Aug 6

We’re all hoping for lots of summer sun, but what do you do if it’s raining outside during the holidays? I tend to snuggle up in front of the TV with some popcorn, try to forget what’s happening outside and watch a classic film on DVD. Weirdly, it seems that quite a few blockbusters have been inspired by some of the species on ARKive…  

Lord of the Rings

Photo of a newborn aye-aye

Give me the preciousssssss

Maybe we’re being a bit unkind to this juvenile aye-aye, but doesn’t it look like Gollum from Lord of the Rings? Like Gollum, the aye-aye is a solitary, nocturnal creature. Luckily, we don’t think it has an unhealthy obsession with gold rings.  

Finding Nemo

Clownfish photo

Clownfish are normally much shyer than Nemo

Nemo the clownfish is always getting himself into trouble in Finding Nemo. In reality, most clownfish are secretive, spending most of their time hiding in anemones. Clownfish are the only fish known to be able to live amongst the venomous tentacles of anemones. Other fish are stung by the tentacles, but clownfish excrete mucus over their skin that tricks the anemone into believing it is touching itself. Weird, but clever!  

Harry Potter 

Indian cobra photo

Voldemort isn't in charge of this snake

Was the Indian cobra the inspiration for the basilisk in Harry Potter? The Indian cobra is highly venomous and can be aggressive, just like the basilisk that attacks Harry. Did you know we have two basilisks on ARKive? The plumed basilisk and brown basilisk are lizards, not snakes!  

The Lion King  

Photo of lion and cub

"I just can't wait to be King!"

Lions are known as the King of Beasts in many cultures for their strength and majestic demeanour. Often portrayed as fearsome and courageous, African lions are the inspiration behind Disney’s The Lion King. Just like in the film, only one male lion can be ‘king’ of the pride, leading to fierce and often fatal battles between rival males.  


Galapagos giant tortoise photo

In a galaxy far, far away...

E.T. phone home! This Galapagos giant tortoise bears an uncanny resemblance to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, although I’ve never seen a tortoise phone home! Galapagos giant tortoises are actually threatened by alien species – introduced goats and cattle compete with Galapagos giant tortoises for food, contributing to a decline in the tortoise population.   

Star Wars 

Spectacled bear photo

Fearsome furball warrior?


Star Wars has the Ewoks, South America has the spectacled bear! Can you spot the difference? Like the Ewoks, spectacled bears are resourceful, highly adaptable and live in a forest. Unlike Ewoks, spectacled bears are found in the cloud forests of the Andes, not on a moon in outer space.  

King Kong

Gorilla photo

This gorilla didn't climb the Empire State Building

Famed for its incredible strength, the eastern gorilla inspired the giant ape King Kong. Despite the male’s intimidating displays and huge stature, this iconic animal is docile unless threatened – much like its fictional relative.  


Caucasian toad photo

Don't mistake this amphibian for an ogre

It lives in a swamp. It’s a dull green-brown. It’s a little bit ugly. It can only be Shrek, right? Wrong! It’s not an ogre, it’s actually a Caucasian toad, a threatened amphibian found in Turkey and Russia. There are no reported sightings of Caucasian toads living with talking donkeys or princesses.  


Photo of a Philippine tarsier

Is this a gremlin or a primate?

This Philippine tarsier looks just like one of the Gremlins, the mischievous monsters that run wild in a small U.S. town. The Philippines has nothing to fear from their native tarsiers however, as these animals are shy and secretive, emerging only at night to feed on insects.  


Himalayan monal photo

The star of Pixar's Up?

Remember Kevin, the cheeky, brightly coloured bird from Pixar’s film Up? Rumour has it that Kevin was based on the Himalayan monal, a stunningly colourful bird living in the Himalayan mountain range. Although the male Himalayan monal isn’t as tall as the female, its bright blue, red and gold feathers match Kevin’s plumage perfectly!  

Have we missed out any of your favourite blockbusters from our Top Ten? Let us know!  

Ruth Hendry, ARKive Media Researcher