Exotic animals are a mainstay of fantasy, whether it’s in the form of books, films, or TV shows. Animals make a big splash with some serious star power, we’re not talking about your average beagle or bunny. While most animals have seen a feature or two over the years, there are some obvious outliers that have become fictional staples. Read on and we’ll talk a bit about some of them.
The largest and most colorful of the large cats, tigers have featured in film since the early days of Hollywood. From the plotting Shere Khan to the recent slow-motion trainwreck of Tiger King, they can be found in all sorts of media.
The tiger is most often portrayed as a pet rather than an antagonist in their own life, however. They’re often used as shorthand to show that a character is both dangerous and rich.
The tiger is still one of the most requested animals but they’re increasingly being replaced by CGI. The Lord of the Jungle is a bit too unpredictable to truly become a star in their own right, and computer-generated tigers are much safer for everyone involved.
Other big cats also see frequent use. Lions, jaguar, and leopards have all been featured in similar roles for instance. The truth is that there are few things as majestic, and terrifying, as the larger members of the feline family.
Crocodiles, alligators, and caiman have all made their way into films. Like big cats, they’ve often been present since the beginning of the industry and they often find themselves in similar roles for shorthand.
More than that, however, these creatures are often used to show the danger of an area. Calm bayou waters suddenly surging with alligators shows just how much danger our protagonists are in during their journey.
Due to a lack of public knowledge, these creatures are often used interchangeably. Minor morphological differences aside, these gargantuan reptiles are still extremely common in media and they’re not represented with CGI as often as large mammals. Despite their dangerous bite, they’re less dangerous and aren’t often used in close shots like big cats or bears.
Colorful, large, and capable of speech… it’s no wonder that parrots are able to be stars in their own right. Whether they’re accompanying a pirate or repeating information that they happened to overhear, they’re an excellent plot device when they’re not just used as window dressing for a shot.
There are hundreds of species of parrots out there, and many of them are kept in private collections across the planet. If there’s just one iconic parrot, however, it’s undoubtedly the Red Macaw.
A large parrot which is still a common pet, the Macaw is the perfect blend of intelligence, speech, and flamboyance to work in film. Unlike many of the animals on this list, Macaw are also good pets which gives them another leg up.
Chimps are a common feature in films. They’re most often displayed as intelligent comic relief, and are the most likely animals to have their own role in a production.
Chimpanzees are among our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, with a very similar genetic sequence to Homo sapiens. They’re smart and able to learn many actions. It’s only natural that they’d find their way onto the silver screen.
Things don’t seem to pan out the same way in the real world that they do on film. Unfortunately, chimpanzees are very close to humans in some bad ways as well, they’re often responsible for horrendous attacks on humans.
Coupled with the fact that even an average chimpanzee makes a human strongman look weak, and we have an animal that should only be handled by trained personnel. Facial expressions aren’t the only reason that we see them increasingly becoming digital on the big screen.
Boas are among the most common snakes in film. They’re an iconic creature and many of the larger varieties of tree boa put off an air of menace while really being safe animals to handle and be around.
Constricting snakes can be a danger to a single human in an uncontrolled environment… when they reach preposterous proportions like an anaconda or reticulated python. For the most part, however, a well-fed boa has no issues being handled or being around people.
And, even if they get aggressive, there’s very little harm they can do beyond drawing a few drops of blood and some bruising.
Snakes will always have that mysterious, menacing air, however, so we don’t expect them to go anywhere as far as the movies are concerned.
Big Life on the Big Screen
Animals have been used in movies for many things. Ambience, character portrayals of the human actors, and even as characters in their own right. There’s one thing for sure: we’re going to enjoy amazing, exotic animals for as long as there are movies. And that’s a beautiful thing.