Cast & Crew
Theodor Von Eltz
Robert A. Belcher
Photos & Videos
Using footage shot by naturalists all over the world, the film presents the evolution of animal life on earth, beginning with single-celled creatures that existed in the ocean more than a billion years ago and ending with the multitude of animals that exist today. Millions of years after their first appearance in the sea, life forms developed genders, and protective shells, plates or skin. After the development of spines, some creatures evolved into amphibians that became ancestors of land vertebrates. Although frogs, crabs and other creatures made their home on land, reptiles conquered it. For thirty thousand years, dinosaurs reigned, but then came to a mysterious end. The reason for their demise is uncertain, but geologic disturbances, climate change and the unnatural lack of mother love for offspring probably contributed to their downfall. Flooding, an ice age, volcanic fires and earthquakes sealed the fate of the dinosaurs, whose remains sank into the earth. Adaptable creatures such as termites and ants survived, perhaps because of their sophisticated division of labor and social order. As the climate warmed over the passage of time, abundant sun and plant-life provided food for lowly mammals, the next species of animal that came to dominate the earth. However, when the earth froze again, only the adaptable mammals, such as the walrus, survived. Man's appearance on earth is estimated at approximately a million years ago, and his history is intertwined with animals. Throughout history, man deified certain animals, and remnants of these relationships have survived as superstitions and sayings, such as "three wise monkeys," "lucky black cats" of Egypt or the "lucky" rabbit's foot. From the Bible we know that man's first villain was the snake. The Bible, folklore and fantasy all describe animals in stories like Daniel in the lions's den, Little Miss Muffet, and Jonah and the whale, and many animals have been important to human history, such as the horses ridden by Paul Revere and Alexander the Great. The lack of horses led to the fall of the Roman Empire and horses helped settle the new world. Man has learned much from the animals, including how to swim, fly and hunt. Although animals live together peaceably, protected by man, in sanctuaries such as Africa's Krueger National Park, nature has brutal ways of maintaining the status quo in the wild. As shown in the film, a lioness pursues an impala for food, and vultures and hyenas wait for their turn to eat after a kill. Insects, which appeared two hundred fifty million years before man, now outnumber him by 750,000 species. However, nature keeps a balance by making insects food for other insects, birds and carnivorous plants. A struggle between man and beast has always existed, but man is better equipped for that struggle, having conscious reasoning ability, sharp eyes, free moving hands and arms, opposable thumbs, ability to make tools, speech and communication skills and a faculty to walk erect. Because man can imagine, remember and record his acquired knowledge, he is, so far, the highest form of animal life in approximately a million and a half known species of birds, fish, reptiles, insects, mammals, amphibians and micro-creatures. Ten billion animals are domesticated for food, clothes and other byproducts used by man. Some animals are hunted for sport, and some, like the elephant, may be hunted to extinction. A tiger, which is shown stalking an antelope, winds up in a zoo or circus. Animals have provided entertainment for hundreds of years in rodeos and chariot races. Parrots, a chicken and a pig are shown doing tricks they have learned using instincts, adaptability, forethought and capacity to reason, thus proving their ability to think. As shown in the film, normally fierce enemies, such as a fawn, a baby bear and baby mountain lion, befriend each other, when they are not taught to fight. Animals often win in impossible situations. For instance, when a ferret and a cobra face off, the ferret often wins. By kicking sand in its enemy's eyes, kangaroo rats discourage an attacking hela monster. Although a nearsighted sow bug is caught by a trap-door spider, it manages to walk away unharmed. The film concludes with the assertion that man is sovereign over the animal world, but that only man willfully destroys himself. Because man has a soul to help him distinguish right from wrong, the film hopefully suggests that man's reign has just begun and "this is not the end."
Robert A. Belcher
Dr. Charles L. Camp
Henry L. Demond
Arthur S. Rhoades
George E. Swink
Opening credits include the following written statement: "Grateful acknowledgment is given to the following for their cooperation in making this film possible: American Humane Society; American Museum of Natural History; Louise Branch; Stephen F. Briggs; The Carborundum Company; Barnaby Conrad; E. J. Koestner, Dayton Museum of Natural History; Murl Deusing; Encyclopedia Britannica Films, Inc.; Greentree Stud, Inc.; Grosset and Dunlap; Hal H. Harrison; Jos. Heindenkamp, Jr.; Otto A. Koehler; Maryland Society for Medical Research; Reed & Barton Corporation; Dick Reucassel, A.R.P.S.; Cecil E. Rhode; Rutgers Film, distributed by State University of Iowa; South African Tourist Corporation; George Tahara¿Cine-Pic Hawaii; Union Pacific Railroad Company; Union of South Africa; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; University of Minnesota; Western Harness Racing Association." The credit for photography reads: "Photographed by Harold Wellman and naturalist photographers throughout the world." Irwin Allen's onscreen credit reads: "Written, Produced and Directed by Irwin Allen."
Voice-over narration by Theodor von Eltz and John Storm is heard continuously throughout the film. As noted in the Hollywood Reporter review, one voice is used "for chronological account and the second for comment." After the opening credits, a deep blue sky with twinkling stars is shown, and as the planet earth moves forward, a narrator, speaking in a reverberating, God-like voice, says, "Once upon a time, about a billion years ago, there lived no one." This God-like, offscreen character is heard intermittently and at the conclusion of the film. Both narrators also are heard speaking in various voices for the onscreen animals. Several reviews mentioned the humor interspersed by throughout the film. The Hollywood Reporter review, which described "a kind of anthropomorphic humor," elaborated that Allen used the "same kind of humor here that Walt Disney achieves so well in his smaller-scaled animal pictures." An underwater sequence, which a narrator describes as "drama of good over evil," shows a "villain" octopus chasing a "hero" fish, then being attacked by a moray eel. A brief scene shows a man wearing a wooden barrel held in place by straps over his shoulders, as the narrator explains that this would be man in a world without animals. At the end of the film, as the narrator notes man's destructive nature, a recreation of the earth is blown up.
Portions of the film, according to January 1955 Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety news items, were shot on location in seventeen foreign countries, among them Africa, India, Australia, Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, New Zealand, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Turkey, Norway and Denmark. According to the New York Times review of the released film, additional footage was secured from sources in twenty-seven foreign countries. The Daily Variety review reported that the naturalist photographers were given specific assignments by Allen, and the Hollywood Reporter review noted that over 3,000,000 feet of film were shot. Among the photographed scenes are a sea star giving birth, a bull goring a matador during a bullfight, and both microscopic and standard photography of insects, animals, microscopic creatures, sea animals, and carnivorous plants. Dinosaur fossils seen at the beginning of the prehistoric era sequence were filmed during one week of shooting at the Museum of Natural History in New York, according to January 1955 Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety news items. For that sequence, Ray Harryhausen and animator Willis O'Brien, who had worked together on King Kong and The Lost World (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 and 1931-40), were hired to work with stop-motion cameraman Harold Wellman. Among the scenes recreated by Harryhausen and O'Brien are sequences of a hatching Brontosaurus, dinosaurs fighting and a dinosaur eating a human, which, the narrator explains, would have happened if man lived during the Jurassic era. A June 1956 Los Angeles Times article reported that the twelve-minute sequence took seventy-three days to shoot, and that the entire film was in production for a year and a half. Including more than ten months of pre-production, The Animal World took approximately two and a half years to complete, an amount of time Allen jokingly justified in the Los Angeles Times article by saying that the film covered two and a half billion years of history.
According to a modern source, the various photographers who submitted footage for the film claimed ownership of their segments after The Animal World's release. Warners, according to this source, lost interest in the film and now owns only the sequences created by Harryhausen and O'Brien.
As mentioned in several reviews, Allen had previously written and produced the 1953 RKO production, The Sea Around Us , the popular and critically acclaimed documentary that was constructed from various film clips in the same manner as The Animal World.