Doctor Dolittle

Doctor Dolittle

It’s a good thing the ability to talk to animals was wielded by the gentle-hearted Doctor Dolittle, whose greatest ambition was to locate the legendary Great Pink Sea Snail. Imagine the rebellious animal armies that he might have stirred up if that power was honed by the wrong hands: lions extending into the suburbs, fierce grizzlies rampaging through Wal-Mart, flocks of pigeons pecking city folk into submission.

Released in 1967, the fanciful film (based on a series of books by Hugh Lofting) tells the story of the mild-mannered Doctor Dolittle. Considered bonkers by most people, he inhabits an unremarkable flat which he shares with an assortment of animal companions.

When he finds out that his parrot Polynesia knows 498 forms of creature talk, the Doctor resolves to learn every one of them himself. Not long after, Dolittle is Wrongly accused of murder and ends up in the insane asylum, from which he escapes. Joined by his friends Matthew Mugg and Emma Fairfax, the Doctor sets out for the distant South Seas.

In the course of their adventures, the little group meets the strange Pushme-Pullyou, the Giant Lunar Moth, a living island, and the Great Pink Sea Snail itself. Although there are great challenges ahead, Doctor Doolittle, with the assistance of his animal friends, may just have a chance to win back his place in human society.

Starring Rex Harrison in the title role, along with Samantha Eggar, Anthony Newley, Richard Attenborough and 1,500 animals, Doctor Dolittle was an ambitious and expensive film to make, so much so that the production costs almost sunk 20th Century Fox. It didn’t fare well during its original release, partly because it competed against the new Disney release, The Jungle Book, and partly because the critics weren’t kind.

Made on a budget of $18 million (three times the original budget), the film only returned half of the investment. In an attempt to improve the dismal box-office tallies, the studio made an exhaustive effort to lobby the Academy that gives out those little golden statues. They were successful, with Doctor Dolittle garnering 10 nominations and picking up two – one for Best Special Effects, and one for the song “Talk to the Animals.”

History has been far more kind to the good Doctor. Future generations of kids delighted in the telling of this fanciful tale, and 1998 brought a loose remake of the film, starring Eddie Murphy. While the remake relied more on flatulence jokes than show tunes, the original continues to charm new audiences who still marvel at the talents of the mysterious Doctor Dolittle.

Were you enchanted by this classic film as a child? We hope you will take a moment to share all of your Doctor Dolittle memories with all of us in our comments section below.

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