ABOUT ANIMAL ACTORS
Animals have been acting in movies since the dawn of film. They began in silent films, but animals long before that were performers. Although they weren't treated back then as well as they are today, thanks to the animal rights laws which exist. At least within the United States and other countries with similar laws against animal cruelty. Before their were film and television animal stars, their were circus animals. There still are circus animals, although hopefully they're treated much better than they were in previous decades and centuries. There will however always be those who don't think animals should be used in films, television or for circus acts. That doesn't mean there aren't plenty of people who enjoy and appreciate the animal stars seen on their television or the big screen at a theater.
Many a star has been born, but then stars are not really born, but made. Everyone had to study someone else, or be trained. Animals are no exception to the rule that good training, mimicry and a good agent helps ones chancing of landing a role. Not every role is big of course, but every potential break is worth taking the risks. Some animals will have more than one role in television and film, but others may just have one before their retirement.
The only thing an animal has, which others do not, is an owner, trainer or both. A dog, cat or any other animal for that matter needs to have an owner so that they're well taken care of. They also need a trainer, who may or may not also be their owner, in order to learn tricks and cues for their career in acting.
A PROBLEM OF CELEBRITY ANIMALS
The only real problem with animal celebrities is that people see these well trained cats, dogs and other animals which are legal to have and go out and buy one of their own. Unfortunately the ones they buy are not already trained and they're not prepared for life with a pet and so many wind up in shelters. It is a sad fate and also the time when puppy mills make their biggest money. Puppy mills are however illegal. Instead of purchasing from a pet store, adopt from a shelter or a reputable breeder.
CAN MY PET BE ON TV?
Yes your pet can be on television, or even in films. However like human actors, your pet will need to be trained well, have a good temperament and have an agent. Once your pet has all of these things, then its time to wait for your pets agent to give you a call. The agent can set up an audition for any suitable casting calls. Should your pet then be the one of the ones to pass the audition, then they'll soon be on screen. It's only a matter of filming the scenes and then when the movie or television program is released, your pet will finally be seen on your television. Although they could have been anyway with some home movies.
Like some people who were discovered on youtube, there's a chance that well trained pets in a short scene could likewise become famous.
5 GREAT DOG ACTORS
1. Jean, the Vitagraph Dog, a border collie was one of the first acting dogs on film. She played in a number of silent films, but all are believed to no longer exist. Except perhaps for a single preserved film, The Sailor's Sacrifice. She belonged to a a Maine resident, Laurence Trimble who was an aspiring writer at the time. Jean was discovered in New York City by Vitragraph studios. She is probably the precursor of all other animal actors on film.
2. Strongheartwas a German Shepard star of silent films. Jean's owner, Laurence Trimble also worked with Strongheart, though he wasn't his original owner. Strongheart was only his screen name, but his true name was Etzel von Oeringen.
Originally the German Shepard was trained as a police dog in Germany. He had a role in many silent films. Perhaps the most notable is the 1925 adaptation of White Fang. His appearance in movies heightened the interest and popularity of the German Shepard breed. He perhaps has been forgotten by many as has perhaps also Jean, the Vitagraph Dog over time. Particularly when a different Collie and a different German Shepard made their rise to animal stardom. There is only one film thought to still exist in which he'd played a role, The Return of Boston Blackie.
Strongheart however shall not be completely forgot, as long as his star remains on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 1724 Vine Street.
3. Rintintin was yet another famous German Shepard of film, nicknamed Rinty by his owner. His career as a television and film star began in 1922. While not everyone may know this without doing a bit of digging, at the time his owner was convinced he'd become the next Strongheart.
It's sad that not many, if any remember Strongheart at all. Particularly not when Rintintin's owner had aspirations of him becoming the next big German Shepard dog star. Rintintin's line continues, while it is unknown if Strongheart's does or not. Had Rintintin's sister, Nénette not died, perhaps there would have been two stars.
His lineage continues at El Rancho Rin Tin Tin in Latexo, Texas. Rintintin in his time, sired a total of 48 pups. There are at least twelve generations since and while some of these descendants may show up periodically on film or television, many are trained as service dogs.
He too, like Strongheart was awarded with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The location of his star is however, 1623 Vine, St.
4. Lassie, while in the films and television series is female, the role is played by a male collie. The first to play Lassie was a male collie named Pal. Lassie is perhaps the most well known of all the earliest animal actors. There is at least ten generations of the Pal lineage.
The inspiration for Lassie came form a real dog named Lassie, but was a rough haired crossbreed and therefore not a purebred Collie. The writer of the Lassie books, Nigel Clarke, which inspired the film and television Lassie, said that the real Lassie had saved a sailor during WWI.
5. Benji is yet another great animal actor, though his career did not begin until the year 1974, whereas the previous animal actors had gotten their start in the early to mid 20th century. He was born much later though and unlike the others, he was not a purebred dog. No, he was a mixed breed Shelter dog named Higgins. Luckily for Higgins his rise to fame got him out of a situation that might well have led to his early death via euthanasia.
Some of the Benji films were filmed using Benji's daughter, Benjean. Benji certainly isn't forgotten, not since the last film was produced in 2004. However it was neither the original Benji nor Benjean who played the role of Benji in the movie: Benji, Off the Leash.