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The Meerkats

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Title: The Meerkats  
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Subject: Paul Newman, Meerkat, Neil Nightingale, BBC Films, Cinema Extreme, NHU filmography, James Honeyborne
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The Meerkats

The Meerkats
Promotional movie poster
Directed by James Honeyborne
Produced by BBC Films
BBC Natural History Unit
The Weinstein Company
Written by Alexander McCall Smith
Narrated by Paul Newman
Music by Sarah Class
Cinematography Barrie Britton
Tony Miller
Mark Payne-Gill
Edited by Justin Krish
Distributed by BBC Films
The Weinstein Company
Release dates
  • 15 October 2008 (2008-10-15) (France)
  • 7 August 2009 (2009-08-07) (United Kingdom)
Running time 83 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The Meerkats, also known as Meerkats: The Movie, is a feature-length 2008 British wildlife fiction film which anthropomorphises the daily struggles of a clan of meerkats in the Kalahari Desert. It was produced by BBC Films and The Weinstein Company, and filmed by the award-winning BBC Natural History Unit. It is the debut directorial feature of James Honeyborne, previously a producer of natural history programmes for television. The worldwide premiere was held at the Dinard Film Festival, France in October 2008,[1] expanding to a wide release the following week. The film was released in 2009, on 7 August in the UK. A US date has not yet been announced. This was dedicated to actor Paul Newman, who died in 2008, shortly before this movie was released.


The documentary follows the adventure of a young meerkat who is forced to leave his home by a group of meerkats who wanted more territory. Lost in the African savannah, he tries to reunite with his family, but encounters large, fierce, and deadly creatures.


The Meerkats was announced in November 2006 as BBC Films and The Weinstein Company agreed a co-financing deal for the film, with The Weinstein Company also handling international distribution. The year-long principal photography began on location in the Kalahari Desert, South Africa in the same month.[2] It became the Natural History Unit's first feature-length wildlife fiction based on original material, and followed the successes of Earth (2007) and Deep Blue (2003) which were both companion pieces to BBC television series. The script was written by Alexander McCall Smith, author of many books set in Botswana. Paul Newman provides the narration, which was recorded at a studio near his home shortly before his death. The Meerkats is believed to be one of the last film credits of his long career.[1][3]

Meerkat Manor: The Story Begins, a second feature-length wildlife film on meerkats, was also released in 2008. It was produced by Animal Planet, Discovery Films and Oxford Scientific Films, the makers of Meerkat Manor, but was not screened in theatres. BBC Films' Joe Oppenheimer, a producer of The Meerkats, has stated that the two films are very different in character (the BBC and Discovery originally planned to collaborate, but couldn't agree on a common ground). James Honeyborne has described The Meerkats as "a stand-alone, blue-chip wildlife film from the ground up. It will be immersive. There will be a huge sense of place on a massive scale. You will really see real wild animals."[4]


Writing in The Guardian reviewer Philip French noted that the "... nature movie made in the Kalahari desert has some good footage but is more Disney-anthropomorphic than Attenborough-authentic."[5]


  1. ^ a b "Festival screens Newman swansong". BBC Online. 2008-10-05. 
  2. ^ "The Meerkats: BBC Films and the BBC Natural History Unit collaborate on ambitious first feature film". BBC Press Office. 2006-11-01. 
  3. ^ "French film festival to show Paul Newman’s last work". Enjoy France News. 2008-10-06. 
  4. ^ Lyons, Charles (2006-12-17). "After a Run of Penguin Chic, It’s the Year of the Meerkat". New York Times. 
  5. ^ French, Philip (2009-08-09). "The Meerkats". The Guardian. 

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