Work begins on animated film telling true story of Wojtek the WWII bear


Work has begun on an animated film depicting the true story of the cigarette smoking, beer drinking bear which ‘fought’ alongside soldiers in the Second World War.

Adopted as an orphaned cub in 1942 by the 22nd Artillery Division of the Polish 2nd Corps, Wojtek, which in Polish means ‘smiling warrior’ or ‘he who enjoys war’, quickly became an adored mascot.

He went on to be officially given the rank of Private and learnt to march alongside the troops, salute and even carry cases of ammunition.

It was announced in 2018 that the producer behind the Christmas classic The Snowman had begun working on a film, but progress then came to a halt during the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, with production back under way, it has been announced that the Fleabag star Bill Paterson is one of the actors who will provide voiceovers for the film.

Work has begun on an animated film depicting the true story of  the cigarette smoking, beer drinking bear named Wojtek which 'fought' alongside soldiers in the Second World War Above: The bear with a soldier during the war

Work has begun on an animated film depicting the true story of  the cigarette smoking, beer drinking bear named Wojtek which ‘fought’ alongside soldiers in the Second World War Above: The bear with a soldier during the war

Adopted as an orphaned cub in 1942 by the 22nd Artillery Division of the Polish 2nd Corps, Wojtek, which in Polish means 'smiling warrior' or 'he who enjoys war ', quickly became an adored mascot. Above: The bear with a bottle of beer

Adopted as an orphaned cub in 1942 by the 22nd Artillery Division of the Polish 2nd Corps, Wojtek, which in Polish means 'smiling warrior' or 'he who enjoys war ', quickly became an adored mascot. Above: The bear with a bottle of beer

Adopted as an orphaned cub in 1942 by the 22nd Artillery Division of the Polish 2nd Corps, Wojtek, which in Polish means ‘smiling warrior’ or ‘he who enjoys war ‘, quickly became an adored mascot. Above: The bear with a bottle of beer

He was officially given the rank of Private and learnt to march alongside the troops, salute and even carry cases of ammunition. Above: Wojtek with troops at the Battle of Monte Cassino in 1944

He was officially given the rank of Private and learnt to march alongside the troops, salute and even carry cases of ammunition. Above: Wojtek with troops at the Battle of Monte Cassino in 1944

He was officially given the rank of Private and learnt to march alongside the troops, salute and even carry cases of ammunition. Above: Wojtek with troops at the Battle of Monte Cassino in 1944

And concept images show how the film might look, with one depicting Wojtek carrying an ammunition shell.

Titled A Bear Named Wojtek, the film is now set to be released in the autumn next year. 

It is being directed by Scottish animator Iain Gardner and produced by The Snowman’s Iain Harvey.

In a 2008 interview with the BBC, Polish veteran Augustyn Karolewski, who fought alongside Wojtek said: ‘He drank beer like any man, which he would simply gulp down, and liked cigarettes, too.’

Another veteran called Wojciech Narebski said: ‘The friendly welcome for the returning, often extremely tired, soldiers by Wojtek was, for us, a very important relaxing thing.’

After defeating the Nazis in Africa, the Polish regiment was ordered to Italy but were told that animals and pets weren’t allowed aboard the transport ship.

Determined to not leave Wojtek behind, the soldiers decided to get around the problem by enlisting the 6-foot bear into their ranks as a private with his own pay-book and serial number.

It was announced in 2018 that the producer behind the Christmas classic The Snowman had begun working on a film, but progress then came to a halt during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, with production back under way, it has been announced that the Fleabag star Bill Paterson (pictured) is one of the actors who will provide voiceovers for the film

It was announced in 2018 that the producer behind the Christmas classic The Snowman had begun working on a film, but progress then came to a halt during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, with production back under way, it has been announced that the Fleabag star Bill Paterson (pictured) is one of the actors who will provide voiceovers for the film

It was announced in 2018 that the producer behind the Christmas classic The Snowman had begun working on a film, but progress then came to a halt during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, with production back under way, it has been announced that the Fleabag star Bill Paterson (pictured) is one of the actors who will provide voiceovers for the film

Concept images show how the film might look, with one depicting Wojtek carrying an ammunition shell

Concept images show how the film might look, with one depicting Wojtek carrying an ammunition shell

Concept images show how the film might look, with one depicting Wojtek carrying an ammunition shell

A fully-fledged member of the Polish 2nd Corp when he arrived at the Italian front, Wojtek’s most celebrated moment came during the 1944 siege of Monte Cassino, an ancient hilltop monastery in Italy that the Germans had turned into an impregnable fortress on the key approach to Rome.

The horrific campaign which saw over 50,000 Allied troops killed, also saw Wojtek the bear carrying 100-pound (45 kg) crates of 25-Ib artillery shells to help the Allied assault.

According to a Der Spiegel report in 2012: ‘A British veteran recounted how he was taken aback when he suddenly saw a full-grown bear calmly carrying mortar shells past him during the bloody Battle of Monte Cassino, in the spring of 1944.’

On May 16, soldiers from the Polish 2nd Corps launched one of the final attacks on the Germans along a twenty-mile front.

After defeating the Nazis in Africa, the Polish regiment was ordered to Italy but were told that animals and pets weren't allowed aboard the transport ship. Determined to not leave Wojtek behind, the soldiers decided to get around the problem by enlisting the 6-foot bear into their ranks as a private with his own pay-book and serial number. Above: Wojtek shortly after being adopted

After defeating the Nazis in Africa, the Polish regiment was ordered to Italy but were told that animals and pets weren't allowed aboard the transport ship. Determined to not leave Wojtek behind, the soldiers decided to get around the problem by enlisting the 6-foot bear into their ranks as a private with his own pay-book and serial number. Above: Wojtek shortly after being adopted

After defeating the Nazis in Africa, the Polish regiment was ordered to Italy but were told that animals and pets weren’t allowed aboard the transport ship. Determined to not leave Wojtek behind, the soldiers decided to get around the problem by enlisting the 6-foot bear into their ranks as a private with his own pay-book and serial number. Above: Wojtek shortly after being adopted

The bear was adopted by Polish soldiers after its mother died. Above: The bear as a cub shortly after being rescued

The bear was adopted by Polish soldiers after its mother died. Above: The bear as a cub shortly after being rescued

The bear was adopted by Polish soldiers after its mother died. Above: The bear as a cub shortly after being rescued

After defeating the Nazis in Africa, the Polish regiment was ordered to Italy but were told that animals and pets weren't allowed aboard the transport ship. Determined to not leave Wojtek behind, the soldiers decided to get around the problem by enlisting the 6-foot bear into their ranks as a private with his own pay-book and serial number. Above: The bear in 1944, shortly after being enlisted as a private

After defeating the Nazis in Africa, the Polish regiment was ordered to Italy but were told that animals and pets weren't allowed aboard the transport ship. Determined to not leave Wojtek behind, the soldiers decided to get around the problem by enlisting the 6-foot bear into their ranks as a private with his own pay-book and serial number. Above: The bear in 1944, shortly after being enlisted as a private

After defeating the Nazis in Africa, the Polish regiment was ordered to Italy but were told that animals and pets weren’t allowed aboard the transport ship. Determined to not leave Wojtek behind, the soldiers decided to get around the problem by enlisting the 6-foot bear into their ranks as a private with his own pay-book and serial number. Above: The bear in 1944, shortly after being enlisted as a private 

A picture shows Wojtek supportively sitting next to Polish troops in a bunker as they pound the Nazis with mortar grenades.

On May 18, a Polish flag followed by the British Union Jack were raised over the ruins.

After the battle, and in honour of the war bear, the regiment changed its insignia to a picture of Wojtek carrying an artillery shell and promoted him to the rank of Corporal.

When the war ended, the 2nd Corps were demobilised in Scotland and Wojtek was re-settled in Edinburgh zoo, where he was regularly visited by those who had served with him until his death in 1963. 

A Bear Named Wojtek’s co-producer Mr Harvey told the First News Website: ‘After discovering how highly Wojtek was regarded, I think there was something of a lightbulb moment – I realized this wasn’t some fantastical yarn. 

‘For once, the magic was real.’

The horrific Monte Casino campaign saw over 50,000 Allied troops killed.  Wojtek carried 100-pound (45 kg) crates of 25-Ib artillery shells to help the Allied assault

The horrific Monte Casino campaign saw over 50,000 Allied troops killed.  Wojtek carried 100-pound (45 kg) crates of 25-Ib artillery shells to help the Allied assault

The horrific Monte Casino campaign saw over 50,000 Allied troops killed.  Wojtek carried 100-pound (45 kg) crates of 25-Ib artillery shells to help the Allied assault 

Wojtek also enjoyed wrestling with his crewmates, as this above image demonstrates

Wojtek also enjoyed wrestling with his crewmates, as this above image demonstrates

Wojtek also enjoyed wrestling with his crewmates, as this above image demonstrates

Just chilling: Wojtek is seen with a comrade perching on a motorbike as his fellow soldier reads a map in the vehicle's sidecar

Just chilling: Wojtek is seen with a comrade perching on a motorbike as his fellow soldier reads a map in the vehicle's sidecar

Just chilling: Wojtek is seen with a comrade perching on a motorbike as his fellow soldier reads a map in the vehicle’s sidecar 

The bear is seen appearing to smile as it poses with Polish troops near a road sign

The bear is seen appearing to smile as it poses with Polish troops near a road sign

The bear is seen appearing to smile as it poses with Polish troops near a road sign

After the Battle of Monecasino, and in honour of the war bear, the regiment changed its insignia to a picture of Wojtek carrying an artillery shell and promoted him to the rank of Corporal

After the Battle of Monecasino, and in honour of the war bear, the regiment changed its insignia to a picture of Wojtek carrying an artillery shell and promoted him to the rank of Corporal

After the Battle of Monecasino, and in honour of the war bear, the regiment changed its insignia to a picture of Wojtek carrying an artillery shell and promoted him to the rank of Corporal

When the war ended, the 2nd Corps were demobilised in Scotland and Wojtek was re-settled in Edinburgh zoo, where he was regularly visited by those who had served with him until his death in 1963

When the war ended, the 2nd Corps were demobilised in Scotland and Wojtek was re-settled in Edinburgh zoo, where he was regularly visited by those who had served with him until his death in 1963

When the war ended, the 2nd Corps were demobilised in Scotland and Wojtek was re-settled in Edinburgh zoo, where he was regularly visited by those who had served with him until his death in 1963 

Other voiceovers will be provided by The Descent star Shauna Macdonald, as well as by Polish actor Marcin Dorocinski, who starred as an elite Russian chess player in Netflix drama The Queen’s Gambit

The producers have also brought in multi-Oscar winning composer Normand Roger, who has previously worked on films including Father and Daughter, The Man Who Planted Trees, The Old Man and the Sea.

The script is being written by award-winning screenwriter Wojciech Lepianka, whilst EastEnders and Coronation Street star Piotr Baumann and Tomek Borkowy from Dr Who will also feature.

Co-producer Harvey said: ‘We’re shooting in English then the Polish team will revoice in Polish language.

‘We felt it was important that the key Polish characters could speak clearly enough in English but with a Polish accent, which is why we didn’t want to go down the route of having American-style voices.

‘The right accents were really important to us.’

He added: ‘We’ve tried incredibly hard to ensure historical accuracy, this is a story based on true incidents rather than a documentary.’

This concept image shows Wojtek sitting on a hillside as a family observe him

This concept image shows Wojtek sitting on a hillside as a family observe him

This concept image shows Wojtek sitting on a hillside as a family observe him



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