he left back in Russia in Ironman 2. Baddie Alan Badel in 1966’s Arabesque, had a trained falcon which swooped and scarred the face of any henchman that screwed up. And lest we forget, Iago was the scrappy sassy parrot sidekick of Jafar in Aladdin.

Disney is probably the grand poobah of pets on film, but it is those nasty ones that are fun: Flotsam and Jetsam are the evil electric eel minions of Ursula the Sea Witch in The Little Mermaid, and they seem to have a lot in common with the sly, sociopathic Siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp.

 

 

Speaking of global movie domination, Warner Brothers didn’t do too shabbily with the Harry Potter franchise, chock full of fantastic beasts. Harry had Hedwig the snowy owl, Ron had Scabbers the rat (a rat with a big secret), Hermione had Crookshanks the cat. Professor Dumbledore had Fawkes the Phoenix, Voldemort had Nagini the ridiculously large snake. But Hagrid was the king of strange pets: Fang the mastiff, Buckbeak the hippogriff, Norbert the baby Norwegian ridgeback dragon, Fluffy the three-headed giant dog, and Aragog the adorable man-eating spider.

Finally, although the Indiana Jones series of films were (in)famous for spider-infested South American booby-trapped treasure caves, snake-infested Egyptian ruins, and rat-infested European sewers, the franchise did introduce perhaps the first Nazi-sympathizer capuchin monkey to the movies.

Although there weren’t as many pets throughout the franchise in general, one can’t forget The Penguin’s, um, murder penguins with rockets strapped to their backs in Batman Returns. Or Ms. Selina Kyle’s crazy cat lady. Or the bats.

Not all pets are in charge of their own destiny – pity poor Max the dog, owned by the Grinch, who tied Caribou antlers to his head and made him heave off with Whoville’s whole Christmas haul. And the sweet singing Mogwai of Gremlins, who’s evil spawn was really the fault of thoughtless owners. Or K-K-K-Ken’s poor Wanda the fish, almost swallowed whole by the dangerously idiotic Otto.

Kate! What about the pigs?! No, I haven’t forgotten two of the most famous porcine pets to grace the screen – Babe and Wilbur.

Kate! What about the mechanical pets?! Oh yes – Bubo the mechanical owl, designed by Ray Harryhausen, was sent by the gods to help Harry Hamline’s Perseus in the 1981 Clash of the Titans. Boxy the mechanical daggit, replaced the loss of a boy’s best friend on Battlestar Galactica, and the Fourth Doctor’s K-9 in Doctor Who is now an iconic symbol for the vintage charm of old-school BBC special effects. (Okay, those were television shows, but there were movie versions made, so I say they qualify).

And last, but certainly not least. Let us not forget Audrey II, from Little Shop of Horrors. Hey, blood-thirsty plants from outer space need rescuing, too!

 

Hey folks – Kate here. Just a little note to say I’m heading on to other projects. I have absolutely LOVED writing for you here at Southern Minn Scene, and I will miss it. Thanks for sharing my quirky love of movies here in Kate’s Cut. While you won’t find me here, you can still find me on Twitter @K8pehrson. Have a fantastic summer, and save me the aisle seat in the back left corner of the theater. I mean it.

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