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From Kenya To California, 'Superpower Dogs' IMAX Film Shows How Dogs Help Save Mankind

Taran Davies, one of the producers of "Superpower Dogs," joined host Don Marsh to discuss the documentary. March 15, 2019
Cosmic Picture Limited

Dogs are often regarded as “man’s best friend,” but to many, they can be so much more. “Superpower Dogs,” a new IMAX film which opens Friday and plays through July at the St. Louis Science Center, shows working dogs all over the world and the ways they are vital – from search and rescue missions to protecting endangered wildlife.

Taran Davies, one of the film’s producers, joined host Don Marsh on Friday’s St. Louis on the Air to discuss the project. He explained that it was only during filming the dogs in action that he and the crew realized the extent of the dogs’ abilities. 

“We began to realize: ‘My goodness, this is no joke. These dogs really have superpowers,’” he said. 

When Dominic Cunningham-Reid, one of the other producers, pitched the idea for an IMAX documentary on dogs, Davies said he was initially skeptical.

“My question to him when he said 'I want to make a film about dogs next,' was 'OK great. But we're making an IMAX film. Why do dogs belong on the IMAX screen? I mean they're cute, they're cuddly, they give us love and we love them, but what's so special about them?'” Davies said. “And I think that's when it dawned on him that I really knew nothing.”

Davies spent the next three years learning just how wrong he was. The production team traveled around the world to profile bloodhounds that are part of wildlife conservation efforts in Kenya, Newfoundlands involved in water rescue in Italy, avalanche rescue dogs in British Columbia, and a surfing emotional support dog in southern California.

Reef, a water rescue Newfoundland in the Italian Riviera, is one of the subjects of the IMAX documentary "Superpower Dogs." March 15, 2019
Credit Cosmic Picture Limited
Reef, a water rescue Newfoundland in the Italian Riviera, is one of the subjects of the IMAX documentary "Superpower Dogs."

The star of the show, however, is a Dutch Shepard named Halo. The filmmakers followed her through the process of becoming a fire dog along with her partner, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Capt. Cat Labrada.

“We watch Halo transform from a puppy,” he explained, “and what we are looking to find out is does she have what it takes to become essentially a superhero alongside Cat, to form a team that can save lives in a disaster – whether it be a hurricane, a tornado, a mudslide or a terrorist attack.” 

Watch the film's trailer:

Davies added that part of the film’s goal is to help change how people think of their canine companions.

“When we think of IMAX, we think of traveling to space or underwater trenches in the ocean. This is just a little bit different,” he said. “We think we know our dog, but when you see this film, [it will] challenge you [and] you will say, 'We're never going to look at our best friend the same way again.’”

Listen to the full conversation:

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Alex HeuerEvie HemphillLara Hamdan and Jon Lewis give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Jon Lewis was the production intern at St. Louis Public Radio from January to May 2019. Originally from Pelham, New York, Jon came to St. Louis to attend Washington University in 2015. Previously, Jon has interned for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Eight by Eight, a soccer magazine based in Brooklyn.
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