Issue 13: Article—Animals in Fact-Based Films

Each issue, RSL offers up that perennial internet favourite: the themed list. This time, to celebrate the release of the whale-tastic, In the Heart of the Sea, we take a look at some other real-life creatures whose adventures have been fictionalised on screen…

SeabiscuitSeabiscuit (2003)

Featured creature: The titular champion thoroughbred racehorse.

What the story? Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges and Chris Cooper star in this tale of an undersized racehorse who beat the odds to become a champion during the Great Depression. The film is based on the non-fiction book Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand.

Fly awayFly Away Home (1996)

Featured creatures: A family of Canadian geese.

What the story? Anna Paquin and Jeff Daniels star in this story of a young girl who finds a nest of goose eggs. She raises the chicks and enlists her inventor father’s help to teach them to fly! The film is a dramatization of the actual experiences of Bill Lishman, who trained geese to follow his ultralight; succeeding in leading their migration.

Gorillas_In_The_Mist_posterGorillas in the Mist (1988)

Featured creatures: Rwandan with mountain gorillas

What the story? Sigourney Weaver stars as Dian Fossey, a scientist who travelled to Africa to study the endangered mountain gorilla, and fought a crusade to protect them. The film was partly based on Harold T.P. Hayes’ The Dark Romance of Dian Fossey and Fossey’s own 1983 book, Gorillas in the Mist.

Dark horseDark Horse (2015)

Featured creature: Another racehorse!

What the story? Louise Osmond wrote and directed this low-key film set in the north of England, which tells the true story of group of friends from a working men’s club who bred a racehorse, named Dream Alliance.

Born-Free-PosterBorn Free (1966)

Featured creature: A lion cub named Elsa

What the story? Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers star in this classic story of a couple living on a Kenyan game reserve who end up adopting a family of orphaned lion cubs. They keep the smallest, Elsa, and raise her to lioness maturity, before realising she needs her freedom. The film was based upon the1960 non-fiction book, Born Free, by McKenna’s real-life counterpart, Joy Adamson.

ZooWe Bought a Zoo (2011)

Featured creatures: A whole bunch of them!

What the story? Cameron Crowe directs Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson in this ‘feel-good family film’ about a widowed father who buys and renovates a run-down zoo. It’s loosely based on the 2008 memoir by Benjamin Mee, Damon’s real-life counterpart.

Bonus: For more fact-based animal fare, keep an eye out for Oddball and the Penguins. You can read the about the true story here…

Issue 14 of RSL is out on 25 January.