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    Welcome To The Talking Animal Cinematic Universe

    You know the Star Wars universe. You know the DC Extended Universe. You know the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

    How about the Talking Animal Cinematic Universe?

    Movies and television shows allow us to peer inside other worlds, worlds where almost anything is possible. Sometimes these worlds are real. Sometimes they’re fiction. Sometimes they are shared worlds set across multiple features or series.

    What if — and stay with us for a minute here — the live action movies and TV shows starring talking animals are all part of a shared universe?

    How? We have three conflicting theories, each of them completely plausible and foolproof. One of them is a biological miracle. One of them is horrifying for the animals. And the last one is terrifying for humans.

    Going nuclearIn 1961, a horse who possessed the capability of speaking and understanding the English language made his gift known to humanity. His name was Mister Ed. Mister Ed was a horse (of course) who chose to speak through quips and witticisms than contemplate the troubling and haunting question of his only existence in a world that was not built for him yet.

    In the very first episode of his series, his delightfully goofy human companion Wilbur Post exclaims, “This whole thing is fantastic! I just don’t understand it.”

    Mr. Ed, responds with the crudely comedic, “Don’t try to. It’s bigger than both of us.”

    What is poised as a comedic turn of phrase from a palomino (who totally doesn’t have peanut butter in his mouth to make him look like he is talking) is actually a rather peculiar statement. What is greater than possibly the first sentient and linguistically capable talking horse? A nuclear bomb?

    In the early 1960s, the United States government performed several nuclear bomb tests at the Los Alamos facility in Sante Fe, New Mexico (as explained here by actual journalist Mark Kaufman). Los Alamos became the testing facility for the Manhattan Project and the site for more than 50 tests between 1960 and 1961. Los Alamos was arguably so under wraps in its heyday that it’s uncertain what other kinds of testing were at play there.

    The talking animals are victims of tragedy.

    We’re not trying to make light of the incalculable tragedies of nuclear warfare. We’re just trying to say that all talking animals are definitely a result of reckless nuclear testing that affected animals in the area.

    A single horse clearly wasn’t the only animal affected by this. Post Mister Ed, we see more instances of films in which animals talk amongst one another, but rarely to humans.

    Truthfully, the talking animals are tragic figures — animals isolated from their own species and forced into the oppressive system of pet ownership.

    But by the ’90s, with movies like Air Bud (he couldn’t talk but had abnormal sports prowess), Paulie, and of course Babe, there was a small hope in the gifted animals that there might have been some community formed with the humans. Not only were there more species of talking animals, there were several generations of them (e.g. the Air Buddies saga).

    Iconic.

    Image: Universal pictures

    As talking animal media progressed in the 2000s, animals were fully integrated and assimilated into human society. The iconic television series Dog With a Blog marked the current zenith of talking animal abilities, in which they are able to coexist alongside and even masquerade as humans on the internet.

    Such is one optimistic possibility for these talking creatures. While these animals are not widely known by humans, there seems at least to be the potential for a more peaceful future.

    But perhaps there’s a different reason that all these animals gained the ability to speak.

    The power of MewtwoIn Detective Pikachu, we see an interesting power of Mewtwo’s. As one of the most powerful Pokémon in the Pokémon universe, Mewtwo has the ability to combine Pokémon and humans into a single being, with the human’s mind taking over the Pokémon’s body while the human body disappears.

    It’s a disturbing event in the movie, but it could help explain how animals have ended up talking in movies and TV shows like Stuart Little, Cats and Dogs, and Mister Ed.

    You see, there are these things called Ultra Wormholes that were introduced to the Pokémon universe in 2016’s Pokémon Sun and Moon games. These mysterious Ultra Wormholes, formed by specific Legendary Pokémon and perhaps sometimes opened through other means, can be used to travel to Ultra Space, a sort of interdimensional space with paths to other universes.

    One of these universes could be an alternate version of our own universe, and it’s possible that Mewtwo may have traveled to the talking animal universe through an Ultra Wormhole.

    Mewtwo's powers are out of this world.

    Mewtwo’s powers are out of this world.

    Upon seeing this world where there are no Pokémon, perhaps Mewtwo sought ways to improve the intelligence of the animals and make them more Pokémon-like. Perhaps he melded a human being into the body of an animal. Maybe that’s how we got Milo and Otis, the stars of Milo and Otis.

    Mewtwo works in mysterious ways.

    The animals don’t know that they are being occupied by humans because, as Detective Pikachu establishes, the animals would experience amnesia and not remember their past lives as humans.

    It’s completely logical to look at movies like Homeward Bound, Stuart Little, and Beverly Hills Chihuahua and view them as a single universe. We are peering into an alternate dimension wherein Mewtwo is floating around like a god, combining humans and animals seemingly at random.

    Except we never see Mewtwo do this. He’s a puppet master with invisible strings, injecting the guinea pigs of G-Force with human intelligence, giving Babe the pig complex thought and speech. It’s a terrifying prospect knowing that these people are trapped inside the bodies of animals.

    At the surface, Babe seems like an adorable, smart little pig who’s just happy to be living. Underneath that, though, is a trapped spirit, blissful in its ignorance of its own Cronenbergian flesh prison. A human life is essentially lost in Mewtwo’s pursuit of animal-human hybridization.

    To what end? We don’t know. Mewtwo works in mysterious ways.

    Alien invasionFinally, we cannot ignore the possibility that this alternate Earth — the one all these talking animals live in — has been invaded, not by a Mewtwo with unimaginable powers, but by aliens masquerading as animals.

    In Men in Black, there’s a pug named Frank who wears a little suit and can speak in clear English. It’s later revealed that Frank isn’t a dog at all, but an alien who has shape-shifted into the form of an animal.

    Could it be possible that all of these animals in the Talking Animal Cinematic Universe, from Mister Ed to the blogging dog Stan, are actually aliens that have transformed themselves into familiar animals to gain humanity’s trust, grow closer to people, and learn from them?

    There are at least three alien species that can disguise themselves at Earth mammals, according to Men in Black.

    There are the Remoolians, which is what Frank is. Remoolians are thought to be small aliens that can only shape shift into small mammals. As far as we know, Frank is the only Remoolian that traveled to Earth, but it’s quite possible that others arrived at various times in history and disguised themselves as other dogs and small mammals.

    Then there’s the Cephalapoids, a race of aliens that can convincingly disguise themselves as humans. They’re seen working alongside Edgar the Bug who is of an third, insect-like species that can also disguise itself by wearing the skin of humans. There’s no saying that these creatures can’t disguise themselves as something other than humans.

    Edgar the Bug and his agents are intergalactic terrorists in search of powerful weapons and information. Why not disguise themselves as various animal companions to gain the trust of humans in this alternate talking animal universe? It’s much easier to trust an animal than a human, after all.

    While some animal/Remoolian hybrids are just enjoying their lives on Earth, these others are timidly plotting their destruction of humanity. Mister Ed is not as innocent as he seems, if this is all true.

    Good thing this isn’t happening in our universe.

    For the past few years, I have lived in a suburban development at the base of a mountain. On my regular walks, I have encountered a variety of wild animals, including deer, snakes and the occasional wild turkey. The ancestors of these animals inhabited this area long before humans encroached, so I am trying to be a good neighbor. I am also learning new lessons in communication between humans and animals.

    I was somewhat alarmed last summer by reports of four rattlesnakes found at different places in the development. I was even more distressed to learn this spring that, as a neighbor was setting out with his dog for an early morning walk, a bear dropped from the branches of a tree in his front yard, landed on the lawn, and ambled off into the woods behind the house.

    After the rattlesnake sightings, I found a helpful story online with advice from a wildlife expert. He said rattlesnakes that feel vibrations from human footsteps near them will rattle their tails in response because they feel threatened. This is a warning; to avoid a venomous bite, humans should back away from the sound of the rattle and give the snake a wide berth. Reassuringly, the expert said a rattlesnake will not chase a human. This seemed like good advice, and I resolved to listen for rattlesnakes while walking.

    The bear sighting seemed much more problematic, because bears can chase humans. To my surprise, all the websites I consulted, including the revered National Park Service, suggested the best approach in a face-to-face encounter is to have a chat with the bear.

    “Identify yourself by talking calmly so the bear knows you are a human and not a prey animal,” the Park Service explained. “Remain still; stand your ground but slowly wave your arms. Help the bear recognize you as a human. It may come closer or stand on its hind legs to get a better look or smell. A standing bear is usually curious, not threatening. Stay calm and remember that most bears do not want to attack you; they usually just want to be left alone.”

    The NPS website also notes that attitude is the key to success here: “Speaking to the bear in a calm, confident tone will distinguish your voice from the noise of a potential prey animal.”

    After reading this advice, I tried to picture myself having a calm, confident conversation with a bear (while also waving my arms). My friends will confirm that I am rarely at a loss for words, but this could be one moment when words would fail me. Furthermore, staying calm has never been my strong suit; if I am conscious, the chances are high that I am anxious. Nonetheless, I am considering memorizing a speech that begins, “Hello, Bear. I am a human, and I mean you no harm. Also, I would not be good to eat. Please do not make me your next meal.”

    For all of its dangers, however, a one-way chat with a bear would be a chance to explore the fascinating world of human-animal communication—an area that has long intrigued me. As a child, I loved reading the National Geographic stories about British primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall and her work with chimpanzees in Africa. Years later, while studying science journalism, I wrote about the latest research in teaching language to primates.

    A few years after that, when I had become a journalist, I went for a jog on a country road and stopped to admire a horse standing at a pasture fence. I chatted with it briefly, patted its forelock and then watched in astonishment as it stretched its neck to the grass by the fence, picked up a short, slender tree branch in its teeth, and presented the branch to me over the top of the fence—clearly intending it as a gift. I had no choice but to solemnly accept it; I thanked the horse profusely before continuing on my jog, branch in hand. I kept the branch in the trunk of my car, and whenever I saw it I thought of that generous horse and that astonishing encounter.

    Much more recently, on one of my neighborhood walks in March, I came upon a small group of deer grazing on the front lawn of a two-story home. I often see deer on my sunset walks; more than once I have had the unsettling experience of sensing that someone was watching me and found, when I looked around, a deer staring directly at me. Each time I was spellbound by the magnificent grace of these creatures, while the deer appeared to be cautiously evaluating me, gauging whether I was friend or foe.

    When I encountered the group of deer on the lawn, one of the fawns seemed clearly fascinated by me. I was in the street about 30 feet down the hill from the deer; as I stood mesmerized by its gaze, the fawn took four or five tentative steps across the lawn toward me. The other deer stopped grazing, raised their heads and silently looked at both of us. Before I had a chance to wonder what I would do if the fawn trotted closer to me, a car drove up the hill behind me and all the deer ran into the woods beyond the house. But still I felt as if, for that brief moment, the fawn and I had established a wordless bond.

    At a time when human beings seem intent on squaring off into tribal fiefdoms and using words as powerful weapons to hurl at each other, it can be a relief to attempt communication with creatures who do not speak. And then perhaps we can use those lessons to communicate with our agitated fellow humans—by remaining calm, assuring them we are not prey animals, and helping them recognize that we are human, too.

    Copyright © 2019 by Susan Hooper

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