An animated film depicting the true story about the cigarette-smoking, beer-drinking bear who ‘fought’ alongside soldiers during the Second World War has been created.
Wojtek, an orphaned cub adopted by the 22nd Artillery Division (Polish 2nd Corps) in 1942, quickly became a beloved mascot.
He was awarded the rank of Private after learning to march with the troops, salute, and even carry cases of ammunition.
In 2018, it was announced that the producer of the Christmas classic The Snowman had started work on a film. However, progress was halted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Now that production has resumed, it is known that Bill Paterson, Fleabag star, will provide voiceovers.
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
Wojtek, an orphaned cub adopted by the 22nd Artillery Division (Polish 2nd Corps) in 1942, quickly became a beloved mascot. Wojtek in Polish literally means’smiling soldier’ or ‘he who loves war’. Above: The bear holding a beer bottle.
He was made a Private and learned to march alongside troops, salute and even carry ammo cases. Above: Wojtek with troops at the Battle of Monte Cassino in 1944
Concept images show the potential film, one showing Wojtek holding an ammunition shell.
The film, entitled A Bear Named Wojtek will be released in the fall of next year.
It is being directed and produced by Iain Gardner, a Scottish animator.
Augustyn Karaolewski, a Polish veteran who fought alongside Wojtek, said in 2008 that he drank beer like any other man and would just gulp down. He also liked cigarettes.
Wojciech Narebski, another veteran, stated that Wojtek’s friendly greeting for the returning, often very tired, soldiers was for them a very important relaxation thing.
After defeating the Nazis, the Polish regiment was sent to Italy by the Italian government. However, they were informed that pets and animals weren’t allowed onboard the transport ship.
Wojtek was not to go unattended, so the soldiers enlisted the 6-foot bear in their ranks as a private with his pay-book.
In 2018, it was announced that the producer of The Snowman, a Christmas classic, had begun work on a film. However, production was halted by the coronavirus pandemic. Now production is starting again, and it has been announced that Bill Paterson, Fleabag’s star, will be one of the actors providing voiceovers.
Concept images show the film’s potential look. One image shows Wojtek holding an ammunition shell.
Wojtek was a fully-fledged member the Polish 2nd Corp upon his arrival at the Italian front. His most famous moment was during the 1944 siege Monte Cassino, an old hilltop monastery in Italy, that the Germans had made an impregnable fortress along the key approach to Rome.
Wojtek, a bear weighing 100 pounds (45 kg) and carrying crates of 25Ib artillery shells for the Allied assault, was part of the horrific campaign that saw more than 50,000 Allied troops die.
According to a Der Spiegel report from 2012: ‘A British vet recounted how he was shocked to see a full-grown bear calmly carrying mortar bombs past him during the bloody Battle of Monte Cassino in the spring of 1944.
On May 16, soldiers of the Polish 2nd Corps launched a final attack on the Germans along a front of twenty-miles.
After defeating the Nazis, the Polish regiment was sent to Italy. However, they were informed that pets and animals weren’t allowed onboard the transport ship. The soldiers were determined to not leave Wojtek behind and enlisted the 6-foot bear in their ranks as a private with a pay-book, serial number and own rank. Above: Wojtek shortly following his adoption
After its mother had died, the bear was adopted by Polish soldiers. Above: The bear with its cub shortly after it was rescued.
After defeating the Nazis, the Polish regiment was sent to Italy. However, they were informed that pets and animals weren’t allowed onboard the transport ship. Wojtek was not to go, so soldiers decided to make Wojtek a private and give him his own serial number. Above: The bear shortly after he was enlisted as an private in 1944
Wojtek is seen supporting Polish troops in a bunker while they bombard the Nazis using mortar grenades.
The ruins were topped by a Polish flag and the British Union Jack on May 18.
After the battle, the regiment changed its insignia and now shows Wojtek with an artillery gun.
The 2nd Corps was demobilized in Scotland after the war. Wojtek was re-settled at Edinburgh Zoo, where he was frequently visited by his former colleagues who served with him up 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, magic was real.”
The terrible Monte Casino campaign saw more than 50,000 Allied soldiers killed. Wojtek carried 100-pound (45kg), crates of 25Ib artilleryshells to aid the Allied invasion.
Wojtek also enjoyed wrestling, as the above image shows.
Just chilling: Wojtek can be seen sitting on a motorbike with a comrade while his fellow soldier reads a map from the vehicle’s sidecar.
The bear appears to smile as it poses near a road sign, with Polish troops.
In honour of the war bear, the regiment changed its emblem to show Wojtek holding an artillery shell. This was done after the Battle of Monecasino.
After the war was over, the 2nd Corps was demobilized in Scotland. Wojtek was reinstalled in Edinburgh Zoo by those who had served alongside him until his death, in 1963.
Shauna Macdonald (The Descent) will also provide voiceovers. Marcin Dorocinski, a Polish actor, will also be providing voiceovers. Marcin Dorocinski starred as a Russian chess player on Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit.
Normand Roger is a multi-Oscar-winning composer who has worked on films like Father and Daughter and The Man Who Planted Trees and The Old Man and the Sea.
Wojciech, an award-winning screenwriter, is writing the script. Tomek Borkowy (Dr Who) will also star in the film.
Harvey, the co-producer, said that if Harvey is filming in English, then the Polish team would revoice in Polish.
“We felt it was important for the key Polish characters to speak clearly enough in English, but with a Polish accent. That’s why we didn’t want to go down that American-style route.
“The right accents were really crucial to us.”
He said, “We’ve tried extremely hard to ensure historical accuracy. This is a story based upon true incidents rather than documentary.”
This concept image shows Wojtek seated on a hillside while his family watches him