Eight Below

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Eight Below
Eight Below poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Frank Marshall
Produced by Patrick Crowley
David Hoberman
Screenplay by David DiGillio
Based on Antarctica:
Toshirô Ishidô
Koreyoshi Kurahara
Tatsuo Nogami
Susumu Saji
Starring Paul Walker
Bruce Greenwood
Moon Bloodgood
Jason Biggs
Music by Mark Isham
Cinematography Don Burgess
Edited by Christopher Rouse
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
  • February 17, 2006 (2006-02-17)
Running time
120 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $40 million
Box office $120.4 million

Eight Below is a 2006 American adventure drama film based on Antarctica by Toshirô Ishidô, Koreyoshi Kurahara, Tatsuo Nogami and Susumu Saji. It was produced by Patrick Crowley and David Hoberman, directed by Frank Marshall with music by Mark Isham and written by David DiGilio. It stars Paul Walker, Bruce Greenwood, Moon Bloodgood, and Jason Biggs. It was released theatrically on February 17, 2006, by Walt Disney Pictures in the United States. The film is set in Antarctica, but was filmed in Svalbard, Norway, Greenland, and British Columbia, Canada. The film received positive reviews from critics and it earned $120.4 million on a $40 million budget.


In 1993, Jerry Shepard (Paul Walker) is a guide at an Antarctica research base under contract with the National Science Foundation. UCLA professor, Dr. Davis McClaren (Bruce Greenwood), arrives at the base. He presses Shepard to take him to Mount Melbourne to attempt to find a rare meteorite from the planet Mercury. Shepard does so, ignoring his own intuition, which tells him it is too late in the season to complete such a treacherous route, and decides that the only way to get to Mount Melbourne is by dog sled.

Shepard and McClaren make it to Mount Melbourne, but immediately are called back to base camp due to an approaching heavy storm. McClaren begs for more time, and Shepard gives him half a day, which is just enough time for McClaren to find a fragment of the meteorite. However while en route back to base, McClaren slips down an embankment, breaking his leg and falling into the freezing water. Shepard uses the lead dog Maya to carry a rope to McClaren and is able to pull him out. The two battle hypothermia, frostbite, and near whiteout conditions as they allow the dogs to lead them home. Once there, the entire human crew is immediately evacuated, while the dogs are left behind. Certain that their pilot will return within days for the dogs, Shepard tightens their collars to ensure they cannot get loose and run away. However, because of the harsh weather conditions, it soon becomes apparent that no rescue will be attempted until the next spring - and by then the dogs will be long dead.

Back at home, Shepard tries desperately to secure a plane to return and save the dogs, but no one is willing to finance the risky expedition. Five months later, a guilt ridden Shepard has all but given up, but is inspired to make one last attempt to get back to see what has become of his team. McClaren realizes the magnitude of his ingratitude and uses the remaining balance of his grant money to finance a rescue mission. Shepard acknowledges that there's almost no chance that any of the dogs have survived this long, but knows he owes it to his team to go back for them.

After being left behind, the eight sled dogs – lead dog Maya, Old Jack, Shorty, Dewey, Truman, Shadow, Buck, and the young Max, wait in the freezing conditions for Shepard to return. After two weeks with no food, Max snaps his collar and attempts to hunt seagulls. All the other dogs follow suit, except Old Jack, who is too tired and weak to follow, and remains tied to the chain. Some time later, Dewey slips and falls down an incline, where he is fatally injured. The team stays with his body until morning, but eventually have to leave. In the blizzard, Max becomes separated from the group. Maya manages to lead the team to the Russian base, which is unsecured and full of food, while Max finds his way back to the American base, which is still locked and abandoned. Setting back out into the wilderness, Max finds the carcass of a dead Orca, but is driven off by a leopard seal. Luckily, Maya and the team are nearby, and Max lures the seal away so the team can eat. However, it doubles back and attacks Maya, who is badly injured. The team, now reunited, continue traveling. However, they are starving, freezing, and exhausted; and eventually the injured Maya collapses into the snow. The dogs lie down beside their leader as the snow piles up around them. They have been on their own for nearly six months.

Shepard makes it back to base and is dismayed to find the body of Old Jack, still attached to the chain, and no sign of the other dogs. Then, he hears the sound of barking and sees Max, Shorty, Truman, Shadow and Buck come over the horizon. After a joyous reunion, Shepard attempts to load the dogs into the snow-mobile, but Max runs off, with Shepard in hot pursuit. Max leads him to Maya, lying in the snow – weak, but alive. With six of his eight sled dogs in tow, Shepard heads back to civilization.



The 1958 ill-fated Japanese expedition to Antarctica inspired the 1983 hit film Antarctica, of which Eight Below is a remake.[1][2] Eight Below adapts the events of the 1958 incident, moved forward to 1993.[3] In the 1958 event, fifteen Sakhalin Husky sled dogs were abandoned when the expedition team was unable to return to the base. When the team returned a year later, two dogs were still alive. Another seven were still chained up and dead, five were unaccounted for, and one died just outside of Showa Station.

Sled dogs[edit]

In Eight Below there are two Alaskan Malamutes (Buck and Shadow) and six Siberian Huskies (Max, Maya, Truman, Dewey, Shorty, and Old Jack). Each actor-dog had help from other dogs that performed stunts and pulled sleds. In all, over 30 dogs were used to portray the film's eight canine characters. Max, Maya, Dewey, and Buck (Old Jack's stunt double) were played by dogs seen in Disney's Snow Dogs.[4] The animal filming was supervised by the American Humane Association, and the film carries the standard "No animals were harmed..." disclaimer, despite an on-set incident in which a trainer used significant force to break up an animal fight.[5]


Critical reception[edit]

The film received generally positive reviews from critics. Roger Ebert from Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, and said "Eight Below succeeds as an effective story."[6] BBC liked the movie as well, but did not like its long length (2 hours).[7] Reel.com liked it, saying "the movie succeeds at drawing you into their incredible adventure".[8] However, the San Francisco Chronicle disliked the film, saying: "The movie is overly long and much too intense for small children, yet it's filled with dialogue and plot turns that are too juvenile to thrill adult audiences."[9] William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reacted favorably ("the dog actors will melt your heart"), but pointed out, as did other reviewers, that "Antarctica buffs" will be critical of errors, such as portraying midwinter events occurring in "balmy, blazing daylight at a time Antarctica is locked in round-the-clock darkness and temperatures of 140 degrees below."[10] The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 72% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on 146 reviews." The site's consensus says, "Featuring a stellar cast of marooned mutts, who deftly display emotion, tenderness, loyalty and resolve, Eight Below is a heartwarming and exhilarating adventure film."[11]

Box office[edit]

According to Box Office Mojo, the film opened at #1 on February 17, 2006, with a total weekend gross of $20,188,176 in 3,066 theaters, averaging to about $6,584 per theater. The film closed on June 1, 2006 with a total worldwide gross of $120,453,565 ($81,612,565 domestic and $38,841,000 overseas).[12]



  • ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards: ASCAP Award, Top Box Office Films (Mark Isham) 2007.


Home media[edit]

The film was released on separate format widescreen and full screen editions on DVD on June 26, 2006. It was also released on PlayStation Portable (an original widescreen format) on June 26, 2006. The film was released on high definition Blu-ray for an original widescreen presentation on September 19, 2006.


  1. ^ French, Philip (April 23, 2006). "Eight Below". The Guardian. Retrieved December 12, 2014. 
  2. ^ Arnold, William (February 16, 2006). "'Eight Below' warms the heart despite faux paws". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved December 12, 2014. 
  3. ^ Rechtshaffen, Michael (2006-02-15). "Eight Below". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 2007-08-07. Retrieved 2008-01-01. 
  4. ^ "A True 'Survivor' Story, Dog Version". The Washington Post. 2006-02-16. pp. C12. Retrieved 2008-01-11. 
  5. ^ "Animals were Harmed". The Hollywood Reporter. 2013-11-25. pp. C12. Retrieved 2013-11-28. 
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (2006-02-17). "Eight Below". rogerebert.com. Retrieved 2007-12-29. 
  7. ^ Smith, Neil (2006-04-16). "Eight Below". BBC. Retrieved 2007-12-29. 
  8. ^ Knight, Tim. "Eight Below". Reel.com. Archived from the original on 2007-12-16. Retrieved 2007-12-29. 
  9. ^ Hartlaub, Peter (2006-02-17). "Man's 8 best friends get the cold shoulder". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-12-29. 
  10. ^ Arnold, William (2006-02-17). "'Eight Below' warms the heart despite faux paws". seattlepi.com. Retrieved 2008-01-12. 
  11. ^ Eight Below at Rotten Tomatoes. Last accessed: February 04, 2012.
  12. ^ Eight Below at Box Office Mojo.

External links[edit]