ByMark Newton, writer at
Movie Pilot Associate Editor. Email: [email protected]
Mark Newton

Time: The ravisher of all things. There is nothing which can withstand the endless marching of Father Time, be it ancient civilizations, entire celestial bodies, or the health of beloved animals from 1990s family movies.

In 2015, nothing is more popular about whimsically reminiscing about the 1990s - that happy, cosy time where bright colors abounded, websites were really tacky and widescreen televisions were considered the peak of opulence. Often we like to see how our favorite child actors or 1990s stars have aged and progressed over the last quarter of the century. Some have good stories, others aren't so great, unfortunately, for the animals stars of the 1990s, their stories all end the same - they're all dead.

Now, I don't mean to flippant about the death of beloved animals. As anyone in the Moviepilot office will tell you, I am still emotionally recovering from the death of my Labrador three years ago (I still miss you Bailey!). However, let us take a look at the inevitable fate which faced all of our canine, feline and ungulate friends from the 1990s.

The Trio from Homeward Bound

I used to love Homeward Bound, my grandparents owned it on VHS and I used to watch it practically every time we visited. It might have been where my love for dogs first took hold.

Unfortunately, since it came out in 1993, there's practically no chance any of the animals shown in the movie are still with us. Overall, eight different dogs were used to play Shadow and Chance, while eight Himalayan cats were used for Sassy. Despite this, all three characters had their own primary animal actors named Ben, Rattler and Tiki respectively. Rattler returned as Chance during the sequel, while Ben appeared in many films following Homeward Bound, including Made In Hong Kong, Purely Belter, Like Father and Maybe Baby. I cannot find an exact year of death, but considering his last credit was in 2001, it's likely it wasn't long after this.

Buddy from Air Bud

Another beloved and regal Golden Retriever, Buddy (which was his actual name) made his first appearance on America's Funniest Home Videos as a dog which could play various sports. His skills managed to earn him some acting jobs, most notably on 1997's Air Bud, but also as Comet in Full House. In fact, Buddy was so impressive, he was awarded an honorary Oscar at the Academy Awards.

Unfortunately, Buddy didn't spend much time in the limelight. In 1997, he had his right hind leg amputated due to a form of cancer called synovial cell sarcoma. He died in his sleep in San Diego on February 10, 1998.

Check him out scoring some hoops in the video below:

Chris from Beethoven

Beethoven was a huge blockbuster in 1992, so much so most '90s kids probably equate the name Beethoven more readily with a massive St. Bernard than with a Dutch composer.

The film also featured its fair share of big names, but it was Chris the dog who stole the show. As is common with most films featuring animals, Beethoven was played by several dogs, although Chris was the primary actor. He returned to the role in the sequel from 1993, but unfortunately died shortly after starring in Beethoven's 2nd.

Beasley from Turner and Hooch

Although technically from 1989, Turner and Hooch was still a massive movie in the 1990s, and a launch pad for Tom Hanks.

Hooch was played by Beasley, who was a rare breed known as a Dogue de Bordeaux (or French mastiff). Like so many animals on this list, he didn't live long after his only starring role, and died in 1992.

Keiko from Free Willy

Perhaps the most famous and well-known animal star on this list, Keiko wowed audiences in 1993's Free Willy.

This majestic mammal soon received a cult following of his own, and his appearance in Free Willy pressured Warner Bros. into finding him a new home. Eventually, Keiko was quasi-returned to the wilds of the North Atlantic in 1998. However, his close contract with humans meant he had trouble integrating with other orcas. He was closely monitored by the Free Willy-Keiko Foundation who in 2002 declared he had left Icelandic waters with a wild orca pod. Unfortunately, three weeks later he was spotted in Norwegian waters apparently seeking human contact and even allowing children to ride on his back.

Keiko died while swimming in Taknes Bay, Norway on December 12, 2003. At around 26 years of age, he should have lived much longer (an 103-year-old orca was recently discovered in the wild), although it seems he succumbed to pneumonia. He now has a memorial site featuring a wooden cairn built by local schoolchildren in Norway.

See Keiko in action below:

Docs Keepin Time from Black Beauty

Docs Keepin Time was an American Quarter Horse who famously played the titular character in the 1994 adaptation of Black Beauty. However, this wasn't his only acting role, as he also appeared as The Black in the American television series, The Adventures of the Black Stallion.

Docs Keepin Time seemed to live a long and fruitful life, siring many offspring such as Samson's Keepin Time, Starrin Doctor Sunny, and Keepin Chargin. Keepin Chargin has also gone into showbusiness as he starred beside Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen in Appaloosa.

Doc was also from very good stock himself, as he was the fifth generation offspring of famous 1930s racehorse, War Admiral. Docs died at the age of 26 on March 15, 2013.

Bart The Bear

Bart has been referred to by directors Jean-Jacques Annaud and Lee Tamahori as "The John Wayne of Bears," and he certainly has a filmography which would rival most human actors. He has appeared beside stars such as Morgan Freeman, John Candy, Steven Seagal, Brad Pitt, Alec Baldwin and Anthony Hopkins, while he even earned an Oscar nomination for his performance in The Bear.

During the 1990s, he appeared in White Fang, The Giant of Thunder Mountain, Homeward Bound, Legends of the Fall, Walking Thunder and The Edge making him one of the most prolific animal actors of all time. He even presented Mike Myers with the Oscar nominations at the 70th Academy Awards:

Unfortunately, Bart was diagnosed with cancer in October, 1988 and underwent surgery twice to remove tumors from his right paw. However, due to the resurgence of the cancer, and Bart's refusal to take painkillers, he was euthanized on May 10, 2000 at the age of 23.

Luckily, Bart's legacy lives on in a new bear actor named Bart the Bear 2 (or Little Bart). He is also making a name for himself in Hollywood, staring in films and TV shows such as Dr. Dolittle 2, Into The Wild and Game of Thrones. You can see him in action below:

Of course, the 1990s featured many animal actors, but I imagine you're already tearing up at the thought of losing all these furry thespians, so perhaps I should leave it there.

Even though they had practically no idea what they were actually doing, they still brought joy to the hearts of '90s kids everywhere.


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