Everyone's a critic: Koko's list includes 'Free Willy,' 'Babe,' and 'Mary Poppins'
Credit: GAB Archive/Redferns

If we could talk to the animals about Eddie Murphy’s Dr. Dolittle, we might find it’s a bit too frenetic for their tastes. Koko, the 27-year-old western lowland gorilla who communicates by American Sign Language, enjoys the Rex Harrison version and, like a little kid, is happy to watch it again and again. But ”the over-the-top slapstick in the latest Dr. Dolittle makes Koko a little nervous,” explains Kevin Connelly of the Gorilla Foundation, the Woodside, Calif., research facility where she lives.

Koko spends much of her day eating and playing with two male gorillas, her toys, and her human companions. Whenever she’s indoors, though, she asks to have the VCR on. What does a 300-pound gorilla watch? Here’s what she has to say about her favorite videos:

Free Willy

”Hurry! Good. Lip.” To Koko, lip means woman. She takes more interest in scenes in which the boy’s absent mother is discussed, and likes to imitate Willy jumping a jetty to freedom by leaping into a pile of blankets.

Fly Away Home

”Hurry that. Bird. Lipstick.” Lipstick means lipstick, which is something Koko likes. Before Anna Paquin’s scream of surprise in a shower scene, Koko runs from the TV, then quickly runs back — the equivalent of half-covering your eyes during a horror film.


”Good that. Good like.” The talking-pig flick is one of Koko’s most requested movies.

Mary Poppins

”Lip there.”

Born To Be Wild

”Boy hurry.” You’d think Koko would like this for the signing ape that was based on her — but she seems more interested in watching the gorilla eat all of the junk food he can.

Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

”Good.” Koko adores Kris Kringle, who is her ideal male — human, older, silver-haired.

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: You and I Together

”Koko — love.” Koko is particularly fascinated with Mr. Rogers since meeting him. Her silverback gorilla friend Michael calls him ”head boy.”

Dr. Dolittle (1967)

”Kiss. Kiss animal.” She watches the pushmi-pullyu intently.

Hidden Secrets of the Valley (A travel video from Paradise Television)

”Good.” Koko will eventually be moving to a new preserve in Hawaii. She is very interested in tropical flowers. The segment on Maui’s restaurants always makes her hungry.

Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures: Ugandan Gorillas, Part 2

”Lights off — gorilla there.” Koko is quite taken with wildlife expert Hanna. When the mountain gorillas appear, Koko asks to have the TV turned off. Is it jealousy or just a lowland gorilla’s discomfort? Koko isn’t saying.