Animals have been appearing on the big screen since the advent of movie making. While they do not get as much credit as their human counterparts for the success of a movie, we can’t deny the crucial role these animals play in blockbusters. It takes a lot of specialized training and hours of practicing tricks for our furry friends to be cast in any movie. It is safe to say that just like our revered human movie stars, animals too deserve a spot in the spotlight. The following are some famous animals that left a mark in the world of TV and movies that we won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
Although it’s no longer common nowadays, the box office was once defined by western classics featuring singing cowboys and Roy Rodgers was as good as they came. One of his most fondly remembered sidekicks in his films and TV series was a horse named Trigger. Originally named Golden Cloud, Trigger got this name when Rogers had to choose one horse among five movie horses for his maiden starring role. This was the start of a budding, long-term partnership between Rogers and Trigger in a number of movies and live appearances. Trigger became such a favorite of the Hollywood faithful, earning his own comic book that depicted his adventures. Some of the famous movies Trigger has appeared in include; “The Adventures of Robin Hood”, “San Fernando Valley”, “Melody Time”, and “Along the Navajo Trail”, just to name a few.
“Free Willy” was a Hollywood blockbuster that included three sequels and later a video game dedicated to the movie. At the heart of it all was Keiko, a well-trained orca discovered in captivity at an aquatic park in Mexico. The success of the movies gave birth to the “Free Keiko” movement that finally bore fruit in 2002 when the killer whale was freed into its natural habit. Unfortunately, Keiko failed to thrive in the open seas and just ten days after he was released near other orcas in Norway, Keiko went back to his pen. He preferred being fed daily by humans to hunting for food. Keiko passed on at the age of 26 in 2006 after starring in movies and TV series like “Free Willy 1, 2 and 3”, “Quinceañera”, “Keiko: The Untold Story”, and “Azul”.
One of the most recognized Hollywood movie star animals in the mid-70s was a dog known as Higgins. You will remember him from the role he played in the movie titled “Benji”. Higgins was discovered at a shelter by Hollywood trainer, Frank Inn. A mixed-breed mutt, Higgins turned out to be arguably the smartest, most-trainable canines Inn ever got to work with. After making appearances in 163 episodes of the “Petticoat Junction”, the TV series, Higgins landed his famous lead role in the 1974 movie, Benji. The movie proved to be so bankable that producers made several sequels that included “For the Love of Benji”, “Benji at Work”, and “Oh Heavenly Dog!”
Rin Tin Tin
Rin Tin Tin was a German Shepherd that was rescued from a battlefield during World War I. He ended up becoming one of the most sought-after Hollywood stars in Tinseltown, making appearances in 27 films before the original dog, “Rinny” died in 1932. Despite his death, the role was reprised by several of his descendants in a long list of movies during the 1930s. The public was so much in love with the dog that it went to have its own radio series, with a trio of shows that aired between 1930 and 1955. Rin Tin Tin is remembered for movies such as 1947’s “The Return of Rin Tin Tin”, “Where the North Begins”, “My Dad”, “Jaws of Steel”, “Land of the Silver Fox”, and a TV series running between 1954 and 1959.
There are a few acting animals that left a mark in Hollywood the way Lassie did. Lassie was a Rough Collie that featured in 11 blockbuster movies including “Lassie Come Home”, “Son of Lassie”, “The Sun Comes Up”, “Lassie”, and a long-running TV series that was aired between 1953 and 1974. Initially, the role of Lassie was played by a dog originally named Pal in seven feature films until 1951. Later on, Pal’s descendants reprised the role in the TV series and the subsequent iterations of Lassie.