'Otto: Zoo Gorilla' - excerpt
The story of a 400-pound, lowland gorilla named 'Otto' who for more than 10 years of his life lived in a small cage and then one day is moved to a spacious new home. The one-hour television documentary follows Otto’s daily routine and playful interaction with his caretakers and explores how his life is changed by his new surroundings.
Despite its minuscule advertising budget, the film's prime-time PBS broadcast was widely viewed and surpassed the average audience numbers of National Geographic specials, which, at that time (pre-cable), were aired by the country’s commercial networks. Subsequently, ‘Otto' was re-broadcast annually for more than 10 years (including numerous airings on the then newly-christened Discovery Channel), distributed internationally, and pointed the way for the massive commitments to wildlife and animal behavior programming by PBS and several cable networks that continue today.
In addition to underscoring the vital role of zoos in protecting species endangered in the wild, the film also served to re-establish for its already highly-accredited presenting sponsor, Lincoln Park Zoo, a national television presence before a new generation of viewers (first brought to network TV by the weekly, 1950's show, ’Zoo Parade,’ starring Marlin Perkins, eventually of ‘Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom’ fame). This renewed stature became of particular benefit to the organization's fund-raising both among local patrons as well as with national corporate sponsors.
The video clip herein glimpses the middle portion of Otto's three-part story: his transfer from his antiquated, iron-barred cage to new quarters — a delicate and dangerous process, which afforded a crew of veterinarians, physicians and scientists an opportunity to gather important data for use both by zoos worldwide as well as zoologists in the field.
Produced by Rosalini Films. Conceived, directed, edited and co-written by Dugan Rosalini.
“Insightful comments supplementing the illuminating narration…fine camera work and thoughtful editing allow viewers to savor the distinctive attractions of the featured star and to pleasurably share the moments of meaningful interaction between humans and beasts…an enjoyable tribute to zoos." — Booklist
Emmy® award nomination; First Place in category, Festival of the Americas (Virgin Islands) and Chicago International Film Festival; Red Ribbon, American Film Festival; invitation to Robert Flaherty Film Seminar'; inclusion in American Library Association's 'Selected Films for Young Adults' (since 2009, 'Fabulous Films for Young Adults'); named to film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum's "List of Outstanding American Feature Films."
NOTES: 'Otto: Zoo Gorilla' was Dugan Rosalini's first independent film and the project upon which he founded his company. The film was shot entirely with a single camera. Narrated by Herschel Bernardi.
Funding sponsor: Sears, Roebuck & Co. Foundation