Australian Council on Children and the Media

Koko: A Red Dog Story

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Short takes

Parental guidance recommended to 8 (sad and emotionally distressing scenes). May lack interest for young children.

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Koko: A Red Dog Story
  • a review of Koko: A Red Dog Story completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 10 December 2019.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 9 Parental guidance recommended due to sad and emotionally distressing scenes in the context of Koko's passing. May lack interest for very young children.
Children over the age of 8 Ok for this age group though some scenes may be emotionally distressing.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Koko: A Red Dog Story
Classification: G
Consumer advice lines: Very mild themes and coarse language
Length 78 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Koko: A Red Dog Story is a documentary about the Australian Kelpie, Koko, who was the main canine actor in the 2011 Australian film, Red Dog. Red Dog was based on Louis de Bernières' best-selling book about the true story of an Australian cattle dog who was well known for his travels through Western Australia in the search of his missing master in the 1970s. Koko: A Red Dog Story consists of original and personal footage, TV clippings, animated scenes and interviews with people who knew Koko, including his first owner and breeder Carol Hobday, Red Dog film director Kriv Stenders, producer Nelson Woss, and lead actor Josh Lucas, as well as re-enacted scenes starring Felix Williamson (depicting Woss), Toby Truslove (depicting Stenders), and Sarah Woods (depicting Carol Hobday). Narrated by Jason Isaacs, the audience follows Koko from when he was a little puppy; his brief but successful career as a show dog; how he came to be cast for the movie Red Dog; the filming and subsequent fame; and also his passing and ongoing legacy.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

The special bond between people and dogs; challenges of training and filming with animals; love and friendship; what we can learn from animals.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

  • None noted.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

There are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Scenes of Koko becoming unwell and eventually dying and characters response to this are likely to upset children under five.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

There are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Children aged five and over are likely to grasp the meaning of Koko becoming unwell and eventually dying and are therefore likely to get upset in the context of Koko's passing.
  • Seeing Koko’s former owners becoming emotional and teary is also likely to upset viewers.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

There are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • The above-mentioned sad scenes may also upset children aged eight and over.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

  • None noted.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • None noted.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Stenders takes a large amount of antihistamines for his allergy to dogs.
  • Stenders puts his hand in a pot of medicinal cream to treat an allergic reaction to Koko licking his hand.

Coarse language

There is some mild and infrequent coarse language in this movie, including:

  • "Bitch" which is explained as the technical term for female dog and not a swear word.
  • You better do a "bloody" good job.
  • There are a couple of scenes when someone uses a swear word, however, the word is beeped out.

In a nutshell

Koko: A Red Dog Story is an entertaining, often funny, and heart-warming tribute to a dog who came to fame and touched people's hearts across Australia and beyond. This film will likely appeal to dog lovers and people who know the original story or related literature or films. This film is suitable for a general family audience but may lack interest for very young children. The emotional scenes may be upsetting for anyone who grasps the concept of losing a loved companion, therefore parental guidance for children up to 8 years old is recommended. Despite the sad scenes, the film ends on a positive notion, cherishing Koko's life and his ongoing legacy.

The main messages from this movie are that animals, just like humans, have their very own personality and character, and that the bond between people and dogs can be a very strong an special one.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • unconditional love and friendship
  • cherishing happy times
  • living in the moment
  • being grateful for moments shared with loved ones
  • keeping a loved one's memory alive.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children the importance of

  • allowing oneself to feel upset
  • not being embarrassed to feel strong emotions
  • understanding that adults get sad as well sometimes
  • accepting that sad things happen sometimes
  • cherishing happy memories.

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