(February 25, 2009 – Burbank, CA) – Warner Premiere has announced the start of production on “Free Willy: South Africa,” with filming that commenced on February 23 for five weeks in Cape Town, South Africa. The announcement was made today by Diane Nelson, President, Warner Premiere. “Free Willy: South Africa” is set for a release exclusively on DVD in 2010 and tells the charming tale of Kirra, a young Australian girl who is sent reluctantly to stay with her grandfather, Gus, in Cape Town. When a young orca whale, Willy, is trapped by a storm in Gus’s run down water theme park, Kirra slowly but surely finds herself adapting to the new surroundings and an ever-growing friend. But, when Gus’s latest attraction starts eating too much, he is tempted to sell Willy to an unscrupulous competitor. The race is on for Kirra and her friends to find Willy’s family and return him to the ocean … “The ‘Free Willy’ films are known worldwide for being inspirational, family-oriented, quality entertainment and we’re very excited to be continuing this tradition with ‘Free Willy: South Africa,’” said Nelson. “With a heart-warming, compelling story line and a terrific cast, we’re sure this film will be a hit with new audiences of all ages as well as fans of the earlier releases.” “Free Willy: South Africa” stars 10-year-old actress, singer, wildlife crusader and dancer Bindi Irwin as Kirra. Already a household name and Emmy Award winner through her wildlife documentary series, fitness DVDs and music albums, Bindi is the daughter of the late Steve Irwin, the world-renowned Australian wildlife expert and conservationist, whose work she is carrying forward. Beau Bridges plays Gus, Kirra’s curmudgeonly grandfather. A Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor with a career spanning five decades, Bridges has most recently appeared in the hit television shows “Stargate SG-1” and “The Agency.” Writer/Director Will Geiger’s most recent film “Elvis and Anabelle” starred Blake Lively, Joe Mantegna, Mary Steenburgen and Max Minghella and won the Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking Award at the Newport Film Festival. His previous film “Ocean Tribe” won the Best Director Award at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival and the Audience Award at Newport. “Free Willy: South Africa” is a South African and German co-production being produced by David Wicht of Film Afrika (“The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency,” “Goodbye Bafana”), Laura Lodin (National Geographic Films) and John Stainton who has directed and produced all of Steve and Bindi Irwin’s television series and movies. The “Free Willy” films have enchanted family audiences since they first hit theatres in 1993. The universal themes of ecology, exploitation, the intelligence of marine life and the relationship of people with animals are all explored through the stories. The “Free Willy” theatrical film releases have a combined domestic gross box office total of $190,922,484* and have sold almost 3 million video units to-date. (*Adjusted for inflation) About Warner Premiere Warner Premiere is Warner Bros. Entertainment’s new direct-to-consumer production company focused on the development, production and marketing of feature-length content, as well as short form digital content for the growing home entertainment market. Warner Premiere is committed to being at the creative forefront in the evolution of quality product in the direct-to-DVD business and the digital space, creating material that exemplifies the commitment to story, production and brand equity for which Warner Bros. is known.
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