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War Horses & War Heroes

Let the ride take you...

One of Illinois' finest treasures is the Lipizzan stallions. Tucked away in the northeastern corner of the state, the Tempel Smith family has the largest privately-owned herd of these horses in the world. Foals are born dark and lighten with age until they reach their characteristic whiteness.

During each summer, your group has the wonderful opportunity to watch the Tempel Lipizzans performance from their classical dressage movements to the Airs Above Ground battle techniques. Afterwards visit the historic stables and the beautiful carriage collection.

Or during the fall into the springtime, experience a behind-the-scenes tour. Learn of their daring rescue from Vienna with the help of General George Patton during the last perilous months of World War II. Get up close to the horses in the stables, learn how they earn their interesting names and watch an actual training in the arena.

Lunch can be arranged in advance with a boxed lunch at the Farm (for performances only) or group dining at nearby Route 41 Roadhouse or Salutos of Gurnee. Both restaurants are family-owned and offer their special recipes ranging from fried chicken and peach cobbler to a secret house salad dressing and mouth-watering Italian cuisine.

Meet our local historian for a windshield tour of Historic Fort Sheridan. The site plan for Fort Sheridan grew out of its unique location high on the bluffs of Lake Michigan in an area cut deep by ravines. The unrest of the Great Chicago Fire and Haymarket Riots spurred the local businessmen to keep peace near their homes. General Phillip H. Sheridan was in charge of the project and subsequently named the fort after himself. General Patton makes another interesting appearance during this tour. Many of the original officers' homes and barracks are now private residences and the imposing water tower can still be seen today.

The tour gives time for more active groups to walk around the grounds and take photos. There is a wonderful group photo opportunity in the red hawk nest sculpture.

Uniquely Sweet Group DecoratingA sweet stop can be arranged before your trip home at Uniquely Sweetor thePopcorn Factory Store.

Should you wish to make this an overnight stay, we have over 60 hotels to choose from in Lake County. Evening entertainment is easily arranged at the Marriott and Citadel Theatres or popular Ravinia Festival. The following morning, a tour of the National Museum of the American Sailor and lunch at Port O'Call on Lake Michigan adds to the appreciation we have for our war heroes.

Jayne Nordstrom, Group Tour Manager, Visit Lake CountyHowever you choose to piece together your tour, your knowledgeable Lake County coordinator Jayne Nordstrom will be on hand to assist you.

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Sours: https://www.visitlakecounty.org/WarHorsesWarHeroes

Meet 'Bill the Bastard', the unlikely war horse hero from the Battle of Romani

Australia's greatest war-horse was the unlikeliest of heroes.

Key points:

  • Bill was not an easy stallion to ride, and earnt himself the unflattering nickname 'Bill the Bastard' 
  • At the Battle of Romani, Bill made an astonishing rescue and saved four soldiers
  • A sculptor has now made a bronze statue to commemorate Bill and his rider Michael Shanahan's noble actions 

The big, partly broken-in stallion played up so badly while being loaded onto the troop ship he was nearly left behind in Australia.

On arrival in Egypt, he was declared unrideable and given an unflattering nickname.

"He was called Bill the Bastard because no man could mount him and ride him. He threw them off, he didn't just smash them into the ground, he put them into orbit," historian Roland Perry said.

So the 17.1-hand chestnut was put to work as a packhorse at Gallipoli.

"When Simpson died, Simpson and his donkey, it was Bill that brought him down from the heights," Mr Perry said.

"He used to take ammo, food and water up and bring the dead and wounded back down, gently, he never bucked anyone off. It's amazing when you think about it," said Terry Shanahan, the grandson of the only man who ever rode Bill.

While Bill was recovering from bullet wounds to the rump, Terry's horse-whispering grandfather Major Michael Shanahan won Bill over with kindness and licorice allsorts.

"He helped the vet nurse him, he took him into the water at Gallipoli and when they all got back to Egypt he fought very hard to get Bill as a match," Mr Shanahan said.

Australian poet Banjo Paterson headed the Remount Service there and was reluctant to hand Bill over to Major Shanahan.

He had been making "a few pounds" betting how long soldiers could stay on bucking Bill.

"Eventually granddad took him out into the desert and came back half an hour later and he was as placid as anything, he was the only bloke who could ever get on Bill," said Mr Shanahan.

It was at the Battle of Romani in 1916 where Bill and the Major made an astonishing and little-known rescue galloping towards advancing Turkish soldiers to save four comrades.

"Four Tasmanian troopers had their horses shot from under them so they're left stranded in no-man's-land," Roland Perry recounts.

Black and white image of a veteran sitting with nurses in a hospital after having his leg amputated.

"Major Shanahan got them up onto Bill, he had this reputation of being a pretty ornery horse, how would he cope with five human beings on him?"

"Under Shanahan's calm direction he took the five of them off."

Incredibly, Bill and the Major returned immediately to battle.

"Shanahan keeps on battling Turks, then he collapses because he's been shot in the leg and Bill walks him slowly back to the horse depot."

Major Shanahan's leg was amputated. He was sent to England, never to see Bill again.

He was awarded a Distinguished Service Order, while Bill's reward was to be decommissioned, never to carry a soldier into battle again.

'Retreat from Romani' memorialised

Roland Perry's book 'Bill the Bastard' inspired sculptor Carl Valerius to recreate the daring ride of Bill and the Major in bronze.

Fittingly, Mr Valerius lives in Murrumburrah, north west of Canberra, where in 1897 the first Light Horse Troop was raised to fight in the Boer War.

It's taken him nine years to capture Retreat from Romani, the moment when Bill and the Major carried four troopers to safety.

A bronze statue of 'Bill the Bastard' and his rider Michael Shanahan shows the horse with an open mouth

It's no mistake that the statue features a loose rein.

Mr Valerius explained, "The loose rein is trust 'C'mon Bill we can do this, you can do it, you can come up under five you have never taken anyone but me'."

"I tried to get the expressions in the face, that little moment of belief that 'yes we are going to get out of here, we are going to be OK'.

"What an incredible ask of an animal, but he seemed to know the circumstances in which he found himself, and the trust he had in the Major was incredible, the same as the trust the Major had in the horse, it's not a one-way thing it's a two-way thing."

An elderly man with grey hair works with clay to make a round piece.

A local vet gave Mr Valerius horse bones so he could get the life-sized sculpture right.

"It has a skeleton underneath it, it was made with every bone correct for 17 one hands, it moved like a real horse."

The $780,000 needed to fund the statue came from the Valerius family, state and federal government grants and public donations.

The statue will soon stand in Murrumburrah's main street, but Mr Valerius's studio has already hosted hundreds of visitors who want to pat Bill and hear about that rescue.

Hilltops councillor Chris Manchester said there has been widespread interest from around Australia.

"No-one could imagine the sort of fear these men would be going through when Bill came along and picked them out of the middle of a battlefield and rode them a couple of miles to safety, it just amazes me," he said.

"I believe someone has bought the rights to the book, hopefully one day it will be a movie and it will put the town even further on the map."

Very few war horses returned to Australia. Most were shot to save them from a life of misery after the war.

Bill escaped that fate. He returned once again to Gallipoli as a packhorse to assist soldiers collecting battlefield artefacts.

It's believed he lived out his life with Turkish farmers, who were warned never to put anyone on his back.

Sours: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-04-25/bill-the-bastard-war-horse-anzac-hero/100088698
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Mongolian/Chinese Fiddle Song "Galloping War Horses"

11 October 2020

*NEW* Youtube Music: An original arrangement of the folk song "Galloping War Horses" for the violin

Over the past few months, I've been tapping deep into my heritage and discovering that there is a plethora of wonderful folk songs that can be translated/arranged for the violin. Since there is nothing but time during this quarantine, I took a chance and experimented with this Mongolian/Chinese folk song called "Galloping War Horses."


This was quite an experience, as I've not travelled outside of my comfort zone of classical music, but yet, it's always something I wanted to do. Vulnerability keeps the creativity flowing! 


The video is on Youtube, and to have a listen, click here





Sours: https://www.timothychooi.com/news/11122
Joey - War Horse

Stephen Fry, Daniel Rigby and Tamsin Greig star in all three series of the poignant BBC Radio 4 comedy drama.

Warhorses of Letters is the world's finest and best-loved equine, military, epistolary romance, comprising the newly-discovered love letters between two horses united by passion but cruelly divided by conflict.

Set against the sweeping backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars, these twelve episodes introduce us to Copenhagen, the Duke of Wellington's frisky young racehorse, and his hero Marengo, the seasoned, famous and just-a-little-bit-short mount of Emperor Napoleon.

From the early days of the Peninsular Campaign to the Battle of Waterloo and its aftermath, we follow our horse heroes as their romance blossoms, their fortunes fluctuate and uncertainty and jealousy put strains on their burgeoning relationship. Can they ever be truly together, or are they doomed to remain sundered by fate?

Written by Robert Hudson and Marie Phillips, this moving, surreal comedy stars Stephen Fry as Marengo and Daniel Rigby as Copenhagen, with Tamsin Greig as the Narrator. Totally unique and utterly entertaining, it will appeal to all lovers of horses, history and humour. Duration: 2 hours 50 mins approx.

Sours: https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/1112395/warhorses-of-letters--complete-series-1-3/9781785294532

Horses youtube war


Most of the scenes in Steven Spielberg's World War I epic

War Horse use real horses, but a couple of particularly animal-unfriendly scenes required the use of animatronics.

Wired.co.uk discovers how special effects company Neil Corbould SFX, which has created mind-blowing effects for movies such as

Gladiator, The Day After Tomorrow, The Fifth Element and Saving Private Ryan, created its startlingly-realistic steed.

Adrian Parish, one of the mechanics that worked on a team of more than a dozen sculptors, puppeteers and engineers to bring the horse to life, explained: "Our brief was to provide a realistic horse that could sit in mud and barbed wire for an extended period of time, something that would not be safe or possible with a live animal."

One scene featuring the animatronic horse was where equine protagonist Joey gets caught in barbed wire in no-mans land between the German and British trenches.The horse was placed on a very busy, wet and muddy set in a disused airfield in Surrey designed to look like the battlefield of Somme during WWI.

The team decided it was best to build to build a puppet that could be manipulated from beneath using control rods. As the mechanism was to be bured underneath the creature, they decided to avoid complex hydraulics and keep it simple so that there were fewer opportunities for technical failure.

Underneath the horse puppet was a box in which four puppeteers could sit and manipulate the creature's body and head, creating movements including breathing. "A household kettle was also installed in the box that had tubes running between it and the nostrils to give the illusion of condensed breath," Parish added.

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The head part of the puppet was radio-controlled and contained 25 servo motors to control the eyes, eyelids, ears, brows, lips, nostrils and jaw. The head alone took three puppeteers to control

-- one to operate the eyes, one for the mouth and one for the ears. This team didn't have to cram into the buried box, but were above ground, able to observe their handiwork.

The skin was created using a full size clay sculpture of the horse.

A moulded fibreglass shell was covered in a centimetre-thick layer of clay, which was then covered in another layer of fibreglass.

Once all the layers had set, the clay was removed from between the two fibreglass layers and replaced with an injection of foam latex.

The skin's fine seams had to be very carefully removed before painting and the whole thing was fitted over an articulated fibreglass skeleton.

The final stage was to flock the horse to give it its shiny fur. This process involved applying a layer of polyuerthane glue, onto which small artificial hairs were applied. An airbrush was then used to blow the hair into the desired direction before the glue set. The final touches came with the addition of fine hairs around the mouth, ears and brows that were set individually. Then the eyelashes were applied and the whole thing was airbrushed once again.

Once the puppet body and animatronic head were complete, they were set in position and dressed with barbed wire and fake blood and scars. The animatronic horse is as impressive as the puppets used in the stage production of War Horse, seen in a Ted talk here.

Watch the staggeringly realistic head (before the addition of fur) and body in action in the videos embedded in this post.

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Sours: https://www.wired.co.uk/article/war-horse-animatronic-puppet
The Tragic True Story Of War Horse - War Horse - Timeline

War horse facts

Worried Horse Owners on the Home Front

The threat of World War II meant horse owners kept hold of their old war horses as they were concerned  their younger horses would be mobilised for the war effort and they would not be able to replace them. On the eve of WW2 there were still 311 British war horses alive in France, and along with the public outcry over the condition of horses left in Egypt, this would have heightened the feeling of alarm amongst horse owners. 

MPs in the House of Commons did not want to see a repeat of what happened to army horses after the last war. Government ministers gave assurances that no army animals would be sold, but instead would either be brought back to Britain or shot under military supervision. 

There was also concern from horse owners about the plight of their animals in the event that they might be unable to care for them, with some household members away on duty or involved in the war effort at home.  This worry was not unfounded: at the beginning of World War II, a government pamphlet led to a massive cull of British pets, on the basis that there would soon be food rationing and pet food was a luxury the country could ill afford. Despite some calls in the press to reject this idea, the public largely went along with it and as many as 750,000 pets were killed in just one week as a result.  

London animals like their owners were affected by the air raids in WW2. Whilst their owners spent the nights in air raid shelters, some animals - including horses - were boarded at a local animal hospital.

Sours: https://www.thebrooke.org/get-involved/every-horse-remembered/war-horse-facts

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War Horse (film)

2011 war drama film by Steven Spielberg

This article is about the 2011 film. For other uses, see War Horse (disambiguation).

War Horse is a 2011 American war film directed and produced by Steven Spielberg, from a screenplay written by Lee Hall and Richard Curtis, based on Michael Morpurgo's 1982 novel of the same name and its 2007 stage adaptation. The film's ensemble cast includes Jeremy Irvine, Peter Mullan, Emily Watson, Niels Arestrup, David Thewlis, Tom Hiddleston, and Benedict Cumberbatch, and narrated by Michael Caine in his feature film debut.

Set before and during World War I, it tells of the journey of Joey, a bayIrish Hunter horse raised by British teenager Albert (Irvine), as he is bought by the British Army, leading him to encounter numerous individuals and owners throughout Europe, all the while experiencing the tragedies of the war happening around him. DreamWorks Pictures acquired the film rights to the novel in December 2009, with Spielberg announced to direct the film in May 2010. Having directed many films set during World War II, it was his first film to tackle the events of World War I. Shot in England over 63 days, the production used 5,800 extras and 300 horses. Longtime Spielberg collaborators Kathleen Kennedy, Janusz Kamiński, Michael Kahn, Rick Carter, and John Williams all worked on the film as producer, cinematographer, editor, production designer, and music composer, respectively.

Produced by DreamWorks Pictures and released worldwide by Touchstone Pictures, War Horse became a box-office success and was met with positive reviews. The film was named one of the top ten best films of 2011 by the American Film Institute and the National Board of Review, and was nominated for six Academy Awards (including Best Picture), two Golden Globe Awards, and five BAFTAs.


In 1912, a bay Irish Hunter is born in Devon, England. At an auction, farmer Ted Narracott outbids his landlord Lyons for the colt, to the dismay of his wife Rose, because the family needs a working horse that can plough the field, not an Irish Hunter. Their son Albert, accompanied by his best friend Andrew, names the colt Joey, and teaches him to come when he imitates an owl's call. The pair form a close bond. Against all odds, the horse and boy successfully plough a rocky field, saving the family's farm.

Rose shows Albert his father's medals from the Second Boer War, and gives him Ted's regimental pennant, confiding in Albert that his father carries physical and mental scars from the war.

In 1914, as war with Germany is declared, heavy rain ruins the family's crops, forcing Ted to sell Joey to the army. Albert is heartbroken and tries to stop the sale but is too late. Captain James Nicholls sees Albert's attachment to the horse and promises to look after Joey. Albert tries to enlist but is too young, and before the company departs, he ties his father's pennant to Joey's bridle and promises Joey he will find him.

Joey bonds with Topthorn, a black stallion with whom he is trained for his military role. The horses are deployed to Flanders with a flying column under the command of Nicholls and Major Stewart. They lead a cavalry charge through a German encampment, but the unit is decimated by machine gun fire. Nicholls is killed along with almost all his fellow cavalrymen and the Germans capture the horses.

Gunther, a young German soldier, is assigned to the care of Joey and Topthorn. When his brother Michael is sent to the front line, Gunther takes the horses and the four of them desert the war. The German army soon tracks down the boys, who are shot for desertion, but the Germans leave without noticing the horses. They are found by a French girl named Emilie the next morning. German soldiers arrive at her grandfather's farm, but Emilie hides the horses in her bedroom. For her birthday, Emilie's grandfather allows her to ride Joey, but they run into the Germans who confiscate the horses. Emilie's grandfather keeps the pennant.

By 1918, Albert has finally enlisted and is now fighting alongside Andrew in the Second Battle of the Somme. After a British charge into no man's land, Albert and Andrew miraculously make it across to the German trench, where a gas bomb explodes. Andrew is killed by the gas attack while Albert survives, temporarily blinded.

The Germans use Joey and Topthorn to haul artillery, under the care of Private Hengelmann. He cares for them as best as he can, but Topthorn succumbs to exhaustion and dies. Joey escapes, narrowly evading an oncoming tank, and gallops into no man's land, becoming entangled in barbed wire. Colin, a British soldier, makes his way to Joey under a white flag and tries to free him. Peter, a German soldier, comes over with wire cutters, and together they rescue Joey. To decide who should take the horse, they flip a coin, and Colin wins and guides the injured Joey to the British trench. Albert hears about Joey's rescue while recuperating. Just as Joey is about to be put down by a doctor who deems the horse too injured to recover, Joey hears Albert's owl call. Albert, his eyes still bandaged, is able to describe Joey in perfect detail, and the two are reunited. The doctor decides to nurse Joey back to health.

World War I ends, and Joey is ordered to be auctioned because only the horses of officers will return home. Albert's comrades raise a collection to bid for the horse. The auction is won by Emilie's grandfather, who tells Albert that Emilie has died and the horse is all he has left of her. However, after Albert pleads with him, the old man recognizes the strength of the soldier's bond, and returns the pennant and Joey to Albert. Albert returns with Joey to his family's farm, embracing his mother and returning the pennant to his father, who extends his hand to him with pride, as Joey watches.



Background and development[edit]

Michael Morpurgo wrote the 1982 children's novel War Horse after meeting World War I veterans in the Devon village of Iddesleigh where he lived.[8] One had been with the Devon Yeomanry and was involved with horses; Captain Budgett, another veteran in his village, was with the British cavalry and told Morpurgo how he had confided all his hopes and fears to his horse. Both told him of the horrific conditions and loss of life, human and animal, during the Great War.[9] Morpurgo researched the subject further and learned that a million horses died on the British side; he extrapolated an overall figure of 10 million horse deaths on all sides.[10] Of the million horses that were sent abroad from the UK, only 62,000 returned, the rest dying in the war or slaughtered in France for meat.[11] The Great War had a massive and indelible impact on the UK's male population: 886,000 men died, one in eight of those who went to war, and 2% of the entire country's population.[12] After observing a young boy with a stammer forming a fond relationship with and talking fluently to a horse at a farm run by Morpurgo's charity Farms for City Children, Morpurgo found a way to tell the story through the horse and its relations with the various people it meets before and during the course of the war: a young Devon farmboy, a British cavalry officer, a German soldier, and an old Frenchman and his granddaughter.[12][13]

"I won't kid you, it was more money [for the film rights] than I've ever been paid for anything I've ever written. But that wasn't the temptation. The temptation was the chance for an iconic film about the First World War, perhaps as great as All Quiet on the Western Front with its overpowering sense of waste."

–Michael Morpurgo[14]

Morpurgo tried to adapt the book into a film screenplay, working for over five years with Simon Channing-Williams, which would ultimately go unproduced.[15] The book was successfully adapted for a stage play by Nick Stafford in 2007.[16] From 2006 to 2009, Morpurgo, Lee Hall and Revel Guest worked on a proposed film version of War Horse, which Morpurgo and Hall would write and Guest produce. Lack of finances meant that it was an informal arrangement, with the film rights not formally sold by Morpurgo to Guest's production company and no one being paid for the work they undertook.[17][18] In 2009, film producer Kathleen Kennedy saw the critically acclaimed production of War Horse in London's West End with her husband, fellow producer Frank Marshall, and their two daughters. They were very impressed by the story, and Marshall recalled how he was amazed that no one had already bought the film rights to the book.[19][20]

Steven Spielberg was told about War Horse by several people, including Kennedy, his colleague at Amblin Entertainment.[20][21][22] After discussions with Revel Guest, on 16 December 2009, it was announced that DreamWorks Pictures had acquired the film rights to the book, with Spielberg stating: "From the moment I read Michael Morpurgo's novel War Horse, I knew this was a film I wanted DreamWorks to make … Its heart and its message provide a story that can be felt in every country."[23][24] Spielberg saw the London production of the play on 1 February 2010, and met some of the cast afterwards.[25][26][27] He admitted to being moved to tears by the performance.[28]

DreamWorks executive Stacey Snider suggested Richard Curtis to work on rewrites for the screenplay; she had worked with Curtis during her time at Universal Pictures, and Curtis had previously written the World War I-set BBC comedy series Blackadder Goes Forth along with Ben Elton.[29] Spielberg was a fan of Blackadder but had never met Curtis,[30] who was initially reluctant to take part, but on meeting Spielberg, he rethought and committed to work on the script.[30] Curtis stated that the screenplay is closer to the book than the play, and that "the existence of the play itself helped [him] "be brave" about [his] own adaptation".[31] Curtis produced over a dozen drafts in three months,[32] and has spoken of the close collaboration he had with Spielberg while working on the script.[33][34]

Having previously only been slated to produce the film, Spielberg decided to direct "the second [he] read [Curtis's] first draft. It happened faster than anything else we've [Spielberg and Snider] done together."[35] On 3 May 2010, it was announced that Spielberg was to direct the film;[36] the cast was announced on 17 June.[37] Speaking at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2011, actor Peter Mullan said that he took the part not just because Spielberg was directing, but also because of the "beautiful, really nice script".[38]

Within weeks of hearing from Kennedy about the London theatre production, Spielberg had seen the play, and decided this would be his next film.[39] Spielberg was able to act so quickly because he was on a hiatus, waiting for the animation on his other 2011 film The Adventures of Tintin to be completed.[32]

Spielberg had previously worked on numerous projects with World War II themes. In contrast, War Horse is Spielberg's first foray into World War I storytelling,[40] as he admitted that, prior to learning about the War Horse book and play, "I had never been that interested in World War I".[22] Kathleen Kennedy elaborated on the appeal of the story: "In cinema we've told very few stories about World War I and I think that's one of the things that attracted us to this … It's a forgotten war in the United States, and that had a very powerful effect on Steven and I [sic]."[41]David Kenyon and Andrew Robertshaw of Battlefield Partnerships were military advisors on the film.[42][43][44][45]


After some speculation, the cast for War Horse was announced on 17 June 2010.[37][46] It had been rumored in the previous week that Eddie Redmayne had been cast in the lead role as Albert Narracott;[47] however, relatively unknown stage actor Jeremy Irvine was chosen instead. Spielberg commented that after seeing hundreds of young boys reading for the role, Irvine had come in and done a cold reading and that "his performance was very natural, very authentic."[22] Irvine auditioned for two months, going in two or three times a week, and learned that he had the part when he was asked to read a piece of the script on camera in order to check his West Country accent, and the piece of mockup script that he read out was Albert telling Joey that Spielberg wanted him to play the part.[48]

The cast is European,[49] with British, French and German actors playing characters of their respective nationalities.[50]Robert Emms, who played the lead of Albert Narracott in the West End production of the play, was cast as David Lyons.[51]

Casting for extras took place in Devon in late July 2010.[52] In all, some 5,800 extras were used in the film.[32] The granddaughter of Captain Budgett, one of the World War I veterans who had inspired Morpurgo to write the story, acted as an extra in scenes filmed in Castle Combe,[53] and Morpurgo himself filmed a cameo role there, along with his wife Clare.[54][55][56]


Filming took place under the codename Dartmoor to maintain a level of secrecy during production,[52][57] and took about 64 days in total.[58] Scenes involving the cavalry were shot first at Stratfield Saye House in north Hampshire, the estate of the Duke of Wellington, where incidentally Wellington's war horse Copenhagen is buried; a cavalry charge involving 130 extras was filmed here.[59]

Filming on location in Dartmoor, Devon, started in August 2010.[60][61] Initially, Spielberg was only going to have four or five days' worth of second unit material shot in Devon, but after Kathleen Kennedy sent him photographs of the various locations she had scouted, he decided to cut other elements of the story to enable more filming to take place in countryside that Kennedy described as "so extraordinarily beautiful and absolutely perfect for the story".[62] Dartmoor locations included the small villages of Meavy and Sheepstor, Burrator Reservoir, Bonehill Rocks and the surrounding area near Widecombe-in-the-Moor, Ringmoor Down, Combestone Tor and the surrounding area, Haytor, Hexworthy Bridge, and Cadover Bridge/Brisworthy.[63][64]Ditsworthy Warren House, an isolated Grade II listed building near Sheepstor on Dartmoor, served as the Narracott family's farmhouse, and many scenes were filmed in the surrounding area.[63][65][66]

On 11 September 2010, the annual Dartmoor Yomp was rerouted to allow filming to continue undisturbed.[67] Spielberg praised the Dartmoor countryside's beauty: "I have never before, in my long and eclectic career, been gifted with such an abundance of natural beauty as I experienced filming War Horse on Dartmoor… And, with two-and-a-half weeks of extensive coverage of landscapes and skies, I hardly scratched the surface of the visual opportunities that were offered to me".[68] Spielberg felt that the landscape was very much a character in the film.[69] When actor Peter Mullan won the Golden Shell Award at the San Sebastián International Film Festival in Spain for his film Neds, Spielberg insisted that Mullan should attend the ceremony to accept his award in person on 26 September 2010, and rearranged the War Horse shooting schedule accordingly.[70][71]

The MK IV tank prop used in the film

Although Devon rural locations were used, scenes in the main village in the story were filmed at the Wiltshire village of Castle Combe near Chippenham, despite the vernacular architecture of Devon (predominantly cob walls and thatched roofs) being very different from that of Wiltshire (stone walls and stone tiled roofs). Filming began there on 21 September 2010, and continued until 1 October.[72][73][74][75] Some residents of Castle Combe were angered by the imposition of tightened security within the village, claiming they could not enter without waiting at perimeter barriers until breaks in filming.[76]

Production moved on to Wisley Airfield[77] in Surrey, where no man's land battlefield scenes were filmed.[30][57][78][79] Shooting of wartime camp scenes also took place at Bourne Wood near Farnham in Surrey, a frequent location for filming, for about two weeks beginning on 4 October 2010.[57][80][81][82] Scenes were shot at the stately homeLuton Hoo between 13 and 14 October 2010.[83] Filming was also scheduled to be undertaken at Caerwent in Wales.[84] Studio filming was undertaken at Longcross Studios, Chertsey in Surrey,[81] and at Twickenham Film Studios.[85] The film shoot was completed in the last week of October 2010,[32] with the entire film, French scenes included, being shot in the UK, apart from some pick-up shots of a bay foal filmed in California in March 2011.[86] Spielberg commented on how he and cinematographer Janusz Kamiński developed the "look" of the film: "…it doesn't feel like Ryan at all … it has a much more daguerrotype feel, much more brownish. We're not using any of the techniques we used on Ryan. The only similarity is that it is war and it is handheld."[30]

"The Michael Morpurgo book is ‘Black Beauty goes to war’. So if you’re English, two of the most emotive subjects you could touch on are Black Beauty and the First World War. The crew were constantly in tears, as there were war memorials and everybody had a story in their family ... for English people, everyone is touched by that war."

–Emily Watson on World War I's enduring emotional legacy.[87]

Michael Morpurgo, the author of the book on which the film is based, visited the set several times while filming was being undertaken: "Spielberg's a wonderful storyteller and a kid. He adores stories and that's what he's best at. It's extraordinary to meet someone with that kind of enthusiasm, utterly unspoiled … When I went to visit him on set, he was clearly enthralled by the countryside. He fell for Devon in a big way. He was warm, kind and open, and utterly without ego … Spielberg was like a conductor with a very light baton. He hardly had to wave it at all. I was in awe."[79]Emily Watson also praised Spielberg's approach: "It was intimate, passionate and about the acting. And every single priority that as an actor that you would want to be there was there. It felt very real and focused."[87] "On set, he'd come in, in the morning, and say, 'I couldn't sleep last night. I was worrying about this shot!' Which was great! He's human and he's still working in an impassioned way, like a 21-year-old, trying to make the best out of everything".[88]


"When I'm on an Indy movie, I'm watching Indiana Jones, not the horse he is riding ... Suddenly I'm faced with the challenge of making a movie where I not only had to watch the horse, I had to compel the audience to watch it along with me. I had to pay attention to what it was doing and understand its feelings. It was a whole new experience for me."

–Steven Spielberg[30]

The pre-production period only allowed for three months to train the horses before shooting commenced.[89] The main horse trainer was Bobby Lovgren,[89] and other horse trainers included Dylan Jones, Bill Lawrence,[90][91] and Zelie Bullen.[92][93]

During filming, fourteen different horses were used as the main horse character Joey, eight of them portraying him as an adult animal, four as a colt and two as a foal;[90] four horses played the other main equine character, Topthorn.[89] Up to 280 horses were used in a single scene.[32] A farrier was on set to replace horseshoes sucked off in the mud during filming, and the horses playing the main horse characters had a specialist equine make-up team, with their coats dyed and markings added to ensure continuity. Equine artist Ali Bannister was responsible for the "hair and makeup" of the horses, as well as drawing the sketches of horses that are featured in the film.[94] Extra filming involving a bay foal took place in California in March 2011.[95] Working with horses on this scale was a new experience for Spielberg, who commented: "The horses were an extraordinary experience for me, because several members of my family ride. I was really amazed at how expressive horses are and how much they can show what they're feeling."[96]

Representatives of the American Humane Association were on set at all times, and the Association awarded the film an "outstanding" rating for the care that was taken of the animals during production.[97] However, a 2013 suit by former AHA employee Barbara Casey alleged that a horse was killed on set, but the organization chose to "cover up the death" to protect Spielberg's reputation.[98] An animatronic horse was used for some parts of the scenes where Joey is trapped in barbed wire;[99] the wire was rubber prop wire.[97] Unlike the play, which used puppet horses, the film uses a combination of real horses, animatronic horses and computer-generated imagery.[96][100][95]


Editor Michael Kahn spoke of his work on the film: "We have some shots in War Horse that are just fantastic … We shot it in Devon, and you know it's gorgeous down there, and the horses are beautiful and the farms are beautiful, beautiful scenery and every shot is gorgeous, and eventually you get to the war part of it and it's really, really something." Kahn had a trailer on set and edited the film during filming.[101] Kahn and Spielberg cut the film digitally on an Avid rather than on film, a first with this technology for Spielberg; "He decided that he'd like to try it", Kahn commented.[102][103]

After filming, further editing was undertaken at the UK's Twickenham Film Studios, with the production moving back to the U.S. in November 2010.[85] Kahn also said of his work on the film: "We put together here in Hollywood. It worked well … Those English actors are awfully good and so were the horses. The horses were beautifully trained. For an editor there were a lot of match [frame] problems with the horses but the shooting was so good that I got everything I needed."[100]

The film score by John Williams was recorded in late March and early April 2011.[101] Tuba player Jim Self reported in May 2011: "For John Williams I recently finished recording for the film War Horse. It's a war movie so the score has a lot of brass—but it was gentle music often."[104] English folk singer John Tams, who wrote the songs for the stage production of War Horse, was approached by Spielberg and Williams about including one of his songs from the stageshow in the film.[54][105] In the liner notes to the film soundtrack's CD, Spielberg wrote, "I feel that John has made a special gift to me of this music, which was inspired not only by my film but also by many of the picturesque settings of the poet William Wordsworth, whose vivid descriptions of the British landscape inspired much of what you are going to hear."[106] In the premiere of three of the tracks on New York radio station WQXR's "Movies on the Radio", broadcaster David Garland drew parallels with the work of British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.[107]

Visual effects for the film were undertaken by London-based company Framestore.[108] According to Spielberg, the film's only digital effects were three shots lasting three seconds, which were undertaken to ensure the safety of the horse involved: "That's the thing I'm most proud of. Everything you see on screen really happened."[28] Kathleen Kennedy elaborated, stating "We really did it very naturalistically. There isn't a lot of blood. Steven wasn't interested in bringing Private Ryan into it, but we did want to make a PG-13 movie."[21] Actor Tom Hiddleston said that Spielberg had "seen the stage play and he wanted to retain the magic and heartbeat of that … It's a moving, powerful story you can take children to see, but it is still very upsetting … People die, and it is war."[109]


John Williams composed and conducted the film's musical score, the second score composed the same year by Williams for Spielberg after The Adventures of Tintin.[110] Williams took inspiration by visiting a horse farm in California and observing horses and their behavior, elaborating that "I got in the habit of watching the horses in the morning, and I began to see how they connect to each other and how they became curious about me. That's when I really began to get the sense that horses are very special creatures. They have been magnificent and trusted friends for such a long time and have done so much for us with such grace."[111]

Williams was also influenced by the geographic scope of the film's story. In regard to that approach, Williams stated:

"This was a very rich opportunity musically because it is both about humans and animals and it takes place in three different countries. It starts out in a more intimate way, on the farm with the bonding of Joey and Albert. Then, the eruption of war changes the scale, and the music does a 180-degree turn. From this bucolic, gentle, even sentimental music, you move into the music of battle surges and gripping struggles. It's a musical journey full of dimension and emotional content, and I tried also to create an atmosphere reflective of that period, which was lyrical, poetic and tragic."[111] The score was recorded by a 90-piece orchestra, with Williams comparing the recording sessions more to a concert piece rather than a traditional film score, as it relied more on the individual performance of the musicians.[111]

Track listing[edit]

All music is composed by John Williams.

1."Dartmoor, 1912"3:35
2."The Auction"3:34
3."To Giant Country"4:42
4."Bringing Joey Home and Bonding"3:20
5."Seeding and Horse vs. Car"3:33
7."Ruined Crop and Going to War"3:29
8."The Charge and Capture"3:21
9."The Desertion"2:33
10."Joey's New Friends"3:30
11."Pulling the Cannon"4:11
12."The Death of Topthorn"2:45
13."No Man's Land"4:35
14."The Reunion"3:55
15."Remembering Emilie and Finale"5:07
16."The Homecoming"8:06
Total length:65:26


"To round out the year, Steven Spielberg's War Horse appears in time for the festive period. If you're thinking that nothing says Christmas like the bloody trench warfare carnage, you may be in luck. But while Spielberg isn't one to sugarcoat the horrors of war, he's just the director to fill this Great War-set story of a boy and his horse with saddlebags of heart and soul. We can't wait to see how he's brought the colossally popular stage play to the big screen."

Empire magazine[112]

War Horse was released in North America by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures through its Touchstone Pictures label on 25 December 2011,[113][114] making it the first Spielberg-directed film to be distributed through Walt Disney Studios. The film's North American release date was originally set for 10 August 2011, but after a meeting in London between DreamWorks and Disney executives in early October 2010, when some footage was screened, the decision was taken to move its release to 28 December in the holiday period,[115] and in the United Kingdom on 13 January 2012.[116] DreamWorks executive Stacey Snider said, "The reaction to the footage—which [Spielberg] usually never shows—was that it feels like a big, holiday movie … It just became inevitable that we would move it. [Spielberg] feels great about it."[115]

Only a very few unofficial on-set images and clips of video footage were published in the press and online during the filming period. Due to the usual embargo on photos and videos being taken and made public during Spielberg shoots, very few images emerged, with the majority being snatched paparazzi shots. In October 2010, cinematographer Kamiński posted an on-set image of himself on a battlefield set on his Facebook page.[117] The first ten official photographs were made public by DreamWorks in several releases between 11 and 14 March 2011, in Empire magazine and in an article in Entertainment Weekly.[118] On 16 March 2011, a British blogger published an account of her unofficial visit to the War Horse set at Ditsworthy Warren House, and was able to take pictures of the set's interior and of Steven Spielberg despite the security on set.[119] On 29 March, DreamWorks presented behind-the-scenes footage introduced on film by Spielberg to theatre owners at CinemaCon in Las Vegas. Spielberg was unable to attend in person as he was still working on post-production.[120]

On 29 June 2011, the film's first official teaser trailer was released, and the official website was launched.[121][122] On its launch, the website was rather sparse, with only the official trailer and synopsis, and two of the ten previously-released official images. Further footage introduced on film by Spielberg was shown at the Empire magazine "Big Screen" event in London in August 2011.[123] Jeremy Irvine talked about his experiences making the film at the same event.[48] The full theatrical trailer was released on 4 October 2011,[124][125] and more on-set pictures were released on 17 November.[126]

The publicity strategy for War Horse unusually featured preview screenings for the public in U.S. heartland areas before either the critics were shown the film or it was screened to the public in major metropolitan areas. The first preview screenings of War Horse were held at various locations across the United States on 1, 2 and 10 November 2011.[127][128] More preview screenings in the U.S. took place on 27 November, with Spielberg attending a question and answer session at the New York screening that was beamed to the other screening cinemas and shown live on the internet.[129][130]

Press screenings for critics were first held in New York and Los Angeles on 24 November 2011, although there was an embargo on official reviews being published at that time.[131] On 27 November, there was a special screening in London for the crew and cast, the first time anyone involved with the film (apart from Spielberg and his close collaborators) had seen it.[132] Three television advertisements for the film were released in the U.S. on 24 November 2011,[133] shortly followed by others.[134][135]

On 4 December 2011, the film's world premiere was held at the Avery Fisher Hall of New York City's Lincoln Center, where the Tony award-winning Broadway production of War Horse was playing at the neighboring Vivian Beaumont Theater. The UK premiere took place in London's Leicester Square on 8 January 2012, and was attended by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.[136]

A tie-in book by Steven Spielberg was published by Harper Collins on 27 December 2011.[137]

Box office[edit]

War Horse grossed $79,859,441 domestically and $97,200,000 internationally for a worldwide total of $177,584,879. Although it was not one of Spielberg's biggest box office successes, it was the highest-grossing World War I film of all time until Wonder Woman overtook it six years later.[6]

Home media[edit]

War Horse was released on Blu-ray Disc, DVD, and digital download by Touchstone Home Entertainment on 3 April 2012 . The release was produced in three different physical packages: a four-disc combo pack (two-disc Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Copy); a two-disc combo pack (Blu-ray and DVD); and a single-disc DVD. The film was released digitally through on-demand services such as the ITunes Store in high and standard definitions.[138] The single-disc DVD includes the bonus feature War Horse: The Look, and the digital versions include "An Extra's Point of View"; the two-disc combo pack includes both bonus features. The four-disc combo pack comes with the same extras as the two-disc combo pack, as well as "A Filmmaking Journey", "Editing & Scoring", "The Sounds of War Horse", and "Through the Producer's Lens" bonus features.[139]


Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 74% based on 238 reviews, with an average score of 7.00/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Technically superb, proudly sentimental, and unabashedly old-fashioned, War Horse is an emotional drama that tugs the heartstrings with Spielberg's customary flair."[140]Metacritic reports a score of 72/100 based on 40 critics, indicating "Generally favorable reviews".[141] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade A- on scale of A to F.[142]

Although there was an embargo on official reviews of the film being published before 21 December 2011,[143] reviews started appearing on 26 November in mainstream press such as The Daily Telegraph, which gave it 4½ out of 5 stars.[144]

Giving the film an A- grade, Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly wrote, "The project is tailor-made for Saving Private Ryan Spielberg, the war-story specialist, as well as for E.T. Spielberg, the chronicler of boyhood desires and yearnings for family."[145]Rex Reed of The New York Observer gave the film 4 out of 4 stars and said, "War Horse is a don't-miss Spielberg classic that reaches true perfection. It's as good as movies can get, and one of the greatest triumphs of this or any other year."[146]Roger Ebert gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, saying it contained "surely some of the best footage Spielberg has ever directed ... The film is made with superb artistry. Spielberg is the master of an awesome canvas. Most people will enjoy it, as I did."[147]Richard Roeper praised War Horse by saying, "What a gorgeous, breathtaking, epic adventure this is," and gave the film 4.5 out of 5 stars.[148]Ty Burr of The Boston Globe said that the film was a work of "full-throated Hollywood classicism" that looks back to the craftsmanship and sentimentality of John Ford and other legends of the studio era, and gave it 3 out of 4 stars.[149]

Conversely, Simon Winder of The Guardian wrote that the film, "despite twisting and turning to be even-handed, simply could not help itself and, like some faux-reformed alcoholic, gorged itself on an entire miniature liqueur selection of Anglo-German clichés".[150]David Denby of The New Yorker wrote that "The horses themselves are magnificent, and maybe that's reason enough to see the movie. But War Horse is a bland, bizarrely unimaginative piece of work".[151]


War Horse made several critics' lists of the best films of 2011. Richard Corliss of Time named it the fifth best film of 2011, saying. "Boldly emotional, nakedly heartfelt, War Horse will leave only the stoniest hearts untouched".[152] David Chen of /Film selected War Horse as 2011's best film.[153]

See also[edit]



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