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Animal Safety in the Movies


TomJH
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This subject was touched upon in the Kids Never Get Killed in Action Films thread. But I thought it might be worth exploring in a thread of its own.

 

A week ago or so I viewed a DVD of Hannibal, a 1959 European made "epic" starring Victor Mature. There is a battle scene between the Romans and the Carthaginians in which the latter are utilizing elephants in order to trample the enemy.

 

Only the elephants used in this production, instead of being the historically accurate African elephant that the real Hannibal used, were the smaller Indian variety. Indian elephants are far easier to handle so I understand why the producers elected to go this route. But in the big battle scene, rather than the elephants looking ferocious and intimidating, they almost look playful. There are lots of fast edits and so forth to try to disguise this fact but it's a scene that still really doesn't come off, in my opinion.

 

But thoughout the battle sceen and action scenes, in general, I kept thinking, "I hope the elephants didn't get hurt."

 

No one wants to see a stunt man injured (or worse) on a movie set, of course, but, after all, they are paid professionals  doing that kind of work voluntarily. That's not the case with animals. Their owners and trainers make some kind of money, of course, but I rather doubt that the animal has much choice about being there. (In the case of the Hannibal elephants, they may literally have been working for peanuts).

 

Therefore, it's to the animals in movie action scenes that I particularly extend my concern, moreso than the people.

 

I strongly suspect that, above all other animals, it's the horse that has been seriously injured or killed during the filming of a hazardous scene. One of the most infamous illustrations of that, of course, is of the countless horses that had to be destroyed because of the use of the "running W" during the making of 1936's Charge of the Light Brigade final charge sequence.

 

This involved a wire being attached to the animal's hind leg, with the horse being encouraged to run flat out until the wire pulled him down, often snapping his leg. Star Errol Flynn wrote about this incident in disgust in his autobiography, as did stuntman Buster Wiles, one of the riders in that film, in a book of his own.

 

Another notorious horse death occured during the making of 1939's Jesse James. At one point the James brothers, pursued by a posse, ride off a cliff, plunging into a river below. One of the horses was killed in that fall.

 

While both of those action sequences are effective (the charge sequence in "Charge" is truly classic filmmaking) they both cause me to cringe whenever I watch them because of the knowledge of the horse deaths that occured.

 

No animal's death is worth a good scene in a movie. With the existence today of CGI computer effects I assume that real animal injuries can be avoided more now. And you're always seeing notifications in a film's closing credits that no animal was injured during the making of that production. I always find that notice gratifying (though a part of me sometimes wonders if it's true).

 

Certainly animals today, though, will have more people looking out for their safety on a film set that during the Hollywood of the studio days. Think of those countless "B" westerns and serials that Republic and smaller studios used to crank out that involved animals in action scenes. Heck, the big studios, too for that matter, you wonder what may have occured during one of their major productions involving an animal that got hushed up, with people bought off to keep their mouths closed. Or do I sound too paranoid?

 

I know I won't be alone in this. Animal safety on a film set will be a concern for many of us. Admittedly, however, it may be an after thought after seeing an action sequence of some kind. Possibily because the actions scenes involving the elephants weren't particularly convincing in that Victor Mature Hannibal, though, I was thinking of it while watching them.

 

Anybody know of any specific incidents in which an animal was seriously injured, or worse, during a film production? Or are there any films in which, no matter what kind of reassurances you see in the closing credits, you just have to wonder if an animal was injured.

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Yakima Canutt, a stuntman perfected the "Running W." It was used in "Stagecoach." In the silent Ben-Hur many horses were killed and/or maimed. Even if they were maimed they usually had to be put down. Thankfully the running w was stopped and more safer methods were used. That is all I could remember off the top of my head. I cannot watch a movie where animals are hurt. There were many. Apocalypse Now and Cockfighter were two more.

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Agree.  I can't stand to see animals get hurt on screen - real or pretend.  Nowadays, the Humane Society is supposed to watch over animal safety in every film/tv show where there is an animal - even if that animal plays a family pet and isn't in any dangerous scenes or if is just in the background, the AHS is there.  Does anybody know when this practice came to be?  I hope with them on the scene no animals get hurt but I shudder to think of all those years of filmaking with no concern for the animals' well being.  You just know the treatment of horses in westerns and "epics" had to be just awful.

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I don't know of any from "classic" films(in which the "classic" designation refers to  older films from the '30's and '40's and so).

 

But, what about that water buffalo type animal getting slaughtered in APOCALYPSE NOW?  Was THAT real, or not?

 

Then, there's a HOG that gets disemboweled in the movie  SOUTHERN COMFORT(1981) that's part of a Cajun gathering sequence.  The hog actually squirms and kicks as it's being "gutted", which makes it look like it WAS actually a filmed "gutting".

 

Sepiatone

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Nowadays, the Humane Society is supposed to watch over animal safety in every film/tv show where there is an animal - even if that animal plays a family pet and isn't in any dangerous scenes or if is just in the background, the AHS is there.  Does anybody know when this practice came to be?

 

The AHA (American Humane Association) began what became the "No Animals Were Harmed" monitoring and certification process around 1940, although I'm sure there was less oversight in the beginning than there is now (and they still only monitor about 70 percent of productions that include animals). 

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That callous disregard for the welfare of the animals, not to mention the actors and stuntmen as well,  is despicable. Fortunately we've come a long way , I hope.  I guess a related question is this; knowing what we do know about some of these films, does that make them unwatchable for some of us? The film may otherwise be a very entertaining movie; great story, filming, acting, etc. I'm not suggesting editing out certain scenes, but it is important to note just what went on in making those scenes.  

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Thank you, Tom, for bringing this up.  Despite reforms, animals are still harmed, or die, in the making of modern films.

 

The most recent movie I can think of is The Hobbit, where 27 animals allegedly were killed.  This should not be happening, especially in the age of CGI.

 

I became aware of this issue a few decades ago when Entertainment Tonight  did  a segment on animal treatment in the movies.   I am still haunted to know that Clyde, the orangutan  in the Every Which Way movies, was beaten to death by handlers.  It's not just the making of the movies, but the treatment of them by the companies that own the animals, a whole other issue. Despite the presence of observers on the set, animals' safety cannot be guaranteed.     

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Thank you, Tom, for bringing this up. Despite reforms, animals are still harmed, or die, in the making of modern films.

 

The most recent movie I can think of is The Hobbit, where 27 animals allegedly were killed. This should not be happening, especially in the age of CGI.

 

I became aware of this issue a few decades ago when Entertainment Tonight did a segment on animal treatment in the movies. I am still haunted to know that Clyde, the orangutan in the Every Which Way movies, was beaten to death by handlers. It's not just the making of the movies, but the treatment of them by the companies that own the animals, a whole other issue. Despite the presence of observers on the set, animals' safety cannot be guaranteed.

Oh no, I did not know that about "Clyde." I will never ever watch that movie again. Ever. It was amusing to me as a kid but knowing that just disgusts me. That was not even an "accidental" death.

So yes, I guess knowing animals were hurt in a movie does influence whether or not I want to see that movie.

In this day and with safety a big issue, I do not understand how even one animal is killed. It makes me furious.

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I don't have the stomach to delve into this too deeply, but here's one article.  I hadn't heard about the death on War Horse:

 

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/why-the-no-animals-were-harmed-movie-disclaimer-doesnt-mean-much/

 

That's a disturbing article from PBS Newshour, GD, that, if you don't mind, I've reposted here

 

Why the ‘No Animals Were Harmed’ movie disclaimer doesn’t mean much
 
 

BY News Desk November 26, 2013 at 2:35 PM EST

A new report released Monday criticizes the nonprofit organization responsible for granting the “No Animals Were Harmed” end credit disclaimer. The investigation by The Hollywood Reporter reveals a long history by American Humane Association of downplaying and underreporting animal injuries and death and accuses the AHA of actually awarding the disclaimer to films and TV shows where animals were harmed during production.

These include:

  • A Bengal tiger, used whenever CGI wasn’t effective, almost drowned on the set of “Life of Pi.”

  •  

  • Three thoroughbreds died during the production of HBO’s horse-racing drama “Luck” and under the AHA’s supervision, which was canceled shortly after the third horse was euthanized after sustaining major head injuries.

  •  

  • A Husky dog was repeatedly punched by a trainer on the set of “Eight Below.” The AHA said the force was necessary to stop a dog fight.

  •  

  • An animal handler dropped a chipmunk, stepped on it, thus killing it during the production of “Failure to Launch.”

  •  

  • More than two dozen animals, including sheep and goats, perished from dehydration and exhaustion during a hiatus in the production of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” All of these productions received the end credit, and THR’s Gary Baum, relying on anonymous sources, lists more examples in his report. Among the horses affected from 2001-2006, “impalement,” “broken shoulder” and “collision with camera car” are listed as injuries and causes of death. On “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” set, 14 horses sustained injuries. And yet, the film received the “No Animals Were Harmed” credit because the organization said “none of the injuries were serious or due to intentional harm.” The AHA dismisses other horse deaths because they were “not work-related.”

Baum reports that the AHA is in a position of monitoring the same industry that funds them. Barbara Casey, the Film & TV Unit’s former head of production, sued the AHA and HBO for wrongful termination related to the horse deaths on the “Luck” set. She said her calls for safer horse treatment were ignored by the show’s producers, who “exercised their political muscle and influence with AHA” and fired her as a result.

 

Casey also said that “in order to protect Steven Spielberg, one of the most notable and influential persons in the history of film, and because of the volume of press and other publicity this film garnered, AHA agreed to cover up the death of [a] horse [on "War Horse"] and to give the 2011 film its ‘No Animals Were Harmed’ end credit.”

Dr. S. Kwane Stewart, head of the organization’s monitoring program, told THR, “This whole idea that we’re cozy with the industry — it’s simply not the case. We first and foremost want to keep the animals safe.”

 

In a statement responding to Baum’s report, the AHA maintains that the organization has a “remarkably high safety record of 99.98 percent on set … Regrettably, there have even been some deaths, which upset us greatly, but in many of the cases reported, they had nothing to do with the animals’ treatment on set, or occurred when the animals were not under our care.”

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Anyone remember the stories about Disney faking lemming suicides for an Oscar winning nature documentray of the company, or controversies involving Marlin Perkins and Wild Kingdom? The following is from Wiki. Sorrry there is nothing more specific in the case of the Wild Kingdom, a TV nature program with which I grew up as a kid::

 

White Wilderness is an American nature documentary produced by Walt Disney Productions in 1958 noted for its propagation of the misconception of lemming suicide.

The film was directed by James Algar and narrated by Winston Hibler. It was filmed on location in Canada over the course of three years. It won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

 

White Wilderness contains a scene that supposedly depicts a mass lemming migration, and ends with the lemmings leaping into the Arctic Ocean. There have been some reports that the Disney film describes this as an actual suicidal action by the lemmings, but the narrator in the film states that the lemmings are likely not attempting suicide, but rather are migrating and upon encountering water, attempt to cross it. If the water they attempt to cross is too wide, they suffer exhaustion and drown.

 

In 1982, the CBC Television news magazine program The Fifth Estate broadcast a documentary about animal cruelty in Hollywood called "Cruel Camera", focusing on White Wilderness as well as the television program Wild Kingdom. Bob McKeown, the host of the CBC program, found that the lemming scene was filmed at the Bow River near downtown Calgary and not at the Arctic Ocean as implied by the film. He found out that the lemmings did not voluntarily jump into the river but were pushed in by a rotating platform installed by the film crew. He also interviewed a lemming expert who claimed that the particular species of lemming shown in the film is not known to migrate, much less commit mass suicide. He also discovered that footage of a polar bear cub falling down an Arctic ice slope was really filmed in a Calgary film studio.

 

It remains unclear if Walt Disney was notified or approved of the lemming incident.

Marlin Perkins was indirectly accused of being involved in similar controversies, and took umbrage, striking CBC journalist Bob McKeown who challenged Perkins in an interview as to whether he had ever done something of that sort. Perkins, then in his seventies, "firmly asked for the camera to be turned off, then punched a shocked McKeown in the face."

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I guess a related question is this; knowing what we do know about some of these films, does that make them unwatchable for some of us?

 

For me, absolutely.  I've read about films in which extras were seriously injured or killed during production because the studio, director, etc. was more interested in getting a good shot than taking proper safety precautions, and once I know that about a film, I can't ever watch it.  The same holds true where it is an animal that has been injured or killed because of such negligence or mistreatment.  I have a hard enough time watching fictional animal death (yes, I am one of Those People), so if I know that an animal was harmed during production, there is no way I can just ignore that and watch the film.

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lifeofpi_a_l.jpg

 

Life of Pi director Ang Lee, questioned by reporters in Manila and Taiwan after The Hollywood Reporter's exclusive investigation into the treatment of animals on film and TV sets, has admitted that the tiger star of his movie faced a scary moment during filming.

"It was an accident," Lee told reporters in Taiwan about the incident. "The crew worked hard to rescue the tiger and then showed him a lot of care, giving him five-star treatment." He later said in Manila, "We gave a lot of care to the tiger, as much as we possibly could."

ANIMALS WERE HARMED: THR's Exclusive Investigation Exposes Hollywood's Nightmare of Death, Injury and Secrecy

Lee was in the Philippines to take part in a four-day film exchange, including a screening of Life of Pi. He spoke to reporters before and after boarding a plane to Manila, with Taiwan's Central News Agency reporting on the exchange.

THR revealed earlier this week that King the tiger nearly drowned during filming, publishing excerpts of an e-mail from the American Humane Association monitor, Gina Johnson, who was assigned to the film.

"Last week we almost f---ing killed King in the water tank," Johnson wrote on April 7, 2011. "This one take with him just went really bad, and he got lost trying to swim to the side … damn near drowned."

"I think this goes without saying but DON'T MENTION IT TO ANYONE, ESPECIALLY THE OFFICE!" Johnson continued in the email, obtained by THR. "I have downplayed the f--- out of it."

King's trainer eventually snagged him with a catch rope and dragged him to one side of the tank, where the tiger scrambled out to safety.

STORY: 'Life of Pi' AHA Monitor Leaves Job After THR Email Exposes Tiger 'Damn Near Drowned'

Others involved with the production described the tiger incident in far less dire terms, but the film -- which went on to earn four Oscars and $609 million in global box-office revenue -- was awarded the "No Animals Were Harmed" credit, which AHA is in charge of granting.

A spokesman for Life of Pi distributor Fox denied the tiger nearly drowned. "The tiger, King, was never harmed and did not 'nearly drown' during the production," the spokesman told THR. "We take on-set safety very seriously and take every precaution necessary to ensure that no one -- animal or human -- is harmed during the production of our films."

Dr. S. Kwane Stewart, a veterinarian who took over as the national director of the AHA's No Animals Were Harmed in April, says the AHA monitor on Life of Pi, "probably overreacted. Was it a close call? What is indisputable was that no harm came to King. Could you argue he had a moment? But he continued to work."

Johnson is no longer an AHA employee, the organization told CNN Tuesday. The AHA has not yet responded to THR's request for information about the circumstances surrounding Johnson's departure.

In a statement released late Monday, the AHA said THR's investigation "distorts" its work. It cited internal statistics that it maintains a safety record of 99.98 percent. THR's story noted that the figure has no real statistical grounding. 

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For me, absolutely.  I've read about films in which extras were seriously injured or killed during production because the studio, director, etc. was more interested in getting a good shot than taking proper safety precautions, and once I know that about a film, I can't ever watch it.  The same holds true where it is an animal that has been injured or killed because of such negligence or mistreatment.  I have a hard enough time watching fictional animal death (yes, I am one of Those People), so if I know that an animal was harmed during production, there is no way I can just ignore that and watch the film.

I am one of Those People too, Bastet.  A few months ago I thought I might see The Grand Budapest Hotel, as the overall look of the movie appealed to me. (I don't go to many new movies, though I do enjoy watching them in hotel rooms.)  Shortly before I'd planned to go I saw a TV commercial for  the movie  showing a cat being thrown out of a hotel window to the street below. I Googled it, and sure enough in the scene the cat is killed.  For laughs.  Obviously it's not a real cat, but really!  I then read that animals often do not fare well in Wes Anderson movies.

 

I remember Betty White saying in an interview she turned down a part in As Good as it Gets because a scene portrayed harm to a dog.  Good for Betty!   May her kind example be followed by filmmakers and actors.

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How I wish they would just use CGI images for animals now. I was stunned by the effectiveness of those effects in The Life of PI, one of the most visually arresting films that I've seen in ages, perhaps ever.

 

However, that report that a real tiger was used in a few scenes, almost drowning on the set of the film, has clearly tainted my impression of the movie now.

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I really hate knowing now that the AHA may not be totally reliable because I'm one of those people who's so traumatized by the idea of harming animals under any circumstances that I willingly defer to anyone who can actually deal with the issue. It does seem as though there are instances of the organization "cozying up" to the industry, despite the denials. Maybe a better way of dealing with the "not biting the hand that feeds you" angle would be for them to issue a rating instead of a simple stamp of approval. It might make filmmakers more vigilent themselves, in addition to the vigilence of AHA, if they knew it would be reflected in an actual number or code of some kind. It also might make the AHA more honest in iffy situations if they didn't have to "approve" the movie, only rate it.

I don't mean to sidetrack, but there's a questionable phenomenon which seems to have gained in popularity recently. I just saw a promo on PBS for a series about bird migration, featuring stunning film of birds in flight. I immediately thought of "Winged Migration", which I eagerly bought on DVD when it came out. I was amazed at my own ignorance after I saw the accompanying making-of feature on how the birds are trained as chicks to follow the light aircraft which do the filming. So what purports to be a migration is merely birds following the aircraft wherever it happens to be going. My one hope would be that the plane follows the actual migration route and that the birds actually learn what they need to from the experience, but the idea of birds subsequently being released to the wild with no coping skills haunts me. Or worse, that they might automatically follow any aircraft which came their way.

Thanks to all who are keeping this thread going. I've had many cringe-worthy moments watching movies I otherwise love, so it's good to know the experience has been shared by others.

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I am one of Those People too, Bastet.  A few months ago I thought I might see The Grand Budapest Hotel, as the overall look of the movie appealed to me. (I don't go to many new movies, though I do enjoy watching them in hotel rooms.)  Shortly before I'd planned to go I saw a TV commercial for  the movie  showing a cat being thrown out of a hotel window to the street below. I Googled it, and sure enough in the scene the cat is killed.  For laughs.  Obviously it's not a real cat, but really!  I then read that animals often do not fare well in Wes Anderson movies.

 

I remember Betty White saying in an interview she turned down a part in As Good as it Gets because a scene portrayed harm to a dog.  Good for Betty!   May her kind example be followed by filmmakers and actors.

OY....

 

Does that mean you refuse to watch TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD because atticus shoots a "mad dog" ?

 

 

Sepiatone

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I wondered how long before the backlash.

 

I would hope everyone could agree that there is a big difference between animals actually being harmed during the making of a film and a film showing the fake harming of an animal.    I can support the later if the harming or killing of an animal is part of the plot. e.g. it is needed to move the plot forward.

 

But I don't support fake animal cruelty just to get a laugh.   In fact I have to wonder what kind of person would find such a so called joke funny. 

 

One other point:   Some food and travel shows do show the killing of animals and sometimes these can be kind of graphic (e.g. I have seen the killing and skinning a lamb on Bordain's show).   I don't have an issue with them showing such scenes since they are just showing what people really do to prepare an animal for human consumption.    Those that have a problem with showing the killing of animals for food, shouldn't eat animals.

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I would hope everyone could agree that there is a big difference between animals actually being harmed during the making of a film and a film showing the fake harming of an animal. I can support the later if the harming or killing of an animal is part of the plot. e.g. it is needed to move the plot forward.

 

But I don't support fake animal cruelty just to get a laugh. In fact I have to wonder what kind of person would find such a so called joke funny.

 

One other point: Some food and travel shows do show the killing of animals and sometimes these can be kind of graphic (e.g. I have seen the killing and skinning a lamb on Bordain's show). I don't have an issue with them showing such scenes since they are just showing what people really do to prepare an animal for human consumption. Those that have a problem with showing the killing of animals for food, shouldn't eat animals.

You are right. There is a big difference between a movie plot and harming/killing animals just for the screen shot. I have no problem with hunting for food. I've had delicious venison steak that tasted better than a restaurant. Killing an animal due to rabies or suffering is not the same to me as deliberate cruelty. Of course it's sad when Old Yeller dies but it's not the same. I am all for safety of the human and animal in making movie. I don't know if I said what I am trying to say-in the right way. I care about people and animals. I don't have a good way with words.
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There can be seen in the movies, at times, casual references to the death of an animal, sometimes even for the purposes of humour. A Fish Called Wanda, if memory serves me correctly, dealt with a dead cat for a big laugh.

 

This thread was really not created to deal with those kind of attitudes. I was primarily  concerned with the safety risks or casual attutide that might needlessly place an animal in a position of injury, or even death, during the making of a film. No scene in a film is worth it.

 

As pointed out in the original posting, director Michael Curtiz couldn't have cared less about the treatment of horses (many of them being put down as a result of injury) during the making of his Charge of the Light Brigade (any more than this same man, by the way, cared about the possibility of extras drowning on his Noah's Ark set).

 

It's disturbing to read that the honesty of the American Humane Society is still being called into question on occasion after they have given their sanction for a film's credits to state that no animal had been injured during the production of that film.

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