Fact Theatre

Some Fun Trivia About Animal "Celebrities"


Everyone loves to hear tidbits of trivia from time to time! Learning facts that may or may not be useful (but with which we are fascinated despite ourselves) helps to give us a little shot in the arm to break up our daily routine. The advent of the internet made it much easier for friends to pass around all the latest in trivia: be it historical, celebrity-based, or any other category imaginable. Here are some fun little trivial tidbits about some of the most famous animal "celebrities" of all time.

-- Lassie is arguably the most famous movie dog ever. Although Lassie is a female in the movies, the actual portrayer was a male collie named Pal. He was handled by well known animal trainer Rudd Weatherwax, who would later handle "Asta" for The "Thin Man" movies. The original Lassie's debut in a 1943 film was the beginning of a dynasty. A bunch of Lassie's descendants played the same title role in the popular TV series of the same name.

-- Benji the dog's first screen appearance was not in the movie of that same name, but in the TV series "Petticoat Junction." His real name was Higgins, and he was the ultimate mutt, being part schnauzer, cocker spaniel, and poodle.

His road to stardom was a matter of complete luck: he was "discovered" in a Burbank animal shelter by a trainer named Frank Inn. At the old age of 17, the dog played "Benji" in the famous family movie. He was too old to star in the sequel however: that honor went to his daughter!

-- One of the most unusual animal "celebrities" was the killer whale named Keiko who was featured in the 1993 movie "Free Willy." His trademark floppy dorsal fin endeared him to millions.

He was 14 when he starred in the film, and he'd already had an eventful and somewhat pitiful life up to that point. He was captured as a young whale and sent to an aquarium in Iceland. Another aquarium in Canada eventually purchased him and trained him along with a number of other whales. Because Keiko was bullied by his tank-mates, he was sent to an amusement park in Mexico.

His living conditions at his new home were insufferable for an orca; thanks to the publicity from his newfound movie fame, enough money was raised to move Keiko from his deplorable surroundings to a much nicer one in Oregon. While there, he gained 1000 pounds and the skin condition he had developed in Mexico disappeared.

He eventually was released back into the wild Icelandic waters, under zoological supervision. He adapted well to his new surroundings, but died of pneumonia in 2003. He has become the poster child for whale preservation, and is still the most famous whale that ever lived.

 


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