Animals on Film
"Never work with animals or children," runs the old film industry saw. But British filmmakers have proven adept at both - and especially animals.
Britain's wildlife filmmakers have long been the envy of the world - well before the era of Sir David Attenborough. Back in the 1910s, 20s and 30s, resourceful, dogged and sometimes eccentric pioneers were exploring the borderlands of film and science. Others, meanwhile, were drawn to animals as a subject for much the same reasons as their audiences: the eternal appeal of soft fur and tender paws, of exotic plumage or fearsome claws. Whatever your own favourites, this menagerie has something for you. WARNING: A few films in this collection show practices that may upset some viewers, including what would now be widely considered animal cruelty. We've flagged potentially sensitive content with an on-screen warning and / or a note in the text where appropriate.
Children's197252 mins Location: Darlington
Fun-packed comedy for kids, in which a boy befriends a baby elephant – then teams up with his friends to stop it being sold
Amateur film196714 mins Location: Thompson Common
Should you look hard enough, you’ll be amazed at the antics that creatures get up to, says Dorothy Maxey, amateur filmmaker and naturalist.
Amateur film197626 mins Location: Thompson Common
Critters and blossoms of all colours, in Norfolk, captured on Super 8 colour Kodachrome by amateur filmmaker and naturalist Dorothy Maxey.
Amateur film19626 mins Location: Moorlands
A rather different view of the world, as seen through the eyes of a poodle, as “Mimi” is taken for a walk by two ladies in their summer dresses.
Amateur film193010 mins Location: Blackpool
It's nice to be beside the seaside, particularly if you're an elephant - meet some unusual visitors to Blackpool beach.
Amateur film197019 mins Location: Norwich
No need to queue, and nothing to pay. All you need is a good pair of eyes ... because ‘everywhere is a wildlife park’.
Nature and Science programme197011 mins Location: Great Witchingham
Norfolk’s Ornamental Pheasant Trust are devoted to preserving and breeding the world’s rarest and most beautiful pheasants.
Sponsored film19433 mins Location: Cambridge
Possibly the cutest and quirkiest road safety film you are ever likely to watch, featuring a purely canine cast and a grocery shopping trip.
Nature and Science programme196731 mins Location: Great Witchingham
Documentary about the work of The Pheasant Trust in Norfolk, and an investigation into Taiwanese practices to provide Chinese medicine.
Amateur film193312 mins Location: Wroxham Broad
An affectionate record of the nesting period of a female swan. Winner of the 'Home Movies' magazine amateur filmmaking competition, 1933.
Home movie193019 mins Location: Whipsnade
Dunstable Downs is not the usual habitat for roaming wallabies, unless, of course, you’re visiting Whipsnade Wild Animal Park in the 1930s.
Home movie193015 mins Location: Whipsnade
A spot of mischief on Chimpanzee Island attracts a large crowd at Whipsnade Wild Animal Park in this home movie footage captured in the 1930s.
Home movie193021 mins Location: Whipsnade
Chimps take afternoon tea in this home movie, also featuring mammals, birds, and reptiles from all continents, resident at Whipsnade Zoo.
Non-Fiction19754 mins Location: Birmingham
With petrol prices up and pollution levels rising, is it time to leave the car in the garage, forget the bus and instead rely on a different type of horse-power?
Amateur film19764 mins Location: Bungay
A unique two-day event in rural Suffolk, an opportunity for locals and countercultural types to return to rural community living.
Amateur film197511 mins Location: Chartham
Everything you ever wanted to know about the equestrian set - but were afraid to ask - is explained in this fascinating short film
Amateur film196010 mins Location: New Forest
Join the girls and the boys, both young and old, of the equine set as they hunt with hounds, trot about gardens and attend gymkhanas
Amateur film192918 mins Location: Wootton St Lawrence
The stages of a pheasant's short life are shown in this fascinating film - from being an egg to its violent end on someone's dinner plate
Non-Fiction19725 mins Location: Evesham
Has raising money 'for old people' ever been more uncomfortable? Nicky Roberts plans to walk 13 miles with two ferrets down his trousers. He's surely risking more than a few nips!
Non-Fiction19293 mins Location: Churt
A summer's day, dogs and a book and the attention of a newsreel cameraman – what more could David Lloyd George (British prime minister 1916-22) possibly want?
Home movie19297 mins
A day at the races is not much fun if your mount is insisting on behaving like a crab! Karolie Kathleen Buckley (nee Kemmis) does her best in the Ladies Race but it's not enough to win.
Promotional195515 mins Location: Olympia
Bears, tigers and elephants perform for the crowds in this compelling colour footage from the Christmas circus at Olympia.
Promotional193515 mins Location: Olympia
Illuminated carriages, exotic acrobats and boxing clowns all feature in this extended film of highlights from the Bertram Mills Circus at Olympia.
Promotional19354 mins Location: Olympia
Elephants, acrobats, clowns and cowboys all feature in this highlights reel from the annual Bertram Mills Circus at Olympia.
Amateur film19554 mins Location: Olympia
Hair-combing chimps, performing elephants and a toothsome cheetah feature in this film of the Bertram Mills Circus.
Promotional19595 mins Location: Olympia
Swoon at the costumes, laugh at the clowns and wonder at the elephants as the cast of the Bertram Mills Circus enter the ring for another stellar performance.
Nature and Science programme19496 mins Location: Headingley
An extraordinary film made by amateurs showing a wide variety of species of bees in close up feeding from an equally wide variety of flowers.
Stealing a sheep is not as easy as it might seem! They are hefty, unwieldy beasts as the desperate father with starving family discovers in this William Haggar production.
Amateur film19356 mins Location: Kent
All looks peaceful on the surface of this pond - but the depths below contain some fearsome creatures - though you need a microscope to see them
Amateur film19694 mins Location: Upton Heath
Don't climb into the bear pit, children! All the fun of the zoo, as Liverpool pupils visit the wildlife of Chester.
Non-Fiction19261 mins Location: Roehampton
Bravura performance from some German Shepherds, who leap over high walls and through burning barriers at this demonstration in Roehampton.
Amateur film195722 mins Location: Great Yarmouth
An affectionate record of a family pet, Sparta the Springer Spaniel who leads a full and active life, but with plenty of cuddles from her family.
Home movie192920 mins
A ‘Khedda' – the practice (now banned) of trapping and taming wild elephants using already tamed elephants – is here recorded in detail by the fascinated film-maker.
Documentary193618 mins Location: Farne Islands
The birdlife of Northumberland's Farne Islands comes under the spotlight in this pioneering documentary from the Secrets of Life nature series.
Amateur film193912 mins Location: Ascot
Colour footage from the Bertram Mills Circus’ winter base in Ascot showing training for the Christmas show at Olympia.
Amateur film194925 mins Location: Rumney
A summer of shows – Rumney Horse Show Society's Show, Vale of Glamorgan Agricultural Show, Usk Farmers' Club Show – and a visit to Bristol Zoo where children ride on an elephant.
Amateur film19364 mins Location: Whipsnade
The Cox family, from Warwickshire, visit Whipsnade Zoo where they commune with a parrot. Once home, their beloved dog, Smut, is given a bath in the garden.
Home movie19255 mins Location: Plas Newydd
A dog does what dogs do in this drama created by the 6th Marquis of Anglesey, featuring a lost mother, two frightened daughters and a faithful, if slobbering, hound.
Drama-documentary193915 mins Location: Treorchy/Treorci
The Ocean Coal Co. employed not just miners but also shepherds, as evidenced here. Tom Jones of Treorchy protects the company's assets above ground with care and great skill.
Children's195319 mins Location: London
Helpful and humongous Great Dane Juno helps out with housework, does some shopping and chomps cream cake in this cheerful kids' film
Documentary194514 mins Location: Pudsey
An intriguing look at the training of police dogs, climbing up ladders blindfolded and rescuing documents from wounded soldiers.
Amateur film197521 mins Location: Turners Hill
Members of the Complete Angler Fishing Club of Eastbourne enjoy some angling action on a lake at Turner's Hill near Crawley
Amateur film196411 mins Location: Eastbourne
Watch these men in wellies and waders as they attempt to remove five-thousand bream from a small lake in Sussex - in a single day!
Documentary197524 mins Location: Twycross Zoo
The British are crazy about their animals: Molly drinks tea with her chimps, Sylvia dyes her tiny poodle pink and Malcolm sings to his pigs.
Amateur film19708 mins Location: Newchapel
Enjoy this heartwarming film about neglected horses, ponies and donkeys being re-habilitated at 'Cherry Tree Farm' in leafy Surrey
Amateur film195018 mins Location: Lone Barn Fm
Cowboys, Carnivals and Mayors on the slide appear alongside the most beserk and hilarious donkey race you'll ever see in Sussex
Amateur film19729 mins Location: Longleat Park
Enjoy a day-trip 70s style as we join the Mitchell family on their big game safari at Longleat - with lions, baboons and giraffes doing the splits
Home movie19656 mins Location: Crigglestone
A young girl takes on the Desmond Morris (or perhaps Johnny Morris) role for this enchanting film of a family birdwatching in their back garden.
Home movie19311 mins Location: Llandegfan
Mingo, Jerry and Thea: names of the dogs or people seen? Either way, they will be connected, for sure, with Isla Johnston of Bryn Mêl, Glyngarth, Anglesey, who shot the footage.
Nature and Science programme195414 mins Location: Headingley
The metamorphosis of the eating machine which is the caterpillar, into an Emperor Moth, revealed in all its detail and presented in 15 minutes.
Documentary198524 mins Location: Lofthouse Hill
Mucking out the loft, the serious business of setting the racing clocks, the anxious wait for the pigeons return home, and finally, a beer.
Documentary197010 mins Location: Bingley
The quirks of a whippet race, with novices in winklepickers learning from the old hands, all fully elucidated in broad West Yorkshire dialect.
Home movie195114 mins
Life at Parsonage farm includes courageous cats, cute kittens, sweet Shetland collies, appealing puppies and kids in the kitchen.
Home movie19413 mins
It’s summertime and it’s fun for the Pym children - Michael and Frances – to play on the duck house and pick daisies.
Home movie19424 mins
Arnold William Pym’s entrancing shots of Parsonage Farm’s animals: goat kids encounter a cat, and a cat is fazed by a chick!
Home movie192410 mins Location: Plas Newydd
Three loyal labradors - Brandy, Biscuit and Bran – are solid members of the dog fraternity that is part of life at ‘Plas Newydd’.