Tons of fanged and savage fury... fighting for a mate!
Mighty "Beach-master" and invading "Bachelor" clash in mortal combat... as the Arctic's strangest mystery unfolds before your eyes! First of Walt Disney’s “True-Life Adventures” Series. A live-action saga of nature in the Mystic Pribilof Islands.
Title: Seal Island
Release: December 21, 1948
Genre: Documentary- Animal
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Photographed By: Alfred and Elma Milotte
Production Supervisor: Ben Sharpsteen
Director: James Algar
Music By: Oliver Wallace
Produced By: Walt Disney
Studio: Walt Disney Productions
Distributed By: RKO Radio Pictures
Run Time: 27 minutes
“By special permission of United States Department of Interior Fish and Wildlife Service.”
The very first True-Life Adventure featurette was called Seal Island and it mostly features the mating and life cycle of the fur seal on the Pribilof Islands in Alaska which Walt Disney and daughter Sharon may have seen on their trip to the state the previous year. Narrated by Winston Hibler, this not quite 30 minute short won the Academy Award in 1949 for Best Short Subject (Two-Reel) and the Best Subject award at the Cannes festival. However, like many of Walt Disney’s brilliant ideas (adding sound to Steamboat Willie for example), he had to really do some fast talking to get anyone interested. RKO, the then Disney distributor, didn't want to take a chance on the film so Walt somehow got a theater in Pasadena to run the film to qualify it for the Academy Award. After it won, Walt was rumored to have said to his brother, "Here, Roy, take this [the Oscar] over to RKO and bang them over the head with it."
At the beginning of the film, this appears on the screen: “This is one of a series of True- Life Adventures presenting strange facts about the world we live in. These films are photographed in their natural settings and are completely authentic, unstaged and unrehearsed.” In spite of this, to tell a coherent story, there is some manipulation of the film such as when a baby seal is supposedly lost yet you can see other seals around it when the mother "rescues" it and who knows? It may be another seal altogether! You don't really notice things like this when watching the film though. It does have anthropomorphic conventions to make the animals relatable to the viewer and some of the violence and deaths are softened as well too.
James Algar said that the True-Life Adventures were "based on the premise that information can be entertainment if interestingly presented.” However, there are no educators or scientist advisors for the film though there are three people credited as researchers, so not everything that is presented is necessarily true. Nor is all those sounds that the animals made what you’d actually hear in real life (the seals in real life sound a bit like sheep)… they are all special effects! There is actually no sound to any of the footage shot for any of the True- Life Adventures (the equipment wasn’t sophisticated enough back then to have both sound and picture and that‘s about the only “dated” thing in Seal Island) so it’s up to the sound effects guys and composers to make the film entertaining. Walt Disney received several awards for this and all his ’Adventure’ films such as being appointed as a member of the President's Committee on Higher Education and even a commendation from the National Geographic Society.
It’s behind this curtain of fog that nature plays out one of her greatest dramas. A story strange as fantasy, yet a story straight from the realm of fact. For this is a True- Life Adventure, the saga of the fur seal.
[Baby seal has caught his flipper under a bull or "Beach Master"]When 800 pounds of blubber has parked on your flipper, there’s not much you can do about it but wait until the big bully makes up his mind to move. Free at last. It's a hard life, this survival of the fittest.
Seal Island Links
Since there is no videos online for Seal Island, here are some seals!
Also, there is a clip from the movie from 1:06-2:47