Revival of Lost ‘Jungle Book’ Movie Character Serves as Reminder of Efforts to Restore Rhino Populations

Rocky the Rhino from The Jungle Book. Photo credit: Disney

Rocky the Rhino from The Jungle Book. Photo credit: Disney

Revival of Lost ‘Jungle Book’ Movie Character Serves as Reminder of Efforts to Restore Rhino Populations Disney, International Rhino Foundation combine forces to secure species survival

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 21, 2014
CONTACT: April Salter, (850) 508-7040, april.salter@saltermitchell.com
or Susie Ellis, (540) 660-4152, s.ellis@rhinos.org

ORLANDO, Fla. — An animated rhinoceros character cut from the original “The Jungle Book” movie but brought back decades later by Disney provides an inspirational backdrop for the International Rhino Foundation’s efforts to bring the rhino species back from the brink of extinction.

The fate of “Rocky the Rhino” seemed to be sealed on the cutting room floor, but Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment brought the long-lost character back after old drawings of it were discovered. “Rocky” now stars in “The Lost Character: Rocky the Rhino,” a bonus feature included in the recent release of “The Jungle Book” Diamond Edition. Available for the first time ever on Blu-ray and Digital, “The Jungle Book” has sold almost 5 million DVDs to date, grossing more than $83 million in total domestic video sales.

In the mid-1960s during production of “The Jungle Book” — the last animated feature film personally overseen by Walt Disney — the visionary producer described Rocky as a “loveable rhinoceros who is half blind and extremely dumb.” Voiced by the distinctive Frank Fontaine and appearing in numerous developmental sketches, Rocky seemed on his way to becoming a star as part of the film’s cherished animal cast. But in the end, Walt Disney decided Rocky just wasn’t necessary to tell Mowgli’s story.

The reemergence of Rocky, however, tells a more contemporary story. The similarities between Rocky and the Indian Rhino — the species after which Walt Disney modeled his character — are striking. Like “Rocky,” the greater one-horned rhino found in India nearly disappeared forever in the 20th century. But today the greater one-horned represents one of the biggest success stories in rhino conservation, growing from less than 200 to more than 3,000 today.

“There’s a subtle irony in the rebirth of ‘Rocky the Rhino’ coming at a time when Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and IRF are working together to keep this majestic creature from vanishing in the wild,” said Dr. Susie Ellis, executive director of IRF. “We’ve had some success in raising awareness of the crisis facing the rhino population, but poaching for horn and habitat loss remain grave threats to rhinos’ survival.”

While the five remaining rhino species are struggling, three in particular — Asia’s Sumatran rhino (no more than 100) and Javan rhino (about 44 in the wild) and Africa’s black rhino (5,000) — are listed as “critically endangered.” India’s greater one-horned rhino (3,300) and Africa’s white rhino (20,000) are slowly rebounding, although they still are considered a “threatened” species. The populations of Africa’s rhino species are particularly vulnerable. Poaching in Africa, for example, has grown more than three-fold in the past three years, with more than 1,000 rhinos lost in South Africa alone last year.

“Numbers tell the story of the world’s rhino population,” Ellis said. “Unless the poaching stops and their habitats are preserved, we could see the day when some rhinos live only in a virtual world.”

IRF has worked with Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund for 20 years to help protect rhinos in the wild and raise awareness of the threats that pose the greatest challenges to their populations.

If you would like to help support the conservation of the beloved creatures you may make an online donation to IRF here or by texting RHINO to 501501 in the U.S. to donate $10 to IRF.

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The International Rhino Foundation is dedicated to the survival of the world’s rhino species through conservation and research. At the heart of IRF’s vision is the belief that these magnificent species should endure for future generations, and that protecting rhinos ensures the survival of many other species that share their habitat, including people.

 

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