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Case Number 23625: Small Claims Court

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One Lucky Elephant

Virgil Films // 2010 // 81 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // April 5th, 2012

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge James A. Stewart will never forget the time he worked as an elephant IRA consultant.

The Charge

"Flora is the example of all that can go wrong with the best of intentions."—Carol Buckley

The Case

Flora, an African elephant, was the star attraction of Circus Flora for years. That couldn't last forever, though; elephants can live up to sixty, but their circus days apparently are only a fraction of that. The question, then, is: What's an elephant to do with thirty-plus years of retirement? One Lucky Elephant tracks Flora through the first few of her golden years.

Flora and circus owner David Balding had a close bond over her circus career, and Balding put a lot of effort into finding the best retirement options for his star. However, it wasn't a smooth retirement transition, as evidenced by the news footage from her stay at the Miami Metro Zoo, discussing the incident in which Flora injured a zookeeper.

Balding ended up transferring Flora to Carol Buckley's Elephant Sanctuary, but that didn't turn out perfect. Flora didn't get on so well with pack leader Zula, and she damaged some fencing. Worse yet, Buckley thought Balding's visits had something to do with Flora's aggression, so she asked him to stay home. Naturally, Balding objected. Despite the conflict, neither Balding nor Buckley comes across as a villain in One Lucky Elephant, which makes Flora's difficulties even sadder.

The extras, all brief, include introductions from Oprah Winfrey and Rosie O'Donnell, a Sundance interview with director Lisa Leeman, a photo gallery, and a trailer. This material seems ported over from television (One Lucky Elephant appeared on Winfrey's OWN) and is mostly promotional.

The closing notes onscreen at the end, telling of countries which have banned wild animals in circuses, hint that Leeman might like to see a ban here in the United States. However, One Lucky Elephant isn't an opinion piece, instead letting viewers watch everything unfold and come to their own conclusions. That makes the documentary especially valuable, since it could end up helping circuses, zoos, and sanctuaries work together to find answers so that animals' careers have happy endings.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 90

Perp Profile

Studio: Virgil Films
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 81 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary

Distinguishing Marks

• Featurettes
• Trailer


• IMDb
• Official Site

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