Liverpool’s Real Life DreamWorks Wildlife
Sorry Santa, but DreamWorks Lights is stealing the show over a St Georges Hall this Christmas. Lighting up little faces and effortlessly creating the wonder-filled moments that the season is all about.
But fantastic beasts are nothing new to Liverpool. In fact, for an urban city, we’re never far from a walk on the wild side.
It will surprise no one that Liverpool already has a fair few Shreks, (myself included). But to highlight the success of DreamWorks Lights, we thought we’d take a look at some real-life creature counterparts, you can find from DreamWorks films, right here in Liverpool.
The real versions are a very different kettle of fish. You can’t just switch them off at the end of the day and they cost a lot more than a sky-high electricity bill. But they’re just as beautiful, even more exciting and, truth be told, way more important.
The ability to see wild animals up close teaches our kids more about our planet and the unbelievable variety of life it supports than any number of computer-generated animated films.
These creatures are real and they illuminate more than our magnificent St George’s Hall, they illuminate life. So here’s six fantastic real life DreamWorks beasts. Where to find them? Knowsley Safari, of course.
DreamWorks version: Alex
This unchallenged ‘King of the Jungle’ actually resides in the planes of Africa, before getting shipped off to Madagascar in the animated movie of the same name. The DreamWorks version comes in the majestic form of Alex, a funny, flamboyant lion with too much pride but a good heart.
Defining quote: “I was the star in the greatest city on earth! A King! Loved by my people!”
Real-life version: Panthera Leo
Knowsley Safari is home to a pride of African Lions. Lionkeeper Oliver O’Malley told us what makes these apex predators so special: “Lions stand apart from other big cats. They’re the only ones that live in social groups, called a pride, formed by related females and their offspring.
“In the wild, the pride would hunt together. But it’s the females who do most of the work. So they’re not too different to humans! I love Madagascar, but in the real world you would never get a lion and a zebra hanging out together. At least not for long.
“People love to see the lions, they go crazy for them. Nothing quite prepares you for seeing them up close, with no fence. It’s just you and your car between one of the most powerful and ferocious animals on the planet and they have the loudest roar. You have to hear it to believe it.
“Part of what we do at Knowsley Safari is teach people about animal conservation. Trophy hunting and poaching are a huge problem. Attractions like Liverpool’s DreamWorks Lights, help make children aware of these creatures and this interest helps us to conserve them in the long run”.
DreamWorks version: Melman.
Melman is something of a hypochondriac, taking medication in lieu of meals and receiving constant medical care, for problems that are all a figment of his imagination. Despite his fictional ailments, Melman is an open-minded, would be romantic Giraffe, who’s more into curves than even the leggiest of legs, harboring lustful desires for Gloria – the hippo.
Defining quote: “I found another brown spot on my shoulder!”
Real-life version: Giraffe Camelopardalis (which translates as ‘one who walks quickly. A camel marked like a leopard.)
For the most part, Gloria is blissfully unaware of Melman’s interspecies attraction, but we like to think she’d be turned on by his impressive vital statistics.
Giraffes are the tallest animals on earth and have a 45cm, high dexterity tongue. These extraordinary biological innovations help them grab the best leaves, which grow high above thorny branches.
But that’s not all. Animal Manager Belinda Barclaytold us a few more incredible facts about these real life giants.
“Cartoons are for kids, so they tend to downplay the danger of sub-Saharan Africa, where giraffes roam free. But the reality is brutal and animals there have adopted all kinds of ingenious ways to stay alive. Giraffes have to be alert and ready to bolt all the time, so they only sleep between 10 minutes and two hours a day, which is the shortest sleep period of any mammal.
“For new-born, baby giraffes, being on your feet and moving fast makes all the difference. They can stand within half an hour of being born and after 10 hours they can actually run alongside their family, which is incredible”.
DreamWorks version: Gloria
The talented writers at DreamWorks don’t let reality get in the way of telling a great, visually exciting story, so they made Gloria, their hippo from Madagascar, a somewhat improbable high-wire dancer. Sassy, smart and graceful, Gloria is a rare voice of reason and the sole female in Madagascar’s main troupe of protagonists. She’s also the mummy of the film, with a passion for looking after her friends and telling it exactly as it is.
Defining quote: “Don’t make me come up there, I’ll get the whuppin’ on both of y’all.”
Closest real life version in Liverpool, er, The Rhino
Ok, so this is where it gets tricky. Knowsley Safari doesn’t have any hippos but for good reason. “They look cute, but they’re extremely dangerous and aggressive. They actually kill more than 300 people a year and they wouldn’t hesitate to charge at a car” explains Stuart Robertson, Animal Manager and previously surrogate dad of a cute little hippo whilst living in Africa.
Rhinos are considered the second largest land mammal, behind the elephant, but this is sometimes contested by – you guessed it – the hippo. Are there any other comparisons? “Not really, white rhino are actually calmer and more sociable and not nearly as dangerous as hippos. Also, they can’t swim, like hippos can. But their sheer scale will still amaze you”.
Knowsley Safari work closely with conservation charities like ‘Save the Rhino’ to combat relentless rhino poaching
“Their horns are highly prized, but entirely useless to humans’ explains Bridget Murray, Knowsley Safari’s Research & Conservation officer . “We have one of the most successful and genetically diverse breeding groups of white rhino in Europe. Our links to conservation charities give us the opportunity to support vital conservation work on site, which is made possible through the guests that visit our park each year”.
DreamWorks version: Marty
Adventurous and impulsive, Marty loves to have fun and dreams of a life running free on the plains of Africa. He’s Alex’s best friend and when the situation calls for it, he’s not afraid to use his hooves for fisticuffs.
Defining quote: “I’m ten years old. My life is half over and I don’t even know if I’m black with white stripes or white with black stripes!”
Real-life version: Equus quagga
Unlike most prey animals on the planet, zebra prefer to stand out rather than blend in and their striking pelage has made them forever ‘in’ in the world of fashion. But what are the real reasons for the head-to-hoof monochrome? Well, scientist aren’t quite sure. Animal Keeper Leah Drury from Knowsley Safari explains:
“There’s total disagreement. Some scientist believe the distinctive pattern makes it hard for predators to pick off a single Zebra when they’re in a herd. Some scientist actually think the stripes developed to keep disease-carrying flies at bay, as flies find it hard to land on stripes.
“Another popular theory is that the stripes dazzle predators, making it difficult for them to judge size and speed of the animal. It’s also been argued that the stripes disperse more than 70 per cent of incoming heat, preventing them from overheating in the blistering African sun. We’ll probably never know the real reason they’ve evolved to look the way they do. They look cool though don’t they?”
They certainly do. But they’re not just pretty ponies. “They have incredible stamina and endurance. In Africa, every rainy season, they embark on a mass migration, traveling over 700 miles, following the rains across the Serengeti and they can reach speeds up to 65kmph.”
DreamWorks Version: Master Tigress
Defining quote: “If he’s smart, he won’t come back up those steps…”
Kung Fu Panda’s animals were made for highly skilled hand-to-hand combat and Master Tigress leaves all of them in the dust. The Jackie Chan of the animal world, Master Tigress is a powerful fighter with a formidable, but stern personality. A founding member of Kung Fu Panda’s ‘Furious Five’, it’s easy to think of Tigress as an animal equivalent to Tarantino’s Bride from Kill Bill, but with more fur and (thankfully) less blood.
Real-life version: Panthera tigris altaica (The Siberian Tiger)
There are big cats and there’s tigers, the largest, most ferocious feline living today. DreamWorks got a few things right with their depiction as tigers are the strongest and most fearless of all the big cats. No animal stands above the tiger in the food chain and, unlike lions, these beasts are strictly solitary, preferring to go it alone in their natural habitats of southeast Russia, China and North Korea.
Knowsley Safari is joining the fight to save wild tigers, through a European breeding conservation programme. Does this mean we can expect the patter of not-so-tiny paws soon? “Hopefully someday” explains Oliver O’Malley. “But not yet, both Amur tigers, Sinda and Bira are female”.
Like much of the wildlife at Knowsley Safari, Amur Tigers are dangerously low in numbers with as little as 540 thought to exist in the wild today. True kings of the jungle, these forest dwellers are suffering from the impact of the most dangerous animal of all – man.
“Deforestation and hunting, for trinkets or bogus medicine is wiping out tigers at an astonishing rate, which is devastating. Movies like Kung-Fu Panda show how popular animals like tigers are with people all over the world, but without conservation and education, we may lose them forever. But I believe animated films or shows like DreamWorks lights help because they teach people that animals can struggle to survive and have feeling and emotions just like people do.”
This Christmas take your kids to see Liverpool’s DreamWorks Lights. It’s pure, brilliant, blinding escapism, a fibre-optic fantasy for all the family and the best Christmas Lights we’ve seen for some time.
But remember to take to your little ones to Knowsley Safari too. It’s a five-mile-wide, wild animal safari, that’s not too far from your front door. It looks after endangered species to ensure your children’s children can enjoy the beauty and wonder that is real wildlife for hopefully years to come.
Book DreamWorks Lights tickets here.