The Meerkats

The Meerkats, also known as Meerkats: The Movie, is a feature-length 2008 British wildlife fiction film which anthropomorphises the daily struggles of a clan of meerkats in the Kalahari Desert. It was produced by BBC Films and The Weinstein Company, and filmed by the award-winning BBC Natural History Unit. It is the debut directorial feature of James Honeyborne, previously a producer of natural history programmes for television. The worldwide premiere was held at the Dinard Film Festival, France in October 2008,[1] expanding to a wide release the following week. The film was released in 2009, on 7 August in the UK. A US date has not yet been announced. This was dedicated to actor Paul Newman, who died in 2008, shortly before this movie was released.

The Meerkats
Promotional movie poster
Directed byJames Honeyborne
Produced byBBC Films
BBC Natural History Unit
The Weinstein Company
Written byAlexander McCall Smith
Narrated byPaul Newman
Music bySarah Class
CinematographyBarrie Britton
Tony Miller
Mark Payne-Gill
Edited byJustin Krish
Distributed byThe Weinstein Company
Release date
  • 15 October 2008 (2008-10-15) (France)
  • 7 August 2009 (2009-08-07) (United Kingdom)
Running time
83 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


The documentary follows the adventure of a young meerkat who is forced to leave his home by a group of meerkats who wanted more territory. Lost in the African savannah, he tries to reunite with his family, but encounters large, fierce, and deadly creatures.


The Meerkats was announced in November 2006 as BBC Films and The Weinstein Company agreed a co-financing deal for the film, with The Weinstein Company also handling international distribution. The year-long principal photography began on location in the Kalahari Desert, South Africa in the same month.[2] It became the Natural History Unit's first feature-length wildlife fiction based on original material, and followed the successes of Earth (2007) and Deep Blue (2003) which were both companion pieces to BBC television series. The script was written by Alexander McCall Smith, author of many books set in Botswana. Paul Newman provides the narration, which was recorded at a studio near his home shortly before his death. The Meerkats was the final film credit of Newman's long career.[1][3]

Meerkat Manor: The Story Begins, a second feature-length wildlife film on meerkats, was also released in 2008. It was produced by Animal Planet, Discovery Films and Oxford Scientific Films, the makers of Meerkat Manor, but was not screened in theatres. BBC Films' Joe Oppenheimer, a producer of The Meerkats, has stated that the two films are very different in character (the BBC and Discovery originally planned to collaborate, but couldn't agree on a common ground). James Honeyborne has described The Meerkats as "a stand-alone, blue-chip wildlife film from the ground up. It will be immersive. There will be a huge sense of place on a massive scale. You will really see real wild animals."[4]


  • Winner, Grand Prix Earth, Special Award, Tokyo International Film Festival[5]
  • Best of Festival, Wild Talk Africa Film Festival[6]
  • Winner, Best Editing, Wild Talk Africa Film Festival
  • Winner, Best Sound Design, Wild Talk Africa Film Festival
  • Nomination, Best Music, Wild Talk Africa Film Festival
  • Nomination, Best Script, Wild Talk Africa Film Festival
  • Winner, Best Editing, Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival
  • Nomination, Best Writing, Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival
  • Winner, Silver Teton, Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival


Writing in The Guardian reviewer Philip French noted that the "... nature movie made in the Kalahari desert has some good footage but is more Disney-anthropomorphic than Attenborough-authentic."[7]


  1. "Festival screens Newman swansong". BBC Online. 5 October 2008.
  2. "The Meerkats: BBC Films and the BBC Natural History Unit collaborate on ambitious first feature film". BBC Press Office. 1 November 2006.
  3. "French film festival to show Paul Newman's last work". Enjoy France News. 6 October 2008.
  4. Lyons, Charles (17 December 2006). "After a Run of Penguin Chic, It's the Year of the Meerkat". New York Times.
  5. The Meerkats, retrieved 17 October 2017
  6. "Roscar Award Winners". Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  7. French, Philip (9 August 2009). "The Meerkats". The Guardian.
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