Here is one movie titled ‘Free Willy’ that brought the plight of real-life orca Keiko to the world’s attention. Keiko used to live in a tank that was too small, was too warm and was over-chlorinated, causing him to have a skin condition. Following the awareness generated for Keiko in the wake of the movie’s success, Keiko was moved to a much bigger and more humane tank in Oregon Coast Aquarium, where he was moved in 1996 and subsequently recovered well.
In 2002, Keiko was finally released in to the wild at Klettsvik in Norway. At that point he was the second oldest orca ever to have lived in captivity, where he had spent 22 years. In 2003, not long after his release into the wild, Keiko sadly had a sudden onset of pneumonia. He passed away on Friday December 12, 2003, leaving fans around the world mourning this sad loss.
At the end of movie ‘Free Willy’, a number appears on the screen for people to call and donate money to the Save The Whales Foundation. Following the success of the movie, millions of people called the number, ultimately raising $20 million.
While Keiko starred in 1993’s ‘Free Willy’, but for the other two movies in the series an animatronic stand-in was used instead, to save having to keep a whale in captivity again.
So, were you a fan of ‘Free Willy’? Did you think it had an important role in bringing the plight of not just whales, but animal welfare in general to the mass public, and did it have a positive and lasting effect? Or was it just a nice children’s film about a whale? Let us know about your thoughts at — [email protected]