Theme Park News Round-up: Blackfish director lied to film's sources; Meryl Streep doesn't know what she's talking about

January 9, 2014, 9:56 PM · A former SeaWorld trainer who was one of the sources for the anti-animal captivity movie Blackfish is now saying that the film's director lied to her to entice her participation in the movie.

Bridgette Pirtle, who worked for SeaWorld San Antonio for more than 10 years, said in an interview that she began working with the movie's director, Gabriela Cowperthwaite, because she wanted to honor Dawn Brancheau, the SeaWorld Orlando trainer killed by one of the chain's orcas in 2010. But when she saw the movie at its Sundance Film Festival premiere, she found a very different result.

One Ocean show at SeaWorld Orlando

"Blackfish was a complete '180' from what was originally presented to me," Pirtle told MiceChat. "Now, it's almost like my worst fears are unfolding in front of me. When I first spoke with [executive producer] Tim [Zimmerman] and Gabriela, I truly felt like they were as passionate about the animals' welfare as I was. I felt they believed in the relationships and respected my experiences and insight."

Today, Pirtle said she believes that the filmmakers' goal was not to honor Dawn or to improve the lives of animals, but "To win the Academy Award. Once it was apparent that there was no real interest in revealing the whole truth, I knew it was another person's attempt to capitalize on the tragedy of the story of Dawn," she told the website.

Pirtle spoke of attempts to silence any criticism of the film.

"I know firsthand that any attempt of an experienced trainer looking to speak on behalf of the animals was quickly dismissed. Attempts to publish articles that presented a more fair, honest and unbiased perspective were eventually nixed at the very last minute. It was naive of me to seek to expose the truth that contradicted many of those within the film via CNN, the company which had a vested interest in the success of the film.”

The most damning line in the post? "When Gabriela Cowperthwaite found out that Bridgette would be speaking out about the film, Gabriela called Bridgette and reportedly told her to, 'Please wait until after award season to criticize Blackfish.'"

A personal note: As some of you might know, I used to work as a media critic and journalism instructor for a major journalism school. And more than a year ago, I served on the advisory board of a documentary film that examined my local public school district. (My son worked as a director on the film and captured the quote cited in the lead of this review.) So I have some professional experience to draw upon when I say that the first rule of documentary filmmaking is (or, at least, ought to be): tell the truth. There's no shame in a film having a point of view. Many journalists and documentarians reject the "view from nowhere" philosophy that reduces our media to stenography. But the reason for a story to portray a point of view is to endorse a reported truth while defending against the falsehoods that attack the truth.

If documentarians, or journalists, have to resort to lies to report or tell their stories, they're no longer serving the truth. And they're no longer worthy of discerning readers' attention, much less honor or award. The Motion Picture Academy declined to honor the film Waiting for Superman when that movie was exposed for duplicity. But will it do the same for Blackfish?

Keeping on the topic of rebutting lies, the Walt Disney Family Museum has offered a rebuttal to several enduring slurs about Walt Disney, who died in December 1966. This week at the National Board of Review awards dinner, Meryl Streep honored Emma Thompson for her portrayal of P.L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks and used the occasion to launch an attack on Walt Disney, calling him anti-Semitic and a "gender bigot."

The Museum took on both charges, noting Disney's support for Jewish artists within the company (including Marty Sklar) and his honor from B'nai B'rith, and publishing the letter to a female applicant that spawned the "gender bigot" charge, while also noting Disney's support for female artists including Mary Blair, Alice Davis and Harriet Burns.

The Museum also threw in a rebuttal to ongoing rumors that Walt Disney was cryogenically frozen following his death, noting that his body was, in fact, cremated. (Pretty much the opposite of cryogenic freezing, isn't it?) Disney's cremains are interred at the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California.

Replies (6)

January 10, 2014 at 3:00 AM · This edition was of The Flume was almost PERFECT. But then you had to ruin everything when you tossed in that last paragraph.
January 10, 2014 at 6:03 AM · So what you're saying THC, is that Disney On Ice means something other to you than people in costumes and on skates?
January 10, 2014 at 7:52 AM · For Mr. Hillman: Take note of the reviews and the stars.


January 10, 2014 at 5:39 PM · If truth were required for Academy Award documentaries, then Michael Moore or Morgan Spurlock would have never been nominated.
January 12, 2014 at 8:37 AM · I"m impressed, THC. You even got Rao to say something nice about your book.

I got an Amazon gift card for Christmas, and I just downloaded the Kindle app to my MacBook Air, so I'm going add your book to my reading list this week.

January 12, 2014 at 8:55 AM · On another note. Those Blackfish supporters sure have been quiet recently. I suppose they've moved on to greener pastures (not filled with any exploited species like cattle, sheep, and pigs, of course!) where their lies and sociopathic behavior haven't been exposed.

Saving the environment and educating the ignorant masses is such hard work.

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