Journal Article

The use of live action, animation, and computer-generated imagery in the depiction of non-human primates in film


For over 100 years, non-human primates (primates) have been a part of the now hundred-billion-dollar global film industry in a variety of capacities. Their use in the film industry is of concern due to the negative welfare effects on individuals, the potential for increased pet trade, and the conservation impacts of public perception. While the effects on human perception of using live primates in film have been studied, little research has been performed on their appearance in animation and none in computer-generated imagery (CGI). We aimed to investigate how the portrayal of primates varied between depiction medium types and how this related to the films’ performance with critics and in the box office. We observed 151 primates in 101 different English-speaking films that debuted between 2000 and 2019. For each appearance we recorded aspects of primate portrayals based on accuracy, anthropomorphism, environment, and agency displayed, along with the depiction medium. We used structural equation models to depict the highest likelihood of the portrayal aspects on the medium’s relationship to the films gross profit worldwide and film critic consensus scores. We found that over the 20-year time frame, use of live primates has decreased, CGI has increased, and animations have remained relatively steady. While animation had no significant relationship to gross profit or critic consensus, both were significantly lower for films that used live primates and were significantly higher for films that used CGI primates. Due to the steady increase in the use of the CGI medium and its positive relationship with gross profit and critic consensus, it could have great effects on people’s perceptions of primates and implications for conservation efforts.

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Martinez, Alexandra
Campera, Marco
Nekaris, K.A.I.

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of Biological and Medical Sciences
Department of Social Sciences


Year of publication: 2022
Date of RADAR deposit: 2022-06-28

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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