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Animal Actors Revisited (Jerome A. Holst © 2005)

Al Holst, Owner of TV ACRESBack in 2002, I wrote an article that bemoaned the fact that animal actors used in film and TV were not being given credits in TV Research Books and Online Reference Databases. An overview of such sources as the Internet Movie Database, and the well respected reference texts The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows by Brooks and Marsh revealed no assignment of acting credits to animals of any kind. That is, giving the animal's real name for playing the part of a fictional character. But, apparently things have changed over the last few years because a few days ago I started to review my findings, and low and behold, I have found that the animals credits situation has improved.

I used the newest animal on the tube, namely, Backup, the dog on the popular drama VERONICA MARS airing on the UPN network since 2004 as my test subject. I, then, revisited the original sites such as the IMDB, TV Com (formerly TV.Tome) and Epguides to make my case.

As I examined the actors credits list in each of these online resources, I discovered that Epguides and TV.Com had not changed. They still only list the names of human characters and excluded the real names of animal actors from their master list. (TV Chronicles was no longer available on line to verify changes)

However, the IMDB now included the real name of the dog (Lefty) who plays Backup on the show. And although, the name of Lefty, does not appear in the general credits, it did appear in the credits for individual episodes. The IMDB also provided "Lefty" with his own BIO page.

In addition, the website called Wikipedia, which is a free online encyclopedia covering a variety of topics, includes both the name of the dog (Backup) as well its real name "Lefty" in the category of ("Minor Recurring Roles").

Print materials haven't improved much, however, The latest edition of the Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Show (2003) still does not include animal actors in their actor credit list; and the first edition of the TV Guide: Guide to TV (2004) also neglects to credit animal actors among the actors credit list.

But we have made some headway and things are looking up. Maybe in a few years, the crediting of animal actors will be standard practice in the industry. Then, after a long struggle for recognition in a world of humans, the TV and film animals will finally get their due.

You can read my original 2002 article/chart below. Originally published in the TV ACRES NEWSLETTER (April 2002) -- that article showed how TV researchers neglect to give animal actors appropriate acting credits.

Every year hundreds of television shows are produced in Hollywood, but within the publishing industry that documents the activities of the entertainment industry, there seems to be a conspiracy afoot to keep TV animal actors from getting their just rewards.

Consistently, the writers and researchers who document TV programming neglect to credit TV animals with acting roles in the many research databases and books that provide acting credits to TV performers.

From such high profile animals like Mr. Ed or Lassie, to the average work-a-day dogs, cats, and other critters that appeared on various TV shows over the years, the existence of their contributions are being minimalized.

Now why should these TV animal stars be denied the privilege of having their names recorded for posterity? If you prick their paws do they not bleed? (I'm only referencing Shakespeare to make a point so don't report me to the SPCA). And while some animal actors may appear in opening credits of such shows as the family drama Life Goes On (Arnold the Semi-wonder carries his food bowl in hopes of getting fed) or on the sitcom Married with Children (Buck the dog gets in line for money from his master Al Bundy), the labors of these TV animals are soon forgotten once these shows get recorded by TV researchers.

To illustrate my claim, I randomly chose ten (10) TV programs that featured animal actors.

Then I tried to find out whether these animals appeared in the actor's credits lists in standard TV reference resources including books and websites. The results across the board proved that TV Program researchers and compilers of actor screen credits routinely neglect to give TV animal actors credit for their contributions.

Internet resources The Internet Movie Data Base, TV Tome, Epguides and TV Chronicles all came up negative. Only TV Chronicles was the best of the four but then again they only documented one out of ten in the survey. They credited the role of Flipper to a dolphin named Susie. For the chart below: 0 = no credit for the role X= given credit for the role.

Program Character Imdb Tom Epg Chr
Caroline in the City Salty the Cat 0 0 0 0
Empty Nest Dreyfus the dog 0 0 0 0
Flipper Flipper the dolphin 0 0 0 X
Frasier Eddie the dog 0 0 0 0
Fury Fury the horse 0 0 0 0
Green Acres Arnold the Pig 0 0 0 0
Mad About You Murray 0 0 0 0
Life Goes On Arnold the Semi Wonder Dog 0 0 0 0
Magnum PI Apollo and Zeus 0 0 0 0
Please Don't Eat the Daisies Ladadog 0 0 0 0

Continued >

NOTE:  This article may be linked for distribution to other Internet publications with the agreement that you credit the article to the author, Jerome A. Holst and mention its URL


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