Hollywood pros know working with animals is hard, but that didn’t stop 20th Century Fox from going ahead with Doctor Dolittle(1967), a big-budget musical that turned out to be a colossal headache.
Rex Harrison stars as a doctor who administers aid to animals (he can speak 498 animal languages) and goes in search of the Great Pink Sea Snail. More than 1,200 live animals were used during filming, and the creatures regularly bit the film’s stars, including Harrison, Samantha Eggers and Anthony Newley. Squirrels gnawed at the sets, which stank of ammonia used to clean up animal waste, and the multiple takes needed while working with the animals meant the film took an entire year just to shoot.
Today, Hollywood simply creates computer-generated animals for its films — which is safer for both humans and animals — but 50 years ago that wasn’t an option and Doctor Dolittle remains an ambitious, eye-catching extravaganza that will never be duplicated.