Written and Directed by Jamie Uys
Narrated by Paddy O'Byrne
Animals are Beautiful People came out in 1974, the year I was born, so I never saw it in a theater. I first saw it at age eight on Betamax tape of it recorded off HBO. By my ninth birthday, I had proof that video tape degraded after multiple viewings: the movie was noticably more static filled than the year before. By my tenth birthday it was almost unwatchable, but by then I'd moved on to other things.
What made it my favorite for two years running? Well, you have to consider the time period. This was in the days of yore, before anyone had even considered creating the Discovery Channel. I had National Geographic Specials and Wild America (with Marty "I'm on Valium" Stouffer), and that was it. These shows were fine, but they weren't engaging, let alone funny. So, when Dad popped this in the player, and on came the narators voice talking seriously about the desert, I thought I knew what I was in for. Then the laughing began.
Imagine a cross between a Discovery channel show about the Namib, Disney's Fantasia, and America's Funniest Home Videos narrated by a droll English-sounding gentleman. That's this movie. It chronicles the life and times of the inhabitants of the deserts in southern Africa. The title comes from the anthropomorphizing of the various animals, complete with music (mostly classical) and occasional sound effects to match. All of it very cute, very funny, and very "G-rated" in the same way Bambi is - there are a few deaths, but nothing overtly grizly.
It's out on DVD now, and you can also find the VHS online both new and used. I bought a tape recently and rewatched the movie for the first time in twenty years. It took me straight back as soon as it started. It was just as I remembered it, which made it a little quaint by today's standards, but I found myself laughing and enjoying it just like I did then. Now that's the mark of a good movie.
The maker of this film went on to produce the smash hit "The Gods Must Be Crazy" and a sequel to that, both with the same narrator. Beautiful People remains my favorite, though, for its pure simplicity and fun. If you have kids (or you just want to see a nature show with a intelligent sense of humor), find a copy of this, and they (or you) will most likely wear holes in the tape just like I did.