“The Animal World” was released in 1956.  It was produced, written and directed by Irwin Allen and is a documentary with animated elements.  At one point the film was believed to be lost.  It was subsequently found and restored.

The movie starts with the Earth before life.  It then introduces the single celled animals and goes on to describe the evolution of ocean life and the varied species in the seas before moving to life on land.  Then there is an introduction to dinosaurs and a ten-minute stop motion section on various dinosaurs that lived on Earth before man evolved.  It then moves on to insects and then higher forms of life.  Finally, it introduces man and his destructive influences.    

There is a bit of a mixed message here.  The basics of the movie are about the creation of life in evolutionary terms it but tosses in a biblical phrase or two.  In addition, it is a conglomerate of various stories, information and styles.  Parts are dumbed down; parts are interesting, and parts are old misinformation.  The rest of the film is a mix of the usual Irwin Allen flash along with a Disney-esque airy whimsy.  There’s a lot of strange crap tossed in as well.  There are Lots of animals frolicking, and on the opposite side of the spectrum, lots of animals killing and eating each other.

The most remembered part of the film is the stop motion sequences with the dinosaurs.  Ray Harryhausen mentioned that the movie ran in to some issues with the Hays Office and censorship.  They had concerns about the violence depicted in the stop motion dinosaur section of the film.  Apparently, they had a problem with a fake Ceratosaurus battling a fake Stegosaurus, but they were OK with a real lion taking down a zebra and a gazelle.

Willis O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen were responsible for the dinosaur sequences.  O’Brien built the models and Harryhausen performed the actual animation with them.  Old people may remember that some of the stills from the dinosaur part of the film were used in slide show reels for View-master stereoscopes.  

The dinosaur sequence was used in an episode of “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” as well as the film “Trog” 1970.  There are two narrators in the film, Theodore von Eltz and John Storm.  The one unusual thing that I learned from the movie is that elephants purr.


Dinosaur Sequence

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