The star at the centre of one of the most iconic scenes in Australianfilm history has passed away in a South Australian zoo overnight.
4 Sep 2009 - 11:12 AM  UPDATED 6 Nov 2012 - 6:30 PM

Mr. Percival, the pelican that starred opposite Greg Rowe as 'Storm Boy' in Henri Safran's beloved 1976 adaptation of Colin Thiele's novel, died in Adelaide Zoo from old age. He was 33.

Having been typecast as a pelican in his only on-screen role, he would make no other films. Instead he chose to retire to a life of leisure and pleasure, initially under the care of Marineland staff until being transferred to Adelaide Zoo in 1988. There, he would star in another role – senior breeder, responsible for seven offspring with his partner Alto over nearly 20 years of zoological life. His last offspring was born in 2007.

Plagued by arthritis in his later years, Mr. Percival had been undergoing treatment and made only rare public appearances, despite being a major attraction at the Adelaide Zoo.

Shot upon the tranquil wetlands of South Australia's Coorong region, Storm Boy would become a major cinematic hit and holds a unique place in the hearts of a generation of Australian moviegoers. It would be nominated for 7 AFI Awards in 1977, including Best Director for Safran, Best Screenplay for Sonia Borg and Best Actor for David Gulpilil; it would take home the Best Film trophy.

The sequence in which Storm Boy tries to teach Mr Pelican (played by Mr Percival) how to fly – the cloudy sky above them, the sea breeze billowing the boys long-sleeve shirt, the bird appearing to dance in his teachers footsteps – is one of our industry's most beautiful onscreen moments. Geoff Burton would win the ACS Cinematographer of the Year Award for his work on the film.
Trained by animal wrangler Grant Noble, Mr. Percival was one three pelicans used on the shoot. He was the oldest surviving of the three castmates.

Details of a public service to honour Mr. Percival are expected to be released in the days ahead.