Elsa’s Legacy: The Born Free Story

About

In 1960, a book written about raising an orphaned lion cub named Elsa and then releasing her back into the wild became a worldwide bestseller. Born Free was a game changer that essentially altered the way we perceive relationships between humans and animals. Because of the emotional bond George and Joy Adamson formed with Elsa, lions could no longer be dismissed simply as brutal killers to be shot while on safari. Elsa became an individual in the eyes of the world, and her story made her a symbol for all animals’ right to live free. Hollywood took the story to the next level with the 1966 release of the film based on the book. Starring real-life husband and wife Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna as George and Joy Adamson, it became a box office hit and award-winner, and turned Travers and McKenna into wildlife activists in the process.

But behind all the bright lights and public success lies the actual day-to-day story of the Adamsons’ life with Elsa. Diaries, home movies and detailed records reveal the real difficulties faced by the Adamsons as they began and continued their pioneering work with lions despite changing perceptions of their work and the increasing dangers around them. Recollections of Virginia McKenna and others who knew and worked with the Adamsons reshape the story told fifty years ago, retelling it as it really happened, and with no fairy tale ending. But Elsa’s legacy lives on as a touchstone for all who would speak for and work to support the freedom and welfare of wild animals everywhere.

How has Elsa’s story changed the way you view lions and other wild animals? Share your story.

Production Credits Print

NARRATED BY
CHRIS MORGAN

PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY
SACHA MIRZOEFF

PRODUCER
CLARE BROOK

PHOTOGRAPHY
JOHANN PERRY

GEORGE ADAMSON PORTRAYED BY
DAVID ALLEN

VOICE OF GEORGE ADAMSON
KEITH MICHELL

LOCATION SOUND
ANDY HOARE
GRAHAM ROSS

FILM EDITOR
PIP HEYWOOD

COLORIST
TIM BOLT

DUBBING EDITOR
DAVID YAPP

DUBBING MIXER
GRAHAM WILD

CONSULTANT
CRAIG PACKER

MUSIC BY
BARNABY TAYLOR

MAKE-UP ARTIST
SUZY BELCHER

ARCHIVE
“BORN FREE,” COURTESY OF COLUMBIA PICTURES
BRITISH PATHÉ
ITN SOURCE

ARCHIVE CONSULTANT
STEVE MILLER

ARCHIVE RESEARCH
LAWRENCE BREEN

PRODUCTION MANAGER
CAROLYN NAYLOR

SPECIAL THANKS
THE ELSA CONSERVATION TRUST
BORN FREE FOUNDATION
GEORGE ADAMSON WILDLIFE PRESERVATION TRUST
KENYA WILDLIFE SERVICE
LIVING WITH LIONS
AFRICAN WILDLIFE FOUNDATION
VIEWFINDERS
ELSA’S KOPJE
PORINI CAMP

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
BRIAN LEITH

FOR NATURE

SERIES EDITOR
JANET HESS

SUPERVISING PRODUCER
JANICE YOUNG

SENIOR PRODUCER
LAURA METZGER

PRODUCTION MANAGER
JULIE SCHAPIRO THORMAN

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT
JAYNE JUN

RE-RECORDING MIXER
ED CAMPBELL

HD ONLINE EDITOR
PATRICK KRASS

SERIES PRODUCER
BILL MURPHY

EXECUTIVE IN CHARGE
WILLIAM GRANT

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
FRED KAUFMAN

A Production of Brian Leith Productions, THIRTEEN and BBC in association with WNET.ORG.

This program was produced by THIRTEEN, which is solely responsible for its content.

© 2011 Brian Leith Productions and WNET.ORG Properties LLC
All rights reserved

WEB CREDITS

PRODUCER
KATE FULTON

ASSOCIATE PRODUCER
CHIE WITT

PRODUCTION ASSISTANCE
SARAH DARRO

DESIGNER
JOY WEEENG

PAGEBUILDING
BRIAN SANTALONE

TECHNICAL DIRECTOR
BRIAN LEE

CREATIVE DIRECTOR
NICK MILLER

DIRECTOR OF DIGITAL STRATEGY
DAVID HIRMES

SENIOR DIRECTOR
DANIEL B. GREENBERG

WRITERS

Sarah Darro
for "Introduction"

Kate Fulton
for "Disappearing Cats"