Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers continues the quest of the Fellowship as they forge ahead toward Mordor to carry The One Ring to its destruction in the fires of Mt. Doom. The Dark Lord Sauron plots with the evil wizard Saruman and joining the forces of their two towers between Mordor and Isengard, Barad-dúr and Orthanc, they seek to possess the Ring and destroy Man and Middle-earth. With the death of Boromir, the Fellowship becomes broken and separated into three groups. Frodo and Sam take Gollum prisoner - a former hobbit utterly and horribly transformed by the power of the Ring, but who, having lost possession of it, desperately wants his "precious" back. The Hobbits manage to persuade Gollum to lead them to Mordor. Under the guidance of the wizard Gandalf, their former companions, Legolas, and Gimli, band together with Aragorn to defend the people of Rohan against Saruman's Uruk Hai army. Separated from their fellows, the two other Hobbits, Pippin and Merry, are befriended by the Ents and lodge an attack on Isengard. Sauron's army has become a daunting force that is released to overtake the City of Gondor and officially embark on the War of the Ring.

Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers is the second cinematic installment of J.R.R. Tolkien's literary trilogy. In a most unusual production schedule, all three movies in the trilogy were filmed during the same time frame, but are being released in yearly intervals. AHA had requested information and informed production of AHA's process for protecting animals in filmed media at the start of the project in 1999. However, because the production was filmed outside the U.S as a New Zealand project, production did not work with AHA's Film and Television Unit during the first year of principle photography. Production has since cooperated in responding to AHA's requests for information.

  • Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Bernard Hill, Christopher Lee, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Brad Dourif, Sean Bean and Andy Serkis
  • Director(s): Peter Jackson
  • Producer(s): Three Foot Six Ltd.
  • Screenwriter(s): Fran Walsh
  • Distributor: New Line Cinema
  • Animal Coordinator: Dave Johnson, Steve Old, Christopher Rutton, Lee Sommerville, Harley Young, Don Reynolds, John Scott, Lyle Edge, Graham Ware, Jr.
  • Release Date: Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Featured Animal Action

The Quest for Daring Animal Scenes:

No mythic quest would be complete without a battle waged on foot and on horseback. Some of the most dramatic scenes that appear to place the horses in jeopardy were digitally enhanced in post production. Large armies on horseback appear to charge into the raised spears of the enemy or to do battle on a narrow bridge, but these were computer-enhanced sequences. Although it may appear as if horses lie dead on the battle field, the production took great effort to make dozens of prop horses that were covered in a flocking material, strategically costumed, and placed on the set with several taxidermy horses used for the closer camera angles.

Although digitally enhanced, the sequences included live horses as well. The horses were prepped to intermingle with actors waging war by introducing them over time to various obstacles and increasing their speed in increments. By the time cameras were rolling, the horses were unthreatened by soldiers lying dead in their path and others brandishing weapons. The trainer also prepped them to do slide stops upon voice command that enabled them to hit certain marks in a more dramatic fashion.

When Gandalf joins the frey with another band of horsemen, it appears as if they are negotiating a dangerously steep hill. This too was movie magic. The actual horses did run down a slope, but one less vertical than the film represents.

Other taxidermy animals also appear such as rabbits and birds. Gollum takes pride in his hunting skills that sustain him and the Hobbits on their journey. In several scenes he voraciously eats either a rabbit or a fish that is supposedly freshly killed and uncooked. These spoils of the hunt were digital CGI creations.

In one scene when a horse dramatically rears up and is photographed from below, a trained rearing horse was used. The expectation was for the horse to do the rear above a buried camera that was protected by a plexi-glass surface that could withstand the weight of over three tons. It was necessary to take the time to walk the horse over the surface in stages and slowly teach it that the surface was sound, solid and safe. This process took many days so that the horse's confidence grew and he was able to perform without stress or apprehension.

In another sequence, Aragorn is found by his horse after being left for dead. The horse in this instance was trained to complete a very complex series of behaviors. The prep time for this was three weeks during which the trainer worked exclusively with one animal to get the horse to perform the sequence at liberty. This training and filming took place during re-shoots in 2002. The horse was required to walk up to the unconscious Aragon, nuzzle him, roll the actor over and lay down so that Aragon could grab its withers, be pulled up onto its back and carried off. The behaviors were taught in stages until one led seamlessly to another. The actor also took great effort to work with the horse for 10 days prior to shooting so that the lift off from the prone position could be a choreographed movement, comfortable for both the human and equine actors. This created great trust between the man and the animal. The actual hero horse also had to be partially trained for the close-up necessary as the horse nuzzles Aragon. Over six days were needed to get the frisky stallion to learn the gentle nuzzle. The remarkable result is the depiction of a human/animal bond that instills in the audience the sense that this intelligent animal is Aragon's true companion, not just his horse.

AHA Rating of the Film

We appreciate that production has been cooperative in answering many of AHA's questions and providing documentation regarding the animal action in the film. However, AHA still has a few concerns regarding the care given the animals during production based on information we have received. The information provided indicates that some animal activity and training methods although meeting local animal welfare standards, did not meet AHA's high standards regarding the use of animals in entertainment. We are therefore rating the film Questionable.

Investigation into Controversial Allegations

AHA endeavors to meet the public's demand for AHA to know and/or to investigate the use of animals in all filmed media. Since AHA is internationally known for its oversight of animals in filmed media, both the public and other animal welfare organizations contacted AHA near the end of filming when questions regarding the treatment of the animal actors remained unanswered. AHA compiled a list of concerns and requested and received an investigative report from the Animal Welfare Institute of New Zealand (AWINZ) and the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF). Although the investigative report was helpful, in that it concluded there was no intentional animal cruelty, it contained information that was inconsistent with standards set forth in AHA's Guidelines.

Questions and Concerns

There are a few areas in which questions remain about the level of care the animals received. In addition, some training techniques reportedly used during production are opposed by AHA.

Horse sent to slaughter – A horse named Mooney was sent to slaughter after it was determined that the horse had a non-specified problem with its front legs that made it unfit to be trained for the film. According to Production the horse had been lame, and they were waiting for its condition to improve before working it. Although the horse was purchased for the film, it was never used in it since its condition did not improve. AHA does not condone Production sending an animal to the slaughterhouse because it is not fit for work required by film production. AHA would recommend that the horse be returned to its owner, be adopted out as a pet or, if the condition proved to be critical, that the horse be humanely euthanized. Production was not able to provide veterinary records or other documentation as to the horse's condition or specific reasons why the horse was determined to be unfit.

Stampede at Mt. Potts – While shooting at the Mt. Potts location a stampede occurred during the onset of a snowstorm. Neither Production nor AWINZ documented the incident at the time it occurred, nor formally evaluated whether adequate safety precautions were in place. Allegedly, one of the horses kicked through a fence, approximately 15-35 horses got loose and ran onto the road through an opened gate and across several cattle guards. It is unclear as to what caused the horses to spook and run an unusually long distance. Although the horses were retrieved by the following day, many of the horses sustained minor injuries and 4-5 horses sustained serious injuries. Reports indicate that one horse that sustained a serious injury was later euthanized. Since this incident was unanticipated and it was not formally documented and evaluated, it is unclear as to whether proper safety precautions and adequate fencing were in place that would have prevented the incident.

Electric Shock Collars for Liberty Training – Reports indicate that electric shock collars were used for at liberty training of at least two horses. Although used by some liberty trainers and it is not against the law or local NZ animal welfare regulations, AHA opposes the use of electric shock collars for training. During filming production has indicated that the use of the device was infrequent and monitored by production veterinarians. When production learned of AHA's objection to the device, they prohibited further use.

AHA's position is supported by the fact that there are well-known and highly skilled liberty trainers that do not use electric shock for training. Research indicates that horses are more susceptible to electric shock than other animals, and that a sensation that is barely noticeable by a human, is easily noticeable by a horse. As published in AHA's Humane Dog Training Guidelines, the use of electric shock collars for training is not recommended. AHA joins with other credible animal welfare groups in advocating an end to the use of this device. Production was unable to provide documentation that supports appropriate supervision in the use of such a powerful device, pursuant to AHA standards.

Although the above issues indicate that the high standards set forth by AHA's Guidelines were not always adhered to, the AWINZ report indicates there was no intentional cruelty. AHA recognizes that Production made an effort to have veterinarians available during the course of production, and eventually contracted with AWINZ to assist with animal welfare issues.

Unfortunate Circumstances and Natural Deaths

When high profile films use large numbers of animals, it is not unusual for questions and rumors to surface. AHA has investigated allegations and incidents that have been brought to our attention. Many of the issues raised regarding mistreatment could not be substantiated and are considered closed at this time. Some of the issues raised can be explained by unfortunate circumstances and natural deaths.

Horse with Melanomas – Demero, the light grey Andalusian horse that plays Shadowfax, was purchased with a known diagnosis of melanoma. This is not uncommon in pale gray and white horses. The horse's condition worsened toward the end of the shooting schedule. While the Production veterinarian was determining the appropriate treatment, a veterinarian from the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) examined the horse. MAF issued an "Instruction to Mitigate Suffering" and stated a recommended course of treatment. The Production veterinarian followed the recommendation. In May 2002, AHA arranged for an independent veterinarian to examine Demero. At that time, Production indicated that they had no intention of working Demero in the future due to the melanomas. The findings by the independent veterinarian were "generally consistent with the history and previous management of the case...The lack of pain or signs of irritation and general condition of Demero indicate that there is no welfare issue at present. Regular monitoring that Production has instituted is appropriate and should continue."

Upon completion of filming, the production company arranged for Demero to be retired where he will continue to receive the prescribed, on-going care. The horse will not be used in any additional filming for the completion of subsequent sequels. Demero has been confirmed to be alive and well cared for as of the date of this review.

Four Horses Died due to Illnesses – A large number of horses were being used over several years. There were a number of unfortunate deaths due to illnesses or other medical conditions. Although the horses were examined before purchase and production employed a veterinarian to look after the horses, there was very little known about the history of each horse. Following is an explanation of the circumstances.

The horse Jimmy Dash was euthanized due to equine torsion. The Production veterinarian attended to the horse, was unsuccessful at treating it, and then made the decision to euthanize him.

The horse Big Dan was euthanized due to a cracked pelvis. The condition was determined upon a veterinary examination and a decision was made to euthanize him.

The horse Everon died of an internal hemorrhage due to a massive rupture of the mesenteric artery leading to the small intestine. After a session of desensitization work (getting familiar with other horses, riders, swords and costumes), when the horses were walking out, Everon collapsed and died. The Production veterinarian was present during the training session and ran to the horse, but it was already dead. The post mortem also revealed evidence of extensive worm damage.

The horse named Boy died when the major artery leading away from the heart ruptured due to a weakness in the wall. Production supplied a report from the veterinarian who performed a necropsy. An AWINZ representative also supplied a report that indicated the horse was not under any obvious stress. The horse was engaged in moderate training activity and was walking back to the trainer when the horse collapsed.

Rabbit Holes on South Island – Most of the set locations in the South Island had rabbit holes. Production required staff to walk the area and employed greenspeople to fill in the holes. After each ride across the area, riders and staff walked back, calling to the greenspeople to fill in any holes that had caved in. Upon discussion with the Production veterinarian, there were no injuries caused by the rabbit holes. Since Production filmed for several days at this location, some horses were pulled because they became tired, ill or were not prepared for the level of work.

AHA and International Productions

When production travels outside the U.S., the standard of care for animal actors varies greatly due to local animal welfare regulations, cultural differences and a lack of certified animal safety representatives specifically trained for film oversight. AHA's extensive experience in protecting animal actors since 1940 is unique in the animal welfare community.

Animal welfare organizations and workers typically suffer from lack of funding and overwhelming tasks to combat animal cruelty and pet overpopulation issues. Most often their resources are stretched to provide services that are responsive to critical community animal welfare needs. AHA's mission in the Film and Television Unit is unique. It focuses on the safety of the animal actor, preventative procedures and provides a standard of care that is much higher than that required by law.

As the film industry becomes more global, many international communities are embracing the opportunity to protect animal actors, but many local animal welfare organizations are not resourced to meet the demands of burgeoning film production. AHA seeks to work with other international organizations and animal welfare professionals to enhance their understanding of the risks involved when animals are used in film production and to help train and encourage professional documentation and a high standard of animal care.

AHA has often traveled to foreign locations to oversee the use of animals in films for productions that seek the high standard of care established by AHA. AHA has an International Film Monitoring Program to benefit productions in other countries by certifying local animal welfare organizations and individuals to monitor animal action per AHA's Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media.

In 2002, American Humane expanded its international monitoring capabilities by appointing an International Animal Welfare Manager in New Zealand and Australia. Based in Taupo, New Zealand, AHA is now able to coordinate film projects, and trains and assigns animal welfare monitors to supervise the animal action for U.S. films produced in the Asia/Pacific region. AHA is working with the RNZSPCA, the Film Commission, and other organizations involved with animals and the film industry to develop an international awareness for animal welfare in films.

The public perceives a film as being a U.S. entity when it stars SAG actors, is being produced/financed by a U.S. company and slated for release to U.S. audiences. In this case, the production was the vision of a New Zealand director, presented as a New Zealand project and consequently filmed in New Zealand. The high profile of the film, its wide release in the U.S. market and the nature of the controversy surrounding the treatment of animal actors, impelled AHA to contact production.