The Animal World



Notes: Warner Bros. Picture. Some of the stop-motion dinosaur footage was included in Trog (1970) as a flashback.

Written, Produced, Directed: Irwin Allen
Supervising Animator: Willis O’Brien
Animation: Ray Harryhausen

Summary: With a kind of Stravinsky Symphony of Psalms music, one of two disembodied narrators tells us that once “there lived no one, nowhere.” A cartoony earth hovers in space. Then “the miracle of life came to pass.” “And God said” something, unleashing footage of floods. The “ancient ancestor” to everything was a cell, a paramecium. Insistences about “where the Bible and science both agree” refers back to when Bible-thumpers were relatively sane. Seaworms follow. The “flying saucers” of 500 million years ago were jellyfish.

“Then as now, everyone was hungry.” (?) A “simple slogan” is cited: “Don’t eat us; we’ll eat you.” We see lots of fish. A mini-drama is forced, concerning a “hero” (just a fish who hides) and a “villain” (first an octapus, then an eel). Somehow we are to derive a “triumph of good over evil” from this non-event.

Amphibians are the ancestors of land creatures, but failures. After a billion “barren years,” their “conquest of the land was never completed.” Reptiles instead “conquered,” and “became kings of the earth.” The “greatest” was the T. Rex, the “most fearsome monster.” The Brontosaurus is no debunked here. “Man” was “not yet created, but if he had been…!” Stop-motion animation presents the “mortal enemy” Allosaurus. Regarding the extinction of the dinosaurs, a few of the standard theories are wearily intoned, but whichever was responsible, the dinosaurs were inevitably screwed due to “an unnatural lack of mother love for their young.” (!)

The Ceratosaurus and Stegasaurus are vivid. But from cold and cataclysm, the “dinosaur was doomed.” Lava erupts. “In fury and violence he lived,” and so he died.

Termites fight ants in a “war.” Then mammals “dominated the earth.” The walrus survived the Ice Age a million years ago. Then “Man.” “We know the world’s first villain was a snake.” Superstitions were passed down from “father to son.” The narrator recites a few of the “gifts given man to raise him to a level above the animals” — like thumbs. We play similes with animals. Somehow Paul Revere and Alexander the Great enjoy references. Horses exist.

“Man is sadly outnumbered” by insects. We see bees. We see ducks. At a water hole we meet lions, who live in “the world’s largest supermarket, called Africa.” Monkeys are the “clowns of the wild.” Meat comes from the animal world, it turns out, showing how “man” and animal are “intertwined.” We appreciate horses some more.

Whales “wander aimlessly” the oceans. We harpoon one. Tigers serve to make a transition into zoos and races and other “amusements.” Bears fish. A baby black bear and a baby faun frolic, joined by a baby mountain lion, ignorant of the fact that they’re all “natural enemies.” Bucks fight. Foxes endanger squirrels. A goat butts a ball for food pellets. A pig plays a slot machine. We learned various skills by watching animals, such as how to hunt.

Kangaroo rats live in the desert. The Gila monster is another “villain.” More bugs. Bullfighting is supposedly an example of a “psychological need.”

Cartoon earth signals the end. The narrator ruminates about only “man” destroying himself. The earth blows up. But then it’s back.

Commentary: One of those narrators has to be Lorne Green.