Animal Movies We Love
Hollywood has enjoyed a long tradition of casting animals in the starring role of big-budget and indie productions going as far back as 1905 with the silent movie, Rescued by Rover. Other heroes followed such as Rin Tin Tin in 1923 (with a re-imagined version in 2007), as well as Old Yeller in 1957. An adorable, highly intelligent dolphin, otherwise known as Flipper, captured the hearts of audiences in 1963, to be later turned into a hit TV series that ran from 1964 to 1967. But it was in 1943 when audiences first met Lassie in Lassie Come Home that really struck a chord with animal lovers, and a further 20 films featuring our beloved collie followed. The final movie, in 2005, simply titled, Lassie, attracted the likes of Peter O’Toole, Samantha Morton, and Peter Dinklage, all happy to play second fiddle to our furry friend.
Whether it be live-action or animation, movies featuring animals have become some of the world’s biggest box office draws. We talked to some actors during our HFPA press conferences about a few of the movies that resonated with our sensitive side:
101 DALMATIANS (1961)
Based on the 1956 novel of the same name, the first animated film of its kind inspired two other Dalmatian films before the live-action hit in 1996, 101 Dalmatians, starring Glenn Close, who played the evil Cruella De Vil. She reprised her role for the 2000 sequel, 102 Dalmatians. In the original film, the dog, Pongo, is tired of his bachelor life and falls for a dog in the neighborhood, Perdita. Their respective owners meet and get married, and Pongo and Perdita follow suit, with Perdita giving birth to a litter of 15 puppies. Cruella De Vil endeavors to steal the puppies so she can make a fur coat.
A remake of the original 1963 film, this version stars Paul Hogan (Crocodile Dundee) and Elijah Wood. It follows a teenage boy sent to spend the summer with his eccentric uncle, and on his trip, he befriends a highly intelligent dolphin named Flipper. Flipper, a crime fighter of sorts, helps him take on the local bad guys who are polluting the ocean. Says Paul Hogan, “Working with a real dolphin is like working with a dog. They’re on a par with a dog as far as intelligence. They have a personality, they relate to you, and they’re the only other creature other than dogs who like being around humans and that makes us like them. And unlike other creatures, they don’t want to eat us.”
“I think most of us think more of dogs than we do our own species,” said Charles Grodin, who stars in the first and second films in this eight-movie franchise. The slobbering and adorable Beethoven was created by John Hughes and Amy Holden Jones, in which the plot revolves around a family attempting to control the antics of their lovable pet Saint Bernard, who has a habit of causing havoc.
MARLEY & ME (2008)
Newlyweds John (Owen Wilson) and Jenny (Jennifer Aniston) uproot their lives when they relocate from Michigan to Florida, where they adopt a yellow Labrador puppy. Marley destroys the house and runs their lives, though he brings out the best in John and Jenny and their growing family. Jennifer Aniston said, “This movie touches people on such a universal level because everyone can understand that connection to their dog. It’s unconditional love. It’s a love that is so unique because it’s always there.”
FINDING NEMO (2003)
Finding Nemo and the sequel, Finding Dory (2016), captured the imagination of children and adults alike watching Marlin, a clown fish, an overprotective father to his son, Nemo, who has a habit of getting into trouble. Nemo is caught by a diver and Marlin must rescue him. The film also features Dory, a blue reef fish voiced by Ellen Degeneres, who battles with short-term memory loss and helps Marlin find his son. Degeneres said, “The message is so great. I love that Dory’s disability turns into a strength.”
THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS (2016)
This animated film, and its 2019 sequel, reveal the antics and adventures our pets get up to when they are left alone to their own devices. It is centered on Max, a spoiled terrier who enjoys his life in a Manhattan apartment building until his owner adopts a giant unruly canine. They encounter a group of ferocious alley cats and wind up in a truck headed for the pound. A rebellious bunny, Snowball (Kevin Hart) comes to the rescue and saves them.
Hart jokes that his dogs behave similarly to the ones in the film. “When I’m gone, they tear the damn house up. It’s in complete disarray. My dogs will run back and forth, jump over the couches, pillows in their mouth, but the minute I step back in the house, it’s like, ‘Okay. Dad’s home. Let’s just play the role.’ That’s the beauty of my animals. That’s my household.”