By Stephanie Hanisch
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 353

Animals United

This article is over 11 years, 8 months old
Directors Reinhard Klooss and Holger Tappe, from 17 December
Issue 353

On 10 May 1933 some 40,000 Nazi followers gathered in Berlin to watch the burning of 25,000 “un-German” books. German author Erich Kästner was present, although unrecognised by the crowd, and saw his own books being burned. In the Weimar Republic, Kästner was not only a popular children’s writer; he was also strictly anti-militarist. During the Nazi regime Kästner was able to stay in Berlin but was unable to publish books in Germany. After the war he continued his writing, and in 1949 published the children’s book Conference of the Animals. The book was an appeal for global peace and started a new period in Kästner’s life as he became part of the peace movement.

It is little surprise that Kästner’s book has inspired this new animated film, released as Animals United in Britain. Kästner had the ability to make children understand politics through humour and wayward protagonists. As with the book, Animals United offers everything children like: friendship and solidarity, big adventure and absurdity. Contrary to Kästner’s book, in which the animals of the world organise a conference to solve all the world’s problems once and for all, the film focuses on ecological destruction, climate change and the disastrous consequences of these for the animal world.

The main character is Billy, a forgetful meerkat. Initially Billy leads a carefree life in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. But at the same time countless animals in other parts of the world are having to flee the human threat. Soon these problems come to Billy’s homeland. The water that flows every year from the mountains to the delta does not arrive, apparently due to a huge dam project. Billy and his friends decide to fight against the dam. Because they cannot do anything against it on their own, they summon a conference of all the animals to form collective resistance. The film becomes a very funny account of the process of political emancipation. At first Billy and his friends cannot convince the other animals because of internal quarrels, with only a moving speech by the 700 year old turtle Winifred managing to persuade them.

The animals learn to work together to resist the dam – but this is only the beginning. Their newfound confidence in their own power means they can then go on to continue their fight for a better world, with inspiring consequences.

Animals United shows that resistance against injustice is possible through large-scale unity – and that real heroes do not have to be big and strong.

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