As audiences return this weekend to Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, let’s look back to some of our favorite movie pets of the living variety. (At least, they were alive when these films were made. I can’t promise that a dog from 1939 is still kicking today.)
My favorite movie pet has to be the first movie pet I was probably ever aware of: Toto. From the time I was a tot, I absolutely adored The Wizard of Oz… and still do! (Come on, who doesn’t?) My first ever crush was Dorothy, so of course I had to like her “little dog, too.” Toto, though, wasn’t just an ornament or cute accoutrement as she skipped down the Yellow Brick Road with her trio of misfit friends; he was an integral part of the plot and one of the story’s true heroes. I mean, if Toto hadn’t grabbed the bottom of the Wizard’s curtain with his teeth and pulled it away, we’d never know that the “great and powerful Wizard of Oz” was really just a bumbling, befuddled fraud. (Oops, I hope I didn’t spoil anything…)
When you think about it, Toto has everything the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion don’t: brains, heart, and courage. He’s the complete package, the real deal. Yeah, his constant yapping gets a bit annoying (nails on a chalkboard just might be a more pleasant sound), but his devotion to Dorothy is quite touching. Watching him interact with her as she sings “Over the Rainbow” melts my heart every time, and you gotta admit he’s pretty darn resourceful in a pinch. No doubt about it, for me, Toto is tops.
There has never been a more important, credible animal performance than that elicited by Ulysses the cat in Inside Llewyn Davis. Played by three kitties, the existential position of a feckless feline is the most profound reminder that there’s nothing more telling in an indifferent universe than a blank, dismissive stare, for that is all you’ll get back when looking into the void.
As tempted as I am to choose Cujo, I have to say that Mr. Bigglesworth from Austin Powers is one of my favorite pets on the big screen. He’s perfectly docile and a loving sidekick to Dr. Evil, but best of all he’s one of the few representations of hairless cats on screen. Even though his naked little body makes for a punchline and not a body-positive example of a differently-haired cat, he’s just so darn cute. I grew up with an eccentric aunt who had hairless cats (my favorite was named Noodle) and I’ve always had a soft spot for those kitties. Do you know they sweat? Sweat! I’m sure Mr. Bigglesworth was sweating all through his adventures in the Evil lair, but he’s a professional and never let us see it.
There’s a cat in the 2007 franchise non-starter The Golden Compass that I always liked. In a movie full of impressive daemon animals, Lyra’s Pan (or Pantalaimon) will occasionally turn into some sort of wildcat, and I admit, I wish I could go to a shelter/pet store and adopt a house cat that looked like that movie CGI cat. Let me also mention that I particularly love the bear punch that happens late in the movie, and I wish that the studio had made a sequel or two. Hopefully, the Amazon series will be as enjoyable.
M. Enois Duarte
Ever since I read Stephen King’s Pet Sematary as a kid (way back in the ’80s! Whoa!), I loved the cat Church but was also incredibly terrified by it. When Mary Lambert’s adaptation finally haunted cinemas in 1989, the creepy zombie feline tormented my nightmares. A blood-soaked, rotting British Blue Shorthair plagued my imagination for several years. I admit that Rachel’s sister Zelda was equally horrifying, but the greenish-yellow glow of the cat’s eyes grew into a permanent apparition crawling within the deep recesses of my unconsciousness.
I loved the look and breed of the cat so much that, many decades later, my daughter and I eventually adopted a British Blue Shorthair from a rescue agency. What made this three-month-old kitten all the more special was that he was blind in one eye, which my daughter pointed out as destiny because she knows me very well. Not only am I fan of the cat from the book and movie, but I also love Edgar Allan Poe, who wrote a short story called The Black Cat about a terrifying, one-eyed black cat. Long story short, the little guy became a part of the family because of the breed and his particular infliction, and my daughter named him Edgar Allen Purr.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
I’d barely started to write my response about the one, true answer to this roundtable – Ein, the hyper-intelligent corgi from Cowboy Bebop, of course – when my wife overruled me. Below is a lightly-edited transcription of Maggie’s breathless, minute-and-a-half long rant about the greatest Old English Sheepdog in animation history:
“The whole thing with Peter Pan is that Wendy is in the children’s room with her two little brothers, and Mr. Darling thinks she’s too old to be in there. They have their Old English Sheepdog, Nana, as the nursemaid, and Mr. Darling is, like, ‘This is all very ridiculous.’ But the dog is in there taking care of the kids… cleaning up after them, pouring out their medicine, and making the beds while they’re messing everything up. It’s adorable! She just doesn’t really get the attention she deserves in the movie, and the only one who pays attention to her is the littlest one, Michael.
“And then Peter Pan comes after Mr. Darling got all fed up and tied Nana up outside like a regular dog, even though she’s clearly not a regular dog because she’s, like, a nursemaid dog. Then, as they’re flying away, Michael sprinkles pixie dust from Tinkerbell on her. She’s floating up in the air after them, and she can’t go because she’s all tied up still. It’s super-sad when she waves goodbye. I would literally cry when Mr. Darling put her outside. Nana’s the most responsible person in the movie, and she’s not a person: she’s a dog! And that is all. Oh, and she’s a floof.”
I’ve always been much more of a cat person than a dog person, which is why I was so greatly relieved that Jonesy lived to the end of Alien. The most suspenseful part of the movie for me is when Ripley leaves the poor cat behind, trapped in its cage and helpless, while she goes to set the ship’s self-destruct. Thankfully, she comes back for him.
Tell us your favorite screen pets in the Comments.