As long as they've made movies, animals have been killed or injured to do it.
The controversial shot of lemmings leaping to their death from the Disney film, White Wilderness. In reality, they were flung from a turntable (not seen) into a river.
In a landmark investigation twenty-five years ago, called Cruel Camera, the fifth estate's Bob McKeown uncovered an uncomfortable, even shocking, reality about moviemaking: animals, intentionally put in harm's way, abused, often killed to create the kind of cinematic excitement that draws a crowd.
As well, the fifth estate found that in wildlife documentaries, the casualties are often the truth. Nature films, including award-winning documentaries made by esteemed studio such as Disney, sometimes used fakery in their shots. (watch the original film online)
Twenty-five years later: animals still abused in films
Now, twenty-five years on, the fifth estate thought it was time for Mckeown to take another look through the Cruel Camera to see how things have changed. His findings show that although much has changed in the TV and movie business, many of the damning findings of the original investigation haven't changed much at all.
Trainers lost control of the animals doing a rodeo scene in Flicka. One horse died.
For instance, it's true that a venerable animal welfare organization, American Humane, is now mandated to monitor film sets to ensure that animal actors are treated well. As well, Los Angeles, the home of American moviemaking, employs an attorney responsible for animal cruelty cases. But, that attorney, Robert Ferber, says that American Humane refused to cooperate with his investigation into the death of a horse during the filming of the 2005 family film Flicka. (read more about cruelty in movies)
Fakery in wildlife documentaries
McKeown also takes you behind the scenes to show how some wildlife documentaries are really made. Viewers will be surprised to learn that some of the most poignant moments in acclaimed wildlife documentaries were staged or faked on film. Tricks of the trade are demonstrated, including how captive, even tame, animals are often portrayed as wild, existing in their natural environment.
Among those giving his insights into this secret part of nature filming is Sir David Attenborough, the most world's most renowned wildlife filmmaker.
"You could lie in print, you can lie on film, you can lie on radio. The ability to tell untruths in huge, of course," Attenborough told McKeown. "But reputable natural history filmmakers do not lie. They tell the truth…but telling the truth is a simplification. It's often very difficult to tell the truth, but that's what we try to do." Yet, even Attenborough, has been accused of manipulating situations to make a point. (read more about fakery in films)
Sad fate of show business chimps
Once their career in show business is over chimps are left to live out their lives in horrible conditions.
McKeown also looks at the sad state of chimps in show business, including the often-brutal world of obtaining and training chimps for entertainment.
The fate of chimps who have grown too big and uncontrollable to work in front of the camera is also explored. Viewers will be taken to some of the grim roadside zoos where former show business chimpanzees live out the last, desperate decades of their lives.
"Better to be euthanized. It's a horrible life," world-famous primatologist Jane Goodall told McKeown. "It's a horrible life and why they cling to life as they do, I don't know. Gorillas tend to die but chimpanzees just have this – same as us – people are like that. Think of how the people survived concentration camps." (read more about chimps in Hollywood)