Oscar winner 'The Cove' to become the basis of a new TV series
EXCLUSIVE: Fans of "The Cove," the environmentally themed film that won the best documentary Oscar last night, will be happy to know there's more where that came from.
A new television series about the controversial dolphin trade in Japan, tentatively titled "Dolphin Warriors," has been greenlit by Animal Planet.
The series picks up where the movie leaves off and, like the film, stars animal activist Ric O'Barry. Two episodes of the series -- which is being executive produced by O'Barry's son, Lincoln -- have already been completed, although a premiere date has yet to be announced, Ric O'Barry said.
Animal Planet says the series may premiere in the fall, after "The Cove" debuts on the channel this summer.
"The Cove" tells the story of an annual rite in Taiji, Japan, where fisherman sell dolphins into captivity or kill them for meat. As depicted in the film, the practice is cruel and the dolphin meat contains risky levels of mercury.
O'Barry is an activist who once worked as a trainer on the popular 1960s television show "Flipper." After watching a dolphin he worked with commit suicide in his arms, he came to the conclusion that dolphins were not meant to be kept in captivity. He has dedicated his life campaigning for animal rights, a quest that eventually took him to Taiji (you can read more about his efforts here).
The show will address questions that fans of the film may have wondered about -- such as whether the slaughter continues and whether the Japanese still unknowingly eat mercury-laden dolphin meat. "What has happened now is that they're not killing dolphins in the cove; they've moved offshore," O'Barry said. "They've created an artificial cove out of nets, and they drive the dolphins in there and kill them so we can't photograph it. But we have some drones and small planes and things to prove it."
Marjorie Kaplan, general manager and president of Animal Planet, said the film's message was perfect for the channel.
"Ric and Lincoln O'Barry are fascinating men with an important mission and remarkable stories to share," she said. "We're delighted to be working with them on their next project."
If a press release issued by the government in Taiji last night is any indication, the Japanese remain unimpressed by the film's success. "There are different food traditions within Japan and around the world," read the statement. "It is important to respect and understand regional food cultures, which are based on traditions with long histories."
On the Oscar telecast, O'Barry held up a sign urging interested viewers to text message a number for more information about how to support the cause. More than 50,000 text messages have come in so far, O'Barry said.
The activist also encountered a number of celebrities at the Oscars who said they would visit Taiji next September, when the annual dolphin slaughter begins. Daryl Hannah, Sting and Ben Stiller have already pledged their support, he said.
Until then, O'Barry, now 70, is heartened by the fact that the film will be released at a limited number of Japanese movie theaters in June.
"They can't deny this film anymore," he said. "The last couple of months have meant validation, in a word. It's been a breakthrough for me."
Check out my video with the film's director, Louie Psihoyos, and O'Barry from the red carpet last night:
-- Amy Kaufman
Photo credits: (From top) Junji Kurokawa / Associated Press; Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times