Animal actors have been in the press a lot recently. Martin Scorsese started a campaign to get the giant doberman Blackie, who stars in his movie Hugo, a Golden Collar nomination. Meanwhile Uggie, the scene-stealing dog from The Artist is not allowed to attend the Oscars due to the Academy not allowing animals at the ceremony.
Even Miss Piggy has joined the debate. Her film The Muppets is nominated in the Best Song category. However the glamorous star might boycott the ceremony in protest against the ban.
“It’s wonderful to be nominated in the Best Song category, even if it wasn’t a song I sang,” she has told reporters recently. However she doesn’t think she will feel very comfortable at a ceremony that only allows human attendees:
“It’s hard to feel right about going to an event like that where you’re not really welcome … For some reason, the Academy has refused to recognise pigs as actors,” Miss Piggy muses.
It is a sentiment shared by the pint-sized pooch, Uggie. But even an online campaign named “Consider Uggie” hasn’t swayed the decision of the cold Academy.
The issue has certainly grabbed the world’s attention. Do the animals in films deserve more recognition than they get for their performances?
Let’s imagine for a moment that the Academy isn’t as backwards as it appears to be at the moment. In our imaginary Oscar’s there is a category named Best Performance by an Animal(s) in a Motion Picture.
Which past performances have deserved the honour of Best Performance?
See our top ten below:
Lassie. While Uggie is the star of the moment in 2012, back in the day the world was gaga for Lassie. A fictional collie dog that was created by Eric Knight, Lassie Come Home was made by MGM in 1943 with a collie named Pal playing Lassie. Pal appeared as Lassie in six other MGM features until 1951. Then his owner and trainer Rudd Weatherwax acquired the Lassie trademark from MGM and booked him for appearances at fairs and rodeos throughout the 50s. When the TV series had its debut in 1954, Pal's son Lassie Junior took the role until the series end in 1957.
Beethoven and Marley Mischievous dogs who can't seem to behave are common subject matter in a movie. For example the comedy Marley and Me starring Owen Wilson is about a golden labrador that is difficult to house train. The most famous of these dogs is from the classic family film Beethoven. Released in 1992, the film centred around a stolen St. Bernard puppy who finds its way to the Newton family. When the dog barks along to Ludwig van Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, he gains the name Beethoven. Beethoven was originally played by a dog named Chris, who was owned and trained by Karl Lewis Miller. He starred in the first two Beethoven movies, both of which were released in cinemas. The straight to video sequels since have starred different dogs.
Milo in The Mask and Odie in Garfield Milo and Odie are both sidekicks in their respective movies, Milo being Jim Carrey's and Odie being Garfield's. Odie is the iconic best friend of Garfield from the comic strip. Although he is a beagle, in the live-action film he is played by a dachshund called Tyler. His most iconic moment is when he dances on his hind legs to The Black Eyed Peas' Hey Mama. Milo by contrast was played by a Jack Russell Terrier named Max. The dog steals many scenes thanks to the animated sequences when the dog has put the mask on and turned into a cartoonish and exaggerated version of a Jack Russell’s natural personality.
Hedwig in Harry Potter Admit it, we all wanted an owl to deliver our post after we saw the first Harry Potter film. Given to Harry as a present by Hagrid in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the loyal snowy owl was present throughout the film series, up until her death in Deathly Hallows Part One (sob). Hedwig was played by several different owls. Gizmo is the main owl we see on screen. However, to lessen the work load, two additional owls, Ook and Sprout were brought in for flying shots. The use of these owls is all the more remarkable because these birds are notoriously difficult to train. Daniel Radcliffe went as far as to call them stupid!
Babe This 1995 film revolved around a piglet called Babe. When his mother is taken away for the slaughter, he is entered into a 'guess the weight' stall at a fair and goes home with the winner. While on his new farm, Babe beats the odds to learn how to become a sheepdog, and competes in and ultimately wins a tournament. Babe was played by a combination of real and animatronic pigs, and voiced by Christine Cavanaugh. The film took so long to make that they had to replace the pig playing the central role every other week thanks to growth spurts. We have 40 former piglets to thank for this enchanting film. Admittedly that is a lot of Oscars to give out.
Jocko the walrus in 50 First Dates The ultimate scene-stealer. 50 First Dates is about a marine-life veterinarian Henry Roth, who falls for a girl with a severe case of amnesia. The great supporting actors in this film are the animals who provide many of the best laugh-out-loud moments. Particularly Jocko the walrus (played by Sivuqaq), who in one epic scene, pretends to be ill and then throws up on Henry's co-worker Alexa. Whether that was a special effect or not, it's a classic moment that sticks in your mind. High five! Special mention goes to the tiny penguin who is nearly run over by Drew Barrymore. The three female walruses featured in the film are named Siku, Uquq and Qiluk.
Keico aka Free Willy. The fish out of water tale really is beautiful and was a staple of the 90s. Elijah Wood starred in Flipper, a film about a boy who befriends a dolphin. No sea creature is more loved than the orca in Free Willy though. Released in 1993, Willy (played by Keico the orca) is caught by whalers and taken to an amusement park. There he befriends a lonely boy called Jesse. Willy does not like life in a tank though, and Jesse plots to free him. The most iconic moment occurs when Willy jumps over Jesse and back into the ocean. Although Keico became a celebrity, he had suffered from illness for years due to being in captivity, prompting Warner Brothers to try and find him a better home. He died in 2003 aged 27.
War Horse's Joey. A First World War drama that centres on a lad and his horse, this film faced the challenge of making the audience watch the horse and not the rider. During filming, fourteen horses were used to portray the main character Joey. Eight of these were adults, four portrayed him as a colt, and two when he was a foal. The main horse trainer Bobby Lovgren was given three months to train them. Horses are intelligent creatures though. As Spielberg said: "The horses were an extraordinary experience for me... I was really amazed at how expressive horses are and how much they can show what they’re feeling." The big fourteen certainly reduced us to tears. Kate Winslet better watch out.
Tai in Water for elephants. Did you know elephants can recognise themselves in a reflection? They are intelligent, which is the reason there are so many films about them. Many revolve around a circus like Bill Murray's Larger Than Life. Most recentlyWater for Elephants has had a great reception. When Jacob becomes the vet for a circus, he finds out he is the only one who can communicate with the new elephant Rosie, because she was trained in Polish. Rosie is played by the gorgeous Tai who has been in Hollywood for decades now. She found herself in the middle of a controversy after this film was released however, because her trainers were accused of mistreating her prior to filming. It's a shame because her performance in the film was wonderful.
Clyde in Every Which Way Loose Clyde the orangutan is Clint Eastwood's constant companion in this 1978 film. Philo (Clint) Beddoe, a truck driver who makes money on the side as a bare-knuckle fighter. Clyde, the scene stealing boozy brawler, was played by a trained orangutan called Manis. Sadly he didn't get to reprise his role in the 1980 sequel, because he had apparently grown too much . The orangutan who took his place in Any Which Way You Can died soon after filming wrapped.