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Part XI.a - the Milotte's go down under!

Disney asks the Milottes to film in Australia shortly after they got home from Africa.

The Milotte Wildlife Film Festival will be here soon, it’s less than a month away. Slated for Saturday, October 20th, between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm the festival will show three Oscar Award winners for both the Milotte’s and the Disney Studios and they are “Seal Island”, “Bear Country” and “Beaver Valley”.

The following, based on notes and documents reviewed during inventory and catalog work on the Milotte Collection, has been provided by GBLHS member and author of “Bonney Lake’s Plateau”, Winona Jacobsen:

“Just six months after returning home from Africa where they spent nearly three years, Alfred and Elma Milotte departed for Australia on April 16, 1955. They took the train from Los Angeles to San Francisco and boarded the S.S. Orion for a three week cruise to Sydney, Australia.  Filming in the continent down under had been one of Walt Disney’s goals, and with the amazing footage that the Milottes had obtained in Africa, he knew they were a good choice once again. In fact, Australia had been a destination that the Milottes had thought about exploring five years earlier, but their work for Disney led them to other locations. Their mission was to film an Australian story, combining the Aborigine people and the unique animals of the land.

The Milotte reputation had preceded them to Australia, and the press was eagerly awaiting their arrival. With Disney’s international reputation for quality film making and two of the world’s foremost wildlife photographers visiting their country, headlines announced “Our Animals Will Be Stars”. With some of the strangest, most unique animals on the planet, a Disney True Life Adventure film would bring Australia and its inhabitants worldwide attention.

Once again Alfred and Elma would need a special vehicle to carry them and their equipment. They would have an “Annie Lorrie”II, modeled after the Dodge Power Wagon they used in Africa, constructed in Australia instead of shipping it from the United States. It would be a leaner version of the original, with less heavy armor, since Australia’s animals were not as ferocious as those found in Africa. The new Annie Lorrie would still have a collapsible tower, trap doors, windows all around, and facilities for sleeping and eating. With her four wheel drive and a winch on the front, Annie would be able to pull herself out of a hole or crawl over broken terrain. Painted with camouflage paint, she would become a motorized chameleon, blending with the surrounding countryside.

While Annie II was being readied for their camera safari, the Milottes spent the next several months flying around the country seeking possible locations to film. They were looking for areas to shoot another wildlife film for the True Life series and also do a film on the Aboriginal people for Disney’s People and Places series. After visiting Surfer’s Paradise, the Great Barrier Reef, and Ayers Rock in the interior, Darwin, and Adelaide, the couple believed the interior of the country would be their primary location for filming.  The recent coverage by National Geographic of the native people of New Guinea was the catalyst in obtaining the same type of coverage in Australia. The Disney Studios wanted film of the native people that depicted no influence by the white immigrants, but Alfred and Elma were not able to find any “lost tribes” of aboriginals to film.

Although both the Milottes and the Disney Studio executives knew that Australia was a large continent, they really seemed to have no concept of the actual distances between places in the country. As they were scouting the territory, they were surprised that getting from one locale to another might mean a flight of several hundred miles. (Australia is not a tiny island floating in the south Pacific, it’s just slightly smaller than the continental United States and is approximately 7.7 million square kilometers in area, or 3 million square miles.) It was felt that building a filming location and constructing a camera blind was going to be the best way to capture the indigenous wildlife on film. That means it was a rather controlled environment. An outfitter was recommended by the studio, and a deal was reached to use his land, animals, and his services.  This also helped fulfill the Queensland government regulations regarding work with the platypus. Additional animals had to be brought in from other parts of the country, but there were stringent rules regarding the welfare of these unique and rare animals. As Alfred and Elma attempted to explain to the studio moguls, they could not put the animals in danger or create situations that the studio wanted to see, where a fight might occur between the various species. Alfred stressed the importance of the True-Life Adventures was to capture the animals in their natural habitat and observing the normal behavior of the various species.”

Next up – the challenges of working in Australia while working with the rapidly growing Disney Studios.

In closing I’d like to remind everyone that the Greater Bonney Lake Historical Society (GBLHS) is a nonprofit 501 (c) 3, our next meeting is this coming Monday, September 24th, at 7:00 PM in the meeting room at the Bonney Lake Library. We are always open to the public and welcome new members, or just interested spectators.

Don’t forget to check out www.mwlff.org and look for the trivia questions. There are five of them and if you’re the first to answer any of them you can win a 2013 GBLHS – Milotte themed calendar. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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