Where Did Netflix's Holiday In The Wild Film The Real Elephants?

Kristin Davis and a baby elephant in Holiday in the Wild on Netflix.

Netflix has started pushing out holiday movies to compete with Hallmark, and this month the subscription streaming service released the exotic movie Holiday in the Wild, which features an all-star cast of humans and elephants. And no, the movie did not CGI the elephants. Instead, they filmed rescue elephants at a conservation location, which fits in with much of the movie's theming.

Where Did Netflix’s Holiday In The Wild Film The Elephants?

Recently, Holiday in the Wild star Kristin Davis (who is also famous for Sex and the City), has spoken out about the new Netflix holiday movie, explaining a lot more about the elephants we see in the movie. If you’ve been wondering how and where the Christmas movie filmed all the elephants, the actress has mentioned the elephants were actually filmed in an orphanage in Zambia, noting,

You are not going to find another Christmas movie like our movie. I don’t know any other Christmas movie that is also about elephant conservation that was filmed in an actual elephant orphanage in Zambia, which is where we filmed. I think the holidays are so important because everyone is around, your family is around, you want to have something to watch that everyone can watch and enjoy.

The elephant rescuers were actively involved in the process of making Holiday in the Wild and all of these components really help to make Holiday in the Wild a special film.

Kristin Davis elephant work on Twitter

What Were The Rules For Filming With Real Elephants?

A lot of movies have gone the way of CGI when animals are involved in recent years. Even this year, another Africa-set film, The Lion King, told a “live action” story with animated animal characters that simply looked photo realistic. (In fact, there's only one actual live-action shot in that whole movie.) However, Kristin Davis told Parade that while using rescued animals could be tricky, it helped to place the focus of Holiday in the Wild on the actual rescued elephants it was representing from a conservation standpoint.

During the making of the movie, the elephants were never tasked with doing something they didn’t want to do. She said:

The first thing to say is that this film is like a love letter to everyone I know in conservation, especially to the people who work with elephants. It’s near and dear to my heart. And it was super-amazing that we got to film it in a way that we did, which was very different than your average Hollywood film with the animals where you’re using trained animals. We didn’t use show-business elephants. We used wild elephants that were rescued, and we never did anything they didn’t want to do. You know, we would ask, 'Are there people who take care of them? Where do they like to go, what do they like to do?' And we would try to incorporate it.

Come for the romance story with the ageless Rob Lowe, but stay for the elephants, am I right?

Kristin Davis Is A Noted Elephant Supporter

If you’ve seen Holiday in the Wild, you already know the Netflix movie ends with a special message about elephant conservation. It’s a sobering message, given it talks about elephant population loss in the wild, but it’s an issue that is near and dear to Kristin Davis’ heart.

In fact, the actress has said she’s worked with elephants for 10 years, beginning in 2009 when she was in Kenya and came upon an orphaned elephant. She says taking the elephant to a wildlife trust was the start of her work in the elephant conservation community.

For some time, Kristin Davis has worked with the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, based in Nairobi, which helps to introduce both elephants and giraffes back into the wild. Yes, that does mean she’s spent time with baby elephants outside of her acting work, as well. Elephants in the locations she has done work (as well as where the movie filmed) are there with the goal of introducing them back into the wild.

Kristin Davis with a baby elephant at conservation wildlife trust

A lot of the stuff, including feeding time with large bottles and more, are concepts that are shown in Holiday in the Wild as Kristin Davis' character, Kate, goes from an unfulfilled veterinarian who is left by her workaholic husband to someone who wants to get her feet wet with elephant conservation. Yes, a big part of Holiday in the Wild is the romance story between Kate and Rob Lowe's character, Derek, but it's also a story about Kate really finding her passion and what she was meant to do in life. The romance stuff is almost secondary to all of the conservation stuff, although it does help the story to move along at a quick clip.

Davis also told Fab TV she developed the story for over four years and never really thought she’d be able to get it backed, noting that it was just such a big story with a unique concept that was going to need to film in Africa, that it just didn't seem it would be feasible for it to work out. Luckily, Netflix really does have the cash flow right now for a story like Holiday in the Wild to happen.

I had been involved in elephant conservation for 10 years. We’ve been developing this story for four years. I never really believed that we would get people to back it and give us the budget we needed to do it right. The fact that Netflix stepped up, the fact we got Rob… was just the biggest news.

If you’d like real updates on the actual orphaned elephant in the wildlife, the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust actually has its own social pages set up, which you can checkout and which include a lot of adorable baby animals and not just elephants! For more on how to donate, head here.

You can watch Holiday in the Wild on Netflix now, or take a look at what else the streaming service has coming up with our full schedule.

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Jessica Rawden is Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. She’s been kicking out news stories since 2007 and joined the full-time staff in 2014. She oversees news content, hiring and training for the site, and her areas of expertise include theme parks, rom-coms, Hallmark (particularly Christmas movie season), reality TV, celebrity interviews and primetime. She loves a good animated movie. Jessica has a Masters in Library Science degree from Indiana University, and used to be found behind a reference desk most definitely not shushing people. She now uses those skills in researching and tracking down information in very different ways.