A fawn accidentally drank paint on the set and had to have his stomach pumped, squirrels chomped the scenery causing expensive repairs, a parrot mimicked the director and yelled ‘Cut!’ halfway through a scene, and a young Sir Ranulph Fiennes (then a member of the SAS) blew up a concrete dam built for the film that offended him, leading to his discharge from the Special Forces. And that’s just what happened behind the scenes of this classic animal musical!
The adventures actually committed to film are just as fun. Based on the books by Hugh Lofting, it’s the story of a doctor (Harrison) in the mid-19th century who can talk to animals. His house, in Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, is filled with them, and he has mastered over 200 animal languages, including that of a new addition – a two-headed llama called a pushmi-pullyu. And now Dr Dolittle wants to go to sea and find another strange creature, the giant pink sea snail.
A box-office disaster at the time, this has since become a classic family movie, thanks to Harrison’s wacky performance, and songs such as ‘If I Could Talk to the Animals’ and ‘I’ve Never Seen Anything Like It’. It has dated somewhat, but there’s something endearing about this cute sing-a-long movie nonetheless.
Is Doctor Dolittle (1967) suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...