Thursday, 09 June 2016 00:00

50th Anniversary of the Film Born Free Featured

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On June 22, 1966, the film that kicked off the animal welfare and wildlife conservation movement premiered in the U.S.

Washington, D.C., June 9, 2016 -- Fifty years ago this month (June 22), the iconic 1966 motion picture Born Free premiered in the U.S. The Columbia Pictures film starred Virginia McKenna and the late Bill Travers as real-life husband and wife, George and Joy Adamson, and told the story of the Adamsons’ efforts to return an orphaned lion cub, Elsa, to the wild. After making the film, McKenna and Travers vowed to end captive animal cruelty and focus their lives on promoting compassionate conservation around the world by starting two organizations: Born Free Foundation in 1984 and Born Free USA in 2002. Today, the organizations have grown into dynamic international forces in wildlife protection. 

The story of Elsa is considered as the first mainstream Hollywood film to spotlight a conservation issue and is regarded by many as the beginning of the animal welfare and wildlife conservation movement: an approach to wild animals that recognizes each one as an individual in need of protection. This early look at “compassionate conservation” is the mission of Born Free USA today. 

According to Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA and an international expert on wildlife conservation, “The legacy of Elsa, who really was the ambassador of wildlife conservation, is what began this global evolution of respect and love for big cats—and for the public to want to learn more. Elsa, the Adamsons, and the film opened doors in 1966 which we honor and celebrate 50 years later. With the listing of African lions under the U.S. Endangered Species Act last year and the establishment of the Presidential Task Force on Combatting Wildlife Trafficking, we are living in an era of great change for these animals. This film, and Bill and Virginia’s lifelong commitment to wild animals in need, has never been more relevant, and this anniversary is one of the reasons we launched our 2016 Born Free Year of the Lion campaign.” 

Over the past 50 years, the movie has truly become a pop culture phenomenon, which Born Free USA hopes will keep Elsa’s story alive and forever bring attention to all wildlife. Fifty years ago, Born Free received Academy Awards for Original Music Score and Best Song, and Golden Globe nominations for Best Motion Picture Drama and Best Motion Picture Drama Actress for McKenna. In the past decade, the film was mentioned on the AMC television show Mad Men; the song was played on Showtime’s Dexter and in the feature film Madagascar; and the song was sung on the Fox series The Simpsons. Even President Barack Obama has said, "I think I may have teared up at the end when they release Elsa. I couldn't have been more than four or five."

“Born Free USA works tirelessly to help keep wildlife in the wild. This year, we celebrate the foundation of our work: the film and Elsa,” Roberts adds.

Born Free USA is a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation, and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic "pets," trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to America the message of "compassionate conservation": the vision of the U.K.-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film Born Free, along with their son, Will Travers. Born Free's mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally. More at,, and

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