A Whale Of A Time 


A stand-alone documentary examining the legacy of Warner Bros' Free Willy franchise on orca captivity and conservation, and its impact on our understanding of the blackfish in the wild.

The 1993 release of Warner Bros’ Free Willy featured an animal that could never be a pet but was nevertheless often captured and exploited for human entertainment. As the franchise raised awareness of the plight of the orca population, what is the legacy of Free Willy, beyond the eventual emancipation of Keiko, its cetacean star performer? From the Tlingit-Haida orca origin story of Natsilane that famously featured in Free Willy, to CNN Films’ 2013 documentary Blackfish, A Whale Of A Time asks whether mankind’s impact on the orca has improved or deteriorated over our millennia-spanning history of sharing the seas. 

Free Willy had a tangible impact on orca conservation in the $20m donated by audiences to the Save the Whales Foundation, the formation of the Free Willy-Keiko Foundation, and its subsequent campaign to release and rehabilitate the star of the film.  Two decades later, Blackfish reignited the debate on orca captivity and safety in its exposé of SeaWorld’s treatment of the orca Tilikum and his progeny. Despite the campaigns inspired by both films, almost 60 orcas remain in captivity worldwide to this day, with a third of those remaining captive in the United States. A Whale of a Time will analyse the effectiveness of the campaigns resulting from the release of both films and ask whether the plight of captive orcas has been all but forgotten by audiences. 

The project has been developed as potential co-production between Seraphim Pictures and a Canadian production company under the bi-lateral co-production treaty between the UK and Canada. You can follow the project on IMDbPro with this link.