The festive season is upon us, and as well as eating lots, playing board games and watching The Queen’s speech, lots of people will be sitting down with popcorn and a mulled wine to watch timeless movies together – and this year London Zoo’s keepers have compiled a list of films where eagle-eyed viewers will catch a glimpse of the iconic location they get to call ‘work’.
As well as being home to more than 20,000 threatened species, inspiring future generations of conservationists and working to create a world where wildlife thrives, London Zoo has been the set for many iconic movie moments in its almost 200-year history.
London Zoo’s Chief Operating Officer, Kathryn England said: “ZSL London Zoo is an iconic venue with a rich and varied history – in our almost 200-years we’ve launched the careers of world-renowned naturalists, our animals have inspired classic children’s book characters and we’ve also appeared in many iconic films.
“We’ve compiled a list of some of our favourites for people to watch this festive season, so get your hot chocolate ready and put on your comfiest pyjamas, because here are some favourites, filmed at ZSL London Zoo.”
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, chosen by zookeeper Suzi Hyde
“One of London Zoo’s most famous cinematic moments is in the first of the Harry Potter films, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Harry, on a visit to London Zoo with his aunt Petunia and uncle Vernon to celebrate his cousin Dudley’s birthday, discovers he’s a ‘Parselmouth’, accidentally helping a Burmese Python to slither out of the enclosure after Harry magically removes the glass between them. The talking snake, completely fabricated using special effects, then thanks Harry before he magics back the glass and shuts Dudley back in the enclosure. We don’t have any talking pythons - not even CGI ones, like in the movie - but the scene was filmed in London Zoo’s Reptile House in 2001.
“London Zoo’s history with Harry Potter doesn’t stop there though, our fantastic beasts were the inspiration for many of the characters in the most recent movie franchise from the wizarding world – and some of the props in the films were bought in London Zoo’s gift shop!”
Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom, chosen by reptile keeper Cheska Servini
“Much like Die Hard, some might see this as a contentious submission for a Christmas classic, but it’s firmly on my list – who wouldn’t want to watch a film about dinosaurs on Christmas? The characters of this film are working to save animals from extinction, after a volcano erupts and threatens the survival of the dinosaurs. Spot the lion at the end? It’s London Zoo! It might not be a lengthy appearance, but this seconds-long clip took more than two days of filming at London Zoo’s Land of the Lions exhibit!”
About a Boy, chosen by zookeeper Dave Clarke
“One of my favourite London Zoo movie moments is in the 2002 film, About a Boy. Starring Hugh Grant and Nicholas Hoult, the pair visit the Zoo in the film, strolling around seeing the sights and stopping for a chat by our unique dung beetle statue -which is located just outside the Tiny Giants exhibit in which I work – although perhaps the Lubetkin Penguin Pool is more widely remembered by other viewers!”
Skyfall, James Bond, chosen by Komodo dragon Joe Capon
“James Bond movie Skyfall is a firm favourite for me at Christmas, as there’s a starring role from London Zoo’s then Komodo dragon, Raja. The charismatic lizard made his screen debut in a scene in Macau's Golden Dragon Casino. After being measured and filmed in his enclosure in The Attenborough Komodo dragon house, Raja was digitally recreated in the casino's Komodo dragon pit using the magic of CGI. Those who worked with him say that Raja was actually a gentle giant who really enjoyed his training sessions, but it shows how good an actor he was as he looks pretty fearsome in the film!”
Goodbye Christopher Robin, chosen by zookeeper Jessica Jones
“Not everyone knows that the famous character Winnie-the-Pooh was actually named after a Canadian black bear called Winnie, who lived at London Zoo. Much loved by the author A. A Milne’s son, Christopher Robin, who often visited London Zoo, the author was inspired to create the magical world which captivated so many.
“The 2017 movie ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’ based on the relationship between Alan Alexander Milne and his son, Christopher Robin and their creation of the magical world of ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ is the perfect watch for the festive season. Many scenes were filmed at locations around ZSL London Zoo, including Penguin Beach and the Mappin Terraces - where coincidentally the real Winnipeg the black bear lived.”
Wimbledon, chosen by zookeeper Kathryn Sanders
“What do tennis and London Zoo have in common? Well aside from both being classic British institutions, they’re both featured in the 2004 romcom, Wimbledon. I added this to the list as it’s sort of a secret appearance from London Zoo - those who know the Zoo well will spot our main entrance disguised as the centre court entrance in the memorable movie, starring Kirsten Dunst and Paul Bettany.”
Find out more about commercial filming at ZSL London Zoo and the scenes filmed across the Zoo here.